My arms are empty, but I am still a mother

<i></i>
 Photo: iStock

Charlie was our first miscarriage. We named him/her that because it was a great name for a girl or a boy.

Pixie was our second. We liked how magical the name sounded.

Mickie was the third. He was meant to be our miracle.

Pipi was the fourth, but his/her name was never said aloud, just in my head and heart.

And finally the last one, miscarriage number 5. I couldn't bring myself to give him/her a name because it hurt too much this time round.

Just after we found out that #5 wasn't going to make it, a friend asked if all the miscarriages had made our hearts hard. Without hesitation, my husband jumped in and said "no". His heart has actually become more empathetic, loving, patient, and appreciative of life (my summary, not his exact words).

I was much slower to answer because all I could think of was the fact that I had hardly shed a tear for #5. I cried for weeks after Charlie, Pixie, Mickie and Pipi left us. Was my heart really so hard that such a devastating event had no effect on my emotions?

Of course not. Not all sadness shows up in our lives as tears; sometimes it manifests in ways that aren't as obvious. And to be honest, I would much prefer the tears.

Miscarriages are dark and lonely events. They are not only the loss of life, but the loss of hope and joy. And sadly, most women navigate these times in near seclusion.

Advertisement

We hadn't really told anyone we were pregnant, and even those who knew struggled to grasp the depth of our loss. No one but me, my husband and the ultrasound technician saw the little heartbeat fluttering away on the first two sonograms. And no one but the three of us saw the heartbreaking stillness in the last sonogram. The life that we were already in love with was gone, and we were devastated.

Since I'm an open person, I haven't been on my own in quite the same way most women are during these times. I'm grateful to have compassionate and caring friends whom I feel comfortable bringing into this part of my world.

But I still end up negotiating most of this on my own. A miscarriage really isn't just an event; it's a journey. Once the physical miscarriage happens (and I will spare you all the traumatic details of that), people often think that it's over and we gradually move past the sadness. But that couldn't be further from the truth.

There is the obvious grief that follows the actual miscarriage, but then there is grief that comes when we "should be getting the antimony scan done today", when we "should be preparing the nursery and buying a car seat", when we "should be celebrating the birth of our new baby". Or grief when we "should be celebrating Mother's Day and Father's Day", or when we "should be planning our baby's first birthday party". Or the grief when we see a child who's the age our baby "should be".

I could go on, but I think you get the point. The loss of a pregnancy carries the same all-consuming grief as the loss of anyone close to you, but it's often dealt with in a quiet corner of our hearts rather than with the support of friends and family.

In addition to all this grief comes the loss of innocence, which zaps the joy and excitement from every subsequent pregnancy. The two pink lines on a home pregnancy test don't bring the same happiness they did before; instead they bring fear, flashbacks, anxiety, sadness, and confliction. A heartbeat on the next early-pregnancy sonogram doesn't bring joy - it brings hesitation. Do you allow yourself to build up hope which could then make the drop to despair even harder? Or do you guard your heart and deny yourself the happy anticipation that is totally natural during this time? I did the first with Charlie, Pixie, Mickie, and Pipi. And I did the second with #5.

I thought about typing a list of all the things not to say to someone who has gone through a miscarriage. But I know most of those things are said out of love, and as hurtful as they can be for us, they are said because people just don't know what to say. Plus, that list was getting really, really long.

But here's what you can say: "I'm so sorry to hear about your loss. This must be very difficult for you (and your partner) and I want to help you through it. Is there anything I can do? Would you like to talk more about it?" I know it sounds cliché, but it's much more helpful than offering advice or opinions. There's a pretty good chance the person going through the miscarriage won't know what to say either because he or she is navigating this taboo topic with the same uncertainty you are. Also, don't forget the father or partner needs support too.

This is where the story is supposed to have a happy ending, one where I tell you about how I overcame all the grief and am blessed to be holding our little bundle of joy in my arms. But this isn't a fairy tale.

While I haven't given up hope, for now my arms remain empty and my heart grieves our five little angels every day.

Stuff Nation