How we see the world shapes who we choose to be — and sharing compelling experiences can frame the way we treat each other, for the better. This is a powerful perspective.
Initially, when I lost my baby, I was surrounded by love. Friends and family — some who I’d only spoken with a few times — reached out over texts, invites to lunch, and social media messages.
My husband and I had gone through our first in vitro fertilization, or IVF, and after many daily injections, a rigid calendar of medical appointments, and minor surgery to retrieve my eggs, we had been left with one little embryo. That little embryo gave me my first positive pregnancy test.
I kept a very public blog of our journey, so we had people from all over the world following along and rooting for us. When I received official word from my fertility clinic that I was indeed pregnant, I took to my blog and Facebook, sharing the news of my elation.
And then a few days later, I listened as the doctor explained that my second round of blood work came back and it showed I was having a miscarriage.
I remember clutching the phone hard against my ear, my breath expelled out in one big whoosh. How could the world have possibly bottomed out so fast?
I was pregnant. I was feeling surges of nausea and had already bought a neutral blue onesie. My home pregnancy tests continued to show a second pink line even after that phone call. And then quietly — almost like it never happened — my baby was gone.
Women I barely knew, and some I didn’t, emailed me sharing their own stories of loss. I received messages asking how I was doing, telling me to let them know if I needed anything.
I gave my baby a name and made up a memory box of the things that reminded me of him, because I felt in my heart he was a boy. The photo of him as an embryo is the only proof I had he existed.
But as the weeks turned to months and we started the process for our second IVF cycle, I felt like his memory was becoming more distant.
The messages stopped, and I found myself one of the few who was still saying his name. I remember crying to my husband one night, about a month after it happened, asking him why it felt like Adam was slipping from us. It was like our baby only existed in my own head. That was July 2013.
We’ve had four more IVFs since then and now have a spirited 3-year-old daughter. She’s my whole world — she’s my little miracle.
But if someone were to ask me if she was my first, my throat would tighten a little bit as I thought of my first. If someone were to ask me if I had any other kids, I would think of my Adam and I wouldn’t know exactly how to answer that.
My daughter was born after $41,000, three IVFs, and two donor egg cycles. I’ve walked through the proverbial fire to bring her into the world, and she’s loved by so many people in our lives. But I can’t help but feel like I’m the only one trying to keep Adam’s existence alive.
It’s the weird thing about having a miscarriage when another baby comes along. Because the attention is on this new little one now. And everyone around you is telling you how blessed you are and your mind can’t help but wander to the baby that should be here, but isn’t.
I’ve learned over the years to give other people grace. I know miscarriages can make others feel uncomfortable. Death, in general, is uncomfortable.
I have a necklace I wear with Adam’s due date and every time I have it on I get asked if he’s my child. When I tell his story, I can see the shifting eyes and the awkwardness radiating between us. It’s why I almost never wear it anymore.
No one can ever prepare for the loneliness that continues even after having a successful pregnancy.
No one ever told me how alone I could feel after the initial crisis was over.
Some of the people I appreciate most in my life are the ones who still say my baby’s name, five years after he passed. Their acknowledgment that he existed means more to me than they’ll ever know.
Losing my baby was the most painful thing I had to go through. But it taught me the importance of remembering others’ losses. To not shy away from another parent’s pain because death is awkward and I don’t want to make them cry by bringing up their loss. To say their baby’s name.
Nothing can really heal the loss of a child — but by others simply letting me know my baby isn’t forgotten meant he existed outside my heart. That he was real.
After all, he was the one who first made me a mother.
Risa Kerslake, BSN, is a registered nurse and freelance writer living in the Midwest with her husband and young daughter. She writes extensively on fertility, health, and parenting issues. You can connect with her through her website Risa Kerslake Writes, or you can find her onFacebook andTwitter.