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Miscarriage

how does miscarriage affect a woman

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Cry. It’s the only thing my body could do when I heard that cruel word – miscarriage. I wanted to scream, to rage against the injustice, but I couldn’t. The words stuck in my throat as an icy fist gripped my heart. All I could do was cry these deep, guttural sobs that seemed to emanate from the core of my soul. How does miscarriage affect a woman? It changes everything about it. 

My unexpected miracle, that little life I never dreamed I deserved, was gone. Snatched away far too soon. Those two bright lines on the pregnancy test had filled me with hope, excitement over the promise of a love like no other. But in an instant, that beautiful promise was shattered, coldly labeled as nothing more than a “miscarriage.”

I shattered right along with it. My heart broke into innumerable pieces as I struggled just to breathe through the anguish. Uncontrollable sobs wracked my body as despair closed in – I had never felt so lost, so utterly and hopelessly broken.

The Devastation No Mother Should Face

We hadn’t shared the joyful news with anyone yet, too petrified of jinxing our fragile happiness. I had seen my sister’s devastation after her miscarriage at 9 weeks. At 10 weeks and 4 days along, I thought I was safe. I wasn’t.

The haunting look on the ultrasound tech’s face said it all before she could speak the words – there was no flickering heartbeat, only a perfect, still little life within me. My world imploded in that moment. Waves of screaming anguish and denial crashed over me, the physical pain indescribable.

How Miscarriage Shatters a Woman

The torment of losing an unborn child is one of the most traumatic, heartbreaking experiences any woman can endure. It leaves you hollowed out and gasping, struggling just to draw your next ragged breath through the searing pain. An icy numbness seizes you as your hands desperately clutch your body, craving the feeling of that life within that’s been so cruelly torn away.

You want the world to stop spinning so you never have to move past this nightmare moment when your deepest hopes and dreams withered before your eyes. The thought of others pitying you, or trying in vain to rationalize your devastation, makes you want to curl deeper inward and shut everyone out.

Just let me be, you want to cry out. Let me feel the full weight of this mountainous loss, this betrayal of everything I’d dared to hope for. Don’t try to placate me – simply allow me to bear the burden of these primal, animalistic screams of grief tearing from the depths of my very soul.

Don’t touch me. Don’t speak empty condolences. Just let me drown in my darkness, my personal hellscape where life makes no sense and all dreams have turned to ashes.

For that tiny life was your promised dream of unconditional love, a blessing you never imagined deserving. And that promise now lies horrifically shattered, leaving you hollowed out, empty, and feeling irreparably betrayed by life itself. Words hold no meaning when every shallow breath reminds you of the indescribable anguish clawing at your lungs.

All you can do is cry.

When the Anguish Never Fully Fades

As you read these words, I was at the hospital having a D&C because I couldn’t fathom carrying my lifeless child within me a moment longer. I should have been joyfully sharing our pregnancy journey, but instead I’m laying bare the most visceral, agonizing loss a mother can endure. Writing it out is the only way I know to keep breathing through this all-consuming pain.

Even now, over a decade later, I can still feel the lump permanently lodged in my throat whenever I think of my Declan – the son I loved with every fiber of my being yet never got to hold, not even for a fleeting moment. His entire existence amounted to morning sickness, wistful daydreams, and countless tears. So much he’ll never experience – sunrises, sunsets, his sisters’ laughter, his dad’s soothing voice at bedtime, my whispers of unconditional love and pride surrounding him.

I’m angry and feel forever cheated, because he’s been gone longer than he was ever here. It will never make sense, this unfathomable cruelty, and I’ll never stop feeling gutted by the gaping wound his absence left behind. Even on my calmest days, the injustice still leaves me wanting to rage at the universe, to throw tantrums and scream at the sheer unfairness of it all. Why them and not us? Why don’t I deserve that happiness too?

This pain ebbs and flows, but it never fully goes away. There’s always that dull yet persistent ache, that sense of missing your own vital organ whenever you see other mothers and sons embracing the futures you’ll never experience. I mask it and pretend I’m okay, but I’m not. Not completely. Miscarriage leaves invisible scars that indelibly change you.

A Call for Compassion and Healing

If you know someone suffering through the unimaginable agony of miscarriage, don’t minimize their pain with platitudes or toxic positivity. Extend a compassionate embrace, a listening ear, and an acknowledgment that their grief is valid and whole. Let them cry, scream, and metabolize their shattering loss however they need to in that moment. Offer your presence, not pity.

Because having a dream, a part of your very soul, ripped away…it leaves a deep wounding that time doesn’t fully heal. We owe it to ourselves and each other to remove the stigma around pregnancy loss and create spaces where women can openly process their breathtaking pain without shame or judgment.

Share stories like mine, or those of your loved ones, to raise awareness. Let other women know they don’t have to suffer in silence and loneliness when their worlds have fallen apart. Validate their anger, their confusion, their soul-deep mourning, and remind them that this sisterhood of survivors has their back.

One compassionate conversation at a time, we can make spaces for healing and grace to coexist with the anguish that consumes us on our darkest days. Because even if we never “move on” from such a shattering loss, surrounding each other with empathy and love can ensure that no woman has to bear miscarriage’s tremendous burden alone.

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Black Ohio Mother, Brittany Watts, Faces Felony Charges After Suffering Miscarriage

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In tales from the “what the fuck is going on?” and/ or another episode of “Let’s demonize women for existing,” or “misogyny gone wild” a black mother in Ohio, Brittany Watts, is facing felony charges after suffering a devastating, near fatal miscarriage.

Brittany Watts is facing felony charges for “abuse of a corpse” after suffering a miscarriage at nearly 22 weeks into her pregnancy, on September 22, 2023. Now, her case is headed to trial. The 33-year-old, Watts, is being accused of miscarrying her pregnancy while using the restroom and then flushing the fetal remains down her toilet.  * Newsflash, that’s usually what happens.

According to a GoFundMe page set up to help with mounting legal costs for Watts, “Brittany Watts suffered an agonizing miscarriage in the bathroom of her home in Warren, Ohio on September 22, 2023.

Brittany did nothing to cause her miscarriage. Her doctor had told her that her 21-week pregnancy could not survive, and she would miscarry. When the bleeding and the pain from the impending miscarriage got severe, she did the same thing that many women who miscarry at home do. Brittany went into her bathroom, miscarried into her toilet, and flushed. What happened after that is something that should only happen in Margaret Atwood’s Gilead, and certainly not in the United States of America.

