And then I am humbled by what others have endured.

A little over a month ago, I wrote about my miscarriage in a post titled Empty.

The outpouring of love and support from you, my friends, and readers was tremendous. I cannot tell you how much that meant to me.

An old, childhood friend of mine reached out to me, and shared a personal story of hers. I was so honored that she chose to share this with me, and especially when I found out she had not shared it with anyone else- ever. That it had been locked inside her for years and years.

I offered her this space for her story. I feel that sometimes when we allow our grief to occupy space in the universe… it can lessen it’s hold on us. She bravely accepted.

With her permission, I am posting much of her beautifully written letter to me.

Feel free to leave her as much love and support as you so kindly did for me.

I debated whether or not to send this; I know that the last thing you need right now is another woman jumping up to share her stories of loss and emptiness. This time is private for you and your family … your courage and strength in sharing your ordeal with us was not an open invitation for us all to whip out our sob stories and toss them in the pot with your fresh pain. And when you really think about it, even a friend from “back in the day” is really just a friend of yesterday. I know that I am no longer relevant in your life; at least not in a meaningful daily way. I am that glossy image of friendship, tucked away in the memory box of your mind.
However, you have been on my mind a lot in the past year. Not only after we found each other on FB, or through my enjoyment of MommyNaniBooBoo. Off and on, I have wondered how you are, or what you are up too. I, however, was never really good at making friends … and although it might sound silly, I had no clue how to reconnect, when I can’t remember how I connected in the first place. But after reading Empty, I felt that I needed to share something, not only with you, but with myself.

Besides my mother and father, my sister and brother and my ex-husband, I have never spoken of these events with anyone before. The 5 people listed above were simply, “in the know” and to this day, I personally have not broached the subject with them. Never talked about what I am going to share, and often change the subject should anything even remote to it come up in conversation.

But I wanted to share this with you …. I hope you wont mind.

I am not sure if you remember or not, it might have been way too young for either of us to care or take much notice of each other, but when I was 11, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Very, very uncommon for a child or a young girl my age. It was stage 3 and the tumor was the size of a softball. They told my mom that I was going to die. I spent about 4 months in the children’s cancer ward; I lost all my hair from the chemo, lost all my body weight from the radiation, and when they felt it was safe to proclaim that I was going to live, I was told that I would probably never have children. At least, my own biological ones.

Now, thinking back, I don’t think at 11 I cared much about that … adoption seemed fine to me. What was the big deal? Why were my parents so upset? I was going to live after all and wasn’t that what was important? It wasn’t until I finally got married and was ready to start a family until I understood. The Need. The never ending need, the absolute obsession to have my own biological children took over.

I wont go into all the gory details … I wont recount the numerous infertility treatments we subjected ourselves to … myself to. My husband was wonderful, money wasn’t a concern, and he gladly paid whatever he was asked, because his wife wanted to carry her own child. He wanted me to be happy. Please don’t get me wrong, he wanted children too, but he as always open to adoption. I thought that I was open to it as well, but there is much murkiness in the heart of a woman, and our wants and desires are not always rational or logical. And even though I was a huge advocate of adoption, I desired to have my own children.

I have been blessed with 5 beautiful, and special children … Emily, I lost at 21 weeks. She was my first and I stayed in bed for 2 weeks after the miscarriage. Anna was my 2nd. I lost her at 23 weeks and my sister took me up to our family cabin in NY for 3 weeks of sister time, just the two of us. She mostly watched me stare out at the lake. I never spoke about it. Not once. “Kailee” was my third. Since I miscarried at only 10 weeks, we didn’t know what gender she was, but I gave her a name regardless. The others had been named and it just seemed fitting that she have one too. Since we told no one about that pregnancy, I had no one to share my pain with besides my husband, who was with me when I started spotting, then bleeding, and then had to be rushed to the ER. Deep down inside, I knew that if my parents or family had known that we were still trying, they would have a lot to say about it. None of it good or supportive. My husband and I dealt with it on our own.

A year later, we once again got happy news. I was expecting. But to be honest, I had been Empty too many times. I found that instead of joy and hope, I was cloaked in fear and sadness. We waited until I was 28 weeks (and well showing) before we told anyone. At 30 weeks, we named our expected son, Kevin.

Two weeks later we lost him.

I awoke that morning knowing something was wrong. My husband accused me of being too sensitive. Too worried. Too fearful. And I was. But I allowed him to convince me that the pain I was feeling was normal and that the heaviness in my belly was really all in my head. After 2 days of not feeling movement, of looking at the clock and praying for something, anything, I again vocalized my fears. Again I was told that I was paranoid.

Turns out I had every reason to be. I started bleeding the next afternoon and by the time we got to the hospital, little Kevin had been gone for at least 2 days. I had never felt so Empty in my life; the gaping hole in my womb was nothing compared to the hole in my heart and my soul.

My husband wanted to try again, even after that, but I knew it was my last. Even if I could entertain the idea of going through it all again, I could not lose another child. I took 5 months off work. I sat around. I cried some, but most days, I didn’t cry at all. I just seemed to cease existing.

In an effort to mend what was broken, we went on a two month vacation.  A second honeymoon he called it. He said, “We will start the adoption process when we get back”, and inside I died all over again. How could I ever be a mother, I thought, if I can’t even carry a child to term?

