This interview is part of a series we’re doing to support and encourage one another by sharing the challenges we face as mothers, and how we work to overcome them.
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How many children do you have?
Sam is 4 and Jack is 11 months. I also have 3 in heaven: Adele, Catherine, and Andrew.
How long have you been a mother?
You wouldn’t think this was a complicated question, but for me, it is. I first became a mother in late 2011, as a newlywed of three months. It’s amazing how quickly your life turns upside down in the most wonderful way as soon as you see those two lines. My husband Joe and I were hoping to wait a little longer before welcoming children, but once we got used to the idea, we were so excited to meet our first child and planned how we would make it work as we were both still in graduate school.
Over Christmas, we used gifts of onesies to let our parents know they had a grandchild coming in August.
Because of the holidays, we didn’t have our first ultrasound until mid January, when I was about 12 weeks. But instead of learning we had a healthy little baby, we learned that we had lost one. And I was completely blindsided.
It takes courage to open up about this. How did you work through this, and how did you return to “normal” life after experiencing this loss?
The weeks that followed my miscarriage were a blur. No one talked to me about my loss and I didn’t know how to feel about losing a child I hadn’t been ready for, but desperately wanted. I knew I was a mother, but I didn’t feel like one.
I wasn’t busy either carrying or caring for a child, so I busied myself with my teaching, my graduate classes, and my marriage, finding ways to fill the gap that I didn’t understand. I didn’t realize until years later how lonely and isolated I was during this period of my life.
I craved a community of women who knew what I was feeling and needed to talk about the child I lost.
I needed to find ways to incorporate this little life into mine, to acknowledge the reality of having lost a child and try to wrap my head around being a mother with empty arms, but I didn’t know how and had no one to show me.
Instead, I was surrounded by single friends and three sisters-in-law who had three living children in the two years following my loss. I know now that they were grieving with me, and desperately wanted to support me, but didn’t know how.
Do you think many women share a similar experience going through a miscarriage?
Being a first time mom is hard. Being a first time loss mom is devastating. And incredibly isolating, especially if you don’t have anyone to show you how to be a loss mom.
New moms are one of the most supported groups of women in our culture, our churches, our communities. But most loss moms are grieving alone, suddenly unanchored in a storm with no guidepost or light.
You are a mother with a child the world doesn’t know how to acknowledge and often feels uncomfortable talking about, and without support, you may begin to think, as I did, that you shouldn’t talk about your child either.
I think far too many women endure this silent struggle. As a culture, we need to learn how to support these loss moms, and find concrete ways to acknowledge their children, helping them realize that it’s ok for them to grieve and remember their children.
It took me many years to get to a place where I was able to open up about my losses.
After my first loss, I just struggled through alone, not knowing how to feel about being a mom without a child earthside, and desperately hoping for a child to come home and fill my arms.
Tell us about your second pregnancy – your oldest son, now four years old. What was it like being pregnant this time around?
After my first miscarriage, we weren’t fully ready to have another child, and then we just let ourselves be open to welcoming another child whenever it happened.
We finished graduate school and found jobs in Kansas City, MO. We were ready and willing to bring a child home, but that child didn’t come. I met with doctors who couldn’t explain why I wasn’t getting pregnant.
One doctor diagnosed me with PCOS, but another said that wasn’t true. One doctor told me I might have a very hard time ever getting pregnant again. So I focused on my work and my husband and hoped a child would come. Ironically, by the time I realized I was pregnant with Sam, I was already into the second trimester.
Almost two years to the day that we had learned we lost our first child, I had a doctor’s appointment where I heard a child’s heartbeat for the first time. It was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard, and one of the most healing and helpful experiences in beginning to understand the magnitude of what I had lost two years previously and set me on a path toward learning to be open about being a loss mom.
Eight months later, our son, Sam, was born and I was ushered into a new kind of motherhood. The kind with smiles and snuggles, dreams for the future and discipline in the present.
After Sam was born, I learned how to be a mom, but I also learned how to be a loss mom.
Experiencing motherhood in the flesh helped me finally learn to acknowledge and speak openly about our daughter, and ask others around me to do the same.
We named our first baby Adele and began to celebrate her “heavenly Birthday” on that date in January when we first saw her on the sonogram only to learn she was gone. We began to talk to Sam about his big sister in heaven, and as I healed, I learned to tell strangers that I had two children, but only one on earth with me.
After Sam was born, you had two more miscarriages — and now, you had the added challenge of taking care of Sam, who was 2 years old. Could you talk to us about how you got through this while raising your son?
Being a mother through the grief of losing another child was one of the hardest things I have faced as a parent.
After my second and third miscarriages, mothering Sam was both my greatest comfort and my biggest challenge. Part of me just wanted to collapse into myself and grieve, but I also had this sweet, joyful 2 year old who needed me for everything and didn’t understand why I was so sad.
Because I had an easy, uncomplicated pregnancy with Sam, I wasn’t expecting another miscarriage and was completely stunned to learn that our third child was gone.
In some ways, my second miscarriage was much harder than my first, because I knew exactly how much I was losing. How much I would miss.
And with every painful contraction of loss, I felt those precious moments I was longing for slipping away.
In addition to losing my child, Sam was losing his sibling, and I had to let go of all my hopes and plans for him to have this little brother or sister to grow up with. Then, to go through it all over again just three months later was devastating.
I’ve never known sorrow like having those consecutive losses.
But through the grief, I also found so much comfort and hope, not only in being able to trust that God had a plan for my motherhood and my family, but in finally being able to grieve openly, accept support and receive condolences, and especially in this beautiful, buoyant little boy that brought so much joy to my life in spite of so much heartache.
One afternoon a few months after my second miscarriage, Sam woke up from a nap and climbed into my bed and we just snuggled up together for a little while (which was unusual for him as he is usually “go, go, go”) and my first thought was an image of us doing this if I was 7 months pregnant, as I could have been with Catherine had we not lost her.
I imagined Sam laying next to me feeling the baby kick and being so excited. I could picture it so clearly and it made me so sad to think of what could have been.
But then I thought about what a beautiful moment it already was, just as it was. Sam snuggling up next to me and us talking together.
That moment with Sam was just about perfect and such a gift.
How do you feel that this experience has affected your outlook on time with your kids?
Some days I just sit back and look at my children and just revel in them. They are so fun and funny, so smart and sweet. So loving and trusting no matter how many times I can do so much better as their mom.
Honestly, just to look at these little people that have been entrusted to me and to see that I’m raising them well, even if the day to day is sometimes too chaotic for me to notice…that is the most rewarding thing.
Time with Sam and Jack is a beautiful reminder that even when I am heartsore missing the three children I didn’t get to bring home, I am still so blessed to now have two with me on earth.
I sometimes get so overwhelmed by the grief I feel that I forget to be grateful for what God has given me and to really stop and cherish these moments with Sam and Jack.
I’m learning to let myself be filled with joy and gratitude for what I’ve been given, rather than failing to recognize my blessings for what they are, because I’m so distracted by an image of what was never meant to be.
I am constantly learning how to be a better mom and a better loss mom, finding ways to love on my boys here and find peace in remembering and acknowledging my little ones above, and embracing my vocation as a loss mom — hoping to be a help to other loss moms who suddenly find themselves alone in the storm.