I read once that scientists found that a mother carries the genes of her children in her body her entire life regardless of the length of her pregnancies. These genes travel to our organs and brain and manipulate our own genes for decades. There are several theories as to why this happens and I’m sure the reality is much more complex–and much less poetic–than my personal takeaway, but I loved the idea that we never stop carrying our babies and they never stop changing us.
My first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage at 10 weeks. The pregnancy itself was a total surprise and it took my partner and I some time to get used to the idea of a baby. But 10 weeks of pregnancy feels much longer than 10 weeks without a pregnancy and I became very attached.
I had some spotting at nine weeks, but it was just a little and the midwives assured me that it didn’t necessarily mean anything was wrong. But then the spotting started again and this time it was heavier. I went in for a viability ultrasound and we were told there was no heartbeat. They did see something, but it looked abnormal and was only measuring at about six weeks. Our baby had died a full month earlier. My body just took a while to register the loss.
I quickly learned that miscarriage isn’t an event but a process your body goes through to empty the contents of your womb. Every miscarriage is different. Mine was long and slow. My body didn’t want to let it go.
The following weeks were a blur of bleeding, physical and emotional pain, sadness, shock, guilt, tears, needles, and another ultrasound. No one knew why my body was taking so long to miscarry, but I was told it was continuing to empty itself so I was okay to continue letting nature take its course if I wanted to. Throughout all of it I felt the baby. I told a friend I felt like I had phantom baby syndrome. I knew there was no baby anymore, but I felt it all the same.
Finally the bleeding stopped and we all thought it was over. I didn’t stop feeling my baby though.
Two months after the miscarriage ended I woke one morning to a terrible pain deep in my lower abdomen. Everything would tighten and then release for a bit and I’d feel better for a moment until the tightness and pain would start to creep up again. I thought I was having really intense and strange period cramping so I got in the bath thinking it might help. It didn’t.
At this point my partner woke up and found me. He decided to call the midwives and ask what we should do. We were told it was possible that there may still be some tissue left and that my body was trying to pass it. The midwife told us what to watch for and at what point we may need to head to the hospital. Less than an hour later I felt the last remnants of our baby leave my body and the pain subsided.
After the birth of my first son I realized that what I had felt that morning were contractions. I don’t know how my body held that baby for so long and didn’t develop an infection, but it suddenly became clear why I had still felt so physically connected. Afterwards the physical connection began to fade away. The emotional connection remained.
I still often think about that first baby we didn’t get to bring home. Sometimes I look at my boys and think about the older sibling we will never know. It was that first baby that led my partner-turned-husband and I to decide to start a family. It was that first baby that led us to our boys. I owe a lot to that first baby. And I take comfort knowing that on some level I still carry that baby with me.
*Guest post from Amee Pacheco-Portland Oregon