I believe in a special brand of optimism known only to mothers who have lost babies.
Three years ago, just before Christmas, I had a miscarriage. Everyone said what people always say at such a time. Miscarriage is common. It’s nature’s way of preventing birth defects. How lucky we were that it was so early. How lucky we were to already have a child. Next time everything would be fine. I went on to lose two more babies the following year. Everything definitely wasn’t fine. I wasn’t fine.
A year after our first loss, I attended my first Empty Arms meeting. It took all my courage, and my husband’s support, for me to go. I was afraid that no one would be there. I was afraid that my losses somehow weren’t awful enough to entitle me to mourn with women who had lost older babies, babies the world viewed as somehow more real. I found a group of people who were more supportive and understanding than I could have ever imagined.
There were women there who had lost babies to premature labor, horrible birth defects, and genetic diseases; women who lost full-term babies to such things as cord accidents and SIDS; and women like me who lost babies before they even had a chance to feel them move. They are some of the bravest women I have ever known. They helped me survive my grief. They helped me survive the overwhelming fear I suffered throughout my fifth pregnancy, which resulted in my beautiful, healthy baby girl. And they helped me realize something.
We are optimists. Most people would not think of us that way. On the surface, we do not appear optimistic. We ache for those we’ve lost. We cry in our cars and in our showers. We panic through our pregnancies. We dread sonograms and baby showers. We drive doctors crazy with requests to hear heartbeats. We check our babies’ breathing innumerable times. We fear our children’s every cold; we blow every bump, bruise, or strange symptom out of all proportion. We even check our husbands’ breathing in the middle of the night. But we are optimists.
We face the panic and move on. We struggle through tests, fertility treatments, foster programs, and fear to have our babies. We try and try again. We dream and pray and fight and believe. We risk repeated loss, repeated failure, repeated pain for ourselves and our dearest ones. We believe that our babies still are.
We are survivors of infant loss. We grieve always, we fear always, and yet still we love. I believe we are optimists.
Angela West lives in Lake City, Pennsylvania, with her husband, Chris, and her two living children, Ethan and Elanor. She works at a print shop, and hopes to someday write a guide to surviving miscarriage. She still attends Empty Arms meetings on a regular basis.
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