Having a miscarriage is never easy. Whether you’re a first-, second- or seventh-time mom, it’s a cruel hurt. I’ve experienced two losses, and despite the differences in circumstance and timing, both were devastating. My first miscarriage came before the birth of my son and the second came almost three years later as we attempted to give him a big brother.
My first loss occurred at just shy of 10 weeks, my second at only 5, and though I always imagined that it was the length of the pregnancy that defined the loss, I soon came to realize that another, much more pressing matter impacted how I grieved: The fact that the first time around I was yet to be a mother, and the second time I already was.
In the weeks, days and even hours after I began to miscarry the second time, I noticed that the whole experience was colored by the fact that I had a toddler in tow. In some ways, having my son present made the experience harder, but in other, surprising ways, it also made it more bearable.
While I wish making babies was simpler and that I didn’t have to reckon with loss or learn how to grieve, doing so has afforded me insight into the process that I wish I’d had going in. Below are five bits of wisdom I’d pass on to any woman mothering through a miscarriage:
1. Though It Can Be Painful, You Have to Get Out of Bed
…and cook and clean and pack lunches and kiss boo-boos and give bedtime cuddles. After my first miscarriage, I spent what felt like weeks lying in bed. I slept and cried and mourned and took all the time I needed. The second time around, my needs, as they always do after you become a parent, came second. I took my son on a walk a few hours after I began to bleed and sang him to sleep for his afternoon nap a few hours after that. I cooked his dinner that evening and read him stories at bedtime. As hard as it was to move through everyday life like nothing had changed, there was also comfort in my routine and in the care I could provide for my son.
2. The Business of Parenting Helps Time Pass More Quickly
The great “they” say that time heals all. In the weeks and months after my first miscarriage, I clung to this, hoping every day that the next would be the one when I would finally feel OK again. Time seemed to crawl as I waited to feel better, and while it took just as long to feel better after my second miscarriage, it felt like far less. The fact that parenthood keeps you moving and busy, can, ultimately, be good for healing.
3. It’s Really Important to Let Go of Feeling Guilty
After my second loss, letting go of guilt was my biggest challenge. I felt guilty for getting my hopes up, for telling my family and getting their hopes up, and for failing, for a second time, to keep a pregnancy to term. I felt most guilty though for telling my son that he would be a big brother. In my giddiness, I’d told him that there was a baby in my tummy and that he was going to get to meet his sibling in the spring.
Though he likely didn’t fully understand, he patted by belly happily and said “baby baby” for weeks after there wasn’t a baby there anymore. Each time he laid a hand on my belly or a family member asked how I was doing or a woman with an infant walked by, guilt spread through me. One evening, after tearily sharing my feelings with my husband, he said, plainly, “This was no one’s fault, and no one blames you.” It was a simple absolution that I repeated to myself over and over until I began to believe it. If you have a miscarriage—your first or second or fourth—you have to let go of the guilt. Know deeply that it was no one’s fault and that no one blames you for it.
4. It Hurts More Because You Know What You’re Missing
The first time around, babies were still a mystery to me. I knew I was losing something profound, but I didn’t know just how much joy I was missing out on. I had guessed at motherhood, but didn’t have a firm grasp on what it really meant to have a child. The second time, I knew exactly what I had lost. I knew how beautiful those first gauzy inside kicks feel, the wet warmth of a just-born baby on your chest. I knew about watching someone grow, of knowing them more intimately than anyone else in the whole word, of pouring you soul into someone and watching them bloom. The second time I knew exactly what I would be missing and the loss was crushing.
5. But You Also Know That It Can Work Out, and That If It Does, It Will All Be Worth It
My son is perfect—perfect in the sense that he is innocent and kind and beautiful—but also perfect in the sense that he is the perfect child for me. Our personalities complement one another and we laugh so, so much. If I hadn’t lost my first pregnancy, I wouldn’t have my son. I would have some other child, probably lovely, assuredly loved, but not my son, and I wouldn’t trade him for the world. As much as I hated hearing, the first time and the second, that everything happens for a reason, in some sense, having a perfect little boy to show for my loss has given me faith that it does.
If you’re out there right now parenting through loss, I am so, so sorry. I know how hard it can be, but I also know that with all the requisite strength required to be a mother, you’re going to get through it.