Agony (Part 4)

[This is the fourth post in a series about my first pregnancy loss. Here are the links to “Agony” Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.]

Extreme and generally prolonged pain; intense physical or mental suffering. The struggle preceding natural death.

Two days before Christmas


Making spritz cookies are tradition at Christmas. And no pending miscarriage will stand in the way of tradition.

We’re making spritz cookies, my husband and I, because it’s a Christmas tradition. First for me and my family, and now for our little family of two desperate to be three (and almost are).

My mom made dozens of these cookies each and every holiday. For us, for cookie swaps, for the hosts of the holiday parties we attended. She made trees and wreaths decorated with candy hearts and green sprinkles to make them look like holly.

My husband washes the cookies press in the sink and I take out the ingredients one by one lining them up in order on the kitchen counter, just the way mom taught me so many years ago.

Challenged by Alzheimer’s, my mom has silently, if unknowingly, passed the spritz cookie tradition on to me. I’m reluctant to embrace it without a child of my own to share it with.

My longing to be a mom has reached epic proportions, and the universe is dangling the carrot.

That’s the tricky thing about being a little pregnant, pregnantish or lil pregs. You wish, hope and might your way to a healthy baby, but it’s not a sure thing.

It’s so much less than certain, and though the doctor hasn’t crushed every last ounce of our hope, it’s highly unlikely the outcome we want so terribly is what time will bring.

Afraid to jinx any potential miracle, we don’t talk about it. But it’s always there, in our hearts and minds, in the cookie batter I stir furiously by hand.

I squeeze droplets of green food coloring into the blonde mound of butter, sugar and flour. My husband assembles the cookie press and fastens the tree disc.

He’s figured out how to push out a perfectly formed cookie without a branch or trunk sticking to the press.

This small feat is our Christmas miracle.


Agony (Part 3)

[This post is the third in a series about my first pregnancy loss. Here are the links to “Agony” Part 1 and Part 2.]

Extreme and generally prolonged pain; intense physical or mental suffering. The struggle preceding natural death. 

The days leading up to Christmas


Searching for the perfect Christmas tree during imperfect times.

The holiday spirit is lost on me.

Who wants to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ this year?

Not this lady with the pending miscarriage.

Is my baby alive? Does she have a chance?

The relentless, haunting refrain. My hope is unraveling.

My husband and I go to a tree farm to select the perfect specimen for our home with tall ceilings.

“We need a big tree,” my husband says with such conviction and enthusiasm I can see the face of the little boy he once was. “A 9-footer this time. Minimum.”

One of the seasonal staff at the family-owned farm will cut down the tree for you, wrap it in twine and carry it to your car. All this after you take a wagon ride to the bottom of the valley and browse the fields where all of the most mature fir trees are rooted – Douglas, Fraser and Balsam.

It’s a magical place. Endlessly fertile with flora and generations of families bundled in their winter coats and wooly hats, oversized mittens hiding small, delicate hands. It’s cold and gray, but there isn’t much of a breeze.

We wander through the fields with careful footing to avoid stumps and divots. Many trees are already tagged, claimed weeks or months earlier. We’re late to the party but there’s still plenty choose from.

Suddenly someone breaks the silence and shouts, “Mom, are you OK?”

I turn around to see a grandmother on the ground, fallen victim to one of the stumps. Her family surrounds her, assessing hips, legs and ankles. She lies there motionless waiting for help, her son covering her with his jacket while her daughter-in-law runs for help.

“Watch out for the stumps,” I want to call out after her.

Next year at this time that family will talk about that time grandma fell at the tree farm. Next year at this time I imagine us here, three of us instead of two. Our family tradition evolving into something even more meaningful, a new generation to share it with.

I hope with all my might. 

My husband and I choose our tree – a Fraser – and wait for the twining process. I go in the gift shop to browse pegboard walls covered in Christmas ornaments and help myself to a styrofoam cup of homemade cider. Baby’s First Christmas ornaments abound among the selection. So does the assortment of pet ornaments – we already have plenty commemorating our pair of beloved orange tiger cats.

I want one of the Baby’s Firsts, but I move on.

We bring the tree home and decorate it top to bottom.

The next day, the cats knock it to the ground.

Agony (Part 2)

[This post is the second in a series about my first pregnancy loss. Read the first post titled, “Agony.”]

Extreme and generally prolonged pain; intense physical or mental suffering. The struggle preceding natural death. 



It’s all going pear-shaped.

My baby is dying inside me and I am powerless to save her.

That’s the grim prognosis we received from the doctor on December 11 after our first ultrasound at 7 weeks, our tiny fetus growing more slowly than expected. He delivered the message with more eloquence than my summary, and with genuine concern.

I had asked if there was any chance for a miracle this will end well.

“In my experience,” the doctor said, “this is cause for serious concern.”

I barely remember the drive home from that appointment. The details blurring like rain drops on the windshield sliding and smearing together, eventually disappearing altogether.

I barely remember taking part in two back-to-back conference calls from home that afternoon. Decisions were made about an important work project that I no longer cared about.

I barely remember sitting on the love seat in our living room wondering when it had all gone pear-shaped, reevaluating my own life choices that got me here.

I’m losing our baby, and we’ll never get to meet her or hold her or watch her fall in love with her grandparents.

“We need to stay positive,” my husband says.

And this display of optimism, no matter how displaced in this moment of despair, is one of the reasons why I can’t live without him.


Life must go on.

I ready myself for the work day, dressing my body in clothes and my heart in steel armor. My work schedule shows me some mercy – I have just one meeting in the morning and our team has a holiday party scheduled for the afternoon. The latter is something I can miss without consequence.

I tell myself I can get through the morning, and I do.

I tell my boss I have a migraine, and I do, quietly leaving the office without saying goodbye.

This time it’s a migraine of the heart, not the head. But she doesn’t need to know that.


I wake up drunk with depression and swollen eyes.

My baby is dying and I’m powerless to save her.

It’s my internal refrain that strikes over and over and over again.

My heart has never felt such anguish. It’s all-consuming in each breath, moment and thought. I can’t escape it, waking or dreaming.

I reluctantly return to work taking solace in the fact that no one knows we’re struggling with this horror. I can hone in on my projects, suppress my pain and ignore the ignorant.

My husband quietly does the same. We go through the motions in the name of self-preservation.

For eight hours there is forced concentration on the task at hand. An almost welcome distraction from reality.

And then it returns, that first moment alone in the car for the ride home. My face flushes and the tears mount like a tidal wave. There’s no stopping this well of pent up grief held hostage for the day.

It persists for the entire drive, the walk to the door and into our home. The white envelope with the clinic’s return address lies face down on the floor in the position it landed through the mail slot in the door. It’s a letter from our doctor to my obgyn with an update from our appointment just two days earlier.

The letter is written in plain language, just the facts. It ends in three short sentences, each one increasingly more difficult to swallow.

“In summary, [the patient] has a single intrauterine pregnancy conceived with in vitro fertilization of concerning viability.”

“I have given her a due date of July 28, 2018.”

“We will repeat the scan in 1-2 weeks.”

I’m counting down the days, praying the doctor is wrong.