Pregnancy loss is isolating; any loss mom can tell you that.
It is such earth-shattering, bone-breaking pain that you feel like you’re never adequately articulating its enormity, never truly processing it, even though you share and lean into your support systems and function and go on.
It becomes a second skin that always, just a little bit, keeps you separated from women who haven’t been there. Even from your mom or sisters or closest friends.
Finding other women to talk to, whether online or in therapy groups or even from your own personal circle, who GET IT, feels like taking in the first big breath after being underwater just a moment too long.
It’s exhilarating, and it is a blessing.
For someone like me, whose loss experience attacked from numerous angles, whose scars run contrasting lengths all across my soul, the air can feel hard to find.
I am a loss mom four times over – one first trimester miscarriage, two stillbirths, and one TFMR (termination for medical reasons). I am also a mom to two living sons.
And I fit in precisely nowhere.
In my grief journey, I have joined dozens of online forums and visited two different therapists. I’ve spoken to many, many women who have lost pregnancies in my actual day to day life, and what I have learned is that diversity, when it comes to pregnancy loss grief, is not warmly welcomed by everyone.
I have been part of groups in the past that would ban participants from mentioning their living children, for example, and though I can respect this and the reasons why, it never worked for me on a personal, healing level because my living sons are the cornerstone to my being.
And so it could never truly feel authentic, sharing an abridged version of my experience. Click. Unfollow.
I have been part of groups over the years that were stillbirth specific. Miscarriage specific. TFMR specific. But my pain has never been specific. It’s never been in a box.
I don’t want my recovery to have to be, either.
On the other hand, I fully appreciate that empathy can be hard in the best of circumstances. When we’re so busy kicking our own feet in search of that elusive surface, sometimes we literally just cannot carry one more thing – that could potentially drown us – for someone else.
Especially not for a stranger.
Sometimes we really don’t want to hear about someone who TFMR or someone who had a miscarriage at 10 weeks or someone who delivered a stillborn baby in a hospital bed thronged by supportive family and friends, when that experience seems too different from our own.
Sometimes we don’t want to hear about a pregnancy loss at all, when we’re grieving the death of a person who was already here on the planet, walking, talking, and living alongside us in the day to day… and now they’re not.
I get it. I swear, I really get it. I have been that person many times and I have felt all of those things, at one time or another in the past ten years.
And it doesn’t make me a bad person, or a bad mom, or a bad friend, or a bad baby loss community member. Nope. And it doesn’t make you one either.
Pregnancy loss, simply, is isolating. Any pregnancy loss mom can tell you that.
It is a strange dynamic being something of a black sheep in the pregnancy loss community; being a woman who has buried babies at too many stages; being a woman who has both scheduled a morning termination induction and been caught fully off guard-at what started as a joyful afternoon for a midway anatomy scan- when told that there was no heartbeat.
I was, and I still am, both of those women.
Over the past ten years, I’ve heard all the things you’d likely guess that I have heard.
I’ve heard stillbirth moms argue with early miscarriage moms about who’s been through worse.
I’ve heard natural loss moms villainize TFMR moms as basically the scourge of the earth.
I’ve heard women who have had healthy, easy pie pregnancies and births downplay miscarriage as ‘just something that happens’ while you can literally hear the relief/disdain combo in their voices a mile away.
I have had women who have never lost a pregnancy show me more compassion than some who have.
I’ve heard TFMR moms say that they’re braver than the moms who carried to term.
I’ve heard moms who carried to term say, not so, because THEY are in fact the bravest.
There is a truth that is harder to see from the middle but from the edges, where I am, it is so crystal clear, and honestly, it’s one of my favorite truths.
There is no worse. There is no bravest. There is no quantification, period. There is love, there is loss, there are moms, and there is grief.
Sometimes it is incredibly lonely grieving on the edges of everywhere because it never really feels like you get to that one community, that one person, who can pull you up from the water and let you breathe.
Sometimes it feels more like just an endless series of short gasps before you’re back under again, searching for another air pocket to try.
Over and over and over again.
But one thing I am grateful for out here on the edge is the clarity to have seen how different loss can look. How differently it can burst through the front door of your life.
Sometimes it’s with just a touch of cramping, sometimes with an MRI, and sometimes it’s a Doppler that stays infuriatingly silent and refuses to thud along at that safe, happy tempo.
It’s a labor, or a delivery, or a hospital, or a clinic, or a bathroom, or an urn, or a headstone; or maybe just a solo sobbing session, on your extra long lunch break from work, before you have to pull yourself back together and act like a normal human being.
Like it was nothing at all.
I’ve grieved on the edges of everywhere and I’ve loved and lost deep and wide. Sometimes it’s hard to take a full breath, to fit in, to find my ‘tribe’, as they say.
But what I have found is compassion for the female experience, the motherhood experience, the loss experience in all of its ugly shapes and beautiful grace and kaleidoscopic presentations.
That too, in a strange way – after all of this time – has evolved into a blessing in its own right.
And I can finally take that deep breath, and it really is exhilarating.