I’ve hesitated to write about this for a long time. Not because I didn’t want to – in fact I’ve really wanted to. I suppose I just didn’t know how to go about it or when would be a good time. When bad things happen, as a humor writer, it can be hard to navigate when or how to address the painful times in life.
Last year, HaHas for HooHas received 2nd place from Red Tricycle for the funniest parenting website (Honest Toddler won first, because – duh). It was a crazy honor and I’m still stoked about the nomination.
While it was important for me that the site was simply a funny website for women covering everything from marriage to PMS, parenting can be the most fun topic for us to talk about, simply because so many of our fans can relate and respond mightily to a good self-depricating parenting joke.
That’s why a lot of people have been surprised to find out I’m not a mom.
I’ve never talked about why I’m not a mom yet, but I feel good sharing now.
The answer in short – miscarriages.
Four years ago, Rob and I became pregnant. Since it was our first pregnancy, we were on top of the world. We were naive that sometimes things can go wrong and assumed we would have a newborn in our arms in 9 months time.
At about 7 weeks, I went to the bathroom at the grocery store. I gasped when I sat down. Blood. Lots of it. I went home and miscarried during the night, one week before my first doctor’s appointment.
Of course, we were devastated, but we also felt encouraged. My closest friends and family came forward to talk about their miscarriages. There was the one that came before the twins, or right before their oldest son was born. My doctor assured me in a very loving way, that miscarriages are simply our body’s way to reset when things aren’t developing properly. Typically chromosomal, sometimes the head isn’t developing or the stomach. In some situations, this can be a blessing.
After I took some time to mourn the loss, I decided I didn’t want to try again right away. I had just left California along with a very fulfilling job and had just received my Master’s degree. We were settling into our new home and I thought perhaps instead of rushing into starting a family, I needed to pay attention to this constant nagging feeling that tapped me on the shoulder rhythmically throughout the day.
The tapping intentionally annoyed me to seek out my purpose.
I was having a bran muffin at a bakery below our apartment when I was struck with a crazy idea. A silly thought particularly for someone who was on the road to being an academic in higher education. I thought maybe, just maybe, I should just go for what I’ve always wanted to do, but never took seriously. Humor writing. Maybe I could just go for it. What was there to lose?
One month after my miscarriage, I created my first HaHas for HooHas eCard.
No surprise I went with a maxi pad with a top hat, AMIRITE?
I just started creating, dreaming, laughing and having fun. I’m confident starting HooHas would never have occurred to me had I not miscarried. That doesn’t mean I’m thankful for the loss, it simply means I’m thankful how life continued to move with purpose despite it.
Our intent was to get pregnant again, but to give me a cushion to start my writing and begin something that might – just might – get some traction.
Well, if traction can be defined as Miley Cyrus riding into my life straddling a wrecking ball, then that’s pretty much what happened. Except less Miley and more period jokes. It took about a year for me to feel at a place where I could balance a pregnancy and this new beast I created with my best friend from college.
Once we felt ready, I became pregnant again. At my 8 week appointment (a new milestone I hadn’t reached before) I expressed some fear because I had been lightly spotting. My doctor did an exam and discovered the bleeding was coming from something unrelated and had nothing to do with the pregnancy.
“You’re totally fine!” she assured me. “Now, let’s go take a peek at that baby!”
We entered the ultrasound room and as I anxiously waited to see something, anything on the screen, the tech found absolutely nothing. My doctor looked confused and instructed the tech to keep digging, searching, bending – moving. There was nothing.
“Well, we’re either off on your dates, which is totally possible,” she tried to assure me, “or this could be an ectopic pregnancy.”
I’ll cut to the chase – it was ectopic.
I can tell you from experience, when you fall into the 2% percentile of something, statistics become meaningless to you. If someone says there’s a 1 in 1,000,000 chance you’ll die from a tree randomly falling on your head, you start to get real skittish around some pines.
Typically with an ectopic pregnacy you must go through a D&C and a brutal chemo shot (although, nothing compared to what cancer patients endure) to stop the cells from growing outside of your uterus. Obviously, it was all devastating and felt completely unreal.
Like many women, the minute I see a positive pregnancy test, I begin dreaming. I chart the due dates and share the news with my closest friends and family. Sometimes the feeling of loss is more complicated than the loss of the pregnancy. It’s also the loss of a dream. The loss of hope for what had been created and now is gone.
But, there was a part of me thankful to be alive. As I mourned the loss of another dream for our baby, I was also incredibly thankful that I wasn’t back in the prairie days milking old Bessie like it’s just another day on the farm, only to die instantly from an ectopic pregnancy I had no idea was growing in my body.
I was sad, yet thankful for modern technology and early intervention. I truly believed that one day, when I held my biological or adopted child in my arms, I could reap a sense of meaning from it all.
After the ectopic pregnancy, I needed time to heal mentally and physically. The stress of HooHas was building and we were gaining momentum, with conferences and video opportunities rising. It took about 7 months for us to fully try again.
