My husband and I conceived a baby a week after our wedding day.
For many women, this is the stuff of dreams. In fact, I was already (and unknowingly) pregnant during our honeymoon, which we postponed in favor of settling first into our new home.
But as a woman who wanted to enjoy her husband for a while before having kids, seeing the positive result of the pregnancy test gave me conflicting emotions. On the one hand, I was happy at the thought of having a child; on the other, I was devastated that I would never get to enjoy being just a wife.
Just when we finally started to warm up to the idea that we would soon have a little one, a second ultrasound had our hearts dropping to the floor: our baby’s heartbeat was slowing down. A third ultrasound confirmed that the heartbeat was completely gone. We lost our child merely weeks after conceiving him or her.
The next couple of months were an emotional rollercoaster as we tried to keep up with what was going on inside me and around us.
I waited as my body accepted the loss of the baby in my womb. While waiting, I had to face countless friends and acquaintances who placed their hands on my tummy and asked me excitedly: May laman na ba? How could I turn to them and answer, “Yes, there’s a dead baby inside my womb right now”?
I chose to deliver my unborn child naturally in the hospital. I labored for 15 hours until I was able to pass the embryo, to the sounds of new babies and nurses congratulating other moms around me. I came home empty-handed, exhausted, and numb.
It took months for me to process this life-altering event and make my peace with it. Here are some of the realizations that helped me along the way.
At the time, it was much easier to let myself get lost in mindless media consumption to avoid dealing with the pain of miscarriage. I just wanted to stay numb to get by. It was a few months after when I opened the door of my own heart and looked inside.
Turning away from pain is a basic survival instinct. But at some point, we need to let ourselves feel. Honor those difficult emotions. Don’t stay numb. Facing our deep wounds is the first step toward healing.
There is no straight path to “recovery.” In fact, there may be no such thing. Pain leaves scars – and when it cuts deep, there will be plenty of bad days in between the good ones, even years after the traumatic event.
A mother’s body will physically move on from a miscarriage eventually, but grief ebbs and flows. It’s normal to feel that ache in unexpected moments. When it does happen, don’t push it aside or deny it.
We tend to shy away from talking about miscarriages as Filipinos. It’s almost taboo, in fact – whether it’s because people just don’t know what to say to a mother who suffered one, or they just don’t want to deal with the discomfort of the topic.
Don’t let this be a reason to minimize or hide away your pain. Let people who genuinely care for you be a safe space for you to feel deeply and heal slowly.
Knowing that our partner is also grieving, we struggle to show them our pain. We don’t want to burden them with our grief, so we turn away, put on as brave a face as we possibly can, and move on with life.
Sharing each other’s pain can be a pathway to healing. Let your partner see the fullness of your grief, and give them the opportunity to love and support you in this season.
But if both of you are stuck in your grief and somehow feel paralyzed by it, don’t hesitate to ask for professional help. Sometimes, we need an outside perspective to help us process our loss.
I felt shame after miscarrying my first child. I hated my body for failing to nourish him or her. I was angry at myself for keeping up appearances, and continuing on with grueling commitments even though I needed to stay at home and rest during the critical season of early pregnancy.
I dreaded every Mother’s Day for the first few years after. Whenever I heard my mom friends being greeted or acknowledged, I felt invisible, and it stung. While no one was outright insensitive or intentionally mean about it, I felt like I wasn’t worthy of being called “mother” – there’s no baby in my arms, so why would I claim that title?
It took another couple of years for me to embrace the truth that miscarriage doesn’t make me any less of a mother. I may not have had the chance to hold a living, breathing baby in my arms, but it doesn’t negate the love I felt for him or her.
I may not have seen what my baby would have been like as an infant, toddler, child, teenager, and even adult – but I mothered him or her the best way I knew how in the brief time we shared in this life.
Grief and hope can co-exist. So can sorrow and joy. Release yourself from the guilt of finding things that make you smile after losing a child. It doesn’t mean you’ve forgotten this difficult period in your life – it just means you’re starting to make peace with it.
If you have walked this road of motherhood too, know that you are seen, known, and valued. Don’t let anyone (even yourself) minimize the loss you’ve experienced.
Even though it’s early, Happy Mother’s Day to you, every day. If they haven’t yet, may healing and hope meet you where you are.