When I began bleeding, I honestly didn’t think it was a big deal. I figured it was just over-exertion from the weekend before. I figured this was just part of it. My very first ultrasound of Dave and I’s baby proved that the baby’s heart rate was gone. I was supposed to be 12 weeks and the baby only measured 7. I was alone. I had just sat down with a midwife and had gone through the slew of dos and don’ts of pregnancy, what to expect, and how to prepare.
The ultrasound technician couldn’t find the heartbeat. She said my tilted uterus was the problem. When she tried again and again in different positions I felt my body tense. As she stopped the ultrasound and told me there was no heartbeat I felt a rush of emotions. The first being relief. The second were tears and sobs.
I felt very numb and out of sorts when a doctor came in and told me what to expect over the next week as I would miscarry. Contractions was about all I heard. She said that in a week, if I hadn’t miscarried, they’d do another ultrasound to make sure there was still no heartbeat and then would do a procedure to remove the fetus. I didn’t want any of it.
I called Dave, crying, uncertain, wishing he was there, grateful he wasn’t. I felt so confused.
This isn’t a typical story of the joy of pregnancy and the tragedy of miscarriage that so many women encounter. When I finally took a test several weeks after missing a menstrual cycle I was pretty certain it would be negative. We had done what we thought was required for it to be negative. Dave had a vasectomy. In my mind, once that procedure was done, that was it.
We had carefully planned out our future and decided not to have kids together. It was a choice we agreed upon together and an understanding we had prior to us even being married. So a positive pregnancy test was not met with joy. It was with devastation. It was knowing that the plans we thought out, the dreams we had dreamt, were very quickly being changed.
Over the next month we struggled with the news and weighed our options. We avoided talking to friends and family because we didn’t know how to tell them news that was bittersweet to us. We shared with a few select people to seek advice and they too understood our struggle.
Several weeks before I started to miscarry we began talking in positive tones about the baby. We decided which room would be the nursery, we talked about options for my career moving forward and how we would handle childcare. We began planning for a child. We began planning for a life we never planned.
The process of miscarriage was terrifying. The doctor who had advised me that I would feel contractions hadn’t told me the entire story. She didn’t share about the cramps and bleeding I would have for the next 48 hours. She didn’t tell me about the 5 hours of contractions and labor pains I would feel, with me not quite understanding that I was delivering a dead fetus; that my body was going into labor. I nearly passed out in the bathtub from the blood. I showered, and bathed, and cried, and sobbed as the birth slowly made its way out of me. It was the most distressing thing I have ever been through short of watching my husband die.
The next morning was another ultrasound, check up, blood work, and then that evening more cramps and bleeding as my body completed the miscarriage.
With such a bittersweet reaction to being pregnant, the reaction to my miscarriage was devastating. Even as the hormones went back to normal after weeks of bloodwork I felt drained, my body felt lost, and my mind numb and flatlined. It wasn’t until a month ago that I really began connecting this loss with the loss of my husband, and the loss of so many dreams from that lifetime.
I had begun therapy in May for the depression I was feeling. I knew I needed to clean up some of my grief. I was low, “borderline depressed” as my therapist told me. The miscarriage took me over the edge and I plummeted during my weekly therapy sessions in which I sobbed the entire 50 minutes.
A month ago we made the decision to go on antidepressants. It was a decision I made with my doctor, my therapist and my husband. We all knew I wasn’t making progress, I wasn’t getting better. The sadness and lows I had at the beginning of the year was now replaced with full on depression. I needed something to help me fight again.
Wednesday I honor 7 years since I lost my first husband and I’ve been fighting with myself back and forth about what to share about my life in this 7th year of loss. Sharing, unlike when Kevin was sick and after he died, used to be so therapeutic for me. It was a way for me to share my feelings and heartaches and feel like I had a world of support waiting for me and walking with me.
I’ve spent the time since I published my book, almost 2 years ago, hiding from my grief. I’ve been doing it not only in hopes that I’ve moved forward from my grief, but also to protect my husband. My lack of sharing, hiding from my grief, and not acknowledging my true feelings has only served me negatively. It has led to this slow sink into depression.
I wanted to believe that I could shield my husband from the pain of my past, that I could uncomplicate our lives by being wholly present with him and forgetting about my past. I was sick of Kevin being in our face all the time. Dave never once told me it angered him, or made him mad, but I wanted to save him from any pain of seeing that history. I was being irrational.
