October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. I am thankful to live in a time where parents who have suffered from miscarriage, stillbirth, or losing a born child have a place to share their stories and openly grieve while putting faces to the staggering statistics of loss in our country.
In the United States, 1 in 5 clinically recognized pregnancies results in miscarriage. Nearly 30,000 babies every year are stillborn, making it greater than every other cause of infant death combined.
In the past several years, I’ve realized that few of us are left untouched by the reach of these statistics. I believe that children are some of our best teachers, and I know that I’ve been changed by our three miscarriages. Not all of the ways I’ve changed are favorable, but they’re worth acknowledging, because they’re part of my story.
I realize what a gift bearing life truly is.
There’s something about looking at your rainbow baby (a beautiful term in the loss community for a baby born after the loss of another) and knowing that they could actually not be there. I reflect on it often; sometimes as I’m tucking my kids in at night, when I’m about to lose my temper, or even when I find myself getting grouchy about the never-ending loads of laundry and crumbs. Everything seems so insignificant when I hold it against the prayers I’ve sent up for their little lives.
Struggles and tears and dirty clothes and crumbs are not an annoyance or inconvenience, as I may have been tempted to think had I not lost our pregnancies; it’s all evidence of my prayers being answered. That truth is something that is often on my mind, and as I raise my kids, I am grateful in a way that is directly influenced by our losses.
I’m scared of getting pregnant (or trying to).
Before having children and before our three miscarriages, I used to imagine the magic of one day waking up, feeling nauseated, and staring at a positive pregnancy test. There would be an elaborate scheme to reveal the news to my husband, and our excitement would bubble over as we told friends and family. I could start immediately buying sweet little outfits and picking out paint colors for the nursery.
But that’s not the case, nor will it ever be, for us. I am no longer able to assume that a positive means we’re having a baby. The dreams I had of spontaneity in trying to conceive are permanently let down. A positive pregnancy test means weeks (or rather, more weeks) of fertility meds, constant monitoring, and lots of prayer as we hold our breath and hope to creep through the first trimester and into the second.
I am more kind to myself.
I realized at some point in my grief that I needed to stop trying to clamber out of the pit and just focus on licking my wounds for a little while. When you find yourself in a place that you didn’t ask to be in, and in circumstances that you cannot change, all of the bargaining, kicking, and screaming in the world won’t bring you back to where you were before. So I focused, instead, on being gracious to myself. Time spent writing out my feelings. Talking to dear friends who are going through (or had been through) something similar. Quiet moments of rest and retreat. Lots of honesty. These are things that will serve me well for the rest of my life and in many different circumstances.
I have increased confidence in my husband and our marriage.
I’ve always felt secure in my relationship with my husband, but I am convinced there is nothing like the refining fire of hardship and grief to show you what you’re made of. It’s easy to promise that you’ll bear one another’s burdens when you’re young and bright-eyed, standing at the altar, but what about when life hits and you’re suddenly facing rock bottom?
Through my fear of intimacy post-miscarriage to wanting to hide under the safety of my bedsheets so the days would pass, middle-of-the-night tears and holding each other’s white-knuckled hands in the doctor’s office, we’ve comforted one another through immense joy, expectation, and heartache. My husband’s strength as our family was impacted by repeat miscarriages is something I’ll never forget; it has irrevocably changed who he is in my eyes.
I accept it will always be painful.
There were periods of time, months, where I wondered if I’d feel like I was living with a gaping hole in my chest that would never heal. Time passed, and I still felt like I was bleeding under my coat as I walked through everyday life. Even to this day, as I have the amazing fortune of raising my two living children, I feel the loss of three pregnancies, three lives we didn’t get to welcome into our family.
Those years of grief won’t be forgotten, and neither will those lives. I’m certain I’ll always remember their due dates, and the order of siblings that would have been, had we been allowed to have our children. I’m okay with reflecting on the dark times and feeling twinges of that familiar heartache. It gets easier, but it never goes away. It’s fitting to grieve what will never be.
I know that every woman’s experience with miscarriage and the aftermath is different. While you may not completely relate to what I’ve shared above, I would love to hear your experiences and thoughts below. It’s important to break the silence, when we’re ready.
Rachel is a wife and mother living in Raleigh, North Carolina. She’s a fan of good coffee, wearer of gray t-shirts, and is constantly starting books she will never finish. Her family is her joy, and she loves to engage with other moms and dads on matters of parenting. Her blog posts have also been featured on the Today Show Parenting Blog and Scary Mommy.