By Sara Beukema
October has always been my favorite month. The promise of cooler weather to come – a reprieve from the Texas heat. On brisk, sunny days, with the world washed in gold, the word “perfect” always comes to mind. But I prefer the rain. I find comfort in the grey, fall skies.
And sometimes, you find a rainbow.
We weren’t trying to get pregnant. Turns out, we’re really good at accidentally getting pregnant.
We wanted another baby, but I imagined it happening another year or so down the road. While our daughter was undoubtedly the single best thing that had happened in my life, our first pregnancy was a surprise, and admittedly, I wanted things to go differently the second time around. I longed to experience the joy and excitement of pregnancy without the stress of the unexpected. Honestly, I didn’t feel ready to do it again. Madeline wasn’t even 18 months old. I felt selfish for not feeling the things I knew I should.
I did some math. October. The baby would be due just a few weeks after Madi’s second birthday.
It took a few days, but the excitement came. I pictured us as a family of four. I imagined Madi as a sweet big sister giving slobbery toddler kisses to the baby. I started searching for blog posts on “two kids under three” and “preparing your toddler for baby.” Suddenly, the unexpected seemed perfect. The greatest joys in my life hadn’t followed a plan; this was exactly how it should be.
I was at work when I noticed the blood. I didn’t think much about it at first. I had some spotting early on with Madi, and everything was fine. Normal. I was overreacting.
The day went on and the bleeding didn’t stop; it got heavier. I called the nurse at my doctor’s office, confident she’d tell me it was nothing to worry about. She wasn’t as dismissive as I’d hoped she be.
I needed to be examined, but it was late afternoon on a Friday and the office was closing. She told me to go to the ER.
The winter sun was low and harsh, and I squinted as I drove towards the hospital. I called Michael on my way. He wanted to come with me, but we didn’t have anyone to watch Madi on such short notice. I didn’t want to disrupt her evening routine. I told him it was probably nothing, a formality to ease my mind. I went by myself.
I was admitted and spent the next several hours waiting to be seen. I struggled to stay positive. They gave me a blood test and did an ultrasound, but said it was likely too early in the pregnancy to see anything. I was handed discharge papers – “threatened miscarriage” – and was instructed to go to my doctor on Monday for a follow-up. I went home to wait out the weekend with my inconclusive results and an overwhelming ache in my gut that this wasn’t ok.
I kept bleeding.
I had a second blood test on Monday. The nurses were optimistic, but careful not to make any promises. I sensed sadness behind their smiles.
I sat in my car in the office parking lot the next day clutching my cellphone. It was cold, but the sun made the car oppressively warm. “Miscarriage.” I cried behind my sunglasses and watched coworkers walk back into the building from lunch. I tried to keep my voice even as I thanked the nurse for calling.
I drove home to our apartment with the radio off; it took all my energy to focus on driving. I broke down as soon as I got inside. I laid in bed with my broken heart, gently cradling my nearly flat belly. I called Michael and told him between sobs. I sent an email to my manager saying I had gone home sick.
I felt guilty. I beat myself up thinking I somehow brought this on, that I hadn’t wanted our baby enough.
After Madi was in bed that night, Michael and I sat together on the couch. As I cried into his sweatshirt, I worried out loud that it was like it never happened. I was pregnant, and then I wasn’t. It was so early on we hadn’t told our families or friends yet. Was I silly to grieve a pregnancy that had barely started and a baby that felt more like a dream than a reality? He told me that every life, no matter how brief, serves a purpose and brings meaning to those it touches; that even though we only had a few weeks with our baby, we were forever changed.
He suggested that we give our baby a name. I thought it was a boy. We named him Alden.
I went back to work the next day and attempted to act like everything was fine – because as far as anyone knew, it was. But pretending grated on my nerves. I desperately wanted everyone to know how much I was hurting, the depth of my sadness, but with few exceptions, I kept it to myself.
I bled the rest of the week. I cried every time I went to the bathroom.
Valentine’s Day was a few days away. I tried not to think about the cards I had planned to send our families to surprise them with the news. In March, I deleted my secret “baby #2” Pinterest board. As winter turned to spring, I did my best to fight back jealousy as pregnancy announcements and pictures of baby bumps filled my Facebook newsfeed. I felt painfully empty. Over coffee one day, a friend at work shared that she was pregnant with her second child. She innocently joked that I should get pregnant so we could be bump buddies. Her due date was close to what would have been my own. I congratulated her and genuinely wished I meant it.
That October, the three of us moved into our first house. We set up the spare bedroom as a guest room. We painted the walls grey.
