It seems funny to refer to you as ‘you’, because you never were.
Months have passed since I found out the truth and knew the science, but still I think of
The pregnancy test was positive.
We were thrilled. It wasn’t like we were actively trying for a baby – but we also weren’t preventing it. You came up in our conversations often, were included in our dreams, in our ‘what if’s. You were hoped for.
Right away, I knew something was different.
My pregnancy with Joy was easy. I say ‘easy’ because I knew women who had it harder- no pregnancy is easy, by any means. I had bouts of morning sickness in the very beginning, but I only threw up on occasion and these spells would only last an hour or so. Everything with her was so usual- the extra weight, the exhaustion, the mood swings. I was still up and shooting weddings until 36 weeks, and I still had the energy at 38 but was so afraid to accidentally induce her by walking around so much (jokes on me, she waited another two weeks).
This time, I was sick. Gradually, my appetite grew non-exsistant – there were only a few things I could stomach, and the things I couldn’t would go straight out of me (both ways). I slept a lot – during the day, I hardly had energy to chase my almost-toddler around, let alone do anything that I would usually do.
I told myself it was just different – every pregnancy is different, right? Once the second trimester came, things would be better. Things would clear up. Until then, I could wait because the baby – because you- were worth it.
Days of eating less and less passed. I could hardly keep anything down. I continued to sleep. But we kept the pregnancy a secret for now – we were so excited, but I wanted to figure out the perfect, creative way to share our news with everyone. Sometimes, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to make a formal announcement at all- I just wanted to experience being pregnant and tell our friends when the moment seemed right.
We started looking up names. I was in love with a few – Irene, for instance, or Haven and Jane. I was sure you were a girl. I would repeat the names on my lips, seeing if they felt right. Who were you?
A house became a priority, quickly. With a second child on the way, I was desperate for a yard. For a front porch. For a big, open kitchen that spilled into the living room. A large, permanent bathtub to bathe two babies in. A room for my children that was all their own to share secrets and stories, to giggle and laugh, to grow together.
Two years seemed like perfect spacing to me. October 19th was your due date- just three day’s before Joy’s birthday. Joy would be old enough to talk a little, independent enough to want to help, but not so big that she didn’t still need me. I imagined you would be best friends.
The weeks flew by. Once I hit 12 weeks, I felt invincible. The fear of miscarriage was over – I had made it! We had made it.
We visited the Birth Center. I fell in love with birthing you – I imagined our family in those cozy little rooms. Joy’s birth was so exciting, so beautiful – I knew that yours would be the same. We planned our appointment for 14 weeks to the day – it was no question that I was pregnant. My body was changing, my hormones were crazy – even close friends had started to notice my growing belly. With Joy’s pregnancy being so smooth, so easy, I didn’t think there were any red flags, I didn’t know you weren’t even here.
Visiting the Birth Center felt like I was with friends. The midwife was kind and engaged, there was lots of laughter in the air. “Let’s take a look at this baby,” she said after all the introductions and paperwork.
I remember her feeling my stomach, “It feels like it’s the right size for our dates. We’ll see if we can get a heartbeat.”
The jelly felt cool against my skin. I could hear my heartbeat pounding through the speaker, like a train gearing up to move faster and faster. There was no little heart beat to accompany it.
Now, I was nervous. I looked up at Jeff, who had been recording with his phone. He gave me a reassuring smile as the midwife switched out monitors.
Still more silence. My heartbeat was pacing faster now. I think we tried three different machines, but none of them picked up a heartbeat.
I remember her saying something about getting an ultrasound. Maybe I wasn’t as far along as we thought. Get some peace of mind. She made us an appointment for a clinic and we drove away.
The clinic was cold and uninviting. I felt intrusive in the waiting room, sitting there with a anxious 15-month old who hadn’t even napped.
Just waiting. And waiting. Everything would be okay.
Finally, we were called back. I made Jeff come with me. The whole experience was strange – the screen was turned away from me, she didn’t answer any of my questions. I felt ignored- and I was.
After minutes that felt like hours, she was done measuring and examining. I asked her if we could have a picture. At this point, I was thinking the worst – the baby must be dead. “Sure, if you want.”
“I don’t think you’d want one,” Jeff told me once she left. I was angry at him – even if the baby wasn’t alive anymore, of course I’d want something to remember it by.
But he was right.
We went home knowing absolutely nothing.
That night, I remember the two of us close on the couch. Waiting for the call. Once we left the clinic, all we were told is that our doctor would call. No answers, no other statements. So we waited. And waited. Eventually, I called – turns out a woman had gone into labor, so she was away helping a mother give birth.
Tuesday night, we cried.
Wednesday. Week 14, day 2. I finally got the call. The first few sentences were a blur – I had no idea what she was talking about.
“Molar pregnancy?” I asked. “What is it? Is the baby dead?”
Turns out, it wasn’t a baby at all.
The science behind molar pregnancies is complicated – at least, it is for me. As a regular person with basic knowledge of human biology, I still struggle with explaining what it is. It’s both rare and also strangely common – 1 out of 1,000 or so chances it would occur. It’s a mutation that happens when the sperm and egg join together – instead of creating an embryo, it creates a mass of cells they call a ‘growth mole’. Sometimes, the body will dispose of it itself (in the guise of a miscarriage), and sometimes, it will grow and needs to be surgically removed.
There’s a lot of technical stuff I won’t get into – the risk of cancer, the surgery itself, the multiple doctor appointments and follow ups. Because really, why I’m writing this isn’t about all that – it’s about not having you.
I felt so guilty. Guilty that I didn’t realize sooner. Guilty that I was in so much pain. Guilty that others lost actual babies and I’m here mourning over a mass of cells.
I did okay though, for a little bit. I didn’t allow myself to cry. Until one day, I saw a friend went through a still birth. 25 weeks along, the sweet baby’s heartbeat stopped. I burst into tears. I thought I was okay, I thought I had moved on. But I couldn’t help it. That afternoon, I sobbed.
I cried for the family, for the mother who lost her baby girl. I cried for the child, who would never experience a breath of air, who would never meet her parents, who wouldn’t get the chance to grow up.
I cried for myself, that I didn’t have a baby to hold. I cried because there was nothing to hold onto, no ashes to be buried. I cried because I was selfish.
I still ache for you. I joke to my husband about wanting another kid, even after all we went though, but they aren’t really jokes. I feel like you are a part of me, and are just waiting for the right moment to meet us.
Once again, I’m waiting. I’m waiting for you, baby number two. I’m waiting for the appointments to be over. I’m waiting for the all-clear from the doctor to try for you. I’m waiting for you to meet your sister.
Living without you has gotten easier. My soul isn’t mourning anymore, and certainly there’s been joy without you. I’m grateful that with this molar pregnancy I had a best-case scenario. I’m thankful that one day I can try again. There’s still pain, and even now, months later, I can’t help but cry reliving these memories and writing it down. But life moves on without you. It sucks, but it’s true. It’s also a form of mercy – time moving forward helps me move forward.
I’m sharing this because I felt alone. In the beginning of my journey, I didn’t know a single person who had gone through a molar pregnancy. As women graciously allowed me into their own stories of loss, I felt isolated and somehow deceitful because my story wasn’t the same. That I had no right to mourn.
I don’t want others to believe those same lies.
I’m sharing this because a molar pregnancy was something I had never even heard of, something I didn’t even know existed. I’m sharing this because none of this was in your control, none of this is your fault.
You have worth, mama with no child. You have purpose, you have strength, and you have a future beyond this present pain.