Author’s Note: It is estimated that 10 to 25 percent of all pregnancies end in a miscarriage – a term doctors use to describe any pregnancy that ends on its own within the first 20 weeks of gestation. While a specific cause of a miscarriage seldom can be identified, some suggest that as many as 70 percent of first-trimester miscarriages are caused by some form of chromosomal abnormality. I suspect these relatively high percentages are why couples often wait until after the first trimester to share the joyous news of a new pregnancy. It’s also why so many suffer in silence when they and their child become part of this heart-breaking statistic. In 1984, we were one of those couples.
I don’t know why you were on my mind on this morning’s walk or why you’re still there several hours later. It’s been years since I last thought about you. Maybe it’s all the talk of late about a woman’s right to choose, about whether it’s ever too late in a pregnancy to terminate it, or whether it’s moral or ethical to decide to terminate one at all. Maybe it’s my recent willingness to revisit old wounds, to sit with the unprocessed grief that surrounds them, and to allow myself the grace to gently and lovingly apply the few missing sutures necessary to fully and finally bind them up and let them go. Maybe, as I stand at yet another crossroads in my life and think about all of the important people who have come and gone, the relationships that were and weren’t, the moments that affected me most profoundly, it’s only natural that you would come to mind. Maybe it’s a little bit of all of these things – and so much more.
Still, I’m not entirely sure why, more than 30 years later, your visits still bring the spontaneous outpouring of tears they do. Is it because I allow myself to wonder what it would have been like to meet you for the first time, to hold you in my arms, to see you smile, to kiss you goodnight, to read you bedtime stories, to watch your personality unfold, to listen to your laughter coming from another room, to hear the sound of your footsteps, to dry your tears, to comfort you, to play with you and watch you play, to share your schemes and dreams, to watch you shine and be there to help you up when you fell – to have the privilege to be your dad? Or is it because I realize how fundamentally different it all might have been with a family of five – breakfast and dinner table conversations, sibling rivalries and relationships, morning and bedtime routines, summer vacations, school and extracurricular activities, photographs, and memories. Likely, it’s because of all of these things – and so much more.
I’ve called you “Sarah” for purposes of this note, but the truth is: I don’t know whether you were a girl or a boy. You and I didn’t get that far. I picked Sarah because I like that name – and the people I associate with it – and because I realized today, among other things, that I always envisioned you being a girl. Perhaps that’s why, while I didn’t want your mom to know, I was terrified when I first learned you were inching your way into our lives. I had no clue how to be a parent, let alone how to parent a little girl. I was still trying to figure out what it means to be me, but I was eager to learn and committed to being a good dad – the best dad – no matter what it took. It’s just that I never got the chance to show you that (and so much more), because, seemingly as soon as I started to get my head around it all, around the thought of two becoming three, you were gone.
As has often been the case in my life, I felt the need to be strong (mostly for your mom) and, consequently, held as many of my tears at bay as I could, because I knew that she too was heart-broken by your loss. In time, we moved on, as life demanded. We started a family the following year with the birth of your brother and, two years later, your sister. Each has a very special, other-centered heart and lots of gifts that make them engaging, uniquely beautiful, and fun to be with. You would have enjoyed and loved each other – immensely. What I most want you to know, however, is that I loved you (and still do); that, given the choice, all of us would have chosen life with you, rather than to live it, as we have, without you; that I’m sorry we never had the chance to meet; and that I live in hope that maybe someday we will.
With All My Love,
Photo Credit: Author, via Atlanta Birth Center