A Love Letter To The Grieving Mother

A little more than two years ago, my husband and I decided we were ready for our little family to grow. And by “ready” I mean we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, because really? Who is EVER ready for a baby?

Nobody, that’s who.

But we were in a good place. We’d been married a year and a half (which doesn’t sound like long, but remember: he is THREE YEARS YOUNGER than me. Which means that, unlike him, I do not have ALL THE DANG TIME IN THE WORLD to Get My Baby On.)

This will be us in a few years. I can only hope my sunglasses will be that GLORIOUSLY HUGE when I’m old.

Anyway, we were in a good place with the whole Hey-Let’s-Get-Pregnant thing. I was 26 years old and liked the idea of having a baby, but I hadn’t yet reached the OH MY GOSH I MUST HAVE A CHILD THIS INSTANT phase. Which was key, because women in my family have been known to take their time with the Getting Pregnant.

And for some, pregnancy hasn’t happened at all, despite the best efforts of science and modern medicine. (Although it has resulted in the adoption of some exceptionally lovely redheaded children who will grow up in a loving, healthy, and nurturing home.)

(Sometimes I think God has some plans for some people. Just saying.)

So I went into it expecting to wait. I was okay with the idea of taking one, two, even three years to get pregnant. I knew there was a possibility it might not happen at all.

Imagine my surprise when it happened within six months.

I believe I looked something like this. Only minus the red hair and blue eyes. And the dress. Not that I was naked or anything. I just don’t wear dresses often.

(“I don’t know why you’re so shocked,” my doctor said when I took a blood test to confirm the presence of Baby Girl. “You’ve been playing with fire for six months.”)

(Touché, Doc.)

So anyway, the next nine-ish months were pretty . . . uneventful. I did have to take some sort of medication right at the beginning to raise the levels of some hormone (clearly I understand MUCH ABOUT SCIENCE) but besides that?

Nothing.

Baby Girl grew at the right rate. Everything developed when and how it should. She was active. She was healthy. And then, when she was 41 weeks along, she decided, “Hey, maybe I’ll make Mom stop waiting.” And so she came.

“Complications?” one of the nurses asked as Baby Girl made her debut.

“None,” our wonderful doctor replied with a smile.

There was no time in the NICU. There were no problems feeding her. She was not sick. She was not unhappy. My epidural (OH, HALLELUJAH PRAISE THE LORD) had taken perfectly and I was in pretty good shape for a woman who had just birthed quite a  . . . ROBUST, shall we say, baby girl.

(Quick reminder: no c-section.)

(There are perks to being tall.)

We felt very blessed. And we still do.

It was after all this that I started hearing the stories. Women who’d lost babies in the first trimester. The second. The third.

Women who wanted babies so desperately they were going to other states for expensive procedures that stood hardly any chance of working.

Women who lost their babies at birth. Shortly after. Or several months after.

I heard stories that horrified me to the point of curling up in my bed, arms wrapped around Baby Girl, crying into her beautiful blond hair. I could not believe what had happened to these other families. The grief they were suffering. It was too much.

I honestly don’t know which is more painful: having a child and losing him or her; or never being able to have a child at all. But I’ll tell you this: my heart aches for those families, and for the women in particular.

I. Cannot. Imagine.

Last night as Baby Girl and I were driving home from a wild party (read: pizza at my parents’ house), she got a tad bit fussy. Her dad was in another car because he’d come from work to meet us, so it was just us girls. And the only thing that will appease Baby Girl when she’s upset in the car is a rendition or fifteen of “A Whole New World.”

The answer to your question is yes, I do sing both parts. I’m talented like that.

Every time I would finish singing it, I would wait to see if maybe she was okay. And every time, she’d get fussy again. So I would start from the beginning. And you know what? After about the sixth round of our little magic carpet ride, I was tired.

Tired of singing to Baby Girl.

And just as I was thinking, “Jeez, I wish I didn’t have to sing to her again!” (I know, I know, Mother Of The Year) this thought sort of erupted inside my mind:

You have a baby to sing to. 

And I am not kidding when I tell you that I started crying so hard, I nearly had to pull over. I reached back and took Baby Girl’s hand–her perfect little hand–and told her how much I loved her. And then I thanked God for giving her to me. And I said a prayer for every woman I know who’s lost a child or who has been unable to conceive.

Whoever you are, I hope you feel some comfort today. I hope you know that your value is not diminished because you are childless. I hope you know that mothers everywhere are grieving with you because, although we don’t know firsthand how it feels, many of us can imagine at least a part of your pain.

