Life and loss, before and after

 photo by  dyager .

photo by dyager.

It’s all even now. Two before, two after. They’re evenly spaced out as well, one each in two consecutive years. There is only one difference.

After the second one last time, I desperately wanted things to work. I was scared, sick to the pit of my stomach—the symbolism in that is soul-crushingly literal—and yet, I hoped to be a mother someday to a living child. I realigned all my decisions based on this one burning desire. My career choices, my husband’s career choices, our decision to move to a different country, all were based on the fact that we wanted to start a family.

After the second one this time, I just want this journey to end. I am not scared, I am angry and disgusted, and I am still sick to the pit of my stomach, from which some tissues were removed the next day.

It was 3.40 am. I could not sleep. The miscarriage was happening in my body as I sat on the bathroom floor, staring at the grey wall in front of me, not weeping, but panting, like a wild beast in a cage. I am done, I said, in between my heavily drawn and painfully released breaths. I want this to be my last one, this unplanned, mismatched war of planting a seed and uprooting it. This war where the enemy is unknown, its swooping saber striking like a lightning bolt from a cloud of uncertainty and unknowingness. From hope to despair, from future to past, from full to barren, so quick, so sudden that rationality, reason, cannot match up. It’s like hurtling down a rollercoaster into an uncontrollable free fall when you were expecting to contemplate and place your controlled hands and feet on the next rock on a wall.

In a life-altering and stomach-churning (again, the literalness of that image) reproductive journey that lasted more than thirteen years, I have had six pregnancies—one living child, one dead one, and four miscarriages. An even two on each side of Raahi’s death. In any sport, that would be a less-than-mediocre average. In the circus of my life, I hang by the thread of that one successful pregnancy, while thoughts of the other ones form a web to trap me, from time to time.

Comparisons feel like puzzles to me these days, those that appear to be very linear, reachable, solvable, and yet are enigmatic in even their simplicity. I do not indulge in comparisons anymore, since my life is, for instance, like the watermelon, where you go when it’s red and you stop when it’s green. It’s a world where what is, is not, and what is not, is even more not. But even within that ghastly, ghostly territory, similarities and differences rear their poisonous heads. I compare the lives within this one life, the losses before and after, that one catastrophe. The color of blood changes, the amount of pain differs, the nail in the heart pierces more, or less. And the pit in the stomach grows deeper, wider, darker.

In a stupor, lying on a hospital bed minutes before the D&C, my eyes blurry, I tried to remember. The naivete I had just lost in March of 2005, with my first miscarriage.

I remembered thinking how I was going to be emptied of life in a few minutes, the little bud growing in my belly forever ripped from it. I cried nonstop, imagining the magnitude of that loss. It was death, a devastating and crucifying end of my child’s life, for me. I did not care if I had lost a bunch of cells; in my newly but fiercely adopted maternal identity, I felt felled by death, my life severed in halves as they rolled me into that operating room. I remembered pausing briefly under a blinding white light, before the door opened. I remembered thinking how I would enter whole but emerge empty, almost a new, but deeply dilapidated, shrivelled old self.

Thirteen years later, the light was yellow. I was a veteran. I knew the procedure. I was sad, but I was too angry to be engulfed by despair. I did not care for the sensitivity of the doctors and nurses, nor did the anesthesiologist’s callousness in asking me if I had been tested for pregnancy, outrage me.

“I cannot be pregnant on top of losing a pregnancy, right?” I caustically asked him. He apologized, I half-smiled. I stared blankly into space, blinded by the loss of my glasses, nothing more. I was calm, annoyed with my body, its strange antics of getting pregnant twice naturally in my 40s after more than three years of trying and failing. After going through infertility treatment and failing. I was annoyed at the way time and my life seemed to hold their twisted hands and make a mockery of me.

There have been so many ill-timed events in my life that calling it a circus will not be an overstatement. I could be the poster-child for those who believe things happen when you give up obsessing over them. Except that in my life, even those sayings are comical.

So many accidents—such randomness only happens in the universe, in the great galaxies, where stars collide to form planets and gases come together to form atmospheres. Us mortals, we like to fathom. Make sense. Calculate. Depend on. Plan. We accept that being derailed is part of the journey, and getting back on track reinforces the predictability, the reliability of life. But when life just becomes one derailment after another, do you create a different path? You don’t. You cannot.

Creating one’s own path sounds fascinating, metaphorically. In reality, in literality, we all race within the same biological arena. If you constantly fail, you cannot leave the domain and race elsewhere. Despite having an erratic, undependable human female body, you have to keep up your efforts to reproduce. Within that finite timeline, following the same rules, playing the same game, living around the same teammates and spectators. Despite feeling like an alien, an animal, a worm, a blade of grass. If your scorecard reads 6-1-5 against most of your friends’ 3-3-0, or 2-2-0, can you turn into a bird?

No. You do not. Instead, you lie in bed after the fourth miscarriage, with your defeated human body, and smile that comical smile of yours, thinking of your belly as a deflated balloon. You are forced to remember—as you forcibly try to forget—another time, another country, when you woke from deep sleep to realize that it was all over. That part—the all-over-ness sweeping all over your conscious mind, its streams of subconscious, and its abyss of unconscious—will be exactly the same. For a moment, in a stupor, you will be the 28-year-old newly-miscarried young woman, as her hopelessness mingles with your 41-year-old jadedness.

Then you will wake up, on the other side of your infant daughter’s death, with a loss that would weigh less. As your therapist will remind you that it has only been a week, you will be impatient that you’re not back on the treadmill, that you’re still inexplicably sad, and feel disgustingly heavy. The actual loss will look and feel minuscule, and you will rationalize that it is not even a loss, but more of a procedural hazard. You certainly will not desperately seek an answer and an explanation, like you do, for your daughter’s unexplained death.

Except signaling the end of a long, twisted reproductive journey of attuned ironies, patterned randomness and comical tragedies, this miscarriage will be but an accident.

Life will feel heavier. The loss, lighter.

 

How do other losses feel like after the loss of your baby(ies)? How do those feelings compare to those about loss before your child(ren) died? Where are you in your reproductive journey? How has it been?