Within hours of Brittany’s admission to the hospital for her life-threatening hemorrhaging, police removed the toilet from Brittany’s home and destroyed it searching for fetal remains. Brittany, a woman with no criminal history, was charged with felony gross abuse of a corpse, even though there is no Ohio law dictating the “proper” disposal method of the remains of a miscarriage. On November 2, Brittany sobbed as she sat in a courtroom listening to police officers describe the details of the most intensely personal moments of her life and then vilify her to the world, all while being recorded by local news media.”

Okay, this is a whole lot of what the actual fuck is going on here. As someone who has suffered a miscarriage (and that is exactly what happens to a woman when she miscarries…she suffers mentally and physically), there are no words to describe the kind of hell a mother endures when she loses her child. This is a deeply personal, painful, and private matter and one in which is difficult to navigate. No one knows what to do in this situation. It happens to you unexpectedly and you try to survive it in the best way you can. Believe me, for the mother, it is almost unbearable.

According to the National Library of Medicine, an estimated 23 million miscarriages occur every year worldwide, translating to 44 pregnancy losses each minute. The pooled risk of miscarriage is 15·3% .  Miscarriages happen to women not because of them, so why does the government and legal system want to punish us for what is already so devastating?

To add insult to such a grievous injury, the Ohio legal system is not only blaming the victim (because that is exactly what any mother who miscarries is) for a medical emergency, a fetus that failed to thrive through no fault of the mother; they are actually bringing women up on felony charges. This is one of the most demented and misogynistic things a society can do.

Watts has gone through one of the most painful and life changing experiences any woman can go through and now she is being demonized and prosecuted for disposing of the biological matter. What the fuck was she supposed to do? Women are not taught proper disposal of our miscarried babies when we watch the movie about menstruation in fifth grade! No one teaches us proper sex education in schools, we are taught abstinence in hushed tones and discouraged from asking any questions. We are told that we are sluts and all kinds of other insults if we dare to even inquire or try to educate ourselves and now, we are even blamed and held legally responsible when our pregnancies miscarry. It’s not bad enough that they list miscarriages on insurance bills as missed abortions and that the government has taken away our right to choose, now, they are actively charging women for being a victim of nature’s cruelest punishment.

I’m tired of men making laws on women’s bodies. Men have no idea what it feels like to live in a woman’s body and to suffer being a female. Because yes, for as much as I love being a woman, our misogynistic society keeps us in shackles and punishes us at will for no reason other than what lies between our legs. We are punished daily, in every aspect of our lives, simply for being born with a vagina.

Women are treated like second class citizens. We constantly have everything we say and do questioned, and that’s when we’re not being completely ignored. W are not even given domain over our own bodies. We are leered at and sexualized at every turn from birth till death. Sex is weaponized against us. Rape is a consequence for existing. We can’t even choose when, where, how or if we want to have children. Do you know what giving birth is like? It is the most painful thing a woman can ever endure. It is so painful that it makes you want to die to escape it.

The act of giving birth is one done out of complete love and sacrifice, and we do it over and over again because of that complete and unconditional love we have for our children. But make no mistake, it is no easy task. It is the most difficult and intense experience any human being can go through.

Imagine choosing that, knowing the full weight of that sacrifice, and choosing it over and over again. Then, imagine losing your pregnancy. The emptiness, the sorrow, the void a mother feels is mind bending. The loss of what might have been, the promise of holding and loving your child is mind breaking. The physical pain, the failure of your body, the failure of your child to thrive…so much loss and all that love with nowhere to go. There is nothing as painful in this world as a full heart and empty arms.

I did not miscarry at home. In fact, my pregnancy was intact. I’m not sure if that would make me more or less of a villain in my miscarriage story. My child no longer had a heartbeat. You don’t know devastation until you’ve heard these words uttered to you. My child, who looked absolutely perfect on an ultrasound, had no heartbeat and my body would not let go of it, so I had to have my pregnancy surgically removed. My other option was that I could have taken a wait and see approach and possibly gone septic and have risked death. It was like going through labor with nothing to show for it in the end but a broken heart. So many women must labor only to go home with empty arms and broken hearts…broken hearts that never heal. I left my child behind at the hospital. My child became biomedical waste. No one asked me what I wanted to do with the remains. I was not offered cremation or burial. There was no counseling offered to me. I simply arrived with a pregnancy and left a mother without a child.

In Watts’ case, the miscarriage happened at home. The fetus’ remains were uncovered by local law enforcement on Sept. 22, per the Warren Police Department, after they removed the toilet from her home and tested it for fetal matter.

Now, Watts faces this felony charge even AFTER a forensic pathologist testified last month that her fetus was not born alive and died before passing through the birth canal; further, he said the fetus ​​was “nonviable because [Watts] had premature ruptured membranes—her water had broken early—and the fetus was too young to be delivered.” Watts’ defense attorney, Tracy Timko, told media last month that her client “learned days before” her miscarriage that this outcome “was inevitable and that the fetus could not survive outside the womb due to gestational age.”

None of this makes sense. None of this vilification of this mother is logical or reasonable. Brittany Watts should not be on trial, Ohio should be on trial for the cruel and unusual punishment of a living, human woman.

What are your thoughts? I am disgusted and flabbergasted but I am not shocked in the least because this is what the world does to women time and time again, throughout history. 

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I stumbled on to the photo of Chrissy Teigen in the hospital losing her baby. In that vulnerable, raw, real moment, Chrissy Teigen is every mother who suffered a miscarriage and we love her more for bravely showing the world what pregnancy loss really looks and feels like. I felt it. I felt it in my soul. I’ve been there and at that moment, that black and white photo thrust me right back into those horrible moments of the most devastating seconds of my life. The visceral moments that changed me forever.

It instantly transported me to a place of raw emotion and primal pain. To a moment in time where I felt so helpless and vulnerable that I questioned if living was even an option. At that moment, I was so destroyed that I wanted to disappear because the pain was mind, body and soul-shattering. The loss was too big, it was incomprehensible and almost unsurvivable. That photo of Chrissy Tiegen transcended time and space and in that moment, it wasn’t 8 years ago, it was right now. I was back there, begging and pleading for my baby to live for this not to be real. With the photo below, the wound was ripped wide open, all the air in the room was gone and all I could do was cry in commiseration.

