My chest felt tight all day. My mind fluttered from one thought to the next about miscarriage and motherhood and how this is not how any of it should go. I wanted to distract myself, but knew I needed to make space to reflect and allow my conflicted emotions to surface. Tears finally made their debut while I sautéed onions, and it was a relief to release my grief. I was releasing a deep sense of unfairness, a longing for a different outcome, and an exasperated acknowledgment that the world is not as it should be. Journaling has been a reprieve and a form of self-discovery in the midst of grief. It gives my feelings a chance to become untangled as I articulate them on the page. Sometimes what comes out in my writing surprises me, but it always serves to heal me too. In hope that this entry will do the same, this is my reflection on this bittersweet ‘holiday.’
I only recently became aware of Bereaved Mother’s Day thanks to an extensive online community of women who have walked this journey much longer than I. This is the first year Bereaved Mother’s Day has applied to me. “Bereaved Mother” is not a title you ask for. It is certainly not a title I imagined ever being a part of my story. From the time I was a little girl, the only narrative I heard around motherhood was that you fall in love, get married, have healthy babies, and live happily ever after.
The maternity books I had started reading early in my pregnancy seemed to suggest that miscarriage was a rare occurrence. It even stated that if you experienced spotting it was normal and not likely a sign of anything awry. As if the author didn’t want to cause alarm, the section on miscarriage was hardly a full page, but the reality was that I should have been concerned. As it turns out, the nurse nodded knowingly when I said I had some spotting. To her, bleeding was confirmation of a non-viable pregnancy after failing to find a heartbeat on the ultrasound. Once I started talking about my miscarriage so many women came out of the woodwork with their stories of pregnancy loss, and I realized miscarriages are not rare at all. In fact, miscarriage is a rather common occurrence and approximately 1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss of one form or another. I suppose an experience this common deserves its own day.
I didn’t want to celebrate this holiday. It seemed like a cheap consolation prize. However, Mother’s Day doesn’t feel like a fit occasion to celebrate either. Perhaps it’s the word ‘celebrate’ that doesn’t quite fit. Maybe ‘honor’ or ‘hold space for’ is a better way to approach the day. Somehow though, after reflection, I think it’s a bit of a relief that this holiday is marked on the calendar. It makes space for grief on its own day without having to negotiate between celebration and mourning on Mother’s Day. Next Sunday will inevitably be difficult, but I can appreciate a separate day of remembrance for the babies we all have lost. It holds space for those whose story was not a simple as having children and living happily ever after. It serves as a day of remembrance without having to demand space for our grief on a day that seems to be designed to celebrate moms with living children.
If you don’t know what to say about Bereaved Mother’s Day to your loved ones who have lost babies, it’s ok. Those of us who have lost babies don’t know what to say either. It’s messy and complicated and each person’s experience is going to be unique to their story. That said, it’s nice to know others acknowledge those of us who have lost babies on both Bereaved Mother’s Day and on Mother’s Day, even if it’s just a note to say, “I’m thinking of you today.” Despite my mixed feelings about this bereavement holiday, it reminds me that I am a mother, even if my arms and womb are empty. My life changed the day I saw that positive pregnancy test. My body changed and my heart did too during my short pregnancy. I hope you never have to celebrate this day for yourself, but if you do, know that you are not alone and there is space to honor your baby here too.
I love the words of Jackie Figueras, Miscarriage Support Specialist, and I’ll leave you with this benediction:
Bereaved mother, you are the very essence of brave. Your love is a story that will last the ages. Today, let the world see you as you truly are; struggling, fighting, strong and full of love. Today, let the world see this loss that has ripped deep and become the fire within your soul. And while it is endlessly unfair that you never got to hold your baby, we remember and honor your loss. Your loss has transformed you and shaped you into the most beautiful and strong of beings.Jackie Figueras, Miscarriage Support Specialist via Instagram