When used to describe day-to-day disappointments, the term “blessing in disguise” makes a lot of sense. Being fired but subsequently finding a more satisfying job is a good example. Or getting dumped and then realizing the ex was kind of a loser.
But when my doctors, family and friends used this term to describe the miscarriage of one of one of the triplets I was carrying, it didn’t feel like hopeful reassurance. It felt like a dismissal.
Admittedly, hearing the fertility specialist say “triplets” was one of the most amazing and petrifying moments of my life. As we processed the news, my husband kept asking me, “What do we know about raising three babies?” I reminded him that we didn’t know anything about raising one baby, so what was the difference?
Sure, I fretted over logistics, financials and the fact that we had already outgrown the house we just bought, but I also spent hours surfing Pinterest for triplet nurseries and Halloween costumes.
Twice we heard three hearts thumping in concert, a chorus of beats signaling the crying, squealing and giggling that would soon fill our home. But when we went in for our 12-week appointment, only two heartbeats remained.
I knew I was lucky to suffer a miscarriage and still leave the doctor’s office pregnant. I tried to remind myself of this during the internally somber weeks and months that followed, as I never wanted to appear ungrateful for the amazing gift of twins. Over the next few appointments, the doctors reiterated their line about it being a blessing in disguise to allow for a less-complicated pregnancy. I nodded obediently.
Pregnancies after miscarriages, infant loss or even minor complications are scary and nerve-wracking. It’s easy to go through them with fear and anxiety (I checked myself into the ER twice in three weeks following the miscarriage convinced I was losing the twins I was now carrying.)
Grieving a miscarriage while still pregnant is a tricky balance. I was devastated over the loss of my baby, while at the same time excited and thankful for the two healthy boys growing inside of me. I had a duty to my twins to stay healthy and strong so they could thrive. But didn’t I have a duty to my other baby to grieve?
I had shared news that we had lost one of the babies with a small group of close friends and family. Everyone had a reason why this was a better outcome, as if I was going to adopt three puppies and decided at the last minute that maybe I should just start with two.
I think my support system assumed I was relieved (or perhaps they were relieved for me). It seems unfathomable for many people to think of having three babies at a time. It was unfathomable to me before it wasn’t.
At 37 weeks and two days, my two little boys entered this world, healthy and thriving. Now at 20 months, they have sprouted into full-on toddlerhood with two completely different personalities. One brother is calm and laid-back, easily going with the flow. The other one is passionate and hotheaded. He takes after me. They are both loving and hilarious and enjoy nothing more but to plop down on our laps with a book, which I am proud to say they also get from me.
I think about their lost sibling all of the time, though I barely mention him or her (we didn’t know the gender). I don’t want to appear ungrateful. I know many families struggle with the heartbreak of ongoing infertility.
But sometimes I see triplets at the zoo being pulled in a wagon for three or featured in a blog post, and I try to allow myself the chance to think about my baby and mourn the loss, even if just for a few moments.
One day my boys will know about the sibling with whom they shared a womb. My son with the middle name Aaron will understand it is not only because it was his great-grandfather’s name, but because doctors had been referring to the baby whom we lost as “Baby A.”
My heart still clenches when someone sneers and says, usually while I am in some state of exasperation, “Gosh, can you imagine if it was triplets?” I don’t have to imagine. I know how it would feel. It would be a blessing.
Caryn Berardi works in higher education and enjoys the opportunity to challenge and motivate college students to grow academically, professionally and personally. She currently resides in Dallas with her husband and twin toddler boys and blogs about it all at journeytonapa.com.