When Carrie Underwood spoke about 2017 being "a very soul-searching year for me," she knew people would reach for the obvious. That fall. The one that saw her tripping on a stone step outside her Franklin, Tenn. estate and breaking her tumble with her face.
And it was bad. Metal plate in her wrist bad. Some 40 to 50 stitches holding together her face bad. Spending nights worrying that her famous visage may never appear the same way bad. Certainly bad enough that one could imagine it inspiring the lyrics to her new single "Cry Pretty," a track in which she sings, "I'm pretty good at keeping it together / I hold my composure, for worse or for better / So I apologize if you don't like what you see / But sometimes my emotions get the best of me."
But talking with Redbook last month, Underwood insinuated the "random freak accident" as she's called it wasn't even her toughest test of the past 12 months. "There were some personal things that happened," she shared somewhat evasively. "Life is full of ups and downs, and I might have had a few more downs than ups last year."
The emotional falls proved far more agonizing than the literal one. While the former American Idol champ excitedly revealed in August that she and retired NHL center Mike Fisher, 38, would be welcoming a companion for 3-year-old son Isaiah, she didn't let on just how tough that journey was. She had intended 2017 to be the year she put an end to the prying questions about when she would expand her family. Instead, in a 12-month stretch, she suffered three gut-wrenching miscarriages that tested her previously unshakeable faith.
All the while, she had to continue her job as a public figure, walking red carpets and ducking inquiries about what exactly was going on in her uterus. Because answering risked giving a heartbreakingly honest response, like when she told Redbook that at 35 "we may have missed our chance to have a big family." Her words caused an uproar from those that took to motherhood a little later in life, but in retrospect it's easy to see how she didn't mean them as a knock on anybody. Rather they were her truth, musings from a woman who'd had her dreams dashed just too many times.
"I would literally have these horrible things going on in my life, and then have to go smile and, like, do some interviews or, like, do a photo shoot or something, you know?" she revealed on CBS Sunday Morning this weekend.
So singing about struggling to maintain her composure? Makes sense.
For a brief moment at the start of last year, life was sailing along so idyllically there was no need to worry about keeping up appearances. Just as they'd planned, she and Fisher got pregnant, she shared, but it "didn't work out."
The loss was tough, but the native of tiny Checotah, Okla. had been through worse. Shrugging off the interviewer's condolences with a wry, "It happens," Underwood continued, "That was the thing, in the beginning it was like, 'Okay, God, we know this is, just wasn't Your timing. And that is all right. We will bounce back and figure our way through it.'"
But bouncing back the first time is infinitely easier than the second, which took place just months later in the spring of 2017. The third time (in early 2018) was even harder still. "At that point," she shared, "it was just kind of like, 'Okay, like, what's the deal?'"
Because at that point it kind of felt like Underwood was getting hit with more than her share of bad news. Her terrifying accident had taken place the previous November, just four days after she and Brad Paisley co-hosted the CMA Awards for the tenth straight year, when she was simply taking pups Ace and Penny "out to do their business," as she told Hoda Kotb on the Today show.
It was a clumsy shuffling of her feet, the kind that generally ends with a bruised knee, a skinned hand, but when Underwood went to catch herself with her right hand—holding tight to her dogs' leashes with the other—she missed the edge of her stone stair. "There's one lone step," she lamented on SiriusXM's The Storme Warren Show in April, "I said if I had fallen anywhere else, I would have been absolutely fine."
Instead she was left with a broken wrist, a chipped tooth and enough facial damage to necessitate surgery. But the scariest part, far more terrifying than waking up and learning they'd had to give her at least 40 stitches, was the unknown: Surveying the damage the country star simply couldn't be sure she'd ever look the same again.
Left to stew in her thoughts during her self-induced sequestration ("I was lucky that when it happened, everything was kind of shutting down in the music world and we had the holidays and stuff like that," she explained on The Bobby Bones Show podcast) she envisioned the worst, at one point worrying that her own son would be frightened by her appearance. "I was at a point where I didn't know how things were going to end up," she admitted in her interview with Bones. "I didn't know what was going to go on. I didn't know what it was going to heal like."
Fearing it would be this shocking change, she decided to come clean to fans, "Because I was like, 'Man, somebody's gonna catch me at the Kroger. I'm gonna be buying groceries and somebody's gonna post something on Instagram, and people are gonna be like, 'What's going on?'"
And just about the time the seven-time Grammy winner was penning a letter to fans about "why I might look a little different," her husband was coming forward with an admission of his own.
He shared that maybe he'd been just a little hasty in his decision to exit the Nashville Predators when the team had a legitimate shot at winning a Stanley Cup. So in what NHL.com called a "virtually unprecedented move," he announced his plans to un-retire from the sport just five months after he'd initially hung up his skates.
The timing of it all (shouldn't he be at home tending to his injured wife?) and Underwood's virtual disappearance from the public eye (it would be April before she felt confident enough to show her full face in public) sparked up the ol' rumor mill and soon tabloids were churning out covers predicting an end to the duo's eight-year marriage.
