It was the perfect family holiday photo. And it was also the one that nobody saw. My smile spread across my face, a projection of the joy that was slowly growing inside of me. As I looked at the camera, I wondered if years from now I would remember how happy I was in this moment with a secret that only my husband and I shared.
What my body was nurturing inside of me is what I can only call hope. That morning, my husband and I had talked about the life that our daughter would share with her sibling. A life filled with ups and downs that they would ride together. We discussed names and even planned the logistics that would be involved in going to our favorite restaurant as a family of four instead of three. Because you see, in this photo, I was pregnant.
And then the very next day, I was not.
This child that was not of this earth but very much of my heart, gave rise to a hope that transformed the way I interacted with the world. It was in that moment at the doctor's office when my miscarriage was confirmed, that my fragile heart broke open like an eggshell. And in the weeks that followed, the hope that I had harbored deep inside began to spill like the yolk into the core of my being to show me what it means to truly be human.
Hope and Vulnerability
A while after we had found out that I was pregnant, we were scheduled to go to the home of one of our friends for dinner. For weeks beforehand, my husband and I had discussed all the reasons I would give to refuse the offer of a glass of wine without making people suspicious. "Say you are on antibiotics!" said my husband. "Maybe I'll just say I'm not feeling well," I replied.
Sure, I felt a little guilty for developing a plan to not tell my friends the entire truth, but I wanted this secret to be just ours for a little while longer. I felt that if I proclaimed my pregnancy out loud at that time, somehow I would activate an unknown force in the universe that would take it away. And then, before I even said anything, my greatest fear happened two days before the dinner.
I went to the dinner anyway. Except this time, my wall had come down. I felt so emotionally raw that my disappointment was clearly evident on my face. And the moment I walked into their home, my friends noticed it. It didn't take long for me to tell them the entire truth. And it took even less time for them to rally around me, comfort and shower me with the love that renewed my faith in the true meaning of friendship.
In that moment, I felt incredibly vulnerable...as if I was showing a part of myself that was not meant to be seen. I wondered why I had come up with an elaborate plan to hide my truth in the first place because it was when I stood in my truth with the right people, that my life expanded. Healing came in sharing and bearing witness to the untold story.
When I let down my wall, and opened my heart to those I cared about, my connections deepened, my bonds strengthened. The loss of the hope that was growing inside of me, gave birth to more meaningful relationships with the people close to me.
These are the relationships I wanted to give my energy to. They nurture and protect my vulnerability without judgment. They make my life whole.
Hope and Empathy
The day I began to miscarry, I went to the doctor's office. After that, I went to the grocery store and I did errands. It sounds strange, but to proceed as if nothing had changed despite the physical pain I was feeling, was the only way I knew how to cope at the time.
It was a surreal feeling to know that while I was experiencing tremendous loss, the people around me that day had no idea. My wound was not on the outside. I did not have physical bruising or a bleeding limb. But my pain was real all the same.
I remember running to the elevator as I was leaving my doctor's office and catching it at the last minute before it closed. The woman inside seemed visibly annoyed at me for holding her up and mumbled about it under her breath. I smiled and looked down but what I really wanted to say was, "If you knew what I was going through right now, maybe you would be nicer to me".
How many of us are walking around with wounds that no one can see? We don't have to understand another person's situation to know what loss, sadness and uncertainty feel like. This is the power of empathy. It connects us on a level that we can all understand simply because we are all human.
The day that my fragile heart broke open was the day that I felt a deeper connection to my fellow human beings. Because I knew that I was not alone in my emotions. All around the world, there were people who were feeling just as I was. Day by day, they were getting through it. And so could I.
Hope and Love
I would be lying if I said that I was not afraid to get pregnant again. Because this would mean letting hope take root in my soul and not having any control of the outcome. It would be like putting one foot in front of the other without knowing if there was stable ground upon which to land.
But when I think about it, every day that I love my daughter, I put my heart on the line. As much as I would like to create an invisible shield around her so that she is protected at all times, I love my child with no control of what the future may hold.
Every day, love allows hope to take root in my soul. I hope for her to always be happy. I hope for her to always be healthy. I hope for her to always be protected. I hope for so many things while not knowing what will come next.
Love is the act of dedicating a piece of your heart to another living being with no guarantee of the outcome. It expands our soul in ways we did not think was possible. And so, when hope takes root in my body again, I will tell myself that love and hope are inextricably connected. And to love, I must boldly and courageously allow myself to hope.
It was the perfect family holiday photo because I was nurturing hope inside of me. A hope that when broken open, gave rise to vulnerability, empathy and a deeper understanding of what it means to truly love. This child was not of this earth, but very much of my heart.