October 15 is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. This year, by the grace of God, my baby boy turned 10 months on that day, and my daughter decided she wanted to have a camping party for her upcoming third birthday. I have two beautiful children that I cherish with my whole being. But there was a time not very long ago when I wondered if I would ever be a mother.
I lost my first baby to miscarriage.
My first wedding anniversary was spent in my darkened living room, weeping on the floor, writhing in pain, and saying goodbye to the baby I never held. That’s a terrible experience to go through. Those are terrible words to tell someone, and they are terrible words to hear. I knew how awful and painful they were, and so I kept those words to myself. I didn’t tell my friends. To my family members who did know, I refused to completely open up.
Talking about the huge hole in my heart, the way my life felt like it was ripped to shreds, saying all of that out loud would make me be the cause of sadness in others, and a source of grief to the people I loved. I didn’t want to spread my pain to them, or make their hearts hurt the way mine did.
I thought I was doing everyone a favor by suffering alone.
I watched women all around me, with shiny hair and cheeks, soft clothes stretched over swollen stomachs, smiling with anticipation of the new life inside of them. My flat stomach was a curse, empty and broken.
The loss of a baby is a tragedy. For many people, the sadness goes beyond just the loss of a pregnancy. In my experience, I felt grief over the loss of my baby, the loss of the future that I had expected, and the loss of the way I saw myself.
Loss of the baby
That particular baby, that unique individual, cannot ever be replaced. She might have already had a name. He already had an expected birthday. She had genes, and body parts, and a heartbeat that for some unknown horrible reason, stopped.
Loss of the future
Her parents’ thoughts were already swirling with plans for the nursery, clothing, blankets, and burp cloths. They might have already rearranged their home, and surely their hearts, preparing for the new family member’s arrival. Their plans for their family, child spacing, jobs, and daycare arrangements are now futile. The future can be a very scary, sad, empty place for a parent who has just lost a baby.
Loss of self
With no evidence that my body could carry a baby to term, I feared that I would never be a mother. I had wanted to be a mommy since before I could walk or talk, nurturing my ratty babydolls with an almost ridiculous affection. Who was I, if not a mother? My body had failed, and I felt that I had failed as a woman.
All of these losses weighed on me. Not talking about them nearly killed me. The problem with grief like this, the loss of a person who never was, is that it’s all too easy to just pretend it never happened. When your grandmother dies, or a friend or relative, that is a loss that’s obvious. Photos tell the story of those lives, memories and experiences and artifacts strewn all over the hearts and homes of the people who knew and loved them. The loss of a living person is announced in obituaries and phone calls, flowers, funerals, missed work, and homemade lasagnas. The loss of a person who never got a chance to live is much quieter than that. It’s often a secret, unless you choose for it not to be.
I will never forget the way I felt when I attended a baby shower of a relative shortly after my miscarriage. I was doing a great job pretending to be happy and optimistic and supportive. I was thrilled that no one was drawing attention to my loss or making me talk about it. Until one of the guests, an older relative of mine, gave me a hug and whispered in my ear:
“I’m so sorry about your baby. My heart just breaks for you. It’s a terrible thing to lose your baby. I’m so sorry.”
It was the last thing I wanted to hear. I didn’t want to talk about it, or cry, especially in front of people. But her words to me were SO HEALING. She spoke about my baby out loud. She called it my baby. She said it, and she offered comfort to me, and that meant my baby was real.
My baby was real, and my loss was real, and my pain was real. I am so grateful for her words to me that day.
I share all of these things with you today, because I’m choosing to not keep my miscarriage a secret anymore. It’s heavy. It’s sad. It’s scary and uncomfortable. But it’s so very common. Studies show that between 10% – 25% of all clinically-recognized pregnancies will end in miscarriage. It’s happening to women everywhere, and if you are one of those women, I’m sharing my story for you, so that you might not feel quite so alone. I’m sharing my story for anyone who knows a woman who has had or will suffer from a miscarriage, still birth, or infant loss. Your baby was real. Your baby was loved. And it’s a terrible tragedy that you were unable to hold that baby and watch that baby grow into a child, a teenager, an adult.
If you have lost a baby, please find someone to share your story with. You just might find that speaking your loss out loud will bring healing to both you and the person who hears. Thank you for listening to my story.