How to Survive Mother’s Day after Miscarriage

Reflections after losing four babies in the past twelve months

Step One: When you walk by your dining room table, avert your eyes. Do not see the empty chairs. Do not think about the birthday cakes that have never been displayed on the table. Do not envision your child coloring there and getting marker on the wood, a stain that will never come out. Do not wonder whether your child would have loved carrots, like you. Do not imagine teaching her to twirl noodles with her fork.

Step Two: Go on an early morning walk by a park in your neighborhood — a park you tend to avoid because the playground is always jam-packed with kids and their young parents. When you discover that the playground is empty this morning, enter the park for the first time. Sit on a bench facing the slide and imagine your child is there. See her curls bouncing as she runs to the slide, following the older kids. Watch her climb and then stand at the mouth of the slide, peering downward, hesitant. Smile to reassure her and beckon her to slide down. Tell her, I will catch you. Stretch your arms out to your child, then remember that you are a woman sitting alone on a bench in an empty playground.

Step Three: Throughout the day, tell your husband how much you love him. Whisper that, no matter what happens, you will be OK. Joke about how much money you will save by not having children, not sending them to college. Make plans for how you will use that savings to travel to the Amazon River and swim where the black and gold waters meet. How you will climb the towering dunes in the Namib Desert and think how much closer the sky seems there. How you will sail to the northernmost town in the world and live in a house painted with bright colors so that you can always find your way home no matter how violent the storm. Embrace your husband and say that, even without children, you can have a rich and happy life together. Know that such gentle lies are needed on days like these.

Step Four: Do not access Facebook, unless you want to see the many photos posted by proud parents or read loving tributes written by men, praising their wives for how well they raise their precious children.

Step Five: Make sure to access Facebook and write a brief but touching post about how much you appreciate and admire all the mothers in your life. Acknowledge how hard these women work to raise their children in loving homes. It’s important that you acknowledge them — after all, you haven’t attended a baby shower in years, and you don’t want to appear bitter.

Wooden rocking chair that belonged to my beloved grandparents

Step Six: Do not sit in your wooden rocking chair, not today. Do not hum any lullabies.

Step Seven: Avoid words like barren, fruit, deliver, milk, trauma, womb.

Step Eight: In a private moment, alone, touch your breasts. Wonder what it would have been like to nourish and sustain your child with them. Try to remember that you are still a woman, even though your body bleeds your babies out.

Step Nine: Cancel your subscription to the Land of Nod catalog; otherwise, it will be delivered to your home right before Mother’s Day. The cover will feature a young mother dancing with her son, in a home flushed with natural light. You will be unable to stop yourself from flipping through the pages and designing your nursery — a white crib, a plush rug, a map of the world.

Step Ten: When you talk about the miscarriage with your friend and she tells you that “everything happens for a reason” and to “trust in God,” do not show your anger.

Some picture books I have collected over the years

Step Eleven: Look at the picture books you have been collecting since your twenties, for your future children. You have amassed over 100 picture books, ranging from cardboard editions of Goodnight Moon to Shakespeare for young children. You have books featuring strong girls who have adventures. You have books written by authors of diverse backgrounds, telling stories from many cultures. Spread the books out on the floor and wonder which ones your child would have loved most. Pack your books in a plastic box and put them in your basement.

Step Twelve: Root through your closet to unearth the anti-anxiety medication prescribed to you years ago. Check the expiration date. Even though the medicine has expired, consider taking one or two pills. You need something to help you get through the day. Do not drink alcohol though; it never helps.

Step Thirteen: Do not ask why. Save this question for any other day.


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