I watched my kids play in the living room. It was quiet time. My son was napping and the girls were playing quietly on the couch. It was one of those peaceful mom moments you try to get just a whiff of before its gone like a puff of smoke. I looked at our beautiful children and got lost in a daydream. It’s been 9 years since we lost our first baby, but I still often wonder what life would have been like with her. 5 years after that, we gained another angel baby. I don’t talk about it. No one talks about miscarriage. And who can blame them? Who wants to hear stories about the babies that never were and the moms that never got to be?
I looked over my shoulder at the back door. Light was spilling in through the glass and it filled my photographer’s heart. Photographer met Mother inside my mind and I knew 9 years was long enough to think about it. If I didn’t give my loss a face in that moment, I never would. I grabbed my camera and fiddled with the settings. Anxiety bubbled in my stomach. Did I REALLY want to face HER again? Did I want to remember the mother that never was? Yes. She is part of me. She is part of many women. She needed a face.
So I gave her one. I turned on the timer setting, set my camera on my dog bowl, and remembered coming home from the hospital after being told I’d miscarried. I remembered crying on the floor, alone.
I carried SO much baggage out of the hospital with me the day they told me I’d lost the baby. I thought I couldn’t have kids because of misinformation the ultrasound technician gave me. I felt the judgement when she found out I was young and unmarried, I felt the shame. There was a distinct feeling that I should be silently GRATEFUL. I thought there was something mentally wrong with me because I was DEVASTATED over a baby I’d never held. The one person with me that day asked if I was OK, and I told her yes because I couldn’t logically explain why I wasn’t. I sobbed in the bathroom at work into my sweater to muffle the sound because I couldn’t rationalize it.
When I lost our second, I didn’t tell. It took me days to tell my husband. I didn’t even get the chance to tell him I was pregnant before it slipped through my fingers just like that.
I embraced those memories and emotions as I heard the camera click. Real tears streamed down my face as I looked at the image I took. I thought about taking more, but I couldn’t. That was enough. That self portrait was so personal, so intimate and real tears streamed down my face through the process. I saved it to our family folder on my computer and tried to move on with my day. But it sat there, nagging at me. No. This was one image I couldn’t keep to myself. Even if one person could relate to it, maybe it would help them know they aren’t alone. Maybe it would help one mom know that it’s OK to not be OK.
1 in 8 women have infertility.
1 in 4 women have miscarried or lost an unborn baby.
8% of pregnancies are high risk where a mother and/or her baby’s life is in danger through the course of her pregnancy.
26,000 babies every year are born without life.
We mourn losses we never got to physically touch. I didn’t bury a body, there was no funeral. I got an empty crib and unloved teddy bears. So what happens to the mom that never got to hold her baby? For months, I was scared to ask if I was still even a mom. It’s not like not getting a job or missing out on some prize you had your heart set on. Its this invisible person inside of you who never gets to have a face or a voice because they’re shoved so far beneath the things that ‘really matter.’
I took that portrait for myself, but it was so much larger than that. It was a visual admittance to a loss I’d never really been able to rationalize before that. Since then, I’ve realized that we aren’t as silent and invisible as we think. Who wants to hear stories about the babies that never were and the moms that never got to be? The parents going through it or who will go through it. I truly thought I was alone. I had no voice. I didn’t KNOW it was ok to feel this incredible sense of loss and emptiness. And sometimes, the only people who can really understand what we’ve gone through are the people who have actually gone through it. It’s hard to believe in our own selves but it’s easier to find hope for a friend. I was so immersed in grief, I didn’t know there was hope for a future. I didn’t know I’d sit here typing this with two beautiful rainbow babies. Within loss, there is hope and we have the ability to share that with others when we share our experiences or even just a quiet, ‘you aren’t alone.’