This article deals with pregnancy loss and may be triggering for some readers.
A few weeks ago, while unpacking boxes after moving house, I found it.
A small silver box that I hadn’t seen for maybe a decade. And as I gingerly opened it, I was hit by a slow wave of nostalgic pain. Faint grief, dulled by time. Inside, were a sad little collection of objects. A hospital bracelet. Some sympathy cards. Some grainy ultrasound pictures. The receipt from the funeral home who phoned me to gently break the news that the body was so small, there hadn’t been enough ashes to give me after the cremation. Has there ever been a sadder little piece of paper than that receipt and the story behind it?
It was a memory box of the worst kind, a shrine to the miscarriage I had more than 20 years ago. It wouldn’t be my only miscarriage, but it was my first and it was my worst, if such things can be measured or compared.
It happened the day after my wedding when I was five months pregnant. At least that’s when I learned of it, during a routine ultrasound when the sonographer went quiet and started asking me pointed questions about my dates and when I’d last seen my doctor.
It still took a few moments for my new husband and I to stop our excited chattering and register that this was not like the other ultrasounds we’d had, not with our son and not with this new baby who was starting to make itself known under my swelling belly.
As the sonographer moved the ultrasound wand more insistently around my stomach and peered closely at the monitor, the energy in the room changed. “Mia, I’m so sorry,” she said, touching my arm. “There is no heartbeat.”
“But I felt the baby moving just now,” I cried. “I’m sure I did.”
I was wrong.
“You’re measuring about 17 weeks” she said, evenly. I was meant to be 19 weeks pregnant.
It would be years before I would disclose that small, important, devastating fact to anyone. It felt like the ultimate shame piled on top of an unscalable mountain of it. I had one job. To bring this baby safely into the world. And I’d failed my baby.