It’s called the Miracle of Life for a reason. The journey through pregnancy and child birth is astounding when you think of how scientific the body actually works. Cells multiply and divide at tremendous rates and the female body adapts and creates the perfect host for its parasitic growth. When the time for birth comes, the body automatically reacts. It instinctively knows that the baby needs to be evicted. The perfect birth is textbook, wonderful and ends with the birth of a newborn baby.
To plan the perfect birth, most start by doing what I call “pregnancy math.” Planning a pregnancy is not as simple as “I want to have my first child by _____ (insert year here.). In order to determine the “best” date or the “best” year, one starts by subtracting back 9 months from when one would hope they would deliver. Add a two month window for “trying.” You are automatically at 11 months between the time you try to conceive a child to the time a child will be born. You may factor in things like the weather when the child will be born, or in what months you don’t want to be pregnant. Maybe your brother is going to be married, so you make decisions…do you want to be pregnant or do you want to be bringing two kids, the pack and play, and be breastfeeding while they both say “I do.”
Pregnancy math is a handy little tool.
Miscarriage is the divisor in pregnancy math. Miscarriage takes your final calculation and cuts everything in half. Once you’ve found out that you’ve conceived, you immediately begin to plan out your year because of the math. You look at the due date and what commitments could interfere. You calculate prenatal care appointments and clothing options. Days of your life are planned for the next year, and are cut short the minute the miscarriage occurs. An entire year becomes empty, free and isolating.
You see, most people who haven’t experienced loss do not understand that the pain of miscarriage follows the person throughout the entire year after. Because of the precise planning, the emptiness of days that were suppose to be consumed with swollen ankles and maternity clothes are now nothing but fat pants and sweatshirts. Time that was suppose to be spent caring for a child, that was calculated and accounted for, are now days that you will work. There is no extra time. Miscarriage does a very good job of dividing it all.
And then there is the final piece of time. It’s haunting. After pregnancy math has been well and accounted for, there is another math that replaces it. Math so complicated, I don’t think I can even name it. The minute you become pregnant, the minute you begin to plan out your future, you now have a child in the picture. You talk about future events, and it will not just be the two of you, or three of you, or four of you. You add another person to the mix.
“The car won’t fit everyone next year for Christmas, maybe we should start planning to purchase another.”
“We should start moving everything around to create the nursery. If it’s another girl, they can share a room.”
“What if it’s twins?”
The future now includes the child that has begun to take shape within you. You begin to wonder who he or she will be. Who he or she will look like? How will his or her sibling react? How will you travel? Do daycare? The questions are endless and the planning is constant. When the loss occurs, everything disappears. There is no child. He or she has been taken. And, because scientifically you know that only that egg and that sperm created that child, there will be no child like the one you lost. The next child will be completely different.
Women who have lost a child have not just lost a pregnancy. It is so much more. Miscarriage initially robs women of the first year after the loss, and then it robs them of a lifetime of memories. Forever in their hearts will be the silent wondering of where the child they lost would be. What would they be doing if they had been born? How might life be different?
Herein lies the unspoken pain of pregnancy. The pain that drives women to suffer in silence, even to the point of wanting to take their own life. A miscarriage is the loss of a child. Scientifically, one can tell a grieving mother about it being simply tissue, or better because of chromosomal abnormalities. All of those words, all of the science, is simply the scientific building block for the child a woman carries. The “clump” of cells that was “evicted” from the uterus, that was a lifetime.
When women share this, the world can turn on them in an instant. Women who share their loss become “attention seekers.” They really need to just “move on.” It was “just cells” and they’re “better off because something was probably wrong with it.” In fact, they should be really happy for the child they do have. Continuously, I read and find women in support groups with nowhere to turn except for strangers who have been through the same experience. They share stories of people who tear them apart for sharing their story of miscarriage and loss. They are torn so far apart, that they become silent in the public world about the child they will never give birth too, take to the park or watch graduate. Their children become shadows in their lives.
If you haven’t had a loss, I honestly don’t want you to be able to fully understand. I really don’t. When I hear of someone who has suffered a loss now, my entire body reacts. The phrase “gut-wrenching pain” is probably the closest I can describe. My stomach becomes sick. My world turns upside down, and I’m beyond sadden for the woman I’ve learned has suffered loss. I would never wish the feeling on my worst enemy. It’s suffocating.
So, since not everyone can understand, and since I don’t want everyone to understand (for your sake), I simply ask this. Please, please, regardless of how you feel, or what you know, or how you believe, please know that many of us feel we lost a child for a lifetime. Please know that when we talk about pregnancy, birth, children and siblings with others a little part in many of us cries inside. Please know that when we plan vacations, events and our future we feel like someone is missing. Please know that in our families are holes that should be filled by children who never came.
We miss them.
We wish they were here.
We love our unborn miracles.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Catherine Tomlinson is a full time wife, mother, and teacher of public school. She began writing about miscarriage and loss after suffering her fourth miscarriage. The journey of pregancy is a difficult one, and she felt there was a need and she was being called to reach out to the pregnancy loss community with her writing. It is painful, difficult, rewarding, and humbling to work within the walls of grief surrounded around the men and women who lose the children to soon.