Then… life returned to normal. Well, normal for me. After many weeks of explaining that I would not be continuing infertility treatments to my husband and doctors, I got back on the pill to regulate my cycles, I went back to the gym, started dancing again, and returned to my non-profit theatre company for at risk teens. One might say I was driven; I say I was driven to forget.

But one afternoon, in March, I felt a flutter. Then a wave of dizziness. It passed quickly enough, but then that next day, it happened again. That time I did pass out. Concerned, I went to my Dr. (Not telling my husband who I didn’t want to worry). He could see nothing wrong. The symptoms continued, the doctor appointments continued for 2 more weeks until we figured out what was wrong …. I was expecting.

And somehow, I felt no fear. See, I had started the pill well before we conceived. All treatments had stopped months before. There was no logical, biological explanation of why I was pregnant, except that my body did it naturally, all by itself.

And that is how I knew that I was going to see the day where Daylynn came into this world and that I would hold her in my arms – and what a beautiful day that was. I cried that day for the first time since I lost Kevin.

Jenni, I know Empty … I bought some real estate there once. And I can think of nothing else more physically and emotionally paralyzing than losing the miracle that you created.  I am sorry you two are hurting and having to endure this.

You are the only one I have ever told this entire story to. You’re the only one that knows the entire truth. And it may be unconventional, but hopefully, it is my way of extending the olive branch of friendship across the decades. A way of saying I have missed you, and more importantly, a way of letting you know that your own light, hope and spirit will carry you through and on to the next child. Your heart demands it.

– Gwen


I am humbled.

21 responses to “And then I am humbled by what others have endured.”

  1. so much admiration for you, jenni. and such bravery shown by you that leads to uncovering even more bravery in gwen’s journey.

    words are so powerful.

    love and healing to you both.

  2. My heart goes out to both of you. Thank you. For your courage to tell your story Jenni, for your willingness to share your space with Gwen and for Gwen’s story.

    Much love.

  3. “Your heart demands it.” What powerful, simple, beautiful words.

    Strength, gentleness, understanding and care to the both of you.

  4. TANYA says:

    Thank you for this. I still deal with my own Empty experience and your story moved me, humbled me and gave me strength.
    Thank you so so much Jenni and Gwen

    • Jenni Chiu says:

      I am sorry to hear you suffered a similar loss. It happens to so many of us… knowing that cannot lessen our pain, but through sharing stories, perhaps it can magnify our strength.

      • Gwen says:

        I to am sorry for your Emptiness. I don’t think that there is any woman who can’t understand the feeling of loss and pain after a miscarriage. I don’t think it matters if it has happen to you or not – the knowledge is universal. Wishing you peace …

  5. Laura Stead says:

    Thank you two for opening your souls and writing about your losses. Loss is an isolating thing, but it shouldn’t be. We should stand together and support each other.

  6. Crystal says:

    I…I don’t really know what to say. I am overwhelmed with sadness for your losses and joy for your blessing. I feel guilty have 4 healthy babes…but I know that wasn’t at all your intent. I can’t imagine the pain a mother feels losing her baby. Thank you for sharing this story…it is beautiful in every sense.

    • Gwen says:

      Thank you Crystal and I am so happy for your 4 blessings! Life knows what it wants and sometimes we have to trust that it knows better than we do. My daughter and I have a beautiful life and I would not give back one minute of the path I took to be here with her today. And yes, the journey was part of the wonder. Although I can’t imagine it otherwise, I can only believe that my love, joy and happiness is somehow enriched by loss. It makes me a better mother, daughter and friend. And sharing this has healed the most raw wounds. Thanks again for your kind words.

  7. Gwen says:

    Jenni – I just want to say, Thank You, for allowing me space in your cyber world. Had it not been for your courage, I am not sure that I would have been able to find a reason to purge and release my own experience. Your generosity and kindness to my emotional unburdening was unexpected and more healing than you can imagine. Thank you for giving my story a chance to fly away, to leave my heart with something other than shame and emptiness and to be teach me the lesson that it meant to … That after the darkness, there is always light. It is the way of the universe. When were realize how similar we all are, we then truly become human. Thanks for being my hearts champion in the midst of your own battle.

  8. Jenni,
    thanks for sharing this letter.Gwens story is amazing and humbling. She is very stoic and continued on where others would have given up. She is amazing, as are you.I have never suffered such a loss but I can only imagine the emptiness that comes with it. You are both so strong to share your stories.Big proper heart hugs to you both!

  9. Anna Barnett says:

    I wish I could explain to you what reading this post means to me, but I just can’t. There has been so much pain over the years and so many losses I have endured with the FINAL one being a doctor telling me I could never have another child and I would have a hysterectomy. My choices taken, I was and still am empty on some levels, but then I look at what is in front of me, my husband, his kids, and try and focus on that. Sometimes I feel like I am the only one, so thank you for posting this. I really needed it…

    • Jenni Chiu says:

      I’m so sorry for your losses, and glad that this post in some way could help with the lonliness that sometimes comes with loss. It takes such strength and grace to focus on the loves you have in front of you. You are truly amazing.

    • Gwen says:

      Wishing you peace and light … my heart goes out to you. Thank you.

  10. Elly Lou says:

    Gwen, thank you for sharing your story. You and Jenni are both magical.

  11. Wow what a powerful story. I have never experienced this type of loss but have had many friends that have and I can only imagine the pain and heartache. You both are strong to share your stories and I am sure it helps other women going through the same thing.

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