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How My Miscarriages Shape My Parenting

Photograph by Twenty20

People tell you a lot of things when you have a miscarriage. They give you statistics. They tell you about the friend of a friend of a friend who had two miscarriages but then popped out four kids. They tell you about the treatments that helped their cousin, sister or friend.

They tell you to keep trying.

But the one thing they never remember to tell you is that the grief never leaves your soul.

By my fourth miscarriage, I was an expert in my own grief. Grief is messy and complicated and, despite the five stages and a seemingly endless list of resources on the matter, grief is different for everyone.

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People will tell you that grief fades away over time, that the happy memories crowd out the feelings of loss. In the case of the loss of my father, that proved to be true. Time did heal that wound. But the grief that surrounded my miscarriages was different. It included feelings of guilt, hopelessness and failure.

My kids were only 4 and 2 when I suffered the final loss. My daughter was in preschool three mornings a week, and my son was my faithful sidekick. We spent those mornings digging in the sand and sharing corn muffins, while we waited for big sister to finish up at school. I was only a week from telling them about the baby brother growing in my belly when it all came crashing down around me.

When I returned from the hospital, my whole worldview changed. I was always the playful and semi-protective mom. I lost two babies before my daughter arrived, and the urge to enjoy every moment and protect her from the harsh realities of the world was strong.

Whatever we do, we do it knowing that we are all in this together. We are a team, this little family of ours, and it works for us.

Those first two miscarriages also shaped my whole parenting philosophy (if we can even call it that): Be present and enjoy the small moments, because life is unpredictable and there isn't room for negativity.

In some ways, my introverted nature made it easy to throw myself into living in the moment with my kids. I didn't crave "moms' nights out" or "me-time." Yes, I experienced the stress of parenting toddlers. I survived on coffee and long walks, and I lived for naptime. But I was happy more often than not.

I spent those early days lost in play with my little ones. I was that mom—the one going down the slides with my kids and digging with them in the sand.

Years later, I'm still the playful mom. I accept every invitation that comes my way, whether it's shooting hoops on the back patio or judging an animal talent contest. I watch the dance classes and basketball practices, because they want me to. I stay "just a few more minutes" at night, because we all have different needs and sometimes sleeping is hard. I apologize when I make mistakes, and I let my kids try things their way. I have no need for perfection. Although I might seem protective at times, I do let them work through things on their own terms.

Most of all, I treat them like individuals. We don't have a ton of rules in this house. Be kind. Give hugs. Never cry alone. Comfort someone in need. Listen to one another. That's about it. What we do have is empathy for each other. We know that we're all different, and we all have different needs.

We all work together to meet each other's needs. We work through the hard stuff (from sibling squabbles to anxious moments) together. We talk through everything, even the sticky topics (like loss, miscarriage and mean kids) that make me want to run and hide. We share feelings, dreams, hopes and disappointments. We fail out loud and cheer when we succeed. Whatever we do, we do it knowing that we are all in this together. We are a team, this little family of ours, and it works for us.

I'm grateful for what I have, and I'm a better parent for it. But some nights, when the lights go down, I let the grief back in for a little while.

I can't say for sure how I would have parented my children had I not sent four little babies to heaven along the way, but I know that every event in my life (the good and the bad) prepared me for being a mom. Every struggle taught me a valuable lesson and every success gave me hope for the future. The lessons I teach my kids might be simple, but they work for us:

  • Be kind. You never know what someone else is up against.
  • Show empathy for others, even when it's hard.
  • Work together.
  • Always lend a hand.
  • If you have more, share the wealth.
  • Comfort the people who bring you joy.
  • Be honest and accept your mistakes.
  • Life is messy, complicated, imperfect and tons of fun. Embrace it all.
  • Siblings are forever. Nurture your family relationships.

I know I can't protect my kids from every bad thing. I know that sadness and worry are a natural part of life, and sometimes the best gift I can offer is a hug. But I also know that close relationships with parents are important and that the small stuff (the mess, the mistakes, the bad moments) isn't worth tears of frustration.

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The grief that once came in waves subsided, only to be replaced with unexpected flashfloods. I'm grateful for what I have, and I'm a better parent for it. But some nights, when the lights go down, I let the grief back in for a little while. Then I sneak one last kiss from my little sleeping miracles, because they always remind me to focus on the good.

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Photograph by Pexels

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