What does a woman do while she’s healing from a miscarriage? She crafts. Items for a future nursery. Or is that only me? I accepted that my brief pregnancy was over, but I couldn’t rid myself of the desire to create a space to welcome a child into. So my family and close friends normalized my behavior as I cut up used Little Golden books to craft with. Then I decoupaged Poky the Puppy frames and set everything in a closet for later. Even in my deepest grief, I gave myself permission to dream of a day when I’d bring a healthy baby home.

One would think I was optimistic about my chances of having a healthy pregnancy, but I really wasn’t.

Since so little is known about miscarriage, I wasn’t sure what my outlook might be. Several of my friends had gone through similar situations, so I had a lot of people to lean on. After my Dilation and Curettage (D & C) surgery, our kitchen table looked like the aftermath of a small funeral, which I suppose it was. Initially, I wanted to go back in time and not tell a soul. But, if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have this immense support system showing me the way forward.

My friends in the “miscarriage club” said it was okay to unfollow people who had just announced a pregnancy on social media. They assured me it was okay to feel like a jealous jerk even though I didn’t want anything bad to happen to them. It was fine to be less productive and do things that brought me joy, though only a select few knew about my secret stash of nursery decor. I guess what the experience taught me was that I wanted to be a mom, and now that I had a glimpse, I wanted it badly.

For a few days post-surgery, I wallowed in my feelings. It saddened me not to carry this baby to term. To never meet them or receive an ultrasound photo. I wanted to let go while simultaneously holding on tighter than ever. I wanted to wear soft maternity pants, take belly photos, and feel my stomach hardening. Instead, all I got was bloat, a thick pad to wear, and confused boobs.

In the aftermath of my D&C, I went back and forth on the best TV series to binge-watch while taking a few days off from work: cooking shows, The Bachelor, and then I decided on a sobber: This Is Us.

I nestled into my depression cave (black-out shades, leather couch, blanket) with a plate of chicken strips and hit play. Spoiler alert: in the first episode, the main character loses a newborn at birth. I was officially wrecked.

I sobbed through nearly every episode of the first season, watching one after another in a day or two. For a non-crier, I never had such an intense viewing experience. I hadn’t allowed myself too many outbursts since the miscarriage, and watching this show helped me let it all go.

Eventually, it was time to put on real pants, conceal my emotions, and head back to work.

Over the next few months, I busied myself with anything (fridge cleanout) and everything (our dog got a lot of TLC). While out and about, a few unfortunate souls missed the news of my miscarrying and asked how my pregnancy was going. I always felt worse for them than me when I had to explain that I was no longer pregnant. I fled to humor in those situations. I’d say I was “just fat” or looking forward to summer cocktails now that I was “unpregnant,” as I quietly died inside. By this point, my covert nursery preparations had cooled down. And I became obsessed with a new post-miscarriage hobby: having my blood drawn to determine my human chorionic gonadotrophin level (hCG), also known as the pregnancy hormone.

The game was, the lower the number, the sooner I would ovulate again. There was nothing I could do to control it or much to glean from the information, but it gave me the small amount of control I was craving over my broken body. Eventually, I got to single digits and decided to wait patiently for Aunt Flo to arrive. When she finally did, I felt relieved and even more anxious. Now I could officially try to get pregnant again.

Around this time, I was scrolling through my social media feeds when I came across a contest through a local radio station.

It asked viewers to submit their This Is Us story; what does the show mean to you, what do you enjoy about it? I detest the sound of my screechy voice in any sort of recording, yet I felt compelled to share how moved I was by the popular show. So I readied my selfie hand while sitting in my backyard and hit record:

Hello, my name is Diane. I watched This Is Us while recovering from a miscarriage and was able to release emotions by watching the show that I wasn’t otherwise able to express. I was also blown away by the incredible actors and storyline. Thanks for considering my story!

I considered re-recording my submission but decided against it. I wasn’t going to like myself on camera any more or any less, I thought. Plus, I sort of liked the off-the-cuffness of it. Honest, raw, and to the point. I figured rejection was inevitable, though I joked to my husband that I was going to be selected. He gave me a grimace and said, “Sure, babe.”

A few weeks later, I opened a new browser tab to check my personal email at work one morning. I skimmed the subject lines: a bill, reminder for pet vaccinations, coupons. Then I spotted something different.

Near the middle of my new messages was a subject line that read: “CONGRATULATIONS, YOU’RE THE GRAND PRIZE WINNER!”

No way, I thought. It has to be some kind of joke or ploy to get me to enter in my banking information to then receive some sort of gift, which in turn will certainly lead to identity theft. I figured there was no harm in opening the message as long as I didn’t click any links too quickly. It started with my name spelled correctly. This is a smart scammer, I thought. Then slowly, it became more legitimate.

Dear Diane,

Your video was chosen as the grand prize winner for the trip for two to Los Angeles, California to see the “This is Us” Season Two Premiere. To redeem this prize, you must call immediately to set up a time to come in and sign that you accept the gift.

