My first pregnancy ended in a Subway bathroom on my lunch hour. I had taken a home-pregnancy test the previous week after my period had been about a week late. Though faint, the test came back positive, and I was looking forward to my doctor appointment scheduled for the following week. Two days before the doctor appointment, I was standing in line with my co-workers at Subway deciding whether I wanted the cold cut combo or the black forest ham when out of the blue I was struck with cramps in my lower belly. A hot flash came over me and I felt dizzy with a sudden urge to go to the bathroom. I excused myself out of line and headed straight to the restroom.
As I sat down on the toilet my belly cramped again, and I essentially started hemorrhaging into the porcelain bowl. My skin had gone clammy and hot and my head felt light. I leaned my head onto the wall, trying to take deep breaths and keep calm. The blood kept coming, and I felt trapped in that cold, tiled bathroom all alone. Waves of nausea washed over me, and I kept thinking what is happening? What is happening? I sat there a long time, just waiting for my body to finish expelling itself. When my body finally seemed to calm down, I tried to clean up the best I could. Can I just say that cheap, 1-ply toilet paper in a fastfood establishment bathroom isn’t conducive to mass bleeding?
Then I flushed, wondering if there was any way the tiny baby inside me was still there.
I emerged from the bathroom on shaky legs and with zero appetite. I felt numb and scared. I found my co-workers and they asked if I was okay. “You look pale.” I mumbled something about not feeling well and needing to go home for the rest of the day. I don’t remember anything else from the rest of that day.
Two days later I showed up to my doctor appointment and peed in a cup. I told the nurse what had happened in the Subway bathroom. When both the nurse and the doctor returned they looked at me with a bit of confusion. “Well, your hCG levels are high, so you were pregnant. But you were so early in the pregnancy that most women at this stage don’t even know they were pregnant. They just figure their period was late and heavier than usual.”
I went home feeling sad and confused. So did I miscarry? Had I only been “kind of pregnant”? I felt like I had experienced a loss, but it wasn’t being defined as one, so I didn’t know if I was allowed to feel sad.
My husband and I went for a walk that evening and I explained to him that we were pregnant “for like two minutes” but not anymore. My husband said that basically the embryo was like a zygote. I let myself cry just a little, and then I completely disconnected from the experience. I only told a friend or two and my parents about it and then never really spoke of it again.
My husband and I were blessed with two kids following that pregnancy, who are now nine and 11 years old. Strangely over the last 11 years, I’ve had random and sporadic sensations of a third child in our house, a child that I have forgotten about, maybe napping upstairs or playing in the other room. My husband once came to me and said, “Do you ever get the feeling there is a baby here that we’ve forgotten about?” Yes! I was relieved to know I wasn’t the only one who had the feeling. Neither of us had been able to explain it or come up with a logical explanation as to why we felt this way. “Maybe we’re going to have a surprise baby when we least expect it?” I speculated once. I secretly hoped not!
I mentioned to my mom these feelings of a “ghost baby” in our house that we sometimes feel and explained that we couldn’t figure out why in the world it was happening. “Well,” she said, “maybe it’s the baby from your ‘two minute pregnancy’ that you’ve never really acknowledged.”
I took this to therapy recently, and guess what? My mom was right. Dear reader, I spent over 13 years “disconnected” from a real pregnancy and real loss. I had emotionally disengaged from my miscarriage, not even allowing myself to call it a miscarriage, mostly because it wasn’t like any of the miscarriages my friends or acquaintances had experienced. It also wasn’t like I lost a full-term baby during or right after birth like a couple other mamas I know. Because my loss wasn’t the same, as tragic, as other women, I had minimized my fragile unborn baby into scientific verbiage, and buried a physically terrifying and emotionally fraught experience. I thought I had disconnected, but my body and my heart never did.
I processed my loss for the first time just recently. I now understand that I had three pregnancies, not just two. One day when I go to heaven, I’ll have a little girl waiting for me. I know she is a girl because when I talk to God about her, when I asked Him if this baby was real, my heart pounds in response with an inexplicable knowing that yes, she’s real. And I cry every time (like right now) I think about her and her realness. There is a completeness in my heart now that the “forgotten ghost baby” is no longer forgotten… or a ghost.
When I think about what the doctor had said, about how “most women don’t even know they’re pregnant at this stage,” I had written that off to mean that my pregnancy didn’t count. In reality it is a miracle that I was let in on a secret that God needed me to know. He wanted me to know that this unborn child exists. He’d been whispering to both my husband and me reminders of this secret for over a decade. I don’t know why, but I believe like every baby He creates, she is a gift for our hearts given to us with Divine love.
Friends, our bodies never forget what’s happened to them. Everything that happens to us, regardless of how seemingly small it seems to us matters to God. Deeply. No matter how hard we try to minimize, deny, or bury our hard experiences, they always stick with us and God wants to heal the hurt that comes with them. I pray that if you have something that’s happened to you, that you’ve tried to forget or from which you’ve tried to disengage, that you find someone to help you process through it and that God heals your hurt.