I don’t believe in signs, not really, but on Mother’s Day we came home from church to find an exasperated dove on our front porch trying in vain to coax her wounded chick to fly. It was sad and poignant and reminded me that there are times as mothers when all we can do is stand by and watch and pray.
Two weeks later, I’d find myself on a stretcher in the emergency room, praying, as the tiny, nascent life within me poured itself onto the white sheet below, while I cried uncontrollably, unable to save the child I didn’t yet know but already loved.
I was sent to labor and delivery to recover — an unnecessary cruelty made worse when after a shift change, a nurse wandered into my room and without thinking asked, “Where’s your baby?”
Catholics are free to believe that miscarried babies immediately enter into the presence of Christ — “Let the little children come to me.” No purgatory, their souls have been perfected; and since they are body and soul, they are not angels but saints. I love that, and who doesn’t need more people in heaven praying for them?
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Just two months later, after returning from a mass we had dedicated to our tiny saint, a pregnancy test returned two pink lines. As I said, I don’t really believe in signs, but it felt like a promise — a rainbow — and I cried tears of joy; I felt a renewed sense of hope. A visit to the doctor later that week indicated this baby wouldn’t be joining us on earth either. Although the event itself was private, quieter, more “normal” as these things go, it was harder somehow. And I wondered how God could allow this to happen — again — so soon, and how could my broken heart stand another crack.
It’s a strange thing, missing someone you’ve never met; miscarriage is confusing that way — ask any woman who’s experienced one. And when you’ve already been blessed as a mother, the sense of loss, the longing and aching for the baby you’re not holding can make you feel ungrateful for the children you have; you can’t help thinking about the ones you lost, because they are your precious babies, too, and no matter what anyone tells you, all of their lives matter.
I didn’t know National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day (observed Oct. 15) was a thing until it popped up in the social media feeds of friends and acquaintances.
So many women are conversant in this kind of loss, yet their experiences, like the day meant to commemorate them, pass without any of us knowing.
Just like any profound human event that warrants a hashtag these days, there are reasons we don’t talk about miscarriage: It’s difficult; we’re told that it’s “common”; it will “trigger”someone else.
Or maybe we don’t talk about it because we’re afraid it will get political. Because it seems to me that to truly appreciate someone’s pain for what it is — the loss of a child, not merely the promise of one — we have to first accept a fundamental truth, not so universally acknowledged, about life and death and human dignity.
That shouldn’t be political — it isn’t, really. Because whether you believe in science or religion or simply the words of Dr. Seuss, we should all be able to recognize that each human life, from its earliest stages, however long or short, matters to someone. And that should matter to us all.