Courage in the Unknown
I sat in the passenger’s seat, looking out the window and taking in the beauty of the rolling hills near our home on the outskirts of Austin, Texas., and a smile crept across my face. It was one of those stop-and-smell-the-roses moments that makes me take stock in everything I have and am grateful for. My mind flashed back to my state of mind a year prior.
Things were very different then. I’ve experienced situational depression a few times in my life, and I could never really grasp the extent of the depression until was out of it. Last year was no different. I said to my husband, “I think I was really depressed last summer.” He looked at me, nodded, and said, “I know. It’s good to see you back to normal.”
The feelings of depression had started toward the end of a pregnancy that ended in miscarriage at 12 weeks. My husband and I had decided that we wanted to try for another child when our daughter was just 9 months old. Knowing my age, (I was 41 at the time) we wanted to get the ball rolling sooner rather than later. We were fortunate to get pregnant the first month we tried and we were looking forward to adding to our family. I was advised by my OB/Gyn very early on, as I had been with our daughter, to undergo the “first-screen” that checks for genetic abnormalities. We set an appointment for a day during the twelfth week, and I didn’t think much about it. Both my husband and I viewed it as a formality more than anything. The results of the screen we took for my daughter put our minds to rest and we hadn’t pursued any more tests, and we expected the same outcome this time.
A few weeks before the test I started to get a nagging sense that something was wrong. I even said as much to a few people. It's harder to pinpoint the exact onset of the feelings of depression, but one day in particular stands out for me. It was Mothers’ Day. I remember a sort of culmination of feelings of dread and sadness that had been building and me breaking down in tears. In the middle of my husband trying to console me, I blurted out something that had been plaguing my thoughts for a few weeks, “I don’t want to be pregnant anymore!” I knew how horrible it sounded, but I needed to get it out. I felt like a monster.
The thing is I had wanted to be pregnant...very much. I couldn’t understand, at the time, why I felt as I did. I’ve thought about it and experienced a considerable amount of guilt over those feelings since the miscarriage. But looking back on this, I believe that those feelings were a result of the fact that it was not a viable pregnancy. I believe that my body and my mind knew, even though I wasn’t fully aware.
The first-screen test didn’t go at all like the one with my daughter had. To my eyes, everything looked fine. I even remember saying, “Oh, this one’s going to be active just like its big sister” as I watched the images on the screen. A look of concern came over the technician’s face and she stepped outside to get the Dr. He explained that things did not look good, listed a few possibilities for what could be wrong, and asked me to come in the following day for more tests. I was a wreck.
I started miscarrying the next morning on the way to his office.
After our loss, I went into denial mode. Putting on my best stiff upper lip, I resolved to move on as quickly as possible. I said things like, “We still have a beautiful, healthy baby girl” and “It could have been much worse”. Both were true, but I was not allowing myself to grieve and it wreaked havoc on me and my marriage in the following months. My husband had a really hard time with the loss, as well. His reaction to was to say, “That’s it. I don’t have it in me to try again”, and I agreed with him for a long time.
But after the dust and grief settled, we both started to dance between being too scared to try again and desperately wanting to. The problem was we were virtually never on the same page. I’d be feeling really optimistic and wanting to try again and my husband would be saying no. He’d drop a hint about our daughter having a little brother or sister just as I had wrapped my head around the fact that she would be an only child. We were both nervous of what could happen if we went down that road again. This went on for months.
One day a few weeks ago, my husband asked me if I’d noticed the new sign outside the church in our neighborhood. It had only been up a few days, but I knew exactly what it said because it had caught my eye and got me thinking every time I drove by it.
“Courage in the Unknown...”, I said.
He paused for a moment. “I feel like I have been a coward”, he responded.
“Maybe we should see that sign as, well, a sign.” We both giggled.
“I don’t think you are a coward. Everyone reacts differently to things and you aren’t wrong for being afraid.”
We left the conversation at that but have come back to it a few times in recent weeks. There isn't the same maddening back and forth as there once was.
I drive past that sign at least once a day, and it always brings me back to our conversation.
Photo credit-Deep Forest, by Dan