I try to keep my blog posts funny—or at least light-hearted. This isn’t one of those posts. I got a call this afternoon from a good friend of mine. She was expecting her third grandchild this winter, but the baby died in utero after five months. Like a huge number of women, I’ve experience the loss of a miscarriage. Each time I hear a story of a stillborn child or a miscarriage it brings me back to the weekend in 2001 when I went to bed on a Friday night pregnant and by the time the sun had risen on Saturday I wasn’t anymore.
I never met my friend’s daughter-in-law, but I know what the tip of the iceberg she’s standing on feels like. I know what it’s like when one day you’re wondering if you’re ready to be a mother and then you realize you won’t know the answer any time soon. I was eleven weeks along, not long enough to feel the baby move but long enough to really feel pregnant. I cannot even fathom the kind of pain a family goes through when they lose a child so late in the game.
I’m not one of those people to keeps many secrets about myself—the “wait 12 weeks to tell anyone rule” wasn’t for me. I remember a co-worker being shocked that I told people I was pregnant so early on (I was probably only 3 or 4 weeks along—I told family members when I was only a week or so late). Joyful news is to be shared—and did I ever share! Even the waitress at our usual Sunday breakfast haunt knew—actually she guessed. Why else would I ask for de-caf? But I have no regrets about telling people. Yes, there were one or two awkward moments months later when someone remarked that I “was hardly even showing” (I eat when I’m sad—I wasn’t carrying a baby but I was carrying some extra pounds). But for the most part, it was better that people knew that I had been pregnant and that I wasn’t anymore. People gave me a little slack and a little space, which I desperately needed. If no one knew what was going on in my life, they probably would have just though I was moody and incompetent.
One of the most comforting words came from an unlikely source. One of the sales reps for the company I worked for stopped by my desk when I got back from leave. He wasn’t one of my favorite people—he tended to be a little rough around the edges. When I told him why I had been out, he looked me square in the face and said, “That really sucks.” And you know what? He was right. So many people had tried to comfort me with well intentioned platitudes like, “Everything happens for a reason.” But when you’re dealing with a loss, the last thing you need to hear is that there is a reason for it.
Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that everything happens for a reason. I just don’t think it’s a particularly comforting thought that your grief is part of some master plan. It was a conclusion I had to come to on my own—in my own time. Now that nine years have passed, I truly believe that this experience has made me a more grateful mother and a more compassionate person. But anyone who told me that back then risked me bursting into tears or punching them in the nose.
Exactly one year after I had my miscarriage, I had Owen. He was nine and a half pounds and had a full head of jet-black hair—he didn’t even look like a newborn. He was strong and healthy and nursed like a champ and could hold held his head up before we even left the hospital. Two years later James joined the family adding a new layer of mischief and joy to our house. I have two beautiful, healthy little boys. They make me laugh and teach me something every day. I am thankful for their existence every day. But every once in a while I think of the baby I never named and never held. I learned a lot from that child too. Everything does happen for a reason—and sometimes it sucks.