I find out I’m pregnant the first week of January. Grady is three years old and we’ve just celebrated the first Christmas where he seemed to understand the festivities. It has been fun and joyful and exhausting and now I’m holding a positive pregnancy test and daydreaming about next year’s Christmas as a family of four.
For three weeks we fluctuate between “what have we done?” and “look what we’ve done!” until I have my dating scan. I pick the private clinic over the hospital lab because calm music plays, the lights are dimmed, and soothing artwork hangs on the walls. I don’t realize until I’m walking down the hallway that the last time I had an ultrasound there was during the process of being diagnosed with cancer. Those walls with the soothing artwork in muted tones hold ghosts, for me and for others I’m sure of it, and another is added when the technician squints at the screen and says, “I don’t know what I’m looking at.”
January is the cruelest month in which to receive bad news. The sky is grey and suffocating, the rain cold and relentless. I stumble through each day in a fog, barely functioning beyond what’s necessary. Being told the pregnancy isn’t viable is heartbreaking. Carrying something that isn’t an embryo but is still a growing mass of cells, less than two years after cancer, is excruciating.
I cry a lot. I think dark thoughts. I quickly descend down the doom spiral at the slightest provocation. It is January, and then it is February, and a month after being told something-but-not-a-baby is growing inside me, a month of blood tests every two days and internal ultrasounds every week, I have surgery to scrape out any evidence that my mass of not-a-baby ever existed. And then a week later I have another surgery to fix the results of the first surgery.
It is another month before my blood tests are clear of any trace of pregnancy hormones. March is as terrible as February, but in a different way. In March, I am in pain - both physically and mentally - but I am also empty.
I spend the first three months of 2015 convinced that I will not survive. The pain, the mental anguish, the uncertainty, is all too much. I am surrounded by love and support, people show up for me in a hundred different ways, I have accessible, high-quality medical care, and mental health support, all the things anyone who is going through a tough time could possibly ask for, and still I struggle.
I spend a lot of time looking out the window at the bleak landscape in front of me - dirty puddles of freezing rainwater, piles of mud where the garden once was, and not a single green thing in sight. I start to meditate, sort of, in my own way. I stare at the garden and try to clear my mind of the hurricane of anxiety and sadness, and whisper the word “bloom.” Some days it is a plea, some days it’s more like a command. Most of the time it is just my own version of “om.”
My therapist suggests I do something to honour my not-a-baby, like buy a piece of jewellery or plant a tree, to bring closure and peace. I decide to plant a cherry blossom tree. One of the first signs of spring in BC is the arrival of the pale pink blossoms; when winter feels interminable and the grey feels like it is here to stay, the cherry blossom tree in my garden will be a reminder that there is renewal and there is light and hope blooms.