I don’t know if it’s because Ella was genetically half me, or if it’s because my body created and sustained whole new organs to take care of her, or if it’s just the way it is with mothers and their children, but I feel like a piece of me was lost with her. I suspect it’s all of those things, but I found myself saying something the other day that I felt encompassed a lot of what I’ve been feeling. I said that I don’t know how to be a mom without a baby, and I don’t know how not to be a mom knowing that I had a baby.
Will pointed out recently that I am sort of an extreme processor and preparer. As soon as we started dating, I started reading books about dating, and we got a book of questions to discuss before we got engaged. As soon as we got engaged, I started reading books about marriage. As soon as I got pregnant, I started reading pregnancy books. And now I have at least three books on dealing with the grief of losing a baby. It’s just what I do. I need to understand what’s going on so that I can cope with it and be prepared for what lies ahead. Plus I’ve always loved being a student, so educating myself comes naturally, and I enjoy it even if the subject matter is difficult emotionally.
Because of that, it might look like I’m taking on this identity of a-woman-who’s-lost-a-baby to an extreme – like this is all I’m ever going to think about, read about, talk about, be interested in, or devote my life to again. But I think of it more like going to my favorite store, piling my arms full of all the clothes I want to try on, and then deciding which things fit, which things are appropriate for my life, and which things I can afford.
The reality of miscarriage is that it does change you. All major life events do. I read a bunch of marriage books because I was trying to figure out what kind of wife I would be. I read a bunch of baby books because pregnancy and parenthood are scary as the dickens, and I needed to start wrapping my brain around it all and begin to consider what it would look like when I did it. I’m reading books for bereaved parents because I need to know that the things I’m feeling and doing are normal or helpful or not crazy. I need to know that we’re not the only ones who’ve gone through this, and that lots of other folks have come through it and survived. And I’m trying to figure out how this will change me and how it will not. I’m trying to decide what fits my personality, what works for me practically, and what it will cost to allow these changes to take place in me.
Practically, I don’t know how all of this will play out. I don’t know if it will make me change jobs or hobbies or interests in the long run, but I think my identity is much deeper than those things, and that’s where I’m concentrating. I’m hoping that losing a baby will make me more compassionate, and that it will not make me bitter. I’m hoping it will show me how strong I am, and not make me afraid. I’m hoping it will make me more appreciative of the things I have, and not make me jealous of what others have. I’m hoping it will make me more caring, and not make me cynical. I’m hoping it will give me eyes to see beauty in painful times, and not blind me to hope. In general, I’m hoping it makes me a better mama to the babies I will one day hold in my arms and the ones I will always hold in my heart.
I don’t know how to be a mom without a baby, but I’m not going to worry about how not to be a mom anymore because it’s too late for that. I just am a mom now. And I’m starting to think that being a mom is largely about character anyway – character that will come out in everything I do, not just parenting. The mom I am now will affect the wife I am, the teacher I am, the friend I am, the daughter and sister I am, the writer I am, and every other role I play. Maybe I’m starting to figure it out after all.