Richenda is especially adorable when she’s pregnant.
If you know my wife, you know she’s hard-working, driven, and shoots for the moon. She wakes up early, eats right, and all things being equal, prefers working to relaxing. For her, the happiest part of the weekend is crossing things off her to-do list.
But with a baby inside of her, she becomes… well… a little bit more like me.
Sleeping in? For sure.
Fast food cheeseburger cravings? Yes please!
Richenda was glowing during pregnancy, and she’s glowing even more now as a Mom. But it wasn’t an easy journey—for either of us. I’ve been writing this post on and off for a few months, a paragraph here and there, writing until tears blur the screen and I start getting concerned looks for crying in coffee shop. If you’ve been down a similar path, my heart goes out to you.
* * *
Richenda walked out of the bathroom with a half-smile and a plastic stick with two lines.
“Babe. I’m pregnant.”
Now there’s only a few clear moments in my life that I wish I could go back and change. My reaction then is definitely on the list. I froze. I stopped breathing. I panicked. We had talked about when we wanted to have kids, and this was not the timing.
Those words I spoke out loud were just slightly better than the words inside my head, “Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit”.
I was shocked. This was a surprise. Richenda was pregnant, and in that moment, I was angry.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be a Dad. I’ve always known I wanted to have kids. Like, really wanted to. Once, I read that if you’re going through depression, the best thing to do is envision a bright moment in your future; It helps you focus on the bits ahead instead of whatever you’re going through. So during some of the worst moments of life I’ve had a picture in my head of becoming a Dad. It was my happy moment ahead.
But when I imagined my wife telling me she’s pregnant, I imagined I’d be more prepared. I thought I’d be at a place in life where I felt ready, we’d have carefully considered the timing, had lots of savings saved up, and completed a good majority of life goals. But when I heard the news, I felt like a scared kid, unprepared for what was ahead and looking for someone to blame. And in that moment I blamed my wife.
(I also blamed the “Pregnancy Timing” fertility cycle tracking app we used as our (only) birth control while vacationing in Bali. Not that we had left something so life-changingly important as birth control to a free iTunes app… but, yeah. 0 star review.)
* * *
I was in a better place after a few weeks. The shock was gone. I was excited. We talked about names, and if we wanted to find out the gender. Richenda was sure it was a boy, I was sure it was a girl. We dreamed ahead to our first Christmas with a baby, and all the happy moments to come.
At six weeks the baby is about size of a peanut. The nickname stuck. Peanut. Peanut was perfect. Our little secret, our growing joy. No one else knew. Richenda was carrying a baby, and I was going to be a Dad.
* * *
“Ready to have a look!?”
It was March 11th. We were at the OB’s office, eagerly anticipating seeing our little Peanut on the ultrasound for the first time. I had pictured the moment just like in the movies, the happy couple holding hands, watching a little black and white x-ray looking baby, and instantly falling in love. The fast heartbeat, the little outline of their head. The first time it really feels real.
We were so excited.
Richenda hopped up on the table, and the doctor started moving the wand around her belly. I had my phone in my hand, with the video on, ready to capture the beautiful moment. We waited…
It was meant to be such and exciting moment. Instead it was devastating. There was no heartbeat. There was no baby inside. Richenda had miscarried. The secret that we carried with us so carefully wasn’t real anymore. I felt guilty for not want the baby when it was there, and now I was ready—but now there was no baby. Suddenly the beautiful moments of talking to Richenda belly felt stupid. An emotional investment in nothing.
We were numb. I wanted to drink 100 beers and wake up next week. Richenda wanted to pretend it didn’t happen and go right back to work meetings. Our doctor asked about our plans for the day, so we acted cool. “Eh, back to work”. And our Doctor quietly said…
“It’s ok to mourn. It’s ok to grieve. You’ve both been imagining all the times ahead, and your next Christmas with a child. I’m sure this has come as a shock. Maybe it’s best if you take a few days to grieve.”
Dr. Fiona was right. And so we grieved. We took the day off and put a daisy in the water in Docklands and watched it float away: our dreams, our secret, our Peanut—watching until it floated out of our sight.
* * *
Everything happens for a reason.
You’re young and healthy, you’ll get there.
You’ll have another.
It’s just God’s timing.
At least you get keep trying, eh?
To friends who told me they’ve had a miscarriage, I’m sure I gave accidentally terrible advice too. I’m sorry. Before this I guess I thought of a miscarriage as a medical thing a woman experiences, like a tooth falling out, or tonsils getting removed. I certainly didn’t think of a miscarriage as the death of something so very loved. Before I thought of it as something that didn’t happen, as in You didn’t have a baby. Now I know it’s something that did happen. We were pregnant. We did love Peanut tremendously for months. And then, we experienced loss.
“You’ll have another” is the worst. It’s like telling someone whose dog just died “It’s ok, you can get another dog really soon.” Best case, it’s true and just slightly insensitive. Worst case, it’s not even true. Worst case, you go through miscarriage after miscarriage and get to look at Facebook photos of everyone else’s kids and try not to be bitter.
* * *
Three months later Richenda became pregnant again. Our nickname this time was Mini.
Another daisy in the water floating away from the same spot at the end of the same pier.
* * *
After the second miscarriage, I started wondering how many more times we could go through it. We wanted a kid more than ever, but could we really make through 3, 5 or 10 miscarriages and keep our hearts in one piece? Would we be the same people by the end? I was becoming angry at God. I remember camping in October 2014, sitting around a campfire in the middle of nowhere, and finally talking about what we had been going through over the last couple of months. Or trying to. I cried so hard I couldn’t talk.
Third time lucky. It’s the Australian equivalent of “third time is a charm.” And it was. In December Richenda fell pregnant again, our third pregnancy of 2014. Inside was Ashna Grace, our beautiful, healthy, bright-eyed daughter. The pregnancy was smooth. The birth was smooth. We met her in August 2015. We were overjoyed.
* * *
For us, our story ends happy. Some pain along the way, sure, but in the end, it was worth it. Everything happens for a reason, right? Young and heathy. We got there. Hell, maybe this was part of the big plan all along—though I choose to believe that God was mourning along with us instead of planning it. Either way, we’d go through the pain 1,000 times to meet Ashna. It would have easier at the time if we knew things were going to turn out ok, but that’s life, right?
In the midst of hard times, our friends, family, and church held us close. In the midst of grief, there was no better comfort than people eager to listen. Everyone who held us close last year, thank you.
I’m not sure why it’s cathartic to tell this story now. Maybe it’s cause I’ve mostly moved past the hurt. Maybe it’s catching up with old friends, and realizing how many of us were going through the same journey at the exact same time. Maybe it’s just that putting the story into words helps me feel like I control the past more. If you’re going down a similar path, there’s no words I can offer to make it any better. Hang in there.