Other than becoming a mother, my miscarriage was the single biggest moment I felt joined to other women as part of a sisterhood. We were in a club, the only requirement for membership was the pain of losing a baby before it was even a part of the world. Birth and death—the great equalizers.
But, unlike becoming a mother, this club was one people didn’t talk about being a part of until they realized you had become a member. This secret society had flown beneath my radar until a baby I never met broke my heart.
My story is one of an “easy” miscarriage. We didn’t even make it to my 8 week checkup, so one of the worst things I endured was tearfully calling to cancel that initial ultrasound appointment we had been so looking forward to. There was no baby to see, the bleeding and blood tests confirmed the pregnancy was over almost before it began.
It was here the lessons began. We had been trying to hold out until our 8 week appointment to share the news of our pregnancy. We had only told a few family members who were devastated alongside us.
But with others, we were now faced with the choice of keeping quiet or announcing the miscarriage when we hadn’t shared the news of the pregnancy. We felt completely caught in this weird trap…we didn’t tell you we were pregnant, but FYI we were and now we’re not. This seemed like a betrayal, like we hadn’t trusted them to share in this potential pain by not telling them about the pregnancy, so how could we ask for sympathy now?
Of course being our people they offered nothing by sympathy and love, but I learned for me, keeping the pregnancy quiet made it harder when it ended.
I learned words mattered in a way I hadn’t realized before. There is nothing logical about grief. When I did share with people, I was surprised to find some words just didn’t make me feel better and they were words I had said before myself. Things like,
“Losing this baby could be looked at as a blessing.”
“It was so early, you were barely pregnant.”
“It might have been for the best, who knows what troubles that baby would have had?”
“Your babies would only have been 15 months apart. What would you have done?”
Loved the baby.
That’s all I could think. I would have loved that baby and the ones I already had. I was obsessed with thoughts around the fact the baby would have been due on my husband’s birthday. I knew this meant after 2 girls we would have had a boy. I was surprised by not only how sad I was, but by how hard I took well meaning comments. There was just no way this was for the best, even if what they were saying was logical and made sense to my head. My heart did not get the same memo.
But even in all this, the most important lesson I learned was that I was not alone.
I found myself sharing my story with people upon hearing they had suffered a miscarriage. It was then I heard the words, “Me too.”
Two little words with so much comfort that spoke straight to my heart. So many women, some I was close to and some I barely knew, shared their stories of loss with me. Some had lost babies farther along in the pregnancy, some had lost first babies, some had multiple tales of loss, for some the loss was of a child already born, a child given to adoption. But the common thread was, “Me too. It’s so sad. I’m so sorry.”
These are now the words I try to use when someone shares their story with me.
Circumstances don’t matter. A lost child brings sorrow and needs to be mourned in some way. I was lucky those around me understood, even if their “me too” wasn’t the loss of a baby. You see, “me too” is really just a confirmation this baby counts as a loss just as much as any other. Because I was able to be sad and supported if only in my little corner of the world, I could move forward. I became pregnant again just months later and am fortunate we never had to go through that kind of loss again.
Yet, even today, I still think of that baby. Technically my son couldn’t have been born if that child would have survived, which is unthinkable. And yet, still I mourn. Even now that we have five kids, hadn’t this more than “made up” for the loss? For me the answer is no. That baby is like each of my others, irreplaceable even if I knew of his or her presence for such a short time.
I think sometimes still of the unique combination of humanness that was my baby. The one that never grew bigger than a pinprick and yet was the sum of all things he or she would have become. Is that child’s soul in one that came after? Is that baby waiting to greet us at heaven’s gate? Is that why I look around my family and think “we’re missing someone” even when we’re all here? Is it the presence of the sixth child hanging around waiting for us to join him (or her) at the real party?
Today, I am still grateful for the mothers that bravely shared the stories of their babies in order to help me with my sadness. They taught me so much about motherhood and about the support that women can give to each other.
Bravely sharing what we are going through is such a gift to everyone. It was because of this sharing that I learned the power of such simple words.
I’m so sorry.
It’s so sad.
They have such power to heal without fixing a thing, simply by bringing us together.
The empty place at my table has forever made me realize I am not alone.