The porcelain bowl glistens clean and white, the scent of anti-bacterial wipes wafting from its open lid. This has been my on-and-off view for the past few weeks; the bathroom mat a frequent companion for this newly-pregnant mama.

Retreating back to my spot on the couch, cuddled up under a brown blanket, my nose twitches at the scent of whatever it is my husband is cooking in the kitchen. I gag and growl in frustration at my endlessly-rolling tummy. No one could ever say that this is a “fun” part of pregnancy, but nonetheless, I take a deep breath and direct a quick word of thanks upwards.

Despite the discomfort, I try to remember that I am enjoying this.

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Dear Pregnant Mama, take the belly picture.

You just peed on a little white stick and watched two solid, pink lines appear from the nothingness. You’re barely five weeks along but there’s a child growing within your womb, a little bit of your DNA mashed into an ever-growing and dividing clump of cells.

You place your hand tenderly against your stomach and feel nothing but skin and a little bloat. There’s no evidence that this little one is here. Your stomach muscles have yet to stretch and give way to the life within. Everything is seemingly the same, and only you know it’s all begun to change.

And so, you feel silly asking your partner to take a belly picture. It seems strange to stand sideways against the wall and take a picture of “nothing.” You tell yourself that you have time.

But sadly, not all of us do.

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Cautiously prodding a crumpled tissue out of the way, I carefully reached my hand down into the garbage can and fished out the used pregnancy test. I’d tossed it in moments earlier but now I was second-guessing myself.

I held the test up close against my face and squinted, hoping against hope that somehow that would change the answer. Maybe I hadn’t waited long enough? Maybe there was a very faint line and I’d just missed it?

One lonely pink line stared back at me and my heart sank. The pregnancy test was definitely negative.

Again.

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“This is your son.”

The orderly rolled my bed into the hospital’s NICU and I groggily stared over at the tiny bird-like creature lying in an incubator. His three and a half pounds was composed solely of skin and bones. The ventilator was breathing for him, his tiny body dotted with tubes and wires–and I looked at him and wondered, “Are you really mine?”

I’d gone from pregnant to not pregnant in what felt like mere minutes, and I was struggling to wrap my head around the sudden change.

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Sometimes I wonder if we’ve missed out on a key aspect of motherhood.

You know, the part where we’re supposed to do it together?

For far too long, the words “mommy” and “wars” have perched contentedly side by side. Try as we might to peel and split these two incongruous words apart, our fingers are left bloodied and scraped by the effort. And it seems as if social media has only accentuated these differences. Scrolling through newsfeeds, it doesn’t take long to find parenting articles and opinion pieces written by women who are “doing motherhood wrong.” (Or at least, that’s what the sludge of negative comments seem to indicate???)

We bash new moms for using disposable diapers, telling them that they’re going to kill the environment. And then we turn around and give visible eye rolls to the pregnant woman who tells us she’s going to try cloth diapers. “Good luck,” we whisper sarcastically behind her back.

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I can’t remember the last time I got a manicure.

The days of sitting in a comfy spa chair for an hour and emerging with perfectly painted and dried nails  is just a luxury I just don’t have time for anymore. I can no longer justify spending $60 on nails that last a week. And while I may paint my toes myself, I never do my fingers anymore. My hands always end up looking like I murdered some sort of purple cat, and what paint does land on my nails starts chipping within two days.

So when my sister bought me a set of Jamberry Nail Wraps for Christmas last year, I was eager to try them.

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Last year my son wanted to be a thermometer for Halloween.

Yep, you read that correctly: a thermometer.

He was two-years-old and wanted his Halloween costume to be the most difficult word in his (admittedly limited) vocabulary. My dreams for easy, store-bought costumes quickly evaporated into a haze of pipe cleaners, felt, and the ragged stitches of a woman who never took Home Ec.

Fast forward to September of this year, and I tentatively ask my son what he wants to be for Halloween. I’m hoping for something more like Spider Man and less like “a portable TV” (his suggestion for my husband) or “a rolling pin” (his suggestion for our house).

I breathe out a sigh of relief when he says, “I want to be an apple tree!”

Apple tree. Phew. I can do that.

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{October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, share YOUR messy, imperfect, but beautiful motherhood story with the hashtag #thismotherhoodstory.}

Journal Prompt: What does your motherhood story look like? Use the #thismotherhoodstory to share it with us! What do you want others to know about pregnancy loss?

I am the mother of six, much-loved babies but you can only see one.

This is a part of my motherhood story.

It’s not always pretty. It’s full of countless sleepless nights and pillows damp with tears. It’s full of days crouched by a tiny grave, the damp grass sticking to my sneakers and soaking into the hem of my jeans. It’s full of missed anniversaries and hearts that ache with the ebb and flow of babies from my womb. But it’s also full of hope.

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I don’t do good with birthdays.

Never have. Probably never will.

My parents like to tell stories about my childhood birthdays: stories about how each and every one of my parties ended with me as an absolute wreck, tears galore. I’m pretty sure that’s why they stopped hosting them when I turned twelve. Turns out I’m better suited to marking the passage of time in a more subtle manner.

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#motherhood

Scrolling through my Instagram feed the other day, I decided to check out the hashtag, “motherhood.” It was everything I thought it would be: babies sleeping peacefully on their mother’s flat postpartum bellies, children laughing as they run through sprinklers and lick perfectly swirled ice-cream cones, the sun setting behind smiling mothers and toddlers clad in matching outfits. The photos are clean and mess free, full of smiles and daydreams, perfect lighting and one-off shots. It’s not real and yet, according to Instagram, this is what “mom life” looks like.

It’s a definition that’s gotten a little twisted along the way – one that I, myself, am guilty of contributing to. My living room floor is currently a maze of dirty laundry piles, carrot-muffin crumbs, and crayons. I ate a cookie for breakfast, my toddler watches far too many Paw Patrol episodes, and last week, there was that faint but persistent smell of milk emanating from somewhere deep within my son’s room. But if you look through my Instagram, you’ll notice that I have never posted a photo of any of that. After all, who wants to look at reality when we can carefully craft fiction?

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One year ago today, I got a positive pregnancy test.

After months of mourning and healing, my husband and I were finally ready to set aside our fears and “what ifs.” Love had begun to overflow the shaky walls that we’d built, and new hopes and dreams were blossoming in place of pain. Our grief had not been forgotten but our hearts felt called to stretch once more.

It was a quiet Monday morning when those two, pink lines first appeared in my hands. This family was growing again, and I felt nothing but pure joy.

After a quick trip to the store, the toddler and I spent the rest of the day decorating a Popcorn Cake and munching on marshmallows. I knew exactly how we were going to surprise my husband with the baby news. I topped the gooey dessert with a mini-bunting that announced, “Mama’s Going to Pop!” and my son and I sucked on Smarties while the cake chilled. The kitchen counter was dusted with cinnamon and fluffy, white marshmallows: the scent of hope and anticipation, the flavour of possibility.

A year later, I can still see the love and excitement that was poured into that cake; the look of shock and amazement that crossed my husbands face at the sight of it. I never dreamed that we’d be here, a year later, still waiting on a baby.

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The jagged seashells crunch underfoot and the tide laps lazily along the shore. We’re the first ones on the beach this morning and the silence feels comforting. Gulls swoop and screech above as we settle into the cool sand, toes burying deep among the tiny grains. My toddler busies himself with buckets and shovels, creating a world of dusty castles and ravine roads, and I bask in the early morning warmth of the spring sunshine.

For a city girl who loves quiet libraries and comfy couches, it never ceases to amaze me that the place I feel most connected to my grief is here, outdoors.

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