Within moments, I picked up my office phone and dialed the number. A woman answered, and I awkwardly said, “Hi. I guess I just got this email from you, and I’m wondering if it’s actually… real?” She confirmed that it was indeed real, seeming accustomed to this line of questioning from prize recipients. She explained that I’d receive round-trip airline tickets for a guest and me, in addition to a three-night hotel stay, if I accepted. I began to do a happy dance in my office chair and quickly confirmed a time to stop by the radio station to sign paperwork to accept my grand prize.

Despite me being the world’s biggest blabbermouth, I had only told my husband and mom about my video submission. I felt sheepish for entering my This Is Us story. There was a part of me that felt like I hadn’t suffered enough from my miscarriage. It was in the first trimester, I wasn’t rushed to the ER, and so far, I only had one. Now that it was time to spill the beans, I felt unworthy. But, I was ecstatic to make my first trip to California, a red carpet debut nonetheless.

My next call was to my husband to see if he wanted to be my guest. He immediately expressed skepticism but quickly came around when I mentioned I’d already corroborated it with an employee. He committed to watching the episodes he missed. (We started the show together, but then I went ahead without him, which is grounds for divorce in our household–but in my depressed state, he let it slide.) After chatting for a few minutes, we agreed it was time to get back to the grind. This all sounded incredible.

But, in true Midwestern form, I began to ponder a potential hiccup; I might be pregnant.

The news of winning the contest came a few weeks after trying to conceive again, finally, after months of waiting for my body to play catch up to my brain. I knew I could travel early in pregnancy, but I wondered if I would have morning sickness or issues with scanners at airport security. Would I have enough time to determine if I could safely enjoy a cocktail? The trip was two and a half weeks away, and I couldn’t quit obsessing: was I pregnant or not?

I spent the remaining time before vacation discussing the possibility, driving everyone around me insane. Five days out from my expected period, I began taking pregnancy tests. Thankfully, they were the cheap kind, but also less likely to reveal early positive results. All tests came back negative, and as I inched closer to the time when I may have actually seen a positive result, they still were not. Feeling defeated, I tucked one final test in my carry-on, assuming it would give me the clearance needed to have more glasses of wine than I should on vacation.

Something about being airborne forced me to relax and nap for a few hours. There was no stretch limo awaiting our arrival at LAX; transportation was something we had to cover ourselves. On the way to the hotel, I tried to drink in all the sights, but the big question kept looming in my head. I didn’t have any period symptoms, and I might possibly be a day late now. Falling asleep later, I couldn’t help but think tomorrow, it’ll be a firm yes or no.

I began to stir the next morning at 5 am; 8 am back home. I couldn’t sleep any longer without peeing first. I swung my legs out of the bed and headed to the bathroom. As I sat down on the toilet, I saw the lone pregnancy test I had brought. Mustering courage, I released fresh pee onto the stick, shoved the cap on top, and set it on the counter.

A short while later, I saw what I’d been waiting for: a faint, yet positive, pregnancy test.

I immediately thought how unbelievable it was to receive this news on a trip I won by opening up about my miscarriage.

I headed back into the other room and roused my sleeping husband to whisper the news. He embraced me in a full-body cuddle, and we slept for another hour before starting our day. As we got ready for a trip to Venice Beach, the paranoia over having another miscarriage set in. “This is too good to be true,” I said again and again. My husband took a play-it-cool approach and encouraged me to chill out and just “be happy.” If it were only that simple.

The hills of Topanga, CA, from the author's grand prize trip to California

Author’s Personal Collection/Diane Senjem

A short while later, we cruised down the 101 in a rental jeep. I drank in two scenes I was unfamiliar with: the beauty of California and the joy of a second pregnancy. We ended up driving to the hills of Topanga, California, before heading back to the hotel that evening. Unsure where we’d end up, but happy for the adventure about to begin, again.

The next night, we exited our Uber across the street from the red carpet.

Soon, I was an arm’s length away from “Toby” (played by Chris Sullivan) when a handler sent us around the building where the other prize recipients waited. No frills or flashing lights there. We were told our red carpet moment would take place after the event. The premiere itself felt like watching a movie in a theater. Besides the child actors sitting in the first row of the audience, the actors were in a loft behind the crowd. When episode one concluded, the stars came down for a panel discussion. For 45 minutes, I relished breathing the same air, zooming in with my camera, and admiring the people who aided my grief journey. We finished the night at a quiet Italian joint down the street after it was confirmed winners weren’t invited to the after party.

Diane Senjem and her husband at the This Is Us Season 2 premier after she won the grand prize in a contest after sharing her miscarriage story

Author’s Personal Collection/Diane Senjem

At the restaurant, we rehashed the premiere and plotted our travel plans for the next day. Then we switched to discussing the child we’d–hypothetically–hold in our arms in nine months. The early summer due date, list of baby names, and our first ultrasound appointment.

Despite my anxiousness about something going wrong, again, it felt like the true grand prize. A child to love.

I thanked the universe, considered selling our story to NBC, and dug into my pasta—hold the wine.

More on this topic:

Share this story!