When I lost my first baby through miscarriage, I thought that my end game was just to have a living baby. I just wanted to hold a baby in my arms and I was convinced that would be all I needed. But the reality of being a parent who has experienced loss means that parenting itself is scary and unsettling. People don’t talk about this. People don’t talk about how hard it is too long for a baby you never really knew even when you have a living child who lights up your life. These two things are separate but they are connected. In the day-to-day, there are a million times when you look at your child and wonder what it would be like if their missing sibling was there.
Related: Why I Count My Miscarriage as Giving Birth
And the idea that you will be unbelievably happy because you finally have a living child is such a huge disappointment because the truth is, even when you are ridiculously happy, you still know that you should have already experienced all of these things with your child that didn’t make it here. It is remarkably difficult to explain this feeling to parents who have not experienced loss. They have a hard time getting why you can still be upset about the child you’ve lost when you are holding your living child in your arms.
The thing that gets to me the most is the fact that my living children are not my youngest and oldest, they are my middle children because I’ve lost one before and after them. My daughter is a big sister and a little sister and my son is a big brother and a little brother. There should be other children running around and yet, they are not. It’s the idea of the future we lost when those babies died. As soon as the tests say positive, I start planning for what my life would be with that child. So when the tests start fading, or the bleeding starts, my life changes course and that future is gone. A new one might replace it, but I will never forget what could have been.
One of the things that shocked me the most about life when I had a new living baby was how much trouble I had with being a parent. I felt like I was supposed to be so happy and fine, but I wasn’t. I felt scared and sad and confused. I felt alone and like I couldn’t really tell anyone what I was feeling because I should have been happy. When I talk to fellow loss parents, they say similar things…how important it is to them to remember that they are parents to more than just their living children…how hard it is to balance being a parent to their living children when the babies they lost are so much on their minds.
Being a parent is hard no matter what the circumstances. All of us experience days when we are lost, frustrated and broken. But knowing that there are children missing from the picture makes these days even harder. I feel like I need to cherish every single minute, which means that I have this really uncomfortable pressure on myself that sometimes is just too much to handle. I can’t explain this to most people, even my husband sometimes. But I know that there are those mothers around me who understand exactly what I mean and live in the half fear-half joy life right along with me.