When it comes to the loss of our babies, it seems that our culture has certain ideas about who has the right to grieve. For example, couples who lost a child later in pregnancy seem to get more empathy than couples who lost a child early on. In fact, early miscarriages may elicit responses like, “It was a good thing that you lost it so early.” While physically, early miscarriages may be easier for the mother than a loss later in pregnancy, (though that is no guarantee) her baby died nonetheless and it wasn’t a “good” thing. Some couples who have miscarriages early on get to grieve if they don’t or can’t have other children, though even then some will hear the assurance, “You’ll be able to have more!” or even “At least you know you can get pregnant.” as if those things make the loss okay. Women who have a living child, however, seem to fall into the “don’t have the right to grieve” category. They often hear things like, “At least you have other children.”
For those who receive support and understanding at the loss of a child, I am truly grateful. Because they need it. They deserve it. I just wish that we extended that same level of support to all families who have lost a child. Because regardless of the circumstances surrounding the death, all families need and deserve it our support.
In a few days, on August 11th, it will be one year since the burial service for my fourth child lost to miscarriage, whom we named Rosario. Also on the 11th, my newborn son Mateo will be one month old. When it comes to “rules” about who gets to grieve, I am a conundrum. I have other children. All the miscarriages happened early in my pregnancies. I had a full term birth before my first miscarriage, and I have had full term births after.
Still, no matter what our culture thinks, this is what I know, born from experience. The fact that, one year after a miscarriage I have a newborn baby to hold, doesn’t mean that I don’t still grieve for the loss of Rosario. Having other children doesn’t mean you won’t have to grieve your child/ren lost to miscarriage. It simply means that you won’t have to mourn your child’s passing while also having to mourn the pain of infertility.
The fact that I conceived Mateo soon after the loss of Rosario does not exempt me from grief. I’m happy of course that I have my son — elated in fact. But being elated from Mateo’s newborn presence doesn’t mean that I won’t mourn the loss of Rosario. Similarly, having the presence of Eva, (my secondborn) didn’t mean that I didn’t or don’t mourn the loss of Isabela. Therefore, I also know that the presence of children conceived soon after loss doesn’t mean that you won’t grieve for the children lost earlier. I don’t get to escape tearing up at seemingly random times as I think of my deceased babies. I still will and do. It just means that I will feel sadness at my children who have died and also joy at the presence of my children who are living. Rather than feeling sadness or joy, I will feel both.
Like Mary said in her powerful post a few weeks ago on your rights during a miscarriage, you have the right to grieve your baby. I’d just like to say that this statement is definitive. You have a right to grieve your baby. To those who have lost one baby or several; early in pregnancy or late; compounded by infertility or not; whether you lost your first pregnancy, your last, or somewhere in between; you have a right to grieve the loss of your baby. Period.