To the mothers who never were

Saturday, May 11, 2013

By Andrea J. Serrano

"I don't know how to be in my body after this little being has been there.

In all reality, it wasn't even a fetus. It was an embryo, no bigger than a poppy seed. In all reality, I only had a few minutes to feel like I was pregnant before the doctor said that he was worried and I immediately felt afraid. The blood came quickly and while it wasn't bad at first, it was bad by Saturday and by the time I went to the hospital for a follow-up, I knew it was over. In all reality, _______ and I have only been together for two months, I'm traveling to Tucson and New Orleans this spring, moving into my little house in June, etc.

In all reality, my brain doesn't get a say in this one. I am utterly heartbroken." *

If someone asked me to sum up how I've been feeling for the last few months, the first word that comes to mind is isolated. I've completely spun myself into a cocoon, and as I slowly emerge from it, I realize that I didn't know that I was so far away. Everything around me was still functioning and I imagined I was as well. I got up and went to work every day. I hosted two poetry events and even played a gig with my band. I attended birthday parties and hung out with my compañero,** my family, and my friends. I was fine—at least that's what I kept telling myself and everyone around me. But the fact remained, in early February I found out I was four weeks pregnant and within three days of finding out, I had a miscarriage.

I've written several versions of this blog. I wrote out all the details of finding out—going to the doctor for what I thought was a urinary tract infection (which I did have) and walking out knowing I was pregnant and possibly miscarrying. I wrote about the medical ordeal and I wrote a long description of the emergency room and the characters that were there. I wrote about sitting in a nearly empty church on Holy Thursday almost two months after the miscarriage and having an argument with Creator asking why? Why would you let me be pregnant if you were going to take it from me? How could you? You knew how scared I was of that happening—why would you do that to me?

I haven't been able to finish this post because I am still figuring out how to be what I keep telling myself and everyone around me—fine.

I had a chemical miscarriage, which my doctor described as something wrong with the embryo and my body rejected it. "It happens to about 25% of pregnancies," he said, "it's just that no one talks about it." While my compañero, my mom, and the rest of my family and close friends responded with a lot of kindness and tenderness, I wiped away the tears, and as quickly as the miscarriage happened, I told everyone I was fine. I blamed my sadness on the hormones and once those leveled off, I told myself to shake off the pain that I felt deep in my heart. But the sadness had also seeped deep into my womb and washed over me like sheets of cold rain. Still, I convinced myself that I was being dramatic. I was only four weeks along and didn't even have a chance to adjust to the idea of being pregnant. My Catholic-Chicana sensibilities told me that there are people who have suffered much more than I suffered, and therefore I had to get over it.

Obviously, nothing about me was fine. I've always looked at pregnant women's bellies with longing, but after the miscarriage I was jealous of pregnant women to the point of resentment. I was angry all the time and I couldn't walk through the baby section at any store. I still can't. My compañero, who showed so much patience and kindness and continues to do so, didn't know how to reach me because I kept my feelings bottled up. Snapping at him and being distant from him allowed me to hold onto my anger, which is no surprise, because anger is what shields me from pain. I realized at one point that the miscarriage felt the same as a break-up. I've been through enough break-ups to know there would be some real feelings I would have to accept, but I wasn't ready to face the fact that I felt broken. Even though every doctor reassured me that my miscarriage was not an indicator about my ability to carry a baby to term, I felt defective. As was the case with other heartbreaks, I felt like damaged goods. I felt far away—and I almost felt better that way. This was a hurt I didn't understand, and I tried to talk myself out of it. I kept telling myself that it just wasn't my time and, hey, at least now I know I can get pregnant.

None of that mattered, however, because I wanted this pregnancy and this baby.

A few weeks after the miscarriage, I went to the doctor for a follow-up appointment. The clinic, which is a women's reproductive health clinic, was much nicer and calmer than the emergency room I had been at a few weeks earlier. The doctor I saw once again explained what a chemical miscarriage was, but she also said "just because you weren't that far along doesn't mean you don't get to be sad." I felt tears well up that I quickly swallowed. Instead, I just nodded. She left the room so I could change into a hospital gown and as I lay back on the exam table, I noticed there was a mobile hanging above me. Little paper hummingbirds floated above me and I felt a brief moment of happiness and peace. I took a picture of them because I wanted to remember them.

The Mexica (otherwise known as the Aztecs) believed that hummingbirds were the spirits of warriors who died in battle. I have always loved hummingbirds but when I learned this, my respect for them grew even more. I even have a hummingbird and the word "guerrera" (warrior) tattooed on my right bicep. If I was writing a fiction piece, that would have been the moment that my character would have had an epiphany about her loss, but in real life, it took some time to realize that not only was I a warrior but so was the little spirit that was intertwined with my own.

When I sat in a church on Holy Thursday, I asked Creator why, but when my anger quieted, I found myself having a conversation with that little spirit. I apologized for not communicating sooner and I thanked it for coming to me. In a flood of tears I released everything—the baby, my anger, my fear, my sorrow. I allowed myself to be torn wide open by my own emotions. When I spoke with my compañero about it, I could almost hear the relief in his voice and he said I even looked lighter.

I still find myself feeling angry sometimes. I fantasize about being pregnant and sometimes feel impatient about our decision to wait; my compañero and I decided that we need more time together to cultivate our relationship. I'm afraid of miscarrying again. I'm afraid that it was a fluke and I'll never get pregnant again. I'm afraid that I'm waiting too long. I don't know how to not be afraid, but I'm also fine with that—only this time I'm really fine and not telling myself that I am in order to survive.

I am a warrior, and while I am forever changed by having had a miscarriage, I can only move forward. Completely afraid and brave all at once.

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*This text comes from an email that I sent to two dear friends about a week after my miscarriage.
**Compañero literally translates to companion, but it's the term I use for my boyfriend. 

Andrea J. Serrano is a poet and community organizer from Albuquerque, NM. She writes a semi-regular blog entitled "And Yet, I'm Still Here" at

This blog post is part of the Strong Families Mama’s Day Our Way celebration. You can read more posts in the series on the Strong Families blogStrong Families is a national initiative led by Forward Together. Our goal is to change the way people think, act and talk about families.

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