It was there and then it wasn’t. But when it was there, it filled my consciousness completely. This embryo or fetus, who both this time and last, I immediately and spontaneously called Baby-San. There are many websites that compare the growing baby to seeds and fruits, we cherished tenderly the sesame seed, the apple seed, the sweet pea, and the blueberry, after which only silence came.
A miscarriage is filled with ironies, that something so incredibly tiny can have so much force, reverberating through your whole body and soul like the rays of an internal sun. You talk (and in my case also sing) to something which does not have ears, you fantasize about the gender and therefore the names and qualities of a creature who still looks like an amphibian. You are supposed to restrain from telling people, even though it is precisely the first trimester that brings up the most fears, and has the most chance of miscarriage of any other time in the pregnancy, and therefore leaves the mother most in need of support.
But most poignant of all, you begin to care for tenderly- not quite love, but something which the particles of love are made of- this tiny creature who is not even yet fully human. The baby at this stage is all potential, all hope, like a tiny spring that has not yet uncoiled. And most excitedly, you the mother (and the father) are also filled with potential. It is taking YOU on a ride, YOU it’s host. On its journey into being born, you as the adult are about to be re-born. Life as you know it will change irrevocably, and in all aspects and corners, there is nothing that will not be touched by the baby.
And so, a mother to be, especially a new mother, spends a great deal of time fantasizing. What are the prenatal and postnatal mom groups, and what will the women and community be like? What will birth feel like, will the pain be worse than I think, or just as bad? Will I go through it naturally or take an epidural? What will my baby look like, feel like, sound like? Will he/she be kind? What gifts will they have, those from one of their parents, or something entirely new? What will it be like to breastfeed? What will it feel like when tiny fingers hold one of my own? And then the later years: daycare, school and puberty, what will it be like when my child pushes me away in their own crucial need for independence? What kind of man or woman will my child be? Will they do good in the world? That is all I hope for, their benevolence and generosity of spirit.
Every playground I passed during those 6 weeks gave me pause. I could see my child playing in them, could see myself both bored and happy at the sweet routines of life, would know that the joy in my child’s face over simple pleasures would light up my own.
But none of this ever happened, and in one day, all the dreams and fantasies, all that potential, all that hope, all that tenderness, like the frail puffs of white down in dandelions that have turned to seed, is gone, dashed, eliminated, ceases to be. For this little seedling, this tiny blueberry whose development you were utterly charmed by many times per day, dies inside you.
This therefore, is no ordinary death. Most deaths we know take place outside us, the one we know and love so well, the father, friend, lover, whose every expression we know so intimately, leaves life, and leaves us in their absence. And in the wake of their sudden non-being, we are left to grapple with the simplest and most painful fact on earth, which every religion since the beginning of time has ever wrestled with; that things die.
But this death hits the mother in a very different way. It is not the death of someone known and beloved, it is the death of someone you didn't know, couldn’t know, wanted more than anything to know. The death of a mystery. The death of an unknown joy. The death of a potential, of a presence, someone who’s being could not even whisper inside you, and yet whose presence was truly like a radiating sun.
There was one day a week ago when I realized I was already a mother. I came home excitedly and told Girish what I felt, that I was already a mother, and he already a father. That the baby didn’t have to come out of me and have me attend to it’s needs, to be assigned the role of “mother.” It was not something I needed to earn. I was already mothering something deep inside me, I was nourishing it with my blood and my breath, sending it prayers of encouragement, housing it inside my womb. I was its mother. No one else was. It was creation pure and simple, the great cycle of life, which finally, at 44, I was stepping into and stepping into willingly. This was not my first pregnancy, but the only one I had truly wanted to embrace.
Being pregnant this summer made me so aware of the gift of maybe, finally being able to step into the flow of normal adult life, having a FAMILY, creating a family, being normal like my other friends who have crossed over into normal lives. Yes, very much through the portal of creating that all pervasive cultural unit- The Family. What is a family? What would it be like to have one? The one I had was so noxious, hurtful and crushing to my spirit, that even at the age of 8 I wanted to flee it and wondered about the questionable bond of blood ties. What would it be like to make a family filled with love, respect, creativity, affection, support, fun, humor and kindness? My darling child, what would it have been like to hold your gentle hand? Even the boredom and exhaustion, what would it have been like?
At 44, my age staring at me in the face with eyes as expressionless as a vast gray sky, I know now that I very likely may never know any of this. Two miscarriages in one year have brought the knowledge home hard. I am too old, and although still fertile, too many of my eggs are not healthy enough to create a subsequently healthy life. I sit here knowing that my last fertile years were spent with 2 beautiful men, one who I didn’t want to have a child with, and one who I did, and yet he did not want to, a big part of our separating after over 4 years together. I sit here knowing that the unfurling of my life, choices I made and choices I didn't, brought me to my current partner, a man born on the other side of the world who would have brought the genes of India into this baby, this beautiful man I most likely met too late in my life for family. Yes, we are both fertile and I am getting pregnant, but 2 embryos died, and how many more will, if I even have the strength to keep trying and miscarrying until one egg, a good strong egg, makes its way down at just the right time? And so I sit here plainly seeing the arc of my life, from childhood family to now, knowing there may never be another family that I get to discover and create, in a new and tender way with someone I deeply love and trust.
Instead of potential and hope, the prismatic rays of a radiating sun from within, I feel empty. Empty, barren and stripped of the spark of magic, and the feeling of having been anointed by life, of being part of the river and fabric of life; the unity of being part of the cycle of life, not just a bystander to it.
I miss you Baby-San. I miss the way you inhabited all of my days with me. It is so very hard to wake up now, knowing immediately upon waking, that you are no longer there; that I am not 2 but 1, and how foolish you were to take yourself out of the potential of all that you were to be, all that we were to do together. I am no longer on that journey my bright star, fallen prince or princess, and if I think of how tenderly I would have cared for you, it is far too much to bear and my brain shuts down into silence.
I don't want to be sentimental and thank you for letting me experience motherhood for a few short weeks, because now where there was an ember, an apple seed, the fluttering of a bumblebee, there is nothing; and I get the fine experience of watching you, Mr./Mrs. Hope, get flushed down the toilet in clots of blood and tissue. Refuse.
No, I don't thank you for that. Luckily I’m well versed with grief, longing and absence, and so I will let the hole get filled up one sand grain at a time, while I am awake and while I sleep. And if I am lucky, one day I will be able to put this into song, fold up your red tissue and my grief, the tenderness, and dreams of your unknown face as if seen behind a thick pane of glass, and send it away into the air.