Trigger warning: child loss, pregnancy loss
Children or no children, I believe the world is made up of more mothers than folks like to let on. I see her in the soft-spoken and kind-hearted lunch lady from high school, in the baby doll-loving preschooler, and in the college student lulling a newborn to sleep in a church nursery.
I see the persistence of a mother in the young woman who fiercely squints her eyes and tries to will a second line on a pregnancy test into existence. And as for the woman who longs to bring a healthy pregnancy to term, only to feel she’s personally failed new life time after time, yes… the light of motherhood beams from her in those pitch-dark times too.
I’d like to say that since I was a little girl, I’ve always had the soul of a mother both in spirit and sheer desire. But by the greatest grace I don’t deserve, I’m a mother by the worldly-norm now too. But that doesn’t mean my journey came and went without the most treacherous of sorrows.
Because, you see, death and I are no strangers.
I’ve experienced the loss of a pregnancy, and I’ve survived the burial of my four-month-old daughter. I understand what both of those things can do to a person, and I recognize the magnitude of the weight they hold.
After we lost our daughter, what seemed like the rest of the world was moving on and expanding their family. Meanwhile, I was filled with the deepest grief because mine had somehow diminished overnight by one. That pain brought about the most intrusive of thoughts and feelings, which I’m ashamed to voice today.
I know how hard it is to try to be happy for your friends by forcing the fakest smile at the news of yet another pregnancy announcement. Because, ya know… happy for them but so incredibly heartbroken for me. I see the weight of it all on your face. I’ve felt that sheer, indescribable rage that feels so irrational, but yet so fierce, thick, and tangible. I have not forgotten what that’s like, and I see you. You still barely making it through that road less traveled.
To me, a mother is found not by what is visible in her arms, but by what she desires and holds in her heart. Moms are sprinkled around us in the most exquisite kind of way whether the world is willing to acknowledge them or not. Some with arms full of children, some who desire more children than they already hold, and some longing for just one.
It’s an empty ache that is so natural and, at the same time, unwelcome and intrusive. Our nurseries (whether they were already decorated or planned out via Pinterest in our minds) were never meant to live on throughout long nights in silence. It creates a void — a longing that’s yet to be met — and the soul is pained with an intrusively bold but gentle love it has no means to pour out. The love is blocked, dwindled into grief, because at least the body is capable of processing that.
It’s nowhere close to pretty or lady-like, and it’s not always able to force a smile or voice a simple “congratulations.” Sometimes it painfully screams, Why is she pregnant and not me?! And it screams profusely each and every single month. Sometimes it’s sheer resentment, the kind that thinks poorly of someone who “accidently” was blessed with the one thing that you desire most. And sometimes, it’s the most well thought-out, irrational thoughts.
Please understand that your valid feelings are more than justified and worthy to be felt. Because when it comes to unfulfilled attempts at making or extending a family, there is no “at least.” There is only waiting for the desired outcome, despair and loneliness. And I am validating your struggle times a million today.
If no one other me tells you this, please know: Pain is pain is pain, and it holds no degree. Acknowledge the loss, even if everyone else around tells you that it’s not really a loss at all. Because I’m telling you that it is. It’s alright to rage with fury for awhile, and it’s okay to skip out on gender reveals and baby showers. Those who love you will understand, and I’ve learned that those who don’t, never really loved you the way you deserve to begin with.
I won’t try to fluff up your hard times with cliché phrases; we both know that never helped anybody.
So, for now and for as long as you’d like, it’s okay for you to grieve.
But, from someone who gets it, please be mindful to try not to stay there. Your grief is a place to visit but not a home to stay.
Even if your hardships are invisible to the rest of the world, I. See. You.