“It’s such a lonely grief, isn’t it?” Shawn said as I sat across from him at the kitchen table, wiping tears from my cheeks with shaking hands, salt bitter on my lips.
I nodded. I felt so distant from him, from everyone, really. I’d had this same feeling before. Five and a half years ago, we’d gotten the same diagnosis from an apologetic ultrasound technician: no heartbeat. Back then I remember feeling angry at Shawn for not crying himself to sleep the way I did, for not walking around the house in a stupor of grief like me. I wanted him to feel the pain I did. But he didn’t; he couldn’t.
And this time around I understood that and didn’t hold it against him. This was my grief. Not solely, but definitely primarily. And the anger didn’t show up this time for one major reason: I wasn’t looking for validation. With my first miscarriage, I wanted it to be okay for me to be sad. Everyone said it was, but I didn’t believe it in my heart. I thought that because I didn’t have a flesh and blood baby to put in the grave, my tears were sensational, an emotional indulgence.
With this miscarriage, I felt that admonishment creeping up. “Maile, it was a dream, a thought, not a baby.” But my soul couldn’t consent. Inside it felt like such a loss that I knew out of respect for myself, I had to acknowledge this event as “major” even if no one else did. So I held tight to that conviction. I talked openly about my sadness, gave myself permission to cry in front of others, to lose it, to sob uncontrollably in the shower, in bed, in the car, at the table.
And to my surprise, I found the gracious support of so many surround me. The hugs of fellow women who suffered through miscarriages began to disperse the loneliness in my grief. The texts, emails and voice messages of friends and family across the country gave such comfort. The whispered conversations I cried through with Shawn late at night as the children snored beside us reminded me why I married this man. And while I grieved hardest, I certainly didn’t grieve alone. And that’s a gift.
Strangely enough, I think the greatest gift in this whole sad occasion was the actual miscarriage itself. With my first miscarriage, my body wouldn’t release the baby on its own for some unknown reason so after 2 weeks of waiting to miscarry, I had to have a D & C. This time around I begged God for a different outcome, and He chose to answer my prayer.
The day after we found out that the baby didn’t have a heartbeat, I miscarried that little life. It began like a regular delivery: bleeding, contractions, my water breaking; everything occurring with Shawn beside me like the births of all our children. And then the remnants came. It’s strange how grief and healing come in the same gasp, the same groan.
A few days later we made a trip down to the property where we’ll be moving to shortly, a grand expanse of trees and hills and hidden clearings. Under the almost barren limbs of a sturdy tree, we buried what I had birthed. We named the baby Ruby, red for the way she entered this world and stained my fingers along with my heart. Shawn quietly dug a hole while the children, my mom and I looked on. In the emptiness we placed Ruby's box with the word HOPE etched on the top. Shawn spoke a solemn prayer over her.Then the children each took a turn helping him shovel dirt over the box.
Afterwards I lingered there beside her little pile of rocks (a monument solemnly built by her brothers and sisters), while Shawn ushered my mom and the kids back down the path. He sensed my need for solitude, and later my mom would tell me how he stood at the mouth of the path leading up to Ruby's grave, guarding my solitude like one of Eden's angels.
Alone in the stillness, I cried, but not much. Already peace and healing were blooming inside my heart. In time, I stood up, straightened Ruby's make-shift cross and walked down the path into the clearing. With damp cheeks, I smiled as our four children laughed and chased each other among the fallen branches and mounded stones.