What they failed to account for was that, of course, Fisher had made his decision with his wife's full-throated approval.
"I would say I was the main factor in that," she told Bones, stressing how eager she was to see her husband win the highest prize in a sport he'd committed his entire life to. Besides, his role as nurse had become superfluous. Despite a bum right wrist that made pretty much everything difficult, Underwood pushed herself to carry on as normal. "I'm probably not a very good patient," she admitted to Warren, "because I'm like, 'I can do it. I'm not completely broken. I can do this.'"
So the pair, a thing since the singer's bassist Mark Childers introduced them at a 2008 meet and greet, were fine, nothing to worry about here—a point Fisher drove home after a psalm he posted on social media inspired his followers to pray for their union. When a well wisher instructed him to "hold tight" to his bride, the athlete brushed off the advice replying simply, "We've never been better. Thanks."
And it's true that the pair's union remained on solid ground. Their commitment had long been unshakeable thanks to what they labeled their shared faith and family values. "When you have the spark with somebody and you have the connection, that's wonderful," Underwood shared on Behind the Music, "but when you agree on the core things in life, your beliefs and your faith, that does connect you to somebody even deeper."
But there was still one more tragedy lurking in 2018 because, once again, in the year's early months Underwood suffered a miscarriage. To deal with her grief and confusion, the musician poured her hurt out in verse—"Like, literally right after finding out that I would lose a baby, I'd have a writing session, I'd be like, 'Let's go. You know, I can't just sit around thinking about this,'" she shared with CBS Sunday Morning—and she did her best not to allow her heart to harden.
"I had always been afraid to be angry," she explained. "Because we are so blessed. And my son, Isaiah, is the sweetest thing. And he's the best thing in the world. And I'm like, 'If we can never have any other kids, that's okay, because he's amazing.' And I have this amazing life. Like, really, what can I complain about? I can't. I have an incredible husband, incredible friends, an incredible job, an incredible kid. Can I be mad? No."
Except of course you can, particularly when the same long-held dream is being ripped from you over and over. So despite her best efforts, the "Good Girl" singer got mad. And when that didn't work, she turned to prayer, something she's done often over the years, including after Fisher's 2009 Canadian proposal. "We were both so excited," she has said, "and we just wanted God to watch over us and our plans and our marriage, and whatever might happen from that day forward."
So earlier this year, after she suspected an agonizing fourth miscarriage, she cuddled Isaiah ("I don't know how I didn't wake him up, but I was just sobbing,") and asked for more guidance. "I was like, 'Why on Earth do I keep getting pregnant if I can't have a kid? Like what is this? Shut the door. Like, do something. Either shut the door or let me have a kid,'" she recalled in this weekend's interview. "And for the first time, I feel like I actually told God how I felt. And I feel, like, we're supposed to do that."
This time the story she'd been reliving over and over for the past 18 months reached a happier conclusion. Some two days after her impromptu prayer session, "I went to the doctor to, like, confirm another miscarriage," she shared. "And they told me everything was great!"
So, so, so, so great.
Underwood had already launched her unofficial comeback this spring, with rousing performances at both April's ACM Awards and June's CMT Awards, each event netting her a trophy a piece. And tomorrow she will take the stage at the American Music Awards, where she's once again up for the Favorite Female Country Artist honor. It comes on the heels of her receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a moment she dedicated to both Fisher and Isaiah, the men who believe in her the most.
And yet, we're guessing that none of those things were the true highlight of her year. This August she was finally able to tell fans that she and Fisher were "adding a little fish to our pond," and that the little tadpole would join her on the road May 1 for her 55-arena Cry Pretty Tour 360. Presumably, Isaiah will be tagging along as well. Her "absolutely amazing" boy is already excited about his playmate, or at least as excited as a toddler who doesn't entirely grasp what it means to have a sibling could possibly be.
"I mean, he'll be really sweet—he'll talk to my belly and kiss my belly," she shared with Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show. "He's the sweetest little boy. But I mean, no kid can really know that their life is going to change. He'll just have to share mommy."
The 3-year-old has already been tasked with giving name input (he suggested Isaiah Michael Fisher, boy or girl, because "he wants to name everything his name because he thinks that's special," says the star) but Underwood is adopting a wait and see approach in regards to how he'll handle his older brother status.
Because if the last 12 months or so have taught her anything, it's that she truly can't predict what will come next and maybe she was right back in 2005 when she requested that Jesus take the wheel "'cause I can't do this on my own."
Asked to describe her bucket list for the next 10 years, the singer was hard-pressed to give Redbook an answer. She hoped she'd still be making music, of course, because she loved performing and carefully piecing together the type of show that would delight her fans and satisfy her own inner critic, "but I don't know where I'll be in 10 years. I don't know where I'll be next week," she admitted. "By the grace of God, I'm just lucky enough to live another day, and that's good by me."