I miscarried my first pregnancy. I lost twins, one at ten weeks, and one at eleven weeks. And even though it was over a decade ago, sometimes the grief still has the power to slam into me and break my heart like it was yesterday.
I had a rough morning today — nothing out of the ordinary, but not easy either. Tuesdays and Thursdays, I bring Julianna into preschool, along with dropping the older two off at school. Instead of just having to get the two older ones ready, I have to get all three up, dressed, hair done, did you pee yet, lunches packed, backpacks assembled and out the door by eight. In theory, adding one more child shouldn’t make a lot of difference, but in reality, she’s two or three times the effort of the older ones, simply because she’s three and they’re seven and ten.
Plus — preschool is hard. Drop off is especially hard, and this morning was the first morning when she was sad about going. Just sad. Teary — not angry or tantrumming (which would have been easier) but wiping away tears and sad. I know that preschool is what’s best for her, I know that she’s going to love it — but right now, she doesn’t.
In theory, today went better at drop off than the other two days. Julie has this spot, her safe space that she goes to, in the classroom. Her “castle”, which is really like a loft-type thing, stairs leading up to a platform with bars and a rail, and underneath it is a little cubby for kids to play in. Julie spends virtually the whole time she’s in preschool in the castle. Which, as her teachers have explained to me, is normal and natural and actually good. Because she’s claiming safe space, and able to observe what’s going on until she’s comfortable. She’s self-soothing, and learning how to be without me. Which is all good. In theory. But it feels like I’m putting her in a cage for her to cry for two hours until I come back to get her.
I dropped her off, and while intellectually, I know the process is best not dragged out, and she’s going to cry, but she stops quickly and the longer I try to soothe her, the worse it is on both of us, it’s still so hard to just walk away. But I did, and she stopped crying before I was out of the building. She’s still in her castle (I just called to check) but her teacher said she’s not sad, she’s quiet and calm and relaxed, but still observing. On the way home, though, I was listening to the radio, and heard this song that brought me right back, mentally, to the loss of the twins.
I was a happy girl. Before becoming a mother, I was just genuinely happy. Cheerful, relaxed. I liked life, a lot. And up until the loss of the twins, I was happy. This one song, by Travis Tritt, of all people, is called “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive” and it’s written from the perspective of a biker dude with tattoos and not at all something that you’d think that I’d relate to. But the first time I heard it, I started crying so hard I had to pull the car over because I couldn’t see. Because I couldn’t fathom ever feeling that way again. Just happy, and aware of how awesome it was just to be alive. The loss of my babies was so wrenching; it fundamentally changed who I am.
Sometimes I can hear the song, and just get a little wistful, a little sad. But sometimes, rarely, I hear the song and have to pull over because I can’t see through the tears. Today was one of those days, and it wasn’t just because of the twins. It was because Julie was so very sad without me, and even though my head wants her to go to school, my heart breaks every Tuesday and Thursday. It was because Jessie has to learn how to deal with people who aren’t always sensitive and kind, and I don’t want her scared and hurt. It’s because Sam goes out into the world and it’s been such a long, hard road to get him to where he’s happy about it.
Because motherhood is hard and my first introduction to it was the overwhelming grief. It wasn’t just the loss of my twins, it was the loss of that girl who was just happy. Who didn’t have these three children; a girl whose idea of happiness wasn’t incredibly and unalterably linked to the health, happiness and well being of Jessie, Sam and Julie. I was innocent in so many ways, so much less than I am now, not as aware, not as strong, and nowhere near as content. I’m stressed and frazzled now, and harried and impatient and busy in a way that I couldn’t have comprehended before. I’m on a whole other level of happiness, the joy and contentment and utter and complete rightness of being a parent — it’s not even comparable to the ‘happy girl’ that I used to be. Before the miscarriage. Before becoming a mother. Depths of sadness and despair, and worry that I’ll never fully escape, unbelievable challenges to my core beliefs, rethinking everything about what I thought I knew, and joy and a calm and a bliss that’s so much more than I expected. Becoming pregnant again, not once, but three times.
Each child has changed me, each child has taught me. Each child has brought not only so much to my life, but also added so much more emotional weight to my life. It’s not just having your heart permanently walking around outside your body, like the old cliche, it’s having your heart split into three pieces, and two others pieces that you’ll just never get back.
Motherhood is hard for me. It’s hard for everyone, and it’s wonderful and amazing and changes everything. Today, I realized that my twins weren’t just a horrible, horrible loss, they were what started me on this journey. And sometimes it breaks my heart and hurts more than I can express. But more often, it inspires me and fills me with purpose and joy and contentment. These three children, and the two that I lost, they’ve changed me. I’m not as innocent; my view of happiness is a lot more intricate now, a lot richer and more intense.
And sometimes, even now, I can still say that it’s a great day to be alive. I know the sun’s still shining when I close my eyes. I know now that the happiness I used to feel was so much less than what I feel now, because my world has expanded in ways I couldn’t have know before losing my babies. Before having my babies. Before becoming a mother. And even if that means that there are days when I’m going to feel like I’m being emotionally battered, when dropping my baby off is hard and worrying about my ten year old is in the back of my mind, and when the loss of my twins is in the forefront, when the house is a mess and the laundry is building up, and I’m stressed and busy and behind in everything — I wouldn’t go back for anything in the world.