I have a box where I keep things too painful to deal with; I call it the baby box. In the baby box there are sonograms of the pregnancies I have lost. It harbors mementos, hospital bracelets and the receipt from my D & C to remove an unviable fetus from my womb. It is where I lie my grief, my hopes and dreams which were once ripped from my hands in the most tragic way over and over again. The contents of my baby box are the only things I have to prove they once existed in this world, outside of my own memory; to prove they mattered, they are remembered and they are loved. There are no photos, no joyous memories. Just a brief shimmer of joy clouded by the darkness of grief.
Grief is complex. It comes in waves, depths and magnitudes. Sometimes, it’s shallow and I can easily speak about my experiences. Other times, the grief eats at my soul and in silence I suffer. The words don’t come. They weigh heavy in my heart. In early and often late pregnancy loss, there is no closure. There is often no viewing, no funeral, no celebration of life, no time to say our goodbyes. It’s often spontaneous, with little to no warning.
I had grown so accustomed to impending loss, I dreaded my past pregnancy, because from the seeds of grief grew fear. Each ultrasound, I’d hold my breath. When the pregnancy was confirmed, viable via a heartbeat or I made it to the second trimester, I built up hopes and dreams. I decorated walls and nurseries. I imagined time and time again our daughter joyfully holding her newborn sibling on her lap which wrapped me in love. After each loss, I promised myself I wouldn’t do this to myself again. After all, a strong heartbeat, healthy blood work and the end of the first trimester did not guarantee their healthy birth in the past.
You see, it’s more than just a loss — it’s the installation of fear. Knowing there are no guarantees, no safety nets and someone you love can be taken from you in such a personal, sudden manner is a life lesson I don’t wish upon anyone. Yet, it’s a lesson 1 in 4 women will be forced to face.
Related: What I Wish I Knew Before My Miscarriage
After four years of pregnancy loss, we rejoiced in welcoming our son into this world. His presence and health is a joy I couldn’t convey in words. But, the birth of our rainbow baby, doesn’t erase the grief. It doesn’t erase their existence, or the mental and physical toll miscarriages had on my body. It doesn’t erase what it felt and looked like to experience intense labor pains and miscarry in hospital waiting rooms or work bathroom stalls. It doesn’t erase having to tell our daughter she won’t be a big sister, or the letters she wrote to Santa asking him to bring her a baby sibling because her grief was immense.
So please, don’t assume our rainbow baby erases our experience. Please don’t set time limits and statues on grief. Whether you’ve lost a pregnancy, infant, or child yesterday or 30 years ago, whether you have birthed a healthy child or are experiencing miscarriage or infertility, your grief is valid. I hold you all very close in my heart.