I still remember the feeling. That sick feeling in the very pit of my stomach the day I felt the pop.
I was driving and it was the most gentle sensation - not at all like labor - but my heart was suddenly in my mouth. I knew. I was losing the baby.
I had been so very angry with God about being pregnant. I was in school after having my son, Michael, who was 15 months old and things were going really well. I was getting good grades, improving in my craft and doing what I thought I was supposed to be doing: becoming a productive, educated person. But pregnancy changed it all.
Suddenly, I was sick all the time. I had no energy. My voice was changing and I couldn't catch my breath. I couldn't believe it! I can remember having a fight with my husband about something and my final shot (before I even knew for sure) was "...and you got me pregnant!"
I was so angry. But as time passed, I had made peace with this little one. After, she hadn't ruined my life, just delayed it. We had finally told our parents, (who were less than thrilled) and our friends (who were overjoyed) and I was looking toward another June baby. We had even named her Mary Catherine after my grandmothers.
But God had other plans for Mary Catherine O'Keefe.
I can't remember much of that afternoon after that tell-tale pop. I think it hurt, but all I can remember is the blood and Seinfeld. I sat on the couch and cried and laughed. And then cried some more. People would try to comfort me by saying that "there must have been something very wrong". I couldn't understand why God would create a soul and a body and then not allow it to be brought to birth.
By February, by complete accident (I no longer believe in accidents, by the way), we were pregnant again. This time, we had our beautiful Celia. I can remember the nurses asking me over and over during that nine months if I was going to get my tubes tied now that I had one of each. I would always say, firmly, that I was just getting started. After all, many people lose a baby in between.
That was the first of nine miscarriages that we would suffer as a family. After Celia, we had eight more positive tests and eight more heartbreaking moments when we knew there wasn't going to be any need to make more room.
Secondary infertility, being unable to conceive after having one or two successful pregnancies, can be caused by many things from hormonal changes to poor general health. Every time I would find myself pregnant, I would batten down the hatches. I'd eat healthy and take my vitamins like a good girl. When I'd lose one, I would make firm decisions to work on getting healthier and be ready to carry the next one to term. But after so many losses, I lost heart.
Last Summer I thought we were in business again. At six weeks, I told my daughter I was pregnant. And then she showed me her positive pregnancy test. Now, both of us were expecting. At a time when I still thought I might still be having kids, I was going to be a Grandma! I prayed hard. I didn't want to lose this one, but once again, God had other (and better plans).
As I cried again, Celia held me tight and said, "Mommy, now we have nine ghost babies praying for us." Well, of course, they're not ghosts, but they are souls and they are praying for their mom and dad, and their siblings. How else would we get through all the trouble we cause ourselves?
Today, when I logged into Facebook, I was taken by surprise once again. Friends were posting the banner I have posted above and sharing their losses. I was surprised because I didn't know it was the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day of Remembrance. I was surprised by how raw the ache still was. Even the 19 year old ache for the loss of Mary Catherine. It's an ache that recedes, but never goes away and no one is allowed to talk about it. It's as if we have bought into the lie that it shouldn't matter because we didn't know that child. But, it does matter and the silence keeps us from healing those emotional wounds, finding treatments and help for the physical ones and finding solace in the providence of God.
So, to all my sisters in grief - I am praying for you. Let's not be silent about it anymore. It's grief and it's real and it's okay. Even 19 years on, it's okay to shed tears.
In the last year, I have started saying Novenas for various things, but today I realized that I have a living novena of intercessors at the foot of the Throne of God.
And they're waiting for me just like I would have waited for nine months for each of them.