My son was born after 22 long hours of labor and just over 40 weeks of growing inside my body. I was more than ready to meet that tiny baby and snuggle them for the next fifteen to thirty years - emotionally hyped, physically spent, and spiritually sure. When the doctor placed my son on my chest I felt a huge surge of relief and gratitude. Somehow I had survived labor and so had our rainbow baby! But it didn't escape me that I would have been holding my first baby four months before if my first pregnancy hadn't ended in miscarriage.
This rainbow son was perfect in every way, alert and peaceful and calm. Looking into his eyes was like dipping my body in a placid lake during sunset. I was overcome with emotion and choked up and in the next beat locked eyes with my husband, "We wouldn't have him if we had our first baby."
On days where my children are being especially sweet, I forgot my hesitation around having another baby and dream of a family of five. I'll catch myself before I delve too deeply into my sorrow. The grief still feels raw like a hangnail I caught on my sleeve - easy enough to put out of my mind until I snag it on a passing memory.
My stomach turned itself into knots when I saw the bright red blood in the toilet. I already sensed what was happening. Some women say they knew they weren't pregnant anymore when they miscarried, their symptoms lessened until they returned to feeling like their usual selves. I just felt empty.
Stephen held me up while we walked into the emergency room. I felt sick but couldn't tell if it was anxiety gnawing at my stomach or the profound ache of knowing emptiness. No matter what they said, I knew. I already knew our first baby was gone and no part of me could get them back.
Laughter breaks through the fog of my grief and I jolt back to reality: I have two healthy, happy, darling children. They have made my heart explode and melt into joy and sweet love; they made me a mother. But life can be as biting as it is blessed. And so I inhabit this bliss with grief as well as gratitude.
I would be diminishing each of my children's unique impact on my world if I were to substitute them for the baby I lost. Each person processes their grief in their own time and place - and maybe I'm still mourning that baby, our first, the one we called Pepper.
Please, you must remember loss does not preclude peace and joy. My heart mourns for the baby who never nuzzled my neck and rejoices in the vim and vigor of my living children in the same beat.
Maybe you don't consider your miscarriage as a child lost, or you can't remember the last time you gave that miscarriage a thought. At least one of you cried about your miscarriage in the last week. Some of you are having a miscarriage right now.
It does no good to stand grief next to grief and compare the depth of our losses. Years ago I learned an adage that has served me well: sorrow is sorrow is sorrow. No, I won't pretend to understand the crushing weight of burying your toddler or laboring with a baby born sleeping. My heart has the strength to hold space for those losses and also for the baby I never got to meet...and for the living children that still full our world with giddy laughter.