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This is a post I’ve been thinking about for a while now. Loss, and the grieving process, is so unique– so nonlinear, so unexpected. And it can be just as individual between partners experiencing the same event. I asked my husband, Kyle Martino, to write his most honest, most unapologetic account of losing our baby at nine and a half weeks pregnant. It was hard for me to read because it brought back the challenges of that time, both within myself, and between us. But it’s real and beautiful. And helpful, I think. I hope it inspires some generosity of spirit, some empathy, some honesty in others. This is his story:
“I lost the baby…”
There’s no way to prepare for those words. I was standing in line to check in to my hotel in Greenwich, Connecticut– the same mindless task I sleepwalk through every weekend– when my phone rang. When I heard those words out of Eva’s mouth, I sprung awake from my traveler’s daze. I was shocked. The first emotion I felt was Guilt. Of course this happened while I was away– every time Eva needs me most I seem to be on a plane or in a different time zone. Almost instantly after Guilt came Anger– her phrase kept repeating in my head over and over. I’m not sure if she kept saying it, or if I couldn’t hear anything else she said over that phrase echoing in my ears and in my soul. Years of shielding myself from emotional discomfort has trained me to move immediately to logic. And so I began the calming method of systematically breaking down the sentence I kept hearing over and over. “Baby…The Baby…lost the baby…I lost the baby… It was her fault. I was overcome with a quick wave of judgment and blame. Why did she let this happen? What did she do wrong? Why did she let me get on that plane? Anger– that hollow, pointless emotion was the shield I was holding so not to feel what I knew I couldn’t handle. Holding on to that Anger distracted me from the actual emotion I was feeling. The sadness. I wasn’t mad at Eva at all, I was mad that I wasn’t there in the moment she needed me more than ever. I walked over to a couch in the lobby and let this sink in. I began to cry for the first time in my adult life. (Yeah, don’t worry my therapist is all over that one.) I cried because Eva said “I”. “I lost the baby.” Of course she didn’t lose the baby. This wasn’t her fault. There was nothing she could do. In fact, she couldn’t have done more to make sure her body was the healthiest it could have been to nurture life. It broke my heart that she felt responsible in that very first moment of grief– and I didn’t understand why she couldn’t see what I did: that having a healthy baby is a miracle, and we can’t choose when and where that miracle happens.
These feelings continued in to the immediate aftermath of the miscarriage. While she re-wound the tape on her pregnancy and looked for errors, I appreciated her body for doing the right thing by closing the book on a miracle not meant to be. We were on totally different pages– which drove a wedge between us. It’s the same difference that existed when Eva was pregnant with our daughter, Marlowe. Eva made a connection with Marlowe well before I did. A tangible bond that only those two people can understand. Eva and Marlowe were Soul Mates the second she heard that heart beat, and if you ask Eva she would probably say even before that. If I’m being honest, I never really accepted that we were having a child until a third trimester ultrasound showed Marlowe waving at the camera. It hit me right there, in that moment, that I would be a Father– but Eva had long been a Mother already. When she called me with the shattering news of this pregnancy, she already knew her baby and had been taking care of it. In Eva’s mind she was already the Mother of two. That connection I was referring to, the bond, it was broken that day– and Eva was absolutely devastated. I know that losing our child was not Eva’s fault, but I understand now why she felt it was. Miscarriage, to the unlucky ones who have been through that heartache, is a very isolating experience. Eva withdrew for a while after it happened. I tried to be there for her, but I wasn’t able to relate to her specific pain. My heart was broken in a different way– and nothing I could do or say was helping. It was only when Eva decided to do something very brave in her saddest moment that the cloud over us was lifted. Eva decided she needed to talk about it…with everyone.
Eva told our story on her blog and put our heartache out there for all to read. When she first decided to, I thought it was a bad idea. I thought miscarriage was a rare misfortune and that the few who experienced it suffered privately with curtains drawn. As far as I knew, miscarriage wasn’t something you talked about. I mean, no one had ever mentioned to me that they had been through it. I had never read of someone’s personal experience anywhere. Was it really safe and smart to tell so many people such intimate truths about your pain? I didn’t voice my concerns with sharing because I had been so inept at providing support in those crucial moments so far– I knew I needed to support whatever desire she had. The decision had been made. She wrote it. Eva’s post went live, and we sat there silently. I could definitely sense that there was a weight lifted off her, but I feared the response could reverse the initially positive effects. Then, immediately, the support came pouring in. And I’m not talking about the “I’m sorry for your loss, I can’t imagine how hard that is” support– (although that was also very much appreciated) I’m talking about the “we’ve been there ourselves, we are here for you if you need us.” support. I was blown away by how many of her readers wrote back with their own deeply sad stories of pregnancy loss. Then, the phone started ringing. Some of my closest friends began revealing to me, one by one, their own experiences with miscarriage. These were people I spoke to every day, and I hadn’t had a clue. It felt so good to talk about what we were going through– and the fact that others not only knew what we were going through, but had found a way past it was so uplifting. What had felt like an action that would add shame to our heartbreak turned out to be the most cathartic experience imaginable. I was able to be honest and talk with friends about the guilt I still carried for my earlier feelings of blame– the insecurity I felt about not hurting the same way as Eva did– the worry I still shoulder that it could happen to us again. A Community was started, a conduit through which Sadness, Regret, Hope, Gratitude and Love flowed freely. At our wedding, Eva’s Mom said something that really struck me at the time. In her speech she told us, “We are your Tribe. Use us.” In the aftermath of our loss, we established a new Community– a kind of reformulation of our relationships with those already a part of it, and the addition of people met through our shared experiences.
We used this Community to get through the hardest moment of our marriage. I was able to access a lot of understanding through my discussions with other Dads, and Eva got a lot of strength from the strength of the women who came before her in their own grieving processes. The encouragement, compassion, and love we both received from some important people around us gave us the courage to turn back to each other for support and to heal the disconnect that was weakening our marriage. And as with many of our struggles, we came out the other side stronger together in our loss than we could ever be apart. I will never feel the same way as Eva about losing our baby. I have my experience, and she has hers. I have my process, and she has hers. I don’t think about it often– but Eva does. She thinks about the baby we lost every day. And so we move forward, two broken hearts on the mend– with a beautiful miracle of a child by our side, and one other just out of our reach.
– Kyle Martino