My husband and I clenched hands as the doctor pulled back the curtain to my small corner of the emergency room. Every word that spilled out of his mouth I so desperately wanted to shove back in. He was confirming our worst fear: we were losing our baby.
As we drove home, silence and tears filled our car. It was the kind of silence that feels deafening. The sort of tears you can’t hold back.
That bright August day felt like such a stark contrast to our hearts. In the midst of fighting Lyme disease, this surprise pregnancy had felt like a beacon of hope. So when we lost baby Ricki, it was as if all the lights were turned off.
The added layers that this grief has brought to my already challenging days goes beyond words. Trevin has been of great comfort to me as I’ve waded through the tears, the anger, the hurt, the painful comments – newsflash, there is no “silver lining” in losing a child – and the big questions that go unanswered. He has given me the gift of freedom to process any and all feelings that have come with this loss. That freedom has allowed me to wrestle honestly with all the emotions and grief, without reservation and without fear of judgment. To my Trevs: you and your grace are such a sweet gift in my life.
My sister, Chelsea, and I found out early on in our pregnancies that our due dates were only a few days apart. We were thrilled at the thought of having little cousins the same age. Sharing our pregnancy symptoms, memes on motherhood and adorable phrases on onesies were our jam for those first few weeks. It was so special and something I treasured.
Her little babe, Madeline, will now be entering the world very soon and already is so loved. Chelsea has known the awful pain of miscarriage herself, losing three sweet little ones over the past few years. I can imagine what a gift and joy this baby has already been to her and my brother-in-law, Brent, after such heartache.
I’d be lying if I said my emotions weren’t all twisted up in a tangle of joy and deep grief this month. I can say with sincerity that I am grateful and delighted for my dear sister and brother-in-law. If anyone deserves this happiness, they surely do.
Yet, I have also quietly struggled through every milestone in her pregnancy as it’s been a natural reminder of what I can’t share in. Of the one I lost and already loved so deeply.
Every big moment that my sweet niece celebrates in the coming years, my heart will think of Ricki. The first time she smiles, says her first word, takes her first steps. Her first birthday. First day of preschool. School plays and weekend soccer games. Her sweet sixteen. The moment her name is called on high school graduation day.
There will always be sadness, yes. I swear my heart grew during the short time I carried our little one and now that extra space feels achey, lost. Yet, I have found some comfort in thinking of her as the very real part of our family that she was and is. We may not have met her face-to-face, but she is every bit our daughter (or son).
I wanted to share some of the things that I’ve learned or that I found helpful as I’ve been walking through this heartache of miscarriage. I will preface this with the truth that we are all different in how we process and experience our grief. What was helpful to me, I realize may not be for you. I in no way believe there is one “formula” for navigating this heaviness, but believe that in hearing each other’s stories we can experience the validation and community we need.
Grief Doesn’t Have a Road Map
I really, really wish this weren’t true. I would have loved to know exactly how long it would last, when it would hurt less, and how on earth I could get there. The reality is that while having the same vein of miscarriage, our individual stories of loss will affect us all differently.
It takes some of us longer than others to get past the daily crying (hand raised) and I chose to accept that it’s okay. I eventually cried less and there were even moments where I could have a good laugh about something. I needed those glimmers of joy. It didn’t mean I wasn’t still hurting, and it didn’t mean I wouldn’t shed tears minutes later, but it did give me a dose of relief. Other times I wasn’t in the mood for funny and I (as well as Trevin) gave myself the space I needed.
It’s Healthy to Ask for Help
After I lost the baby I invited some close friends into the pain with me. I wasn’t up for being around most people, but them letting me know they were in it with me through text and email was comforting. It reminded me they were thinking of me, acknowledged my loss and were feeling some of the pain with me.
