My first Mother’s Day is gone from my memory, fried out, no doubt by several factors.
My only baby had died just 10 days before.
At church that Sunday, all the Mothers were told to stand, and while I have no idea if I stood up or not, I’m pretty sure I probably did something awkward, embarrassing, and uncomfortable for everyone around me. In fact, I’m pretty sure I left sobbing.
Nobody knew what to say or do. Card or not? Flowers or not? I had to hole up and wait for sunrise Monday before I felt it was safe to communicate with anyone without disappointment or upset.
Here’s what I wish I had known that first Mother’s Day, and what I’d do differently.
Remember that I am a mother. A nice piece of jewelry would have appeared with a lovely birthstone, even if I had to order it myself. It’s easy. Here’s an excellent place.
Spend the day with my child. Fill out a memory book. Or write in a journal. Or just go to a place I might have gone when baby was ready for parks or picnics.
Send notes to all the mothers I know, regardless of their baby status — to let them know I remember who THEY are.
What I would not have done.
I wouldn’t have made reservations at some restaurant where my lack of a high chair might make the waiters ignore my status.
I wouldn’t have gone to church. It’s painful when they have the children come up and take things to their moms or give them a hug. It’s hurtful when they ask the moms to stand, and you don’t know whether to do it or not (and for the women who are infertile or single and older but wanted children–I mean, come on. Let’s stop this.)
I wouldn’t have been silent. I know not everyone is willing to put themselves out there. I wasn’t either, at first. But now, you can be for darn sure I’d be sending out e-cards and posting graphics like these to my page. I’m a mother and I won’t let anyone forget it.
As you go through this day, silently and at home, or publicly and with a mission to help others learn how best to be around other baby loss moms, remember the most important thing:
A mother isn’t counted by the number of diapers she has changed, the car seats in her mini van, or the crayoned pictures on her fridge.
It’s counted by the memories in her heart, the love she carries, and the protection that surged inside her from the first moment that she learned a new life had begun within her.
You know you’re caught up in trying to conceive when someone asks you what the day is and you immediately say, “Cycle Day 4!”
I never thought I’d be in this place again. After our first baby died at 20 weeks (back in 1998), I didn’t think I’d ever get the courage to face the whole process again. But we did, and just shy of a year after losing Casey, after a whole lot of worry and trauma and high-risk doctors and scary scenarios that didn’t happen, we got Emily Faith.
I felt bolstered then, and when trying for the third child, had little fear. I had almost reset the clock back to 1997, when I had no idea that anything could go wrong. I’d had surgery to correct my uterus—surely no more babies would die.
I was wrong. In 2001, TTC #3 got us pregnant first try and lasted only five weeks, Daniel. I was determined not to slow down and without following my own advice, immediately tried again and got pregnant again.
We knew that unless this pregnancy was picture-perfect, we would not be trying for any more. And boy, was it not. Water breaking at ten weeks, two weeks of uncertainty, finally realizing we’d lost one twin and kept the other. A seriously transverse baby who was tough to get out even by c-section. And later, of course, learning that she had brain damage from the lost of her twin, something we live with and think about every single day of her life.
I was done.
But life has a way of altering your trajectory. I found myself divorced, and dating, and falling in love with someone who had no children. In two weeks we are getting married.
Still, a baby was not part of our plan. I explained about my history and we agreed that adopting would be the best thing. After the wedding, we’d start saving for the fees.
But then life cut in again. In March, my intolerable cycles became frightening. Instead of the already short 22 days, they dropped in length to 18. And the number of bleeding days increased to 7-8. I was facing very little time “off” and I knew I had to do something. I called the nurses and they agreed it was time to schedule a consultation for a uterine ablation, where they remove the lining of your uterus. In addition, because it was so dangerous to get pregnant after an ablation, I would be sterilized.
I had just turned 42. I was okay with this. But when we got there, my doctor decided this was not the course to take. He checked everything, from an endometrial biopsy to a complete blood panel, and determined I was anovulatory, which was causing the short cycles. He felt if I could calm myself down and get my stress hormones to normal levels, and take some progesterone to elongate my cycle, I might ovulate again and we could have a baby.
I walked out of there in a bit of shock. I didn’t say anything to anyone until the tests came back, but when the nurse’s last words are, “Call us when you’re pregnant,” right when you were thinking your baby days were over in a big way, your whole life resets.