National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day , Never Break, Chrissy Teigen, Miscarriage, John Legend,

There is nothing else you can do for a woman who has lost her child. There is no soothing or salve for our souls. Our entire world has imploded and our precious baby was the collateral damage. The thought of that kind of cruelty is unbearable, innumerable and unrelenting.  All we can do as mothers is hold on for dear life and hope we are not too broken to continue because when this happens, absolutely nothing in our lives make any sense. There is no reason and no rationalization, there is only regrets for things to never come. There is mourning for what will never be and that never ends.

READ ALSO: Surviving the Aftermath of a Miscarriage

I broke on that day. May 1, 2012. The breaking started on April 31 at 10:30 am when I laid on the cold examination table in the ultrasound office and saw the expression on the tech’s face. I’ll never forget the blank, pale silence of her face. The “without words” expression that told me all that words would fail. Words made no sense in those following moments. I heard her compassionately give me the worst news of my life but it was too quick, I couldn’t process it.

I played along and held my breath as she silently led me the back way to my obstetrician’s downstairs waiting room. The silence was deafening. I was sure that at any moment, I would collapse to the ground and die myself. I willed it so. I would have preferred anything to the hellish pain I felt in my soul in those moments. I felt hopeless. My body was betraying me and my heart was breaking and there was nothing I could do to save either of us.

We arrived in the doctor’s office, I sat under the bright overhead lights afraid to breathe, move or speak a word…waiting; suspended in time, enveloped in disbelief before I even heard the words spoken aloud. It was like waiting for a bomb to detonate with no way to escape.

I braced myself to be inundated with pain.

My obstetrician came in, donning that same blank poker face as the tech as she spoke to me with pity and compassion on her breath. She said the words I tried my best not to hear. “Debi, I’m so sorry, we couldn’t find your baby’s heartbeat.” I felt trapped in a nightmare. God, please wake me up and let my baby be alive. But, no reprieve came for me on that day.

How could she tell me so calmly that my child didn’t have a heartbeat. The child I was growing and loving inside my body. The baby we had hoped and longed for since Gabi was born. After that, my mind went numb. I just sat there, deflated and defeated. My world was crashing down around me and my only weapon against self-destruction was to be as quiet and as still as possible and to hope the moment passed and this was all a bad dream. But it didn’t.

The only words I could whisper, after being informed that my pregnancy had ended but my baby was refusing to leave my body and there was no idea when it would happen, was,

Please get him out of my body.

I realize that sounds harsh but my mind was breaking and the thought of holding on was too much to bear.

I wanted to run as far and fast away from this day and those events as possible.  I know it sounds cruel that my first thought was to get the baby I lost out of my body but the wait and see if my body would do its own thing plan at almost 11 weeks was more than my mind could handle. I was so broken the only thing I could believe in was rebuilding myself. I’m not one to sit in my brokenness. This break could be the one that permanently left me immobile. We scheduled for the next morning at 6 am. In less than 24 hours, the dream would be irrevocably broken.

What came next, was more than my heart could tolerate. My doctor, seeing my state, and knowing that I had come to this “routine” visit alone, informed me that I must call my husband and tell him because she didn’t want me to shoulder the entire burden alone. She was witnessing my undoing and her only mercy was to demand that I let someone help me. But in that trapped moment of unfathomable pain, I felt shame and failure. My mind knew she was right but …

my heart didn’t want to accept it because once I said it aloud, it would be real.

I dialed the phone, in complete silence. I could barely breathe for fear that I’d start sobbing and never stop. That was the hardest phone call I’ve ever had to make. He knew I was at the obstetrician. He answered the phone, “How’s our baby?” The words stuck in my throat. They were choking me. I couldn’t make my mouth betray my heart with the words. My eyes burned with tears that seemed to be never-ending. Finally, I choked out the cruelest words a mother could ever have to say. That was the moment I turned from a mother losing the most precious thing she has to a feral animal. I ran out of the office to my car as fast as I could and sat there and wailed in the most primal way that I have ever cried in my life. It was harder and louder than I knew possible and I didn’t recognize my own voice in those minutes before I had to leave to pick Gabs up from preschool.

Every Mother Who Suffered a Miscarriage knows this moment of restraining yourself from giving yourself over to the pain entirely in order to be stoic for the people you love.

That’s the thing; my world was falling apart but the rest of the world was carrying on and there was no one else to pick her up from school. The only thing I could do was lose my mind in the car, by myself, outside the obstetrician’s office full of round bellies and sob alone, it was the only comfort I was afforded. I changed on that day. I am not the same woman who went into that office morning. She’s gone and will never return. Then, I picked up my daughter and pretended for the 30-minute ride home that I hadn’t just experienced the most devastating moment of my life. It felt like an out of body experience that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

That’s where I went when I saw the photos of Chrissy Teigen. What I’m trying to say is that I know that pain on her face, many women do, and though we cannot take that immeasurable pain away or make it better, we can hold her up in love and commiseration. She will never be alone.

National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day , Never Break, Chrissy Teigen, Miscarriage, John Legend,

Tonight, John took the stage and sung Never Break and dedicated it to his wife. I can’t imagine how hard singing that song with the weight of what they are going through right now. My heart goes out to her and John because that is the hardest thing a couple can go through. Wishing them both some peace.

I’ll be honest, when I see those pictures, I see myself and I want to protect her and make the world leave her alone because in the end, the burden of this loss falls heaviest on the mother because, as a mother, we wouldn’t have it any other way. No two people experience or process a loss the same but in the end the result is the same, we are changed for the rest of our lives.

READ ALSO: Why It’s so Important to Reflect on Loss and Grieve

I just hope that Chrissy and every woman who has gone through, is going through or will go through a loss, please give yourself grace, allow yourself to grieve for as long as it takes, feel your feelings and take care of you but be willing to let those who love you a little space to get into your crumbling world and remove some of the rubble, at the very least hold you while you cry. It never stops hurting but the pain does get tolerable. The wound grows a scab but there will always be a scar where our babies should be.

