I lost my first baby in 2009. June 4, my life changed forever. I became a different kind of mother. An almost-but-not-quite mother. An invisible mother.
I was almost 18 weeks along, which technically, was a miscarriage. Two weeks later, it would have been a stillbirth, officially. Four or five weeks later we may have been in the NICU, rather than grieving at BC Women's.
When I'd imagined miscarriage before this, I never imagined having to make cremation arrangements, or reading an autopsy report, or choosing a name for a baby who would never live. Arrow. I hadn't realized how awkward many people are around this topic & how when I explained that I lost my baby, more times than I'd like to remember I got a response that (unintentionally, I assume) caused me pain.
I'd never imagined the struggle I'd have with how to count my children. "How many kids do you have?" "Um, two." I have had three pregnancies. I've given birth to three babies, though one of them was not much bigger than my hand. I don't want to talk about Arrow with strangers, necessarily. But I don't want to pretend he never existed. Emotionally, he was my first child. I had bought three little velour sleepers for him. My mother had already bought a baby rocking chair for him. Nearly everyone knew I was pregnant, though I was only starting to show.
Arrow counts, but I haven't yet figured out how to talk to my children about him. Linnaeus may have heard us mention Arrow in passing, but we've never really talked about his brother with him in a deliberate way. I have a little photo of Arrow, given to me at the hospital, framed on my dresser in my bedroom, but Linnaeus hasn't ever asked about it.
I write this post with my four-year-old son singing a made-up song on the couch next to me, while my one-year-old daughter sleeps in the next room. I've moved on & become the usual kind of mother, with living children who I love & who drive me crazy. The visible kind.
If you haven't been through pregnancy loss yourself, & you talk to someone who does, please give your condolences. A simple, "I'm sorry" or similar is enough. Please do not tell her that it's God's plan, whether she or you are religious. Please do not tell her that it could have been worse, at least it wasn't later. If it was her first or her third miscarriage, if she already has another child, or several, pregnancy loss is still incredibly difficult. Please just acknowledge her pain & listen to what of her story she wishes to tell. Don't make her feel invisible.
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