Time passed and life carried on. We focused on Madi. We went to work. We went on dates. We took a family trip. We found more reasons to laugh than cry.
As summer drew to a close, Michael and I decided to do something we’d never set out to do before; we started trying to get pregnant.
I knew I was pregnant before the test confirmed it a few weeks later. I was giddy. I was relieved. I took a picture to remember the moment I found out – my pure joy – and planned a way to surprise Michael with the news. I picked up prenatal vitamins on my way back from my lunch break.
We were happy. We sat at the dinner table that weekend and asked nearly-three-year-old Madi if she wanted a sister or a brother.
For as much pain as my miscarriage had brought, I now thought of it as a shield. I ran through the facts my doctor had comforted me with afterwards. I was young. I was healthy. I had already carried a baby full-term without complication. The miscarriage was an unfortunate fluke, an unfair statistic probability. We’d had our loss. We were safe.
Four days later, I noticed blood. A week from the day I had found out I was pregnant, the nurse confirmed I wasn’t any more.
We didn’t talk about that miscarriage much. I couldn’t bring myself to name the baby.
“Keep taking your prenatal vitamins. And go ahead and start taking a baby Aspirin and Folic Acid supplement daily as well – I’ve found the combination seems to help my patients who have a history with miscarrying stay pregnant. Your period might be late or irregular – you and your husband can start trying again once you’ve had it, but be careful this month.”
All September I waited for my period. It never came.
October 1st was a Saturday. While Madi watched cartoons and Michael made breakfast, I slipped down the hall to our bathroom and pulled an open box of pregnancy tests from the back of the cabinet. There was one left from August. I winced at the the thought. I was sure I wasn’t pregnant, that my body just needed more time to get back to normal. It felt like a waste. Still, I had never completely skipped a period and needed the peace of mind.
I left the test in the bathroom and went to make the bed and pick-up some clothes I’d left lying on a chair. It was still early and our bedroom was bright with sunshine. I listened to the Mickey Mouse theme song playing in the living room and glanced at the clock to confirm I’d successfully wasted three minutes.
I checked the test. It was positive. My stomach dropped.
I was still trying to process the news when Michael walked in, laughing about something I had to see. I told him there was something he had to see, too. He looked at the test still smiling, and I watched as it registered, his smile faltering just slightly. We weren’t supposed to be pregnant, yet. Was this ok? Should we be excited? Could we be excited? Neither of us knew how to feel. We settled for cautious optimism. We tried to stay busy until Monday.
The rest of the month was a blur of appointments. First one blood test, then another. We weren’t sure how far along I was, and the first few tests seemed to indicate that the numbers weren’t adding up right. They ordered an ultrasound. Miraculously, there was a heartbeat, but it was slow. All I wanted was to be happy. All I felt was worry. Every appointment I braced myself for bad news.
We made it to November. We gave thanks.
We began telling family and close friends. We told co-workers when it became too obvious to deny. We told Madi she was going to be a big sister sometime before Christmas. In turn, she told everyone she came in contact with, which fortunately was limited to her friends and teachers at preschool – and a few random strangers in line at Target.
Months passed and our baby, a boy, continued to grow exactly as he should, but I would still catch myself scanning my underwear for the slightest sign of blood. I struggled to settle into the pregnancy. If it hadn’t been for Madi’s contagious enthusiasm, I probably would have been crushed under the weight of waiting.
We had a scare at five months, mere days from the anniversary of our first miscarriage. It was the middle of the night. Michael strapped a sleepy, confused Madi into her carseat and opened my door to help me into the car for the ride to the hospital. I choked through tears, “I can’t lose him! I can’t!”
We didn’t. Sometimes scares are just that and nothing more. Sometimes you get good news.
On June 7th, three days past his due date, we welcomed our sweet baby boy. 7lbs. 14oz. and 21.5” long. After months on edge, I finally relaxed. I sobbed tears of joy and relief as he cried out, loudly announcing his arrival.
We named him Greyson.
The morning we brought him home from the hospital, it rained.
A cool front came through last night. I look out the window, the overcast skies echoing the grey walls in the nursery.
I can hear Madi and Michael playing in the living room. Greyson is napping in my arms. He sighs as I shift slightly under the weight of his sleeping body, trying to reposition him without waking him up; he’s long for a four month old. I study his face, his eyelashes lit with muted daylight.
Alden would have turned two this month. I still think about him from time to time. I wonder what he would have been like as a baby, and now a toddler. Sometimes I think about the baby we didn’t name and wonder if life would be any different if we’d had a baby in April instead of June.
Greyson starts to stir and I kiss the top of his head. He blinks a few times and smiles at me. I think how much I love October.