So here I am, on CD4. If I follow my own Sperm Meets Egg Plan, we begin this journey in 4 days. (And if you’re on Fertility Friend, join the SMEP thread—it was there when I arrived, and I thought it might be fun to jump in!) [Edited to add: I got kicked out of Fertility Friend for mentioning I had this site in my profile. So don’t go there looking for me. The mods there make the Soup Nazi look like Cinderella.]
I know that quite possibly there is a lot of heartache ahead. I hope to end up with a baby. But I may instead have more losses. Failure. Heartache. Despair. But this is what we moms do. We carry the hope for a whole generation. And that is something that makes it worth holding on to faith.
I know this week is bittersweet for many of us. You’re here because at least one of your sweet babies didn’t make it into your arms.
Mother’s Day is forever a mixed blessing for me. My first one, just two weeks after losing Casey at 20 weeks gestation, was so terrible I have blotted it from my memory. And even now, 14 years later, I still feel the pull of emotions in both directions as I think of the babies I lost (Casey, Daniel, Emma) and the ones that I got to keep (Emily, Elizabeth), and now, the one we’re trying for (our friends call him Thor even though he doesn’t exist yet…)
I want each of you to remember that whether that baby is in your belly, in your arms, or in the sky—you’re still a mother. It doesn’t matter who recognizes it or who doesn’t—your baby most certainly does.
I’m kicking off a week of give aways! You can comment here or on the Facebook page for chances to win! Feel free to comment both places—I’ll be giving away items both here and at A Place for Our Angels.
The first give away is a new book of poetry about infertility, pregnancy, and loss that came out just a few weeks ago by Nicole Breit, called “I Can Make Life.” This collection was a finalist in the Mary Ballard Poetry Chapbook Prize this year.
Check it out below, or if that’s too small on your browser, click through to check it out bigger here!
All the mothers who win any of the give aways over the next few days will be notified on Mother’s Day this Sunday (if I remember! If not, on Monday.)
One of the hard things about losing a baby that no one else felt, or saw, or touched is that everyone wants you to get over it quickly. They don’t have the same emotional investment. Pregnancy, with its sleepiness and dream-like quality, encourages the visions of the baby to come, the moments ahead. It’s how you get through the hard stuff—throwing up, bone-tiredness, caution and fear. So we’re wired to already see and experience this baby well beyond the sensations in our belly.
In her book Virgin Blue (which has lots of miscarriage and pregnancy trauma within it), author Tracy Chavalier’s characters, both midwives, talk about how the pregnant mother is always “listening” inside her. She’s distracted, taken out of the outside world, and focused on what is happening within.
It really doesn’t matter when the conversation stops, the day after the positive pregnancy test or during the birth, when some tragedy takes the baby during its final journey to the outside. It’s still a cutting off, a silencing of a relationship that had become the focus of your life.
Fourteen years ago today, I didn’t realize my connection had been cut. I suspected—but then every pregnant mother seems to always have some fear—but until the Doppler was silent, until the doctor was rushed in and the sonogram machine powered up, until he moved and moved and moved the paddle, trying to find an elusive heartbeat for a 20-week baby who should have filled the screen with movement and sound, but didn’t. Until I had proof; I hadn’t known.
April 28 taught me how to listen, how to hear, how to know when the conversation ceased. My next two losses were no surprise. I had learned the difference between the hum that reverberates between a mother and an unborn child and the silence that means the child is gone.
And this year, at 42, I am getting married again and, next month, taking that journey one more time. I don’t even know if the conversation will start. I may not be able to get pregnant at all. The chromosomes in my eggs may be too sticky to divide properly and get the baby on its journey. But I will listen, and I will hear. And whatever conversation I might get, however many days or weeks or months I may get to feel that hum, I will take them.
One thing I’ve learned in 14 years—I am not afraid. I hope, for all of you, who may be finding this page for the first time or the fourth, that you find that courage too.
At this site you will find information and a place to come in your dark and frightened hours. The special features of the site are listed in the next column, as well as topics ranging from causes of miscarriage, to prevention, to when to try again for a new pregnancy.
The only person who can really tell you what is happening to you is your own doctor, who peers into you with a light and a speculum, who samples your blood or urine, or who presses a sonogram paddle into your belly. If you are in trouble, bleeding, scared, or more depressed than you think you can handle on your own, you must find help. Read and research all you can, but remember that the one-on-one assistance of a real doctor is the only thing that will give you answers that count. If you don't like or trust your doctor, then find one you can.