The thing about moms and our hearts, even when it breaks, it repairs and replenishes; it grows. But we moms, we don’t actually break, we just bend really, really fucking far. In the end, we survive and live to hold the hand and heart of the next mother whose world gets blown up and through this inexplicable pain, we become salvation and sanctuary for another woman. This is a small blessing that you cannot fathom when you are in the beginning of it but you will become stronger from surviving it; stronger to help someone else. Your pain will not be wasted entirely. You are a warrior, you have survived the hardest thing you’ll ever need to endure.

Chrissy Teigen, We love you. We are you. You are not alone.

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signs of miscarriage, miscarriage symptoms, causes of miscarriage, grief, sadness, loss, miscarriage, lost baby, how to carry on after a miscarriage

I’ve realized that loss never really leaves you, not truly; not the big ones. They remain right beneath the surface, just deep enough for you to get by, to go on living in that forever changed, never the same way only the loss of someone you love more than yourself affects you. A miscarriage or losing a baby/child is different than losing anyone else.

Last night, I watched the movie Return to Zero on Netflix. I stumbled into it like a drunk falling into a wall and then I stayed there for the duration because even though it hurt when the wounds were reopened, it was familiar. The knowing washed over me like a warm surf pulling me into the undertow. Gasping for breath, the pain of drowning reminded me that I was alive.

READ ALSO: All I Can Do is Cry

I think I’ve been living in a protective state of comfortable numbness for the past 7 years. Maybe it’s where I need to stay for the rest of my life because I can’t let myself feel everything, all the time. I can’t live like the exposed nerve that my soul sometimes is. I mask it with levity. I tell myself that I’m letting go but then I see something, hear something or remember something and my dam of grief breaks wide open and it all comes flooding back. Vulnerability replaces the protective cover around my heart.

Return to Zero is a movie about a couple who loses their child in utero at 9 months from a health complication. The baby’s kidney develops a cyst and the organ bursts. The baby, thought to be completely healthy and normal, dies. No rhyme, no reason and no explanation that can ever console a grieving parent’s heart. Just immeasurable and unfathomable loss. The kind of loss that swallows you up whole. The kind of loss that makes it painful to breathe. The kind of loss that is almost not survivable.

A couple of things have happened in the past month that has really brought it all up for me again and least of all, not being that I am less than a month away from the anniversary of my own loss. I know it sounds weird to remember and mark a day of loss but when you are left with a loss this big, that no one else seems to feel as strongly as you, you feel like you have to hold on to that memory with everything that you are or your baby will disappear forever. You have to fight for it. If not, it will be as if he/she never existed and that is too much to bear so you hold on because, as a parent, you feel like it is your responsibility to that child to make sure the world knows they were here. You are the keeper of their legacy; however short lived it was.

READ ALSO: The TRUTH about Life After Miscarriage

Last month, my friend lost her full-term baby to Trisomy 13. She went through 9 months of unimaginable hurt and loneliness, culminated in the worst kind of pain. That is what losing a baby is like, you feel so alone with your anguish and emptiness. A different friend lost her baby soon after announcing. Other friends are still learning to live in the losses of their children who are gone. Yet, another friend is struggling with fertility and I keep finding myself getting angry because I am afraid that she is going to get pregnant and experience loss. I was so afraid after my loss that I never tried again but I don’t want my fear to color her experience. There’s just been a lot of things going on that have been reminding me of my own empty arms and since I had to have a hysterectomy last fall, the finality of it all has been hitting me harder than I ever could have anticipated. It’s been 7 years since my miscarriage with our third child but the weight of that loss is as heavy as it ever was.

I don’t cry every day anymore. I don’t wear my grief like an armor these days. It’s much more subdued and quiet but it is there and can be felt as strongly as it was on May 1, 2012 in my heart. There are certain things I will never forget; the minute they didn’t see the heartbeat, sitting in a waiting room full of beautiful bellies full of living babies as I sat there with my silent womb. I remember calling my husband to tell him and no words coming out of my mouth, the primal screaming and sobbing that I did alone in my car in the parking lot as my heart broke in between the doctor’s appointment and preschool pick up, the emptiness that I felt in my soul that afternoon, my 4-year-old hugging and kissing my belly telling the baby she loved him at 4  in the morning before I left to the hospital for my D&E, A Thousand Years playing on the seemingly eternal drive to the hospital, the sick child I saw at the hospital that morning and feeling sorry for her mother.

Surviving the Grief, Loss and Aftermath of Miscarriage

I’ll never forget the way I refused to go ahead with surgery until they performed one last ultrasound, the photo I made my husband snap of the ultrasound machine of our baby, the helplessness in his eyes, the loneliness that I felt as they wheeled me back to surgery as the nurses lovingly told me of their own losses, the sadness I felt when I saw their eyes fill with tears and the helplessness that I saw on my brothers’ faces when I found them waiting with my husband in the waiting room while I was in surgery. The love that I felt for each person who tried to hold my heart and protect me from the inevitable pain that was to come next.

The emptiness that emanated from my womb throughout my entire body. The endless crying and guilt. The disappointment at my body’s failure. The blame that I wholly accepted. The solitude and hatred that permeated every single thought for those coming weeks. Laying silently in stillness feeling unworthy of breath. Looking into my daughters’ eyes and seeing the confusion. Fake smiling to survive. People telling me that God has a reason. Someone asking me if I was relieved. People telling me that my baby was in a “better” place as if my arms were not good enough. Having misplaced love and anger and not knowing what to do with either. Trying to be normal for everyone else.

READ ALSO: When a Tattoo Heals Your Heart 

Celebrating my husband’s 37nd birthday, 2 days after my D&E, because I refused to let my pain make things weird. Celebrating my Godson’s communion that same weekend after sending a text to everyone not to bring up the miscarriage to me. The next weekend, going out for our 13th wedding anniversary and celebrating Mother’s Day. The next weekend, attending my 4-year-olds preschool graduation, my 6-year-old’s violin concert and a few days later throwing a party for my 5-year-old with all of our friends and family; the same party where we were going to announce our pregnancy. That Thanksgiving, the due date of what might have been, and someone asking me, “don’t you miss the pitter patter of little feet running around the house?” as my nephew played and I had to run to my room to not break down in front of a house full of people. Between all of these brave faces I was putting on for everyone else, I was crumpled up in a ball sobbing in my bed. I stayed in my room alone as much as I could. I felt like I was dying. Secretly, maybe I hoped that I was.

