“Light in the Darkness”
by Gina R. Briggs
Originally performed at Tallahassee’s A Walk to Remember, Oct. 2021
Edited for Journey for Jasmine, Sept. 2023
August 12, 2021 was the worst day. That was the day we lost our baby, Poppy, and heaven never felt so far away.
Once I knew what was happening to my body, I couldn’t stop replaying the moment that made me a mother. A little more than a month before, I stared at that second faint pink line on the pregnancy test and my stomach flipped. Tears swelled. I couldn’t believe it, but the proof was right in front of me.
“This child is mine,” my heart said.
When my husband got home, I speechlessly led him to the bathroom where the test lay on the counter, declaring that he was a father.
I’ll never forget that as he reverently studied the little strip of plastic, I asked, “Are you pleased?”
His response was: “Honey, I’m so pleased. I can’t even form words.”
Following the protocol that so many of us subscribe to, we decided to keep the news private until we were “in the safe zone” (whatever that actually means). This course of action backfired when the bleeding started; we were the only two people in the world that knew our baby existed. We never had a chance to share our joy; now there was only the comfort of being able to share our pain.
A cruel sting of irony was that I already had the day circled on my calendar. August 12th was the day of my first prenatal appointment. I expected giddiness. I expected to ask the doctor a long list of questions—none of which were “why am I bleeding?” I expected to follow suit with the other women in the waiting room who were taking selfies, documenting this part of their pregnancy journey. Instead, I sat in the waiting room, gripping my husband’s hand as I privately made bargains with God, and tried not to look as ashamed as I felt.
Knowing what I know now, I most likely began to lose my baby in the bathroom of the OB clinic. I silently screamed into my cardigan when I saw the first clot and moved through the rest of my appointment like a ghost—the life sucked out of me just as the poppyseed-sized dream was fading.
I can’t count how many times I’ve asked “why?” Especially in the first few months after the loss…My body was regulating—preparing itself for to try and conceive again—but my mind was stuck on that question; the world around me was moving on, even my own body seemed to forget, but my heart was still demanding an answer. I scoured the internet, interrogated my doctor, and bitterly held God on trial in the courtroom of my soul. But eventually the question of why began rebounding—even if I got an answer, would it be enough? Can any medical, metaphysical, or theological explanation satisfy the broken heart of a grieving mother? I don’t think so.
Giving up on the closure I felt I deserved, I fixated my energies toward trying to “make up for” the loss. I thought I would be happy if I got another positive pregnancy test. Though I wouldn’t admit it to even myself, I was trying to rewrite this script that was my journey to motherhood; if I could just get pregnant again, it would be like this nightmare never happened. I was trying to replace my baby.
Six months later, I had been charting my cycle with the precision of a madwoman and even undergoing acupuncture (I HATE needles) weekly. This was when I reached my breaking point.
In a heart to heart with my husband, I confessed that I did not feel mentally equipped to handle a pregnancy after our loss. I had become increasing anxious, neurotic, depressed…I was always afraid that another tragedy was lurking around the corner. I’d weep on the toilet after the single negative line revealed itself on a home test, but I’d also have nightmares of conceiving again. I imagined that I was doomed to lose my next baby in utero or in labor or from SIDS. I couldn’t conceptualize a happy, healthy nine months of prenatal bliss. I only felt sorrow. I was finally able to admit—I just missed Poppy. And I couldn’t replace her. Not ever.
In that fateful conversation, we brought up a topic that we had discussed before: adoption. I’m named after my aunt who was adopted, and my husband has several friends who adopted, so we agreed early on that we’d be interested in pursuing it at some point down the line.
But then we asked each other, “What if we pursue it now?”
“Why?” turned into “why wait?”
We were wrist-deep in adoption paperwork when I got the call from my OB that solidified our path. I had almost forgotten, but my husband and I had testing done some weeks prior to “double check that all systems were firing,” as the OB said. The results brought me to my knees. Male factor infertility. A less than 1% chance of conception, even with IVF. Another miscarriage was highly likely if we were to conceive again. Sure, I had my sights set on adoption by this point, but this information still needed to be processed. We were not going to have biological children. Poppy would be the only spirit ever living that shared our DNA. But as somber as that was, I couldn’t help but acknowledge what was unspoken, which was…Poppy was a miracle. That she existed at all with a less than 1% chance meant, to me, that she chose us for a reason. She did exist. My child did exist. However briefly, she was here and she mattered. She still does.
Rather than seeking a second opinion or placing blame, we conditioned ourselves to look to the future with hope and responsibility. Hope that one day we’d be reunited with our sweet Poppy and, in the meantime, we’d eventually be able to parent Poppy’s sibling here on earth. My responsibility became sharing our story so Poppy’s memory wouldn’t be forgotten, while I simultaneously prepared myself emotionally, mentally, and spiritually to become an adoptive mom.
Nine months (that felt like nine years) into our adoption wait, we got The Call. An expectant mother had chosen us to parent her child—a baby girl that was due in just three weeks! We were “matched” and we were over-the-moon. Doing the math, I discovered that this baby was conceived the same month that Poppy would have been born. With that knowledge, I didn’t worry about the scary what ifs. It was as if all the cells in my body just knew; this January baby girl had found her way to us with the help of Poppy.
On a snowy January evening in Des Moines, Iowa, Sofia Rose took her first breath and my husband and I were privileged to witness it. The love I felt course through my body as I held her skin to skin was pure, instinctual, and overwhelming. My soul knew her soul and we were meant to be together. It was as simple as that. After all the complexity of grieving a child I had yet to meet, the heartbreak of infertility, and the rollercoaster ride that was the adoption process, it all boiled down to something so simple—love. That first night in the hospital, I realized that I could hold both my love for Sofia and my love for Poppy at the same time and both were equally maternal, true, and undying.
And so, this brings me to where we are today…Sofia is almost nine months old. She’s blooming into a bubbly, mischievous little thing and she is so adored. I live with the knowledge that I am the luckiest women alive because she calls me “Mama.” And yet, I have not and will never forget what it felt like to be wandering in the darkness after my miscarriage.
John 1:5 says, “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”
To be very clear, I don’t quote this verse to imply that I’m “okay” now or to dismiss the waves of hurt and anger that still come crashing down on me unexpectedly. Honestly, I can’t say that I know that the “light” really is. But I’m writing this nonetheless because there has to be hope. There just has to be. Otherwise, what is the point? Sometimes that hope looks like a very dim flickering light, but it’s always there if we take the time to look for it; it shines no matter how dark and lonely it can seem inside our minds.
Whether your baby is living in your home or living in your heart, you are and will always be a mother. The rainbow IS on its way. Give it time and you’ll be blown away.
Photos taken by Gerry D’Arco.
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