The first time I felt a twinge in my tummy it was so slight I barely noticed it. I was busy greeting guests in a capacity filled room at the waterfront restaurant. The sun was just setting over the water, casting a warm orange glow throughout the mahogany floored lounge that overlooked the Marina.

The air buzzed with the energy of the cocktail set. A three member jazz band played in the corner by the fireplace as people danced and mingled about. It was holiday time and everyone was full of good cheer at the annual year-end mixer. I was enjoying the festive atmosphere and seeing all the smiling faces when I felt another twinge. This time it was unmistakable.

It soon progressed to a dull ache in my stomach. I wondered if it was something I ate. Perhaps all the excitement and planning for the various holiday events was just catching up to me. I took a big sip of the sparkling water I’d been drinking hoping it would settle my stomach and all would be well. It didn’t help. My stomach refused to settle. The ache got heavier and more insistent. Then suddenly, the dull pain turned sharp. My heart began to race. I rushed to the bathroom.

That’s when I saw the brownish red stain on my panties. Instead of panicking, I found myself calmly wrapping several sheets of toilet paper and placing them over the stain. My mind wasn’t making the connection because I wouldn’t allow it. I heard familiar voices outside the stall asking me if everything was ok. I heard myself answer, “Everything’s just fine. I’ll be out in a moment.”

Even though it was only for a short while, I was the mother to this precious being

I was about to walk out back to the party, when I felt another sharp pain. My heart again started racing. I knew then I had to leave. All I would allow my mind to think about was getting home. I stood in the stall and waited for what felt like an eternity until all the voices in the bathroom dissipated. I snuck out and left the holiday party without a word to anyone.

As soon as I walked in the door, I dropped my purse on the floor and crawled into my bed in a fetal position. The pain was coming in waves now, at times so intense, all I could do was close my eyes and focus on breathing. Up until that point in my life, I had rarely suffered any acute physical pain, so I did not have any Tylenol, Motrin or any other type of pain killer in my home. The only thing I had was my breath to help alleviate any pain. I took deep breaths in and out, in and out. I could hear my cell ringing in my purse. There would be a pause after several rings and then it would start again, over and over.

I lay in my bed, unable to move. I was miscarrying.

It occurred to me that I should get to the emergency room, but the thought soon passed as I was overcome with another wave of intense pain and became focused entirely again on just breathing. The stronger the pain, the more I focused on my breath. After years of meditation, it was what my body was conditioned to do. I also, quite frankly, had no alternative then, but to breathe and stay calm.

I could feel blood beginning to flow out of me. I knew I had to get to the bathroom, but I could not get my body upright. I rolled myself out of bed tucked in a fetal position and dropped to the floor. I took a deep breath, mustering whatever strength I could and started crawling to the bathroom. Every few strides, I had to stop to just be still and breathe as the contractions became more intense.

When I finally got to the bathroom, the pain was so excruciating, I thought I might pass out and bleed to death right there on the tile, still in my cocktail dress. I was groaning and making noises I’d never heard out of me before. My heart was pounding, and I was drenched in sweat. I was having a hard time now catching my breath. My mind went fuzzy, and I heard myself praying to God to please just let me go, please let me go to escape the pain.

Then the words of Thich Nhat Hanh came to me, words that I’d read many times in the past. “When you are dealing with pain, do not fight against pain. Embrace it with great tenderness as though you were embracing a little baby.” I don’t know whether the pain just got so great that I became numb, but somehow I was able to get up off the floor, take my clothes off, and sit myself on the toilet.

My body then did what it needed to do. I delivered my baby. It was done. It was stunning how quickly and how thoroughly all the physical pain went away. Literally, in an instant.

In that very moment, I experienced such a dichotomy of feelings both in spirit and body that I have never experienced in my life. In that exact moment when the precious being I had been carrying for nearly 16 weeks left my body, I felt tremendous gratitude, release, and relief from the excruciating physical pain I’d been enduring and at the same time felt the overwhelming, unbearable heartache and emotional pain for the loss of my baby. I was so thankful to God for taking the physical pain away and in utter despair for losing life.

One moment I carried life and in the next, it was gone, just like that. In that moment, nothing mattered at all. Everything that had seemed important to me… my family, my friends, everything that I had worked so hard for, my education, my career, and my relationships were now meaningless. I sat there on the toilet, my head bowed, hands cradling my face, crying for another couple of hours.

After there were no more tears to cry, my entire being having been spent and emptied, a realization came over me in the void. An intrinsic, ineffable knowing and feeling filled me deeply within my core that I have a hard time even today, ascribing it to words. This spirit that had entered my physical body and left in physical form was still there, connected, deep within me. I felt it in the energy of the cells in my body. The love didn’t go away.

Even though it was only for a short while, I was the mother to this precious being. This baby gave me the gift of knowing what pure, unconditional love means, and I am grateful for that. I mourn the loss but I am awakened, transformed, and alive because of how intensely I felt the bond between us. My baby is gone, but the love remains today, warm in my heart.

I hope by telling my story, I can encourage others to share their stories. I have been encouraged and supported by women who have also experienced miscarriage. For many, it is a silent sorrow. No one quite knows what to say or do to comfort us, even those who are the closest — our husbands, partners, family and friends. It is hard for many women to ask for help, we often don’t know what we need. Sometimes it’s just easier not to say anything and move on as if nothing happened. After all, as they say, it wasn’t a real baby.

But for the countless women who experience miscarriage (especially those past the first trimester), the bond is real, the love is real, and the life is real — it is our baby. I encourage those inspired who have gone through a similar experience to give yourself the gift (freedom) in honoring in whatever form that feels right, the loving spirit that you carried in your womb, however long or short the duration. Fully experiencing and knowing this blessing is truly the most beautiful gift.

All my love, Lia.

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