I knew I also wanted to bring my counselor into the struggle with me, as my heart was already heavy from the battle with disease well before this loss. She provided a safe place to unpack the harder conversations of grief, raw emotions, frustrations, and my struggle with where faith fits into this. I needed that. A friend had encouraged me that if I needed help processing the grief or if it became too heavy, to ask for help like she had during miscarriage. Such wise advice and I pass it on to you, friend.
A Token in Memory Can be Good for the Soul
A few days after the miscarriage, I also ordered a personalized ring. It is monogrammed with an “R” and I wear it constantly. It has given me a way to feel connected and close to the memory of my babe, always holding her close (this mama’s hunch on gender).
After miscarrying I struggled with the fact that I had very few things to tangibly remind me of my baby. I had a sonogram picture and empty cloth diapers. I didn’t share this with many people at the time, but I slept with one of the cotton diapers under my pillow for a couple weeks and would pull it out periodically to hold in my hands or close to my chest in my tear-filled moments. I felt embarrassed sharing it at the time, but it honestly became key in helping me cope and it brought me comfort.
Never being able to hold your baby is hard to process and having something tangible to hold helped me in some way. Maybe having something to hold will help you, too or maybe you would find comfort in writing a letter to your unborn child. Perhaps making a memory box of your sonogram pictures and any other mementos you have could help in your grieving. You’ll always have it to remember the very real person you once held inside.
Sometimes I Need to Talk About It
This one has been hard for me, but I have to remind myself that it’s awkward and difficult to navigate from the outside. Several people have told me they stopped asking how I was doing with my loss because they were afraid they’d be “bringing up the pain” for me. The reality is, the pain is always there. I think about my baby everyday and sometimes I need to talk about it. I know that it can be uncomfortable for those of you who care for us to see us in tears or pain, but it’s such a gift to the grieving when you listen and sympathize with our ache.
As time went on and hardly anyone asked me anymore, I kept my grief mostly hidden within the walls of my home and I treaded lightly with who I spoke to about it. I hid a lot of the “baby” from my social media feeds for awhile. I took a break from accepting most visitors, especially if they’d never acknowledged my loss. While it may have been hard for some to understand, I have surrounded myself with the space and support I’ve needed in this healing process. I’m thankful for my sister and other dear ones who became a safe place to share this with.
A note if you’re caring for someone who’s miscarried: we don’t need to talk about it every time we meet. We just need to know you’re in it with us, be reminded from time to time that you haven’t forgotten and that our baby mattered.
It’s Okay To Set Boundaries
After the miscarriage my margin for rehearsed phrases and insensitive comments became nearly obsolete. There were only so many times I had the emotional allowance to remind myself that most people meant well. While I have the responsibility for my responses and actions, I was also reminded that I have the freedom to set healthy boundaries for myself, especially in the midst of navigating grief.
If someone is insensitive to your pain, twists things to make it about them or critiques how you handle your grief, you have the right to care for yourself and even ask for the behavior to change. I so struggle with this because I’d rather suffer silently and never enter into conflict with anyone, ever, period. Yet, as my husband reminds me, if we don’t ever say something, the situation will never change. And if they love us, they’ll want to learn how to support us well.
If you’re grieving your own loss, I hope that somewhere in this post you’ve found even an ounce of comfort or validation. That you’re reminded: you’re not alone. From the core of my being, I ache that you’ve had to know this unimaginable pain. It is heavy and so deeply unfair. Wherever you’re at in your grieving process, I hope you know your story matters. Your baby is important and loved. Within the memory you keep alive of your sweet babe there is a message of sweet, all-consuming love.
If you’re someone on the outside of a grieving mother’s story, I hope this gives you some understanding of our struggle and pain. That it would inspire you with ways you can offer the kindness and support we so desperately need. May you love your friend, sister, daughter, co-worker or anyone else in your life in the midst of her grief and not leave her to navigate it alone in silence.
For all the unborn babes who never made it into their mother’s arms…you will never be forgotten. I impatiently await hugging each of your faces and playing chase with you through fields of wildflowers when I finally reach heaven. <3 <3 <3