I’d pushed all of these feeling down. I’m scrappy and I’m good at being stoic even when I just want to give myself over to my grief. Some parts of Return to Zero felt like watching it all happen to someone else but all the same things were being said and I could relate to the hurt, the pain and the fear. My heart cracked wide open for the first time in years and all that pain resurfaced. It flooded my heart and every thought. That’s why I’m writing this post. I know that there are so many women who have lost a pregnancy, a baby or a child and it all really is the same to a mother; we’ve lost the possibility of what could have been and that changes you in ways you never expected. We are irrevocably and molecularly changed from the person we were up until the moment we experienced that loss.

READ ALSO: Some Things Change You Forever

I’m damaged. I’ll never be who I was before the words, “I can’t find a heartbeat” were whispered to me in a poorly lit, sterile room on the second floor of the women’s health center by a kind woman who didn’t know what else to say as I stared back at her begging her to change her mind and take it all back. You are not alone. We might all process it differently and it might look different from the outside but on the inside, we are gutted and speechless and feeling more helpless than we’ve ever felt before.

As much as Return to Zero broke my heart, I found comfort in the fact that someone wrote an honest screenplay that so accurately portrays the realness of loss; the humanity of it all. The primal part of loss that no “I’m sorry for your loss” can ever salve. Losing a child is losing yourself in the world, becoming completely unrecognizable, and being sentenced to a lifetime of living. It’s cruel. You will survive and you will never forget. Tiny time bombs of grief will unexpectantly go off for the rest of your life and you will find yourself a broken mess at the most inopportune times but this is your heart reminding your mind not to forget. This is you living. This is you loving your baby forever and there is something beautiful in that pain; something comforting.

How do you process loss?

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Mourning Orca Mother, Tahlequah, Orca Whales, Loss, J-35, Orca mother mourns loss of newborn calf

Tahlequah, also known as J-35, is a 20-year-old female orca whale whose calf died just 30 minutes after being born. This mourning orca mother has refused to let go of her dead baby calf ever since, carrying the infant either by one fin, or pushing it through the water on her head. Today marks day 17 and this grieving mother is still carrying the body of her baby through the waters of the Pacific Northwest.

The world is watching and mourning the loss with this grief-stricken Orca mother as she has swum hundreds of miles with her baby. Orca whales have a gestation period of 15 to 18 months. To feel your baby alive, growing in your body and then just as suddenly be gone is incredibly hard to process. Herself and others in her pod are in grave danger because they are neglecting themselves in tribute to this loss.

I get it. I think any mother who has ever lost a child gets it. You don’t want to let go because letting go makes it real. Being real means finality. Finality means that your baby is dead and that is a hurt too hard for any mother’s heart to bare. It is inconceivable and when you are experiencing it, you do lose sight of everything and everyone else.

READ ALSO: ALL I Can do is Cry

As much as you want the pain to go away, you want to embrace it and feel every bit of it because “it” is the only thing you have left of your baby. That pain is the placeholder of where your baby is supposed to be and some part of you never wants to let it go even when the pain is so heavy and dark that it burns your lungs to breathe. You don’t care. You don’t care if you breathe because when your baby dies, some part of you (as a mother) dies too. We feel it and it hurts beyond measure.

Tahlequah is part of an endangered pod of southern resident killer whales. There are only 75 left in the PNW. Her calf was born alive near the San Juan Islands in Washington state but died just 30 minutes later. She has since swum hundreds of miles toward British Columbia, carrying her child with her the entire way.

My heart breaks for this mother whale because I know this deep, unrelenting sadness too well. Unfortunately, too many mothers do. It has been 6 years since my baby died. I spent a month in bed sobbing and tortured. I numbed my pain with medication and solitude. I was not fit for company and I was so sad and felt such despair that I had no appetite. I had no desire to exist. All I could do was focus on what I had lost and scramble to try to hold on to it before even the clarity of the memory disappeared.

I was not logical or rational. I was grief-stricken and heartbroken like only a mother who has lost their child can be. It is a loss beyond comprehension. The pain of living in a world where your child does not is the cruelest there is. To wake up every day knowing that your child is not afforded that same luxury brings with it a guilt that one cannot begin to understand without having tasted its bitter reality for themselves.

READ ALSO: Some Things Change You Forever

Tahlequah is just doing what every single mother who has lost their baby, no matter the stage of pregnancy or life that “baby” may have been at would do, she is holding on for as long as she can because she knows that once she lets go, she will never feel that baby again. Once her baby is gone, she is gone forever.

I am glad the world is watching and empathizing with this mourning mother Orca. I am glad that this whale’s desperate actions can give words to the universal feelings of loss all grieving mothers, especially humans, feel when they lose a child. I hope the compassion spills over and the next time a mother comes into our lives who has lost her own baby, we can treat her with a little more tenderness and compassion.

We mothers who have lost our babies, we carry on. We survive. But we are not the same woman we were the day before. We are broken and we have a hurt that is eternal and can never be healed. Just because time passes and from the outside, it looks like we are ok, know that we are not and we will never be again. Our wounds leave more than our arms empty; they leave irreparable scars on our hearts. When our babies die, they take a part of us with them.

As soon as I knew that I was pregnant, I loved that baby. I love the baby I never got to hold as much as I do my two daughters who I hold every single day and I don’t think that love will ever dissipate. But where all this love lives in my soul, there is no tangible direction to guide it. It exists and yet, sometimes it feels like my third child only existed in my mind. This is why we can’t let go. We mothers keep their memories alive so that the world knows they were once here, no matter how briefly.

I think every mother who has lost a child can relate to Tahlequah on a cellular level. We wish that society could recognize how deep this loss is felt and how it changes us down to our very core. Too soon, Tahlequah will have to let go but at least she’s had these days, few as they may be. Most human moms are not privileged to have that time. We are told that our baby is dead and just as quickly, our baby is gone from our eyes, from our arms and from this world. There is no gradual time of acceptance.

Our society dictates that a dead baby is taboo. They’ve decided that it’s better for us to remove the evidence but its too fast. Our hearts can’t shift gears so quickly. I remember, quite literally, howling in pain like a wounded animal when it hit me that I had to let go of my baby. Thinking of that moment in my car, alone with my dead baby inside me, before a preschool pick-up, trying to digest it all and not die breaks my heart right now. Our culture dictated that I pull myself together and move on but I had no idea how to. I couldn’t even speak. How was I supposed to function and go on like nothing happened? How was I supposed to forget.

