Editor's note: October 15 is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.
My mother did not expect to miscarry her first child.
She was young and healthy and four months pregnant. She was too far along to miscarry. Yet in the early hours of a December morning, she began experiencing severe pain in her abdomen. It was happening.
After the pain began, the rest of the morning turned into a horrific blur: alone in a bathroom with a bloody mess; crying out to her young husband for help; driving to see her doctor who was 90 miles away; an examination; a confirmation; the doctor gently saying, “You’ve been through so much at this point, Paula – I think you can handle seeing it.” A lifeless embryo. Her baby.
It wasn’t the sort of thing you talked about back then. It was something to be privately endured and forgotten on the way to having a real pregnancy. My mother did not forget it.
“I felt like it was probably a little girl,” she says in reflection.
And after it was over: silence. Nobody asked about it or even acknowledged that it had happened, with the exception of one family member who simply said that perhaps it was for the best.
It wasn’t the sort of thing you talked about back then. It was something to be privately endured and forgotten on the way to having a real pregnancy.
My mother did not forget it.
Decades later, when I was in my twenties, I walked into the kitchen where my mother was standing next to the sink. On a sudden impulse, I asked, “Mom, wasn’t today your first baby’s due date?”
Her eyes filled with tears, she buried her face in her hands, and she began to lose her composure. Finally, she said, “You’re the only one who knows.” Then she paused and said, “She would have been 34 today.”
But I didn’t know it was her baby’s due date. I only knew Mom had a miscarriage at some point. The impulse to say something that day felt like it came through me, but not from me.
Now I am 34 and the stories of dear friends who miscarry are becoming more frequent. The topic is no longer forbidden, but for many women, it is still too painful to share.
Perhaps they can’t bear to hear the trite responses – “You’ll have another one,” “God needed another little angel in Heaven.” Perhaps they’re afraid it will be treated as another tidbit of unfortunate news, that no one will fully appreciate the magnitude of their loss.
Many of those women are wise in being careful who they share their tragic news with. Many people simply can’t understand. But even so, after that conversation with my mom – a conversation that took both of us by surprise – I can say this to those who relate to her pain: God remembers. God grieves with you. You will never be the only one who knows.