Once I saw the positive pregnancy test, I was a little more realistic (which could have been easily mistaken for pessimism), but had a hopeful “third time’s a charm” feeling about things. Now that I had an ectopic, my chances of having another went up from 2% to 20%, so as I was instructed to do after finding out I was pregnant again, I scheduled an appointment with my doctor right away to confirm it wasn’t another ectopic.
At around 6 weeks they took a peek. They were able to see healthy gestational and yolk sacs. I was elated. Everything seemed right on course, except for the fact it appeared I was closer to 5 weeks.
“Not a big deal,” my doctor assured me. “We can never be sure when you actually ovulated, so it’s quite common to have your days off like this.” My doctor gave me a big congratulatory hug and I left hopeful, but I had a nervous feeling. I knew exactly when I ovulated. My dates weren’t off. Deep down, I had a sense it was all doomed, but I wanted the hope that this time the pregnancy would make it, so I buried the sense of knowing.
At the 8 week appointment, I was a bag of nerves. In the waiting room a woman asked if I was pregnant wearing a huge grin and I wanted to just say, “Nope, just another pap with my hubby!” But I told her I was and she congratulated us, asking us loads of questions and even giving us advice. I would have felt much happier talking to her if I didn’t have a cloud over my head like the Zoloft ball, but of course I just stayed polite and let her have happiness for us.
Our name was called from the ultrasound tech and it didn’t take long to discover what I already knew. The sac was starting to break apart and it was evident I was going to miscarry again. It was the first time Rob really showed public emotion. He was combative and argumentative to the tech and then to the doctor that had stepped in, as ours had left earlier in the day for a family emergency. I was quiet and resigned. I had already known. I calmed him down, just by gently touching his arm and we left without too many words between us on the ride home.
Mourning is a tricky thing. Sometimes we don’t feel entitled to it when there is so much suffering in the world. I felt a sense of gratitude that if I had to lose my pregnancies, at least I lost them early. I know women who have experienced more miscarriages than three in a row, miscarriages far later in pregnancy, even stillborns and giving birth to babies that don’t make it past their first birthday. I didn’t feel worthy of mourning too heavily in some ways and completely entitled to unfriending my church friend who posted their pregnancy announcement via cute ultrasound picture on Facebook the minute I got home from the doctor. (I didn’t, but I really, really wanted to.)
The truth is, all of our traumas and tragedies matter just as they are, independently of others. I rode out my despair exactly as I needed to.
Despite everything, being the main writer of a humor site while all three of the miscarriages happened might have been the hardest thing I’ve had to navigate. There were moments where I was almost bitter from the pressure to be “funny” during such a horrific time.
And of course, that is ridiculous. I was bitter about feeling like I had to be funny – a requirement and pressure I put on myself. I didn’t have to be funny at all. I could do whatever I wanted. I could curl up in a ball and watch Property Brother reruns with a gallon of mint chip ice cream if I freaking wanted to. This is my life, people!
It’s completely up to me whether I can or want to show up to create today or not. In fact, I probably could have taken a week off posting on HooHas and only a handful of people would have even noticed. But, oddly enough, I needed it as much as I resented it. Some of my most popular work was written shortly after the miscarriages.
Humor, in the oddest places it can be hidden, embraced me. Humor doesn’t make light of loss, but for me, it makes me feel human and hopeful. It reminds me that I will survive it. I will continue to feel joy.
I remember when a friend of mine was going through a divorce. A Kenyan nun who worked in the office with us stopped by her desk and said, “Tonight, the sun will fall. But tomorrow? Tomorrow it will rise again,” and she walked away quietly. My friend smiled politely, but I sat there quivery lipped with a solitary tear. What she said was a cliched phrase I heard a million times, but this time it meant something profound to me.
It’s always tempting to become bitter and think, “Why me?”
But really, why not me?
The miscarriages are a part of my life. They are a part of my story whether I like it or not. I have tremendous faith that not a single one was in vain. They happened, so why not create something positive? Can I encourage someone? Can I love them? Can I hold a hand? Can my losses make someone else not feel so alone? Then my purpose moves even during the impossible moments when I don’t think I can.
I’m drawn to the idea that with faith as small as a mustard seed, we can move mountains.
Mustard seeds are awfully tiny.
What’s your mountain? It can all feel so insurmountable. We can all feel so unprepared. We can feel dejected, beaten down, victimized and find ourselves in the 2% of the unlikeliest of tragedies.
And yet, our purpose moves through it. Our purpose moves despite of it. And if we’re paying attention, we can look back and weep from the gratitude that we’re still standing. Still laughing. We aren’t defeated. No, our faith picked us up and we moved to places we couldn’t dream were possible until now.
And sometimes, miracles happen. Stay tuned for a post up on HooHas, tomorrow.
Update: For tomorrow’s post, go here.