I know that soon Tahlequah is going to have to let her baby go. Her body will grow too weak and weary to carry on, though she will try. She may even try until her very last breath. Believe me, I get it. There were dark moments when it first happened that I wished I could just die so the pain would stop but, unlike Tahlequah, I had to carry on for my living girls. That’s what mothers do. We push through the most difficult moments of life by loving and serving others. This is not as selfless as it sounds, this is them (our living loved ones) giving us the purpose to live even when it hurts so bad we’d rather die.

Tahlequah is in a grief loop. She can’t let go but she has to. We all have to physically let go of our babies but we keep them in our hearts for the rest of our lives. Not a day goes by that I don’t remember, but eventually, you are able to breathe again.

Tahlequah is every mother who has ever lost a child.

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miscarriage, loss, pregnancy, I forgot, fertility, motherlode, babble.com, babble, amy klein

I Forgot

It was a crazy busy day last Tuesday.

I was flying across the country.

Headed to a conference for this blog.

Excited to see old friends.

Trepidatious for a reason I couldn’t quite place.

I Forgot.

6 years ago on that day.

All I could do was cry.

I lost my baby.

There was no heartbeat.

I turned primal and feral.

But today, I forgot.

READ ALSO: Unexpected  Pregnancy at 40, what would you do?

Every day, I think of that day.

Every moment, I know something is missing.

There is no closure but I have made peace with the pain.

It took 6 years to not wince at the thought of it.

But today, I was busy with minutia and there was no marking of time.

I Forgot.

The lady next to me on the plane had a beautiful little boy.

He climbed into my lap and held my face.

I was moved.

His little arms and legs, that smile.

I’ve missed it.

READ ALSO: Missing that New Baby Smell

But on the plane, I Forgot.

I arrived and met my friends.

I was weary and distracted,

Discombobulated and put out.

Disconnected and distant.

I was there but I wasn’t.

That’s when I realized that maybe I hadn’t remembered to cry

but my heart did not forget and it never will.

Have you ever forgotten an important day in your life and if you have, how did you deal with that?

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tattoo, memorial tattoo, inked, Crimson Knight Tattoo, Jose Cruz, miscarriage, loss tattoo

Today is November 24th and for the first time, in a long time, I don’t feel lost. For me, it’s an annual day of retrospection; of looking back at what could have been, what might have been and, honestly, what should have been. While many of you are coming out of your tryptophan coma this morning or maybe sleeping off the remnants of yesterday’s all night Black Friday power shopping, I’ll be marking time but I won’t be sad. Not today.

Today, I pause to remember. In the past that could have meant many different things. Some years, it involved pills or booze to numb the pain and a day in bed. Some years, it meant Netflix and sobbing or a welcomed distraction. Some years, I hardly remember at all. Some years, it felt like the anniversary of the end of the world. But none of it ever seemed real because, though my heart shattered from the pain of the reality my mind was never quite able to digest the loss of what my eyes never got to see, what my arms never got to hold and what my lips never got to kiss.

I never got to touch his cheek. Kiss his warm gooey forehead. I never got to smell his head or feel his heartbeat beating next to mine. I never got to feel him wiggle in my arms. I never even got to see his eyes fixed upon me suspended beyond all space and time like only a newborn child can do to his mother. I got nothing. I was cheated in the worst possible way.

I felt failure. I felt like I had a very vivid bad dream. The worst dream ever. The dream in which every possibility of happiness was on the horizon and just as quickly snatched away. I felt empty and sad and mad and angry. I wanted to punch the world and sob and be held and left alone, all at the same time. But I never had closure. I know now that I never will. There is no closure for this situation. It’s an open-ended question of what might have been.

Worse, I had nothing. In many ways, it feels like he only existed to me, like some cruel imaginary friend, a figment of my imagination conjured up just to break me down. It felt like to everyone else…everyone…he was nothing more than a glob of cells and he was gone before most knew he even existed. No harm, no foul. But there was. I was harmed. I was egregiously fouled. He was real, as real as my other 2 children are to me.

You know how I spent that first November 24, 2012? It was Thanksgiving, I hosted 40 people. It had been 6 months since my miscarriage. I had to go on living. But on that day, my heart was raw. I was vulnerable and my sanity was being held together by a stick of bubble gum and a tic tac. It wasn’t going to hold.

I just kept telling myself, you just have to make it through dinner. Then it happened. My 1-year-old nephew was running around my house when my someone (I’m not naming names because it was a total accidental foot in mouth moment) looked directly at me (on November 24, 2012), and said, “Don’t you miss the sound of little feet running around your house?” I was dumbstruck. I couldn’t speak, for if I did, all the tears that I’d been holding back for the past 6 months every time someone said something stupid, or I ran into a pregnant friend, or baby Center send me an alert would surely come pouring out and drown me dead right there on the spot.

I knew I needed something, more than fragility as a souvenir of my third child. I needed a way to move through this grief without losing my mind. I decided that I a permanent mark on my body that reflected the permanent mark on my soul. I didn’t want closure. I wanted something more but, at the time, I wasn’t even sure what that was.

After 5 years, I knew what I wanted and I knew I had to have it before November 24th (what should have been a birthday). I was compulsive in my pursuit. My brother, Jose Cruz, an established tattoo artist obliged my desperately grasping heart last Friday. I needed this like I need air to survive.

tattoo, memorial tattoo, inked, Crimson Knight Tattoo, Jose Cruz, miscarriage, loss tattoo

What was this life-altering body modification? It is a story, wrapped in a metaphor and held by my heart. They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

Explanation; the big bird is the Big Guy, the next bird is me, the third bird is our Gabs and the fourth bird on the branch of our family tree is our oldest, Bella. We are all looking in the direction of the tiny baby bird, that we never got to hold, as he flies away.

tattoo, memorial tattoo, inked, Crimson Knight Tattoo, Jose Cruz, miscarriage, loss tattoo

I wanted it all done in black silhouettes because sometimes our family feels like a shadow of its former self. We are not broken, but we are not whole without our baby bird. We remember. I remember every single day.

