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Losing A Pregnancy: Going Through Grief Separate From The Pandemic

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

There's been so much loss this past year. We've shared many stories of people who've died from COVID-19, but this week, we're talking with people who are grieving something that wasn't directly connected to the pandemic, but it sears nonetheless.

Hello, Erika?

ERIKA POHLMAN: Good morning. Yeah.

MARTIN: People like Erika Pohlman. We reached her at her home in Solon, Iowa, and I had to start with an apology.

I'm sorry to be late. I'm finagling, like, children.

POHLMAN: Oh, honey, I am hiding from my sleeping baby in the basement. There is no judgment from me.

MARTIN: Erika's son Orion is 14 months old.

POHLMAN: Fourteen months is running nonstop - bowl of cat food in the toilet yesterday. Yep.

MARTIN: Erika is funny and thoughtful and vulnerable. This year, she experienced a deeply personal loss.

POHLMAN: The greatest loss of 2020 - I lost a baby on July 22 of this year.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

POHLMAN: You know, we weren't trying for another baby. My son was only eight months old at the time. But that doesn't change the fact that I still built that space in my heart. You know that another baby is coming, and so you make the space and you make the room to love it, and you start making plans. Even if I didn't get a chance to share those plans with anybody before it was gone, you know, there are things that you have to start thinking about when you find out that you're pregnant - little things like, am I going to be able to potty train my son before the baby is born? Or am I going to have two in diapers at the same time? It was small things. Mostly what I wanted to do, though, was just tell my husband, so we could start making plans together.

MARTIN: But Erika didn't get a chance to tell her husband until it was too late. She was managing two hotels at the time, short-staffed because of the pandemic. There were only 48 hours between when she found out she was pregnant and when the miscarriage began, and she worked almost the entire time. When she realized she was losing her pregnancy, she called to tell her husband everything over the phone.

POHLMAN: What he said to me was, what do you need? What can I do? And I honestly - I don't even remember what I said because there wasn't much he could do.

MARTIN: So that was in July. Where are you now in sort of navigating your grief?

POHLMAN: It gets easier to manage. It gets easier to get through the day, to do the things that need to be done, because I have news for you. A 14-month-old does not care how tired you are. A 14-month-old does not care if you're sad. Your bills do not care if you're sad. There are still things that need to get done. But I still think about - I still think about our baby every day. I would be about six months pregnant now if it hadn't happened. You know, we would be planning a baby shower, even if it had to be over Zoom. We would be getting all the new little baby clothes and washing them and folding them and just getting ready, but we're not. We're not because there's nothing to get ready for.

MARTIN: What has it been like to go through this very intimate loss - this very personal loss - in the midst of this societal grief that we're all going through related to a once-in-100-year global pandemic? Have you thought about that? Does it make it - does it connect you in a broader way, or does it make you feel even less connected because your grief isn't of that?

POHLMAN: Honestly, it's a little bit of both. There are some ways that all grief is connected, I think, and there are some ways that everybody in the world, I think, is kind of feeling what we're feeling. You know, we just lost a very important woman in our family to COVID. But what you notice is that when you lose a friend, when you lose a family member, everybody else - there's a point of reference. There's other people who have memories of that person. There are memories. There are pictures. There are things that you can all share about that person that helps you feel more connected. And I think miscarriage is kind of a solitary loss to begin with. You know, nobody else has ever held that baby. No one has seen a picture of that baby. That baby has never smiled at anyone. There's nobody who has memories of that baby but me. There's nobody who ever held or carried that baby but me. And then to put that on top of not being able to see my friends, not being able to hug my parents, it's incredibly lonely.

MARTIN: Are you and your husband talking about trying to have another baby?

POHLMAN: God, not any time soon. If we ever do - and that is a big if - I made it through once. I made it to the other side once, but I can't do that again. I can't lose another baby. I just - I can't.

MARTIN: We're approaching a new year. I know you all are getting ready to make a big move. Your husband got a new job. How are you looking into 2021?

POHLMAN: I have to be honest, I'm just kind of hoping for a fresh start. I'm hoping to leave some of the heartache in 2020 and be able to look forward to being together, look forward to making new memories as the family that we have. And it just - it has to be better.

MARTIN: Well, I wish that for you and for all of us. Erika Pohlman, thank you so much for talking with us.

POHLMAN: Thank you so much for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF BEN FOLDS FIVE SONG, "EVAPORATED") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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