It’s been five years since I said goodbye to my daughter.
My husband and I had just moved to a new city and I was about four months pregnant. The first trimester nausea had subsided, and I was finally beginning to feel like myself again—save for my growing mid-section. I’d been trying to get my medical records transferred from our old home over to a new care provider. The new doctor refused to see me until they got my records, but my old doctor’s office kept dragging their feet. So, when I started to bleed one Monday morning, I had no choice but to drive over to the emergency room.
They took my vitals, checked for contractions (there were none), and felt my cervix (which, according to the nurse, was fine). After a while, they told me to go home, so I did. This had already happened once before in my second month of pregnancy, so I figured it would pass. Little did I know that by the end of the week, I would be delivering a tiny, premature baby at just 22 weeks gestation. There was no way to predict that just eight hours after my precious, little girl was born, she would just as quickly pass away.
Before I lost my daughter, Margaret Hope, I had only ever known of one type of loss: miscarriage. A relative of mine had lost a pregnancy at around 2.5 months, and I remember how devastated she and her husband were, but they never, ever talked about it. I knew they were hurting, but they kept quiet and carried on. Not long after, they had twins. That was all I knew about loss. Sometimes you lose, but then you can always try again.
Losing a child is tough, but the aftermath is even harder. Child loss eats away at a parent. It isolates you and causes you to think of all the absolute worst things in the world. And it’s so incredibly lonely. It was this loneliness that prompted me to begin to share my story.
When I lost my daughter, after some deep depression, I started seeking out other loss moms online. I found my tribe in other heartbroken women and people who were devastated. They’d all arrived at loss in so many different ways: SIDS, Trisomy 18, an umbilical cord wrapped around the neck, infections, preterm labor (like I’d experienced). We were all in this together, in this horrible, all-encompassing pain together.
I found that the more I shared my story, though, the easier it got to talk about it. The first year was the hardest. I could never make it through the entire ordeal without breaking down and sobbing. With time, I knew when I needed to pause and breathe before continuing the tale.
Eventually, I started to write it down. I wrote it as journal entries. I wrote it in text messages. I submitted my first essay to a women’s publication and saw my daughter’s story up on a website. It felt surreal. By now, I've written about my daughter’s brief life and death dozens, if not hundreds of times.
And people began to comment. While the comments sections is often full of trash, the comments to that first story were only encouraging and compassionate. What meant more than the, “I’m sorry for your loss” comments were the ones from other grieving parents themselves.
Over the past few years, I have received numerous messages from people all over the world thanking me for sharing Maggie’s story. Countless people have sent me e-mails or tweeted at me to say they appreciated my words. I write candidly about my daughter’s short but impactful existence. I write about it as a mother. I write about it as an atheist. I write about it as a queer woman. I write about it as a Latina, as a minority, as the daughter of immigrants. All those parts of me influence the way I tell stories about my daughter. It's been important to acknowledge all these things when writing about her, so that others can see a part of themselves, of their identity, reflected back to them.
When I was in the darkest depths of my grief, when I considered taking my life on a daily basis, when I was terrified of driving alone for fear of giving into the intrusive thoughts telling me to run myself off the road, what I needed most was to know that I was not alone. That I was not “going crazy.” That I had not caused my daughter to die, no matter how awful and guilty I felt. So I wrote those words to the world. I put them out there for whoever might need to hear them. I told others about my pain because I knew it was the only thing that might help theirs.
Experiencing something as horrible as the death of a child is something that can only be understood by others who have experienced the same thing. It’s a specific kind of grief, and one that isn’t written about nearly enough. Dead babies have always been taboo. You want to be a lousy comedian? You write dead baby jokes.
But since the death of my daughter, I have seen pregnancy and child loss reflected more in mainstream media. Films like Rabbit Hole (with Nicole Kidman), The Other Woman (with Natalie Portman), and Return to Zero (with Minnie Driver) are all amazing movies that deal with this kind of grief head on. And the show This Is Us does a fantastic job of showing the public what it’s like to lose an infant at birth, and the varying ways parents cope and make the best of the worst possible situation. Still, more stories need to be told. More stories by a wider variety of people need to be told. My story still needs to be told.
I know not everyone is a writer. I know not everyone wants to relive their pain over and over again. It’s perfectly okay for people to not want to talk about child loss, too. Everyone grieves differently. For me, though, the only way I got through it was with writing. I have to write about my loss because I know right now, there is a doctor giving a woman the same look my doctor gave me just before I gave birth. The look that said, “your baby won’t make it.” I have to keep writing my story because there are parents struggling to find a reason to keep living. They lose their jobs and homes because of grief like I once did. They don’t know how to go back to being who they were. They don’t yet realize that they never will be who they were, and that it’s ok to accept that and move forward with their lives.
For as long as there are women having miscarriages and problems with infertility, for as long as parents are having to say goodbye to their babies before they ever take their first steps, or even their first breath—I will continue to share my story of loss. Someone out there shared their story and it got me through the pain. I can only hope that I can do the same for others.
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This piece was originally published by Priscilla Blossom on Mommy Nearest. Priscilla Blossom is a Florida-based freelance writer specializing in travel, (pop) culture, parenting, and feminism. Her work regularly appears in Romper, Hello Giggles, USA Today's 10Best, Miami.com, Matador Network, Ravishly, and others. When not chasing after her car-obsessed toddler, she's either attempting to improve her yoga game, watching too much Netflix, or blogging at www.prisblossom.com.