The baby bird is flying up towards a small heart within a heart. This is in reference to a line from my favorite E.E. Cummings poem I carry your heart with me; I carry it in my heart. It’s on my left arm so that they are always close to my heart.

tattoo, memorial tattoo, inked, Crimson Knight Tattoo, Jose Cruz, miscarriage, loss tattoo

[i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart]

BY E. E. CUMMINGS

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
i fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

Maybe you think this makes me sad. It doesn’t. In fact, it makes me immensely happy. I think it’s because for the first time ever, I can look down and see my entire family; all three of my children; my three little birds.

Maybe this makes me sound crazy? I honestly, don’t even care because it makes me feel whole again.

Through this tattoo, the baby who never lived outside of me lives on forever on my wrist surrounded by the family who loves and misses him. He was here. He is here, in my heart, forever and for always. I told my story without saying a word and maybe no one understands it but me, but that’s more than enough. The baby I lost was not a secret. I want the world to know he was here.

More importantly, I finally have something tangible, proof that I am the mother of three and not just two; even if it is only a tattoo of a portrait of silhouette birds.

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grief,loss, parenting, miscarriage

Five years ago this morning, I broke the news of my miscarriage to you in a blog post, as I was undergoing my D & E. It was the only way that I could process any of it. It was the only way that I could carry on and your support meant everything to me but every day since, I’ve had to live alone with that loss like we all do. Try to make sense of something so senseless.

Recently, I did something that surprised even me. I shouldn’t have looked. Until, I saw it, in person, in the flesh, it wasn’t “real”. It was just this terrible thing that happened to me five years ago. It was the bill I paid for what is referred to by the medical billing department as a “missed abortion”. It was a child I will never hold. It is the faint whisper of sadness that lingers forever and leaves me melancholy just around the edges. It wasn’t real in the way that you could see it with your own eyes.

But I’ve seen it now and I can’t unsee it.

Last month, we took the girls to Chicago for Spring break. It’s my hometown and the girls have been many times but they’ve never done the touristy things so we took them to some museums and the zoo. It was a fantastic trip.

Then, I saw something that I’ve seen before but with fresh eyes and a heart that’s survived a miscarriage.

As we entered the exhibit, one I’d seen before, I suddenly felt anxious. Like I needed to know. I was borderline obsessive and I couldn’t control myself. No one noticed what I was doing but I think the Big Guy caught a glimpse of the desperation in my eyes as I walked up to the dial upon entering the Your Beginning exhibit and turned it to the first trimester; I wanted to pinpoint specifically the 4th day of the 11th week. What could he do?

grief, loss, anniversary, parenting, miscarriage

 

The exhibit was different than before. It was completely in black, darkness was everywhere and only the fetuses were lit up as if my very soul had put this exhibit together. It is somber. I tried not to do it. You’re not supposed to do it. You’re supposed to carry on. Push it down and pretend it never happened. You’re supposed to move on. Go on living as if your entire life is not tinged by the hole in your heart. 

I didn’t want to make a spectacle with my mom, my sister, my daughters and my husband there. I didn’t want to go down that rabbit hole of grief facing anger and sadness head on but I had to know, so I turned the dial.

Such a little thing and to anyone who didn’t know or even just wasn’t paying attention, this was naturally inquisitive behavior. Only I never twisted the dial to progress to the second trimester. Instead, I left it frozen in time, suspended in disbelief, as is my daily existence since that day 5 years ago.

I try not to overthink it or linger too long in my loss. The emotional time bombs are less and less frequent but I remember every single day. I have two children but I am the mother of three but most people don’t know that.

It’s not like I wear a t-shirt that says so. It’s not like I’m marked in any way but on the inside, I am scarred. I don’t howl like an injured animal as I did on that day or fall apart anymore; so silently I continue on, remembering but not making too big of a deal about it.

Pregnancy loss is so common that some people believe it’s almost normal. I could never subscribe to that way of thinking because for me it was profound. For me, losing my pregnancy changed me forever. But still, after a while, it feels like it happened to someone else and you learn to live with it. It feels like a wound that’s healed and the scar has faded and you hide it beneath your clothes so no one has to look at it or think about it or feel sorry for you ever again.

grief, loss, parenting, miscarriage, anniversary

But you want to feel it. The pain makes it real. It reminds you that it happened. The pain is the only thing that proves your baby was here at all. So, I looked and now, I can never forget.

The scarred wound of my miscarriage has been ripped wide open.

On the morning of my D & E, I frantically demanded that they perform another ultrasound. In complete desperation, I refused surgery without one more ultrasound. I was desperate for rescue. I needed this to all be a mistake. I needed my baby to be alive.

But when they did the ultrasound, there in black and white, the perfect baby with absolutely no heartbeat. He looked like he was sleeping. Like a little astronaut exploring the space of my uterus and that was the last thing I saw before my heart shattered into a million tiny pieces. I broke, just before they wheeled me into the operating room and I’ve detached myself as much as I can since.

My heart still aches but it’s in survival mode. But on that day in April at the Museum of Science and Industry, I purposefully opened my wound. The pain makes me feel closer to my baby. I walked into the exhibit and I slowly made my way to the 11 wks. Fetus. Yes, the exhibit has fetuses from conception until 40 weeks in formaldehyde. Then, I saw it, the closest thing to my reality; 11-weks and 4 days and 11-weeks and 6-days.

grief, loss, parenting, miscarriage, anniversary

I felt the wind get knocked out of me as it has been almost every time I think of what will never be. My eyes began to go blurry and the room began to spin. It was hard to breathe. There it was; bigger than I’d thought; a fully formed person; with 10- fingers and 10-toes and ears and a tiny little mouth and eyes. It wasn’t a “pregnancy” that I lost, it was a person.

grief, loss, parenting, miscarriage, anniversary

 

I wanted to run away and howl, like I did in my car on that day 5 years ago. But I was frozen and trying to digest the truth. I couldn’t speak. I only lingered. Truthfully, part of me never wanted to leave because it was like seeing my baby for the first time. I know it wasn’t my baby but it was what my baby would have looked like could I have seen him; touched him; held him in my arms.

My miscarriage robbed me of all of that.

