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We Didn't "Almost" Have a Baby

Photo Credit: Sarah Smith

On October 1, 2021, I became a momma.

Not the kind that I had imagined when we got those two pink lines.

I don’t get to watch or celebrate his milestones, but I do get to celebrate mine as I navigate this type of motherhood. Over the last year, I have learned a lot about myself, the strength of my marriage, and the uncomfortable ways most people react to tragedy. I’ve learned that it’s easier for most to just ignore it as if it didn’t happen.

And I’ve heard every cliche, silver lining, “at least,” “maybe you should have X/Y/Z” that you could imagine.

Nothing could have prepared us for what we went through. Losing a child is the closest thing to Hell on earth that I have ever experienced. There isn't a day that goes by that I don’t vividly relive those moments birthing and seeing Mason for the first time, and the nurse telling us that he was already gone. It gets a little blurry after that, but I’ll never forget the people who let us lean on them when we couldn’t stand; and also those who pretended to see nothing at all or who quickly changed the subject because it made them uncomfortable.

There was a time that I thought I could never pull out of my grief or feel normal again—which still has some truth to it. Sometimes it feels like I just imagined it, because I can’t believe it actually happened to us. Healing hasn’t been linear—most days I feel good, but sometimes a small comment or event triggers me in ways that I thought I had already worked through. Sometimes I still avoid things that I don’t think I’m ready to work through just yet. Sometimes it’s not just as simple as feeling sad—there’s anger, because after almost a year and a half of actively trying to get pregnant, I followed all the rules and still lost our son. Sometimes there's guilt for so much as smiling or laughing with friends after we returned to a more routine life. And sometimes there's even jealousy too from watching other mothers continue on in pregnancy and take home healthy babies while we made arrangements for Mason's remains, and left the hospital with a box of keepsakes and photos that most people prefer not to see that’s all we’ll ever have of Mason.

I have felt discounted as a mother and feel angry when others don’t acknowledge my husband as a father or don’t acknowledge Mason as a person at all—as if our son not surviving makes us any less, as if we just came up short and unfortunately failed to make it to the finish line. With my husband beside me, I still labored for 17 hours, received an epidural for pain, delivered him silently into the world, held him, named him, went through postpartum, felt phantom kicks for months afterwards, and then paid the hospital bill. All under the crushing realization that we would lose our son that day.

We didn’t “almost” have a baby—Mason existed and he matters to us as much as anyone else’s living children matter to them.

I am currently 37 weeks pregnant with another baby boy—we are unbelievably excited, but unfortunately that doesn’t make that trauma and fear just go away. The way I experienced my first pregnancy wasn’t fair. The most innocent questions will always make me uncomfortable.

“Is this your first?” To be honest, I still don’t know how to answer that question, and the answer is always different.

I will continue to honor Mason in any way I know how; no matter how uncomfortable people are when I talk about him. He will always be acknowledged as my first born. While I can’t share his milestones, watch him grow up, or contribute to any “mom conversations,” he existed.

Thank you, Sarah Smith, for sharing your story. Shared with permission.

Pregnancy and infant loss can leave grieving parents feeling isolated and unsure how to navigate the heartbreaking circumstance of living without their precious baby. Unexpecting delicately helps grieving parents navigate the complexities and heartache of life after loss. Pregnancy AFTER loss can also be disorienting. Courageously Expecting is an empathetic and encouraging companion for those who are pregnant after losing a baby.

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