Ebba was my Valentine’s Day surprise: two little pink lines on a day already chalk full of love. She burst her way into our lives in a dazzling cloud of flower petals and sugar cookie hearts; our lives intertwined together in the most pleasant of surprises.
But our love for Ebba grew faster and stronger than she did, and four weeks later, we heard the words that chipped away at our already cracked and wearied hearts. “There’s no heartbeat.” We sat in a crowded hospital waiting room with the words “fetal demise” echoing around our heads, and quietly absorbed the inevitability of another loss. Ebba was our third miscarriage and the fourth time that we’d said good-bye to a baby. While I had hoped for a different outcome, while I had prayed and cried out to God for healing, I’d known from the start what the bleeding had meant.
Her due date fell towards late October, and in my dreams, Ebba was always our ginger-baby. Perhaps her hair would match the crisp, fall leaves and ten-pound pumpkins that dot our neighbourhood. Bright and bold and brilliant, I look at them and see my daughter.
Out of all my losses, Ebba is probably the one I talk about least. It’s not intentional – nor by any means an indication of her value or worth. It’s simply that, for whatever reason, the grief settled differently this time around. Not all loss looks alike. Not all miscarriages need to be mourned in the same way. The duration of one’s grief does not equate to the depth of love one carries for that child.
A few months ago, a beautiful loss mama messaged me and asked to include my babies’ names in an art project she was working on. I noticed, however, that Ebba wasn’t on the list. The other mama gently wrote back, saying that she hadn’t forgotten her, she just didn’t know if we were keeping Ebba’s name private. While my other children’s names were featured prominently on social media, she hadn’t been able to find Ebba’s anywhere.
I was shocked to see that she was right. The grief that I felt for this little one had played itself out in a much quieter way, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about that.
After a miscarriage or loss, it can be difficult to know what grief is supposed to look like. We talk about loss so infrequently and so vaguely, that we can be left feeling confused about the emotions we’re experiencing (or not experiencing.) Having walked through the excruciating pain and trauma of a stillbirth, I occasionally find it difficult to align the intensity of that grief to the grief that comes after a miscarriage. It can feel dishonorable when the pain begins to lessen after only a week or two.
Only you know how to grieve the loss of your baby. You may wonder why you haven’t felt the loss of this child more acutely, or why the intense heartache seemed to pass quicker for you than for other grieving mothers. But it’s important to grieve as you need to. Not all losses will look alike.
Despite a common misconception, the intensity of grief doesn’t always correspond with the number of weeks you carried your baby for. Grief is not something that can be neatly defined. Loss is messy and grief evolves and shifts over time. While you may glean wisdom from those who have walked this path before you, you will never find a perfect “how-to” guide for grief. Just like the precious child you’ve lost, your grief is unique. Sometimes grief looks different than what we imagined it would, but forcing it to become something it isn’t, is just unproductive and painful.
Yes, your tears may have dried quicker than you thought they would, but that doesn’t mean that this loss didn’t affect you. It doesn’t mean that you didn’t love your baby, or that you don’t think about them, or miss them. It doesn’t mean that there won’t be difficult dates ahead, or that you’re somehow “less of a mother.” Your grief won’t look like mine, and it won’t look like your colleagues’, or your best friend’s — and that’s okay.
Grief isn’t always loud and in your face. Sometimes, grief is found in the silence too. Grief is defined as “deep sorrow,” but more than that, I believe it is the act of learning to live life without someone you love.
So, don’t mourn your miscarriages the way you THINK you should.
Mourn them, whatever way you NEED to.