And I hope you know I’m thinking about you right now and, even if you don’t believe in God or you blame him for what’s happened to you (a natural reaction, by the way, and I *do* get it) I pray for you. Not every day, and not necessarily by name, because I don’t know all of you. But I do pray that you will be comforted and that maybe, someday, you’ll be able to use your experiences to help someone else.

I hope I haven’t offended you in some way; if I said anything that irks you, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. I hope you don’t think I’m trying to say, “I feel your pain,” because I don’t. I can’t. I can only use my imagination, and that’s almost more than I can bear.

You are in my heart and on my mind. And I love you.

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38 thoughts on “A Love Letter To The Grieving Mother

  1. Harley says:

    This is a beautiful post and I’m crying. I am so, so thankful to be a mother and thankful to have you as a friend.

    Love your sweet family.

  2. anna says:

    This was beautiful, and I’m crying too.

    I know so many people who have experienced every kind of loss- IF, early miscarriage, late miscarriage, still-birth, birth injury, SIDS… It’s hard because I fluctuate between gripping fear of something ever happening to L and being so moved by how blessed we are and the amazing impact he’s had on my life.

    Well said, A.

  3. Starr Parnell says:

    Trying not to cry in my office – um embarassing and obviously it would be a give away i’m not doing e-mails! ha – thanks for your words Anne, I’m passing this along to a friend of mine for some encouragement…

  4. Aimee L. Salter says:

    *Tears*

    You wrote this to Me of eight years ago. Then four years ago our little miracle arrived. God is good – and does still do the crazy doctors-couldn’t-do-it-but-I-can stuff.

    Now our Baby Boy doesn’t have any siblings, but he’s Oh So Precious.

    You prayers are dear to my heart – and I’m praying too. There are so many women out there who are hurting over this and I’m touched and proud of you that you can hold onto that in the face of your own blessing. (Does that sound patronizing? It isn’t supposed to).

    Thank you for sharing this today. It encouraged me.

    -Aimee

    • Anne Riley says:

      It doesn’t sound patronizing at all. I can’t pretend to understand it fully, but like I said, I can imagine a small part of it and even that is almost too much.

      Congratulations on your son, and I am so glad I could encourage you!

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  6. Melissa says:

    I saw this link on Boo Mama’s blog and I’m reading this as I’m about to leave to go to the doctor for a follow-up appointment. Three weeks ago we went into an ultrasound excited to see our little bean for the first time and left absolutely heartbroken because s/he had stopped growing a few days earlier. It’s unbelievably painful and I thank you for the prayers you say for women like me who are mothers…but to angels we don’t get to hold in this life.

  7. Kristi says:

    Boomama sent me here and, um, thank you. Today is one of the tough days. I needed to feel understood today. And you provided that. Thanks for your obedience because I know He used you to speak these words to me.

  8. Jennifer says:

    Hi – I found your site through a link on Boo Mama – I just wanted to say thank you. I’ve never had anyone say this to me before and have always felt quite alone in the ‘don’t have kids yet’ department. I’m 44 and we’re still praying that an embyro adoption will be our salvation – but in the meantime, I’m going to print out your post and keep it with me for those really bad days when you think the whole world is part of a group that you just can’t seem to figure out the secret password for….thank you from the bottom of my heart for putting this out there…you have no idea just how much this means…

  9. Nancy says:

    We are 2 1/2 years into an adoption process, and the waiting can be excruciating (not to mention that we are forced to wait decisions of other people/government authorities to complete it). Mothering is never for the faint of heart — thanks for praying for all of us who are waiting.

  10. Bee says:

    I arrived at your blog from Boo Mama. Thanks for this post. I have always thought that this is what some moms might think about those of us who would love to be moms but never will have the opportunity. I am glad to know that you recognize what an extraordinary gift you have been given.
    I have wondered if moms think that non-moms have negative feelings towards them. I can see how moms might think that we are jealous or think to ourselves how we could do a better job at mothering, or that we could appreciate a child more, or any number of other judgements. We don’t. Or, at least I don’t. Mostly I am in awe at how much you do for your kids and how deeply you love them. Sure, we’ve all seen not-so-great parents or parents having not-so-great moments. But, I don’t think for a second that you are at fault for your child’s meltdown in Target or that you are horrible for wanting to run away from home now and again. And I don’t want you to avoid telling me about whatever cute thing your kid did or complaining to me about how you wish you could return your child to the stork, because in some strange way, everyone else’s kid is just a little bit mine. I get to enjoy some of the best times without all the diaper changes and puking and childbirth. Its not the same as being a parent, but its not all bad. And sometimes, its actually a little better.
    So, even though I don’t know you either, I hope you know that as much as you pray for us, some of us are praying at least that much for you.
    P.S. Sorry to hijack your comments section. I didn’t start off with the intention to write a novel!

