How My Miscarriages Influenced My Parenting Style

by Devan McGuinness
Mark Umbrella / Shutterstock

When I found out I was pregnant for the first time, I felt a rush of emotions that was like relief, fear and bliss all wrapped together. I had been struggling with some health issues that put my fertility in danger and finding out we were going to be parents was the news that my husband and I were desperately waiting for.

I began to research when pregnancy symptoms were likely to pop up and strangely started to look forward to feeling sick to my stomach. But, before my first doctor’s appointment rolled around, I started cramping—then I began to bleed.

My doctor confirmed what I already knew. I had a miscarriage.

My path to parenthood hasn’t been straightforward. I am blessed to have four children to call my own, but with them comes the 12 I never got to know. I have felt grief I didn’t know was possible and didn’t realize that the pain of miscarriage lasts longer than the physical symptoms. Miscarriage has shaped the way I parent in ways I hadn’t realized.

I’ve never met a parent who feels like they’re doing this parenting thing exactly like they thought they would before they had kids, but for me, my experience with miscarriages has been a driving force for those differences.

Here’s how:

1. I Was Afraid to Get Attached

I thought that when I held my child for the first time I was going to feel this indescribable amount of love. But, I didn’t. Instead, holding this little person, staring at his big eyes and tiny hands, all I felt was fear.

I was afraid to get attached to loving him only to have him suddenly ripped away. Grief was driving that fear, and it took longer to bond than I ever thought it was going to. When I did, though, the intensity of my love took my breath away.

2. I ‘Helicopter’ More Than I Want To

Helicopter parenting is a hot topic among parents, and this parenting style is highly criticized. There are open letters written to the hovering moms at the playground, and judgment often follows when a parent is deemed to be “too overprotective” of their children.

But that was me. That still is me.

I always envisioned myself being the mother who let their children make mistakes. Who held their hand as they navigated the hard moments in life, but also kept a safe distance, allowing them to explore the world. Now, after 12 miscarriages, I am acutely aware of just how fragile life is, and I hover.

I hover to make sure they’re safe, and I hover to make sure they’re happy—to do what I can to keep them from feeling rock-bottom sad like I’ve been. My grief led to anxiety. As the years pass, I’ve become more comfortable with being the parent I always wanted to be, but miscarriage and the grief that followed shaped a lot those earlier parenting days.

3. I Love the Everyday Noises of Children

As a mom, there are days when I long for a quiet moment. Children are loud, and having four of them running around can be overwhelming at times. But, I live for those noisy moments because I have been on the other side—sitting in silence wishing to have children around me. I am more patient with my “kids being kids” than I ever thought I would be—noise, messes and all.

4. I Feel Bad Complaining About Being a Mother

Motherhood is hard, and there are days I really want to scream and vent to whomever will listen. But, every time I hear myself complaining about how tired I am or how much I wish I could go to the grocery store without having to drag the kids along kicking and screaming, I hear that voice in my head.

It’s the voice that reminds me of how hard I fought to have my children, and I feel instant guilt. Guilt because I know there are many parents who are still struggling to build their family and here I am, complaining about my own. I try to remind myself that I am allowed those feelings and it’s OK to brush the guilt aside, but it’s not the easiest to silence.

5. I Am More Open With My Children

I remember when I had my first miscarriage—how alone I felt and how hard it was for me to articulate how I was feeling and not be left with lingering thoughts of whether or not I was feeling too much. No one talked about miscarriage in my circle, and I get it, it’s one of those tough topics, but the silence left me wondering. I was too much in my head, and I wished that I could have had someone to talk to.

Raising children means facing tough topics and hard discussions, and it’s not always easy. Talking about things like death, emotions and even sex can make adults blush, but when it comes to my children, everything is an open book. They’re still young—only 10, 9, 7 and 2—but we’ve already had some really deep conversations. Having them feel comfortable enough to come to me and talk about anything and to be able to express themselves means everything to me as a parent because of my experience.