Losing a First Child
This post is written by Sam but was originally shared on hopemommies.org as part of the Declaring Motherhood Blog Series. To read more from Declaring Motherhood, visit hopemommies.org/tag/declaring-motherhood.
I felt like a mother, but I didn’t look like one.
While there are a thousand reasons why losing a child, especially a first child hurts, this was the possibly the hardest part for me when I miscarried our first baby in January of 2016.
The minute that second line showed up on the pregnancy test, I was irrevocably changed. I was a mother now, and nothing, not even the loss of that sweet little babe a few weeks later, could ever undo that.
In that moment, everything had changed. Spencer and I were no longer merely a married couple, we were a family. We weren’t just husband and wife, we were mom and dad. We had come together and created a life!
Everything had changed. But when the bleeding began a few weeks later, I realized that, cruelly, nothing about my day to day life would change. My belly would not grow. Our guest room would not become a nursery. Our arms would not hold a sweet, crying babe.
It seemed so unfair to feel like a mother, to be a mother, with nothing to show for it. To walk into church on Mother’s Day, knowing that included me, but feeling like it was a secret that only I was in on.
As strange as it sounds, I feel like I’ve actually lost a “first” baby twice. We lost our first sweet babe to miscarriage at seven weeks. Then we lost our firstborn, Max, 30 minutes after birth, 11 months later.
When Max was born, again, everything had changed. This time my belly did grow, our guest room did become a nursery, and our arms did hold a sweet babe. But we left the hospital with empty arms. We were up at two in the morning, not because of a crying infant needing fed and changed, but because of grief that would not let us sleep. This time I felt my motherhood even more deeply, but again I was robbed of the opportunity to do any mothering.
As you too, navigate this confusing new world of “childless motherhood,” I’d like to offer a few pieces of advice I learned during that confusing and isolating time.
First, and most importantly, run to Jesus.
He knows the depths of your pain and the longings of your heart. He sees your motherhood even when others cannot. In Genesis 16, Hagar flees from a broken and painful situation and encounters the Angel of the Lord in the desert. And she, with no prior relationship with this God of Abraham, names Him “the God who sees me” (Gen 16:13). He saw through her exterior, through the pain, and straight into her heart. And sister, let me promise you, He does the same for you.
Hold on tightly to words that validate your motherhood.
As we drove home from the ultrasound that confirmed what we already knew, that our sweet babe was no longer safe and sound in my womb, my husband grabbed my hand and said, “Well, you’re a mom. You loved him, and you were worried for him. I’m pretty sure that’s what parenthood is all about.” I’m not sure I had ever loved him more than I did in that moment, as he so naturally spoke that truth into my hurt and brokenness.
Later, when I first shared my miscarriage publicly, I had so many dear friends speak into my motherhood. They said they would “pray for my mama heart.” They said they knew that the moment I saw those two lines, I had begun to plan for and pray for my child’s life. Having so many acknowledge that I had become a mother despite never meeting my child was a sweet balm