  11. Ally says:

    Thank you. I was there, years ago, and after all the failed treatments and three failed adoptions I decided to hear the “no” my Father was whispering to me. It took time, a lot of time, but my heart is (most days) happy to be an Aunt to the boys my best friend was granted. I adore those boys with all of my heart. It is an amazing journey, and there is an isolation about it that sometimes makes you think you just might lose your mind. There are so many stores of “at the last minute I was granted a child” that for those of us whose stories end differently, it can feel like abandonment is the only path our lives will ever hold. God heals, in His way. My life is nothing, at all, like I planned. But I have finally come to accept that it is what He planned and that is what matters. I have found happiness and contentment.

    Thank you for the words, for sharing that moment with the world here on your blog. Sometimes, those “little” moments, and the woman who hands you a child to rock for awhile as the tears flow – never fearing that your love for her child is wrong but rather that it is right – those are the greatest gifts. The most hurtful ones are not the isolation nor the fears, not the long nights nor even the empty arms. The hardest part is the women who will not allow you in their childrens life for fear that you will try to “replace” your child with theirs. Especially if that particular woman shares your dna. Nothing, no matter how great the love, will replace the love you hold for the child you meant to conceive. All love is different. Different is not bad. I just wanted to add that for those who come here and their dreams are not answered, for the ones who find their dream asleep in their arms. Share the love, it heals. In time, and in a different way than the one you long for, it heals.

  12. Carmen says:

    Thank you for this post! I had tears as well. I am a 32 year old single girl that has dreamed of having a family since I could rock my baby dolls. I am not going to lie, sometimes I have that reaction to people that complain about their husbands or kids. And even people that struggle to have kids. I know it’s wrong but I often think that well at least you have a husband. I know the Lord has a plan for each of us. It’s just hard waiting.

    • Anne Riley says:

      It is hard, and I don’t think you should feel bad about the way you react. I think it’s natural. And he does have a plan. But you’re right that knowing there’s a plan doesn’t always make it easier.

      • laura says:

        thanks for this post, annie:) can’t imagine my life without the two little strawberry blonde 2 year olds that, at this moment, do not want to eat their dinner… love you, sis! love my little niece, too!

    • GJ says:

      Right there with you.. although my biological clock is a couple years ticks louder. Yes, I’ve always longed for “live dolls” and even the experience of being pregnant. With all my friends and family having kids and my high school friends having had their “oops I’m 30 better have a baby” and are onto their second or third, it’s tough. But that’s were faith comes in – relying on Christ to provide the husband and family and a purposeful life in the mean time.

      • Anne Riley says:

        And there is SO MUCH purpose outside of all that. There really is. I just think that people get very stuck in a “this is the way it has to happen” mindset. I know I do, anyway.

  13. Andrea says:

    As mother who lost her 22 year old daughter 3 weeks ago, this post touched my heart. I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around what it means to be a non-mother. For some reason, it is comforting to read of a mother who gets how blessed she is and who treasures the gift she has. That makes me feel better somehow…thank you for sharing. I place myself in the group you’re praying for and I am grateful.

  14. Gail says:

    Thank you Anne, for acknowledging and identifying with our pain. It is not something that is talked of much, even though it effects so many women. After talking with a friend about this resently I tried to open the conversation on my own blog through a post called “Empty Arms” because it doesn’t matter why your arms are empty, why you are a non-mother, it still hurts.

    • Anne Riley says:

      Yes. I can (sort of) imagine the hurt, although you know I can’t REALLY get it. I think you have a powerful ministry to other women after what has happened to you. God will give you the strength to use it–that’s what I’ll pray for you.

  15. Amy says:

    One of my friends posted this on facebook. Our daughter, Abigail, died in the womb at 36 weeks. We knew at our 20 week ultrasound that she wasn’t going to live, but trusted God with her, and carried her until her little heart stopped beating. The pain and sorrow of loosing her is deep and at times has been overwhelming. We miss her terribly and there isn’t day goes by that we don’t think about her. But God is good and he has used our sweet little Abigail in mighty ways. I often say we have experienced more blessings from her death, than if she had lived. For that I am so thankful. We will never stop longing for her…not until heaven. So, until then, we put our hope in Him and in Him alone. Trusting Him with the healing of our broken hearts, for our life, our future, and our children. He holds us in the palm of hand.

    A baby dying is something people don’t want to talk about, don’t know how to talk about…which makes it very difficult for those of us that have lost babies, whose arms are empty. We become mothers the moment we find out we are pregnant. I appreciate your tender heart and your prayers.

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