I Didn’t Believe I Deserved to Mourn My Miscarriage
After burying my grief for seven years, I’m finally ready to publicly talk about it
With a sturdy stick, I wrote “Big Sister” in a swirly font in the sand as my two-year-old daughter sat nearby, clad in her pink-ruffled bathing suit. The roar of the waves rumbled behind her as she dug her tiny fingers into a yellow bucket filled with shells. Clicking my camera, I captured her smiling face and the joyful moment. One of those photos would make an adorable pregnancy announcement. But like the waves that washed the words away, the baby growing inside me would be swept away in a month’s time.
I had decided I’d share our good news when I could hold the ultrasound in my hand. But at ten weeks, there was no heartbeat. Crestfallen, I fell into my husband’s arms. I refused to believe it; I got a second opinion. They explained the same thing in more detail: The baby looked as if it had folded into itself.
I told myself they were wrong, that if I prayed and remained positive, I’d save my baby. I knew of other mothers who had experienced a miracle. They waited it out and later discovered a heartbeat, eventually carrying the healthy baby through to delivery. I convinced myself I would be one of those mothers.
But my doctor advised me to undergo a dilation and curettage (D&C) to remove the dead fetus because “it” could turn toxic and poison me. My baby wouldn’t be poisonous, I thought. Not my baby. I said he was a boy, but it was too soon to confirm. I named him Jack.
The only person with whom I shared this loss was my mother. She revealed she dreamt I was pregnant with a boy, even though I had not told her I was pregnant. Always in tune with me, she sensed my sadness from miles away. I said I was okay, that I’d be fine. That’s what I wanted to believe.
We were scheduled to go out of town to celebrate my in-laws’ fiftieth wedding anniversary. Our announcement of the pregnancy was supposed to be a surprise — they would have another grandchild to spoil and love. Instead, my husband broke the devastating news to them before the trip. They had rented a house for the family on a beach. Because I had had a D&C, swimming was out of the question.
I stood at the edge of the water as waves of emotions engulfed me — sorrow and shock and guilt. Considered geriatric for pregnancy, I knew the risks, but I never thought this would happen to me. What did I do wrong? How did I lose my baby? I believed it was somehow my fault. I was broken like the seashells on the shore.
I didn’t talk about it. My family and friends didn’t know I had been pregnant. How could they comfort me when they didn’t even know there had been a baby? Many mothers had it worse than I did, delivering a stillborn or having babies who died after childbirth. I had only had my baby inside me for ten weeks. I told myself I didn’t even deserve to grieve. So, I didn’t.
The following year my grandma died. When the funeral home sent the obituary for us to review, the list of her great-grandchildren included the name Jack. No one had known his name, and no one knew how the name Jack made it into her obituary. I realized then that even though Jack didn’t make it to full term, he was once inside me. He was real. This hit me hard, like a rip current pulling me under. I sobbed.
Over the years, the feeling of loss came in waves that I rarely let come to a crest. I’d think about how old Jack would be. I’d picture him building sandcastles on the beach with my daughter, and my heart ached for what would never be.
We didn’t try for another child after Jack. That miscarriage broke me, and I couldn’t risk going through it again. I wasn’t strong enough. My husband and I were already lucky to have a beautiful, vivacious daughter.
As time went on, I mourned at certain moments, often on a sandy shore where the waves rolled in. I slowly opened up about my loss to a handful of friends who were also mothers. Each time I talked about it, I realized I wasn’t alone. Many other women who experienced a miscarriage had also pushed it down because it can be so difficult to talk about.
It’s been seven years, and this is the first time I’m writing about my miscarriage and publicly acknowledging it. Grief is hard to explain, and the weight of it is burdensome. There is no time limit; there is no right way to grieve. Granting myself grace and the space to let the grief ebb and flow has allowed me to give my miscarriage a new meaning, a purpose other than loss.
It was only in time that this understanding surfaced. I now know in my heart that I’ve been blessed with two children — one here and one watching over me.
Annie Cathryn is a writer, blogger, marketer, and book influencer. She is in the process of publishing her debut novel. Annie is also the host of IGTV’s Soulful Series Video Chats featuring award-winning and bestselling authors who have written a memoir, anthology, or nonfiction motivational book. She lives outside of Chicago with her husband and daughter.
This essay is part of our Moms Don’t Have Time to Grieve column.