By Brandi Lee
I sat down to write this month’s post with a head full of steam. My oldest was in school, my youngest was napping peacefully, and I had brewed a fresh pumpkin spice K-Cup. My ideas had been brewing for a couple of weeks, years really, since I decided to write about one of my favorite soapbox topics. I can almost hear the sound of my fingers reving up to attack the keys.
But before I started, I allowed myself a “quick” peek at Facebook (is it ever quick? Geez, how many 10 minute increments of my life have I lost on there?). Someone posted about October being Infant Loss Awareness month, which of course, I knew and had forgotten or had blocked or had pushed aside. But for some reason, on this day, a day I had a head full of steam and was ready to hop up on my soapbox and let everyone have it, I was suddenly just a mother who had lost two babies.
I am blessed with two healthy, smart, hysterical, affectionate little boys, and my life is full with the love they give me. We are busy and happy, and there is little time for thinking of what might have been or musing about why life takes us down certain paths instead of others. I consciously choose happiness over sadness, and so most days, my miscarriages don’t bother me; in fact, I go weeks and months without thinking about them. I can bring them up in conversation, as a marker of time, for example, without breaking into tears or even really feeling sad. Maybe that seems callous or cold, but I made my peace with the losses some time ago.
And yet, random things will set me off, bring back a flood of memories and cause me to feel the loss all over again – often times for only a few minutes or for however long I allow myself to live in the moment.
When I had the first miscarriage, I didn’t know anyone who had experienced one. I didn’t know how common they are, that most women will experience a loss at some point in their childbearing years.
It was an abyss of sadness, and no one – not my husband, mother, or closest friends – were able to penetrate the bring-me-to-my-knees despair and emptiness I felt. I read everything I could find on the topic, blamed myself, questioned my faith, and deflected a bunch of well-intentioned relatives who said inane things like, “It wasn’t meant to be,” “God has a plan,” “There must have been something wrong with the baby,” and “You already have one healthy child.”
None of these comments soothed away my pain; in fact, they just made me feel more alone. I felt guilty for feeling sad and angry about something that was part of God’s plan for my family and guilty for not loving my first son enough to shield me from the loss of another child. In the end, of course, I realized that none of these feelings were or should be connected. My loss was its own feeling, separate of everything, and I was entitled to feel it.
Miscarriage is a weird word, one that is probably meant to be private – it deals with vaginas and bleeding and all kinds of things that make people feel uncomfortable. There are those who can’t understand why it’s even a big deal, since the baby wasn’t born yet, and the loss often occurs in the early stages of pregnancy. I would just like to take a moment to say it IS a big deal. It is a loss to those mothers and fathers who laughed and cried and hugged over the positive pregnancy test, who had begun to imagine how their lives would change, who had even, maybe, started to dream about names.
The physical pain and torment of a miscarriage is real, and in a way, mirrors and at the same time, mocks the emotional side of the loss. If you wake up ready to face the day and deal with the loss, your body reminds you that you aren’t quite done, that it will be a few more days or even weeks, before you won’t have to think about it every few minutes that go by.
Life does go on, and in my case, I was blessed with a healthy child after my two losses. He will always be special to me in a different way because he is the child I wasn’t sure we would be able to have. And though I don’t think about my loss every day, I do think about what I have gained. I often describe him as pure joy; he just lights up my life, and I am grateful to him for the way he healed me.
Don’t be afraid to share the story of your loss with the people in your life, whether it be your friends and family, or even more importantly, those who you might know less intimately. By making others aware that miscarriage is common, that it is a real loss, that it is a deep, dark, and lasting pain, and most importantly, that there is love and life and healing on the other side, we can create a place where parents don’t feel alone. Parenting can be an isolating journey; reach out to others with compassion, honesty, and friendship whenever you can!
Brandi Lee is a stay-at-home mother of two boys by day and recently turned working mom and photographer on nights and weekends, or whenever her children are asleep or not looking. Her life B.C. (before children) gave her fulfillment as a high school English teacher, and she finds that photography fills that same place in her heart, one of personal connections with people. Her ultimate goal is to balance work with family time, to be both a provider and nurturer, but she would settle for a trip to the bathroom by herself and an uninterrupted train of thought. Brandi’s visual storytelling can be viewed at Balee Images and a monthly guest author at Parenting Without A Parachute.