It was baseball on Easter weekend. It was cold wind and sun. It was family on blankets on the grass. It was everything I could have wished for the big reveal, the announcement so long in the making. Granted, the actual delivery was a bit of a Pinterest-fail. I had filled plastic Easter eggs with a Christmas ornament that said “Coming soon…”. Get it? Because the baby we were finally having would be here by Christmas. The baby that we had been trying for years to conceive was currently brewing in my belly, our long-awaited Christmas miracle. Maybe it was too many holidays in one egg, too many eggs in one basket, too many expectations in one bargain-bin purchase. Nobody got it, except my mom. Moms usually do. One look at her face and everyone caught the drift. I should have just given her a megaphone and skipped the arts and crafts. But in the end, it did not matter how they found out. It was the promise of something long worked-for and hard-wrought, and on that day with the smell of hot dogs and sounds of cheers and promise of warmer seasons to come, it was perfect.

Infertility is a leaky bucket. You pour money and time and hormones and your marriage into it and hope that the sheer force will fill you to the brim. And in the end, it worked. After years of fertility treatments, we were pregnant. Which is why, a few weeks after that Easter weekend and that much closer to Mother’s Day, when I miscarried I could not rebound. I was an empty bucket. No one and nothing could fill me up, though many tried. The isolation was solid. I had left a part of my heart in a cold examination room.

It has been seven years now since that loss, seven years and three kids—seven years filled with joy and kid messes and mom fails. Yet a part of my heart still lies on that doctor’s table. It’s not something you walk away from intact. When we were in the thick of it, infertility and miscarriage was so alienating. I was the kid at the party that no one knew how to talk to. I was the conversation killer, the Debbie Downer on Facebook. So when I saw the New York Times illustrated discussion on “Grieving a Miscarriage,” it tugged that piece of my heart. There were messages of good–images of women running to, rather than away from, the woman in her grief. There was practical advice: “Inquire rather than advise” and “Be mindful. Express empathy. Highlight care.”

And yet…4 out of the 7 images focused on body-image after miscarriage, coming in for a close-up on the woman who may still look pregnant despite her loss. Thought bubbles like these, “On top of losing a baby, now I have to lose weight, too,” struck me in a way I did not expect. These were honest thoughts after a late-term miscarriage. But they struck a different note with me. I was not far along, only six weeks, when I lost our first child. There was no bump. There was no weight. There was no heft to my loss. Suddenly, such a long time later, I felt embarrassed. I felt that perhaps my miscarriage was somehow less than, rather than equal to, a woman who had rubbed lotion on her rounded belly, who had made it past the morning sickness, who had worn the maternity pants and been up in the night raiding the fridge. I never, as one of the slides suggested, had someone ask me “when are you expecting?”

But to become pregnant is to become a mother and mothers always look to the future for their children. They imagine the nursery, the blanket that will become a favorite, the sleepless nights. It does not matter how long the vision lasts, only that it occurs. When you lose a child, the images remain, like home movies of a version of your life you might have lived. From the minute you see that positive pregnancy test, the video begins recording.

I do applaud the New York Times for taking a proactive approach in bringing awareness to the grieving process, especially with Infertility Awareness Week approaching in April, but I also want to stretch out a hand to those women who have lost a child early in their pregnancy, who have felt the rise and fall of impending motherhood. May you not see this illustration as exclusionary. May you not be ashamed of your grief. May you know that a loss is a loss, no matter how far along you are, because you have, my sisters, come a long way and deserve the comfort of the collective women who have walked this empty road before you.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

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Jamie Sumner

Jamie Sumner is the author of the middle-grade novel, Roll with It. Her second and third middle-grade novels with Atheneum Books for Young Readers will be coming out in 2020 and 2021. She is also the author of the nonfiction book on motherhood, Unboundand the forthcoming bookEat, Sleep, Save the Worldfor parents of children with special needs. She is also mom to a son with cerebral palsy and she writes and speaks about disability in literature. She loves stories that celebrate the grit and beauty in all kids. She and her family live in Nashville, Tennessee. Connect with her at Jamie-Sumner.com   

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