I’ve failed to share about remarriage after widowhood because I felt like I didn’t have a clue. I felt that I knew grief, I knew how it worked, and I could share about that. But remarriage felt like new territory. It was complicated to share and I wanted to keep it quiet and sacred.
What I’m learning is that everything in life is a balance. When I launched my Kickstarter two years ago I was sharing my past with the world several times a day and it was exhausting for everyone. As a recently remarried widow I remember sobbing on my husband’s shoulder and apologizing for it being so invasive into our own lives. I felt like I had failed him a wife by dredging up so much of my past day in and day out. He assured me he was ok with it. He was proud of me when the Kickstarter was successfully funded and he’s been incredibly supportive of the book. Yet still, I wanted to protect him. I wanted him to know that in our marriage he was my primary focus.
In doing this I’ve tried to spend the last two years quietly mourning my late husband when the grief tries to appear. The first year it felt good-I felt like I was strong. I could attend Camp Widow and be a rock to other widows. But last fall when I attended Camp Widow Canada I could feel myself slipping. I wanted to grieve, deeply. I wanted to find a quiet space and mourn for Kevin.
I came back and went back into life and I felt myself pull away from daily life a little bit at a time. I didn’t even feel up to celebrating the holidays as I normally do. No real Christmas tree. After a rough, cold winter I couldn’t shake the blues. I couldn’t keep going as I had been. My wedding anniversary to Kevin came and went, as did his birthday, and I kept trying to keep it quiet. To keep it hidden. I kept telling myself it was to protect my husband.
He isn’t to blame. I kept it all bottled up and hidden because I wanted to believe I was done mourning. I wanted to believe the grief was done. I wanted to believe I had figured out the path to healing and recovery.
The miscarriage blew that theory up. The miscarriage was devastating but the after effects were what made me crumble. The connection to giving up dreams of children when Kevin first began chemotherapy; the change of what I thought life would be…so many different times. I was sick of changing my life plans over and over again.
My therapist has walked me through all the different safeguards I have put into place to protect myself from pain that have failed me again and again. She’s showing me that with life there is pain. That with death, there is destruction. She is showing me that I must live with all of this and figure out a way to thrive in spite of all these challenges.
It’s really tough. Everything I once thought life would be is what it is not. It’s not as cookie cutter as I had hoped. It’s much more uglier but it’s also a lot more beautiful and delicate. What I’ve failed to share over the past three years is how amazing and sacred life has been and how much I’ve struggled adjusting to the constant hurdles that life throws at me.
My husband and I have a great relationship – he is my most cherished best friend and because of that our marriage is strong, committed, gentle and compassionate. We are in love in such a different and unique way that is made whole by the fact that we come into this relationship with troubled pasts. We both acknowledge that if we had met at any other part of life, we never would have come together.
Both of us accept our past relationships, loves and losses. The love and hurt we have experienced through those relationships bonds us together so we care for one another with the knowledge that we will embrace today and love one another as we are. It’s the most healthy relationship I have ever been in and when I asked him if it was ok I blogged about our miscarriage, I knew that I also needed to blog about us. I needed to share about our partnership.
I’ve been so scared to share because I’ve been confused in how to tell people that Kevin, the man I love, is dead and that I’m passionately committed to my husband, Dave. It sounds really messed up. And I can’t explain it but I can say that my heart is constantly evolving to love in ways I never imagined. It loves in the past and in the present. It embraces the future and mourns the loss. I don’t think it necessarily takes a special person to marry a widow, or a special person to marry a divorcee, but it takes a dedicated heart, a compassionate soul, and a confident mind to accept one another fully in any marriage. We all bring a complicated past of love and hurt to our relationships.
Those pains and gains don’t end with marriage. The grow and morph to share in those struggles together. Dave and I are constantly reworking our way of thinking to better understand one another and how to accept our differences and our pasts so that we can share in our future together for as long as possible. I don’t know what to expect but I know I want to be fully present in this with him.
That’s why I wanted to share all this with you. For those who are still dreaming of love, I encourage you to be open and willing. For those struggling in their marriage, I ask you to be compassionate and accepting. For those who have lost someone they love, I wish for you to seek and believe. For those who don’t know what is going to come next and are terrified of that prospect, I acknowledge your fear and invite you to wait with me to find the calm.
I’m not an expert on grief. I’m not a counselor in marriage. I don’t know what to tell you about any of it. I can only share my experience. I grieve on a daily basis for so many losses. But today, today I love more than I grieve and that is progress. It is because of love that I grieve and it has all been worthwhile.