Standing in the florescent glow of Super Target it happened. A throng of ponytailed and legging-clad mothers had just dropped little ones at school and entered the store, eager for a cathartic wander through the aisles, me included. I turned toward Starbucks to get my morning Chai when I happened to glance at the cart in front of me. Sitting in the basket was a sleepy-eyed toddler with tousled hair. I froze.
I felt life begin to empty from me like icy water slowly swirling down the drain, and I stood motionless as the mother received her coffee and pushed her cart—and the child—away. “Susan…Susan, your Chai is ready,” the barista repeated. I stoically took my tea, abandoned my cart, and returned to my minivan. Once safely inside, I began to sob as the thought, “I should have a toddler in my cart too” cut me to the quick.
Memories of my miscarriage, two years earlier, swept over me, and I was suddenly and profoundly aware of my loss. “I should be the mother of a ten-year-old, a seven-year-old, and a two-year-old,” I acknowledged. The absence of my third child struck me like a revelation, and I couldn’t breathe for the shock.
Two years earlier my husband, Tim, and I had suffered a miscarriage at home on a Saturday night. “Suffered” is truly the only worthy verb for the ordeal. I recall it in flashes of memory…intense physical pain, the confines of our bathroom, Tim’s gentle hands and calming voice, a blood-soaked tile floor, a spinning room, and the sound of sirens. Mercifully, our two sons were at their grandparents for the weekend. When they came home, I had already returned from the emergency room, was tucked neatly into bed, and the tile floor was scrubbed clean.
Life went on.
Within days I resumed school drop-off and pick-up; returned to church; and continued living my normal life. The only evidence of my miscarriage went unseen by everyone else, but my bleeding body spoke the truth: I had suffered a profound loss, and I remained wounded. My body was trying to help me understand, but I wouldn’t listen. We had broken trust, for I felt that it had betrayed me by failing to carry my baby to term. In time, the bleeding stopped, my body quietened down, and I assumed the wound had healed…until that morning in Super Target.
My sudden and surprising reaction revealed that all was not well. I was not well.
Without my recognition, depression had slowly lulled me into a sleep-like state, like anesthesia given to numb the pain of my miscarriage.
My body’s vital functions were operating; however, I was living with a substantial loss of awareness…to my anger, to my guilt, and to my grief.
For some reason, that encounter in the coffee line disturbed my slumber, and I began to wake up. Like someone emerging from anesthesia, I felt groggy and confused as I assessed my condition. When I recognized the symptoms of depression, I wondered how I could have missed them. After all, I had journeyed through this darkness once before; afterward, I had been keenly watchful for any signs of its return. Why wasn’t I watching this time?
In the initial days and weeks following the miscarriage, I was moving moment-to-moment through my days. I got up, got dressed, got the boys to school. When strong emotions began to surface, the lyrics of a popular worship song would echo in my mind, “Blessed be Your name on the road marked with suffering; Though there’s pain in the offering, blessed be Your name.” I would will myself to sing the words, believing that a failure to praise God in the midst of my pain revealed my faithless heart. My heart wasn’t faithless; it was broken. Yet, I continued singing.
As I awoke from my two-year slumber, I started to meet with a counselor who helped me navigate from the darkness to light. Emerging from the “anesthesia,” I began to experience an increasing awareness of my pain. In my counselor’s presence, I could sit with it rather than diminish or dismiss it. The journey forward required revisiting the pregnancy and loss to remember, to name, to honor, to feel, and to grieve. As more memories returned…vivid ones, poignant ones, and painful ones…I discovered how to hold them.
In time I learned to tell the story of my third pregnancy with a tender heart, an integrated body-and-soul, and a holy reverence, and in the telling, the darkness retreated. It would be another five years before I was introduced to the concept of trauma and began to see my miscarriage in its light. This awareness brought about even greater understanding and deeper healing.
Just last night Tim and I were reminiscing about our loss, now twelve years ago, and tears came quickly. Sorrow rose like a tidal wave, and the ache I carry for our third child filled my body. And that’s okay. It doesn’t mean that I remain in the desert land of depression; it shows that I am awake and alive and able to hold this tragic chapter of my story with a full, open, and tender heart. For this miraculous gift, I can freely sing, “Blessed be your name…”
A lover of story, Susan Tucker has always been captivated by beautiful writing. She is drawn to themes of tension, joy/grief, hope/loss, freedom/shame, which she explores in her own writing. Susan spends her days teaching middle school English, mothering her two teenage sons, and loving her husband of 25 years. She cherishes her first cup of coffee each morning, moments of quiet and solitude, restorative yoga, worship music, and faithful friends.nbsp