No one said a word. I was like thin glass in an earthquake and it was taking everything inside me to not collapse and sob like a baby on the floor. My legs were shaky. I could feel myself getting wobbly. It hurt reopening that wound but it was something I needed to do. In some small way, it gave me closure just knowing/seeing what was. It made him real and less than a memory cloaked in sadness and emptiness.

On this day, I forgive myself and give myself over to the grief. I get no birthdays to celebrate with my third baby but I will never forget he existed, if only briefly. Every year on the 1st of May, for the rest of my life, I will be alone with my grief and allow myself to remember the worst day of my life because it’s the only tangible memory I have of my third child.

Today, I am frail and vulnerable and my heart is heavy because my arms are empty and my house is filled with the laughter of one less than it is supposed to be and I can never forget any of that.

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miscarriage, loss

I swore that I wouldn’t be this person. The woman who lost a child and then feels like she gets kicked in the gut every time someone she knows announces their pregnancy. Fuck. I don’t want to be that person. I don’t want to suck all of the joy out of the room. I want to be happy and excited. I really do. I tell myself that I am and then it hits me like a sledgehammer, right in the heart. A painful reminder of what I can’t have, of what I’m too afraid to ever let myself want again, of what I will never get to experience again because I won’t. I can’t. I am too afraid to go through that pain again. Once almost killed me. It changed me. I don’t know if I can handle another shift like that. I might become unrecognizable, even to myself.

I remember that morning at the hospital, seeing a small child, not even a year old, sitting with her parents in the waiting room; waiting to be called back for her surgery. I remember sitting there, with my silent womb, not a stirring, thinking to myself, I am glad I am not them because there is nothing worse than having a sick baby and feeling helpless. I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense. Maybe it does to someone who has been through it or maybe the pain was just too much and I had to detach myself from what was happening to me.

I saw that same little girl where they were prepping us for surgery and I was again overwhelmed with gratitude that I was not sitting there as the parent of a child who was sick. I looked at my husband and I said (out loud), “It could be worse, we could be here with one of our girls who was sick.” He looked at me sort of bewildered. I guess he thought I was crazy because our baby was as sick as a baby could get, our baby no longer had a heartbeat. But I was grateful that I could not hold my baby, see its eyes looking to me to save it, it’s cry begging me for relief; it was not tangible.  My baby was a promise that had been broken before I ever had the chance to fully appreciate it. In the first days, I wanted nothing more than to have had the chance to hold my baby but now, I know that if I had, the pain of the loss might have killed me on the spot.

But now, that broken promise haunts me. I can’t stop it from infiltrating my thoughts. I can’t stop being this fucking person who feels empty and a little bitter. I’m pissed. I fucking want to punch somebody. I’m jealous of other people’s happiness and I don’t want to be that person. I want to be able to genuinely feel happy without the happiness carrying with it a tinge of pain. I’m afraid to be around my friends who are pregnant because I’m afraid I will spontaneously burst into tears and ruin their happiness. Every first of the month, I mark the day that my baby died. It coincides with my period just to remind me that my womb is in fact empty.

I know this sounds morbid and maybe a little crazy but I am so sick of pretending that it never happened. I’m so sick of pretending that I am all right. I’m not. All. Right. I am all-wrong and I am afraid that I will not find my way back to my normal that I so badly crave. I am slowly beginning to live but there is this damn underlying anger that I can’t shake. How does one shake the anger caused by a promise that can never be fulfilled? How do you fix a problem with no solution?

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grief,loss, parenting, miscarriage

Last night, I dreamt about a baby. A tiny, baby boy who perched his little bobbling head atop my shoulder right in that perfect cradle made just for babies between my collar bone and my ear. Then his tiny head would wobble and bob and little lips would fall on my flesh like kisses from heaven.

I woke up this morning feeling happy with my visitation from the sweet baby boy in my dreams. Then, I realized that it’s November 24th and it wasn’t just any baby, it was our baby. The one who should be turning 4-years-old today. Instead of celebrating together, I’ll be choking down tears and turkey while he (that pregnancy just felt completely different than either pregnancy with my girls so I assume it was a boy), my sweet Declan Wayne (that would have been his name…in my heart it already was) will be missing from our table and our lives.

It’s been 4 years and I still can’t feel the loss any less. Only now, it seems my sadness is turning to bitterness and anger. It took 4 years but all I keep asking God is why? Why did you take my baby? Why must I survive this?

There are so many unwanted pregnancies and babies, so many children born into families where they are mistreated and unloved and all we wanted to do was love our baby. All I wanted to do was hold him in my arms, even just once. It wouldn’t have been enough but it would have given me closure. Instead, I live my life like an open wound that never closes; vulnerable to all of existence. I need some kind of closure, some tangible marking that you were here, so I am writing you this letter.

Dear Declan,

I wish you were here. More than anything in this world, I wish that I could hold you in my arms and feel your little heart beat against mine. I wish I could see your sisters love on you and fawn over you like big sisters do. I wish I could see the pride in your dad’s eyes when you two connected over something boys do. I wish there was a little Big Guy in the world.

I wish you were here to have booboos kissed and tears wiped. I wish you were here to smile lovingly at your sisters when they had a long day at ballet or a hard day at school. I wish you were here to make us smile and giggle as only little boys can do. I wish you were here for me to see grow up.

I wish you were here to love because you see each time I got pregnant, I fell deep in love and my heart grew to accommodate that enormous love. Only now, who am I supposed to give all that extra love to? You made me better before you were ever here.

I won’t talk about the day I lost you or how my entire world crashed down on me. I won’t talk about how all I wanted to do was be with you, to stay with you forever because if I do, I’ll start to cry. I’ll never forget you, my sweet boy, and you will always be in my heart. That’s where I carry you. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say it once more and every single day for the rest of my life, I wish you were here.

Forever yours, Mommy

I know it’s Thanksgiving and I am thankful for all that I have but it’s also what should have been the 4th birthday of the baby that I’ll never get to hold. So while I am thankful for all that I have, including those few short precious months of pregnancy with my third baby, I am still sad beyond belief that I will never get to celebrate his life with cake and ice cream surrounded by family and friends.

I will never see him play soccer or go to prom, get married and have children of his own and every November 24th, I will be just a little melancholy around the edges knowing that one child is missing from our table and from our life. I don’t think that sad emptiness ever goes away and to tell the truth, I’m not sure that I want it to because it is the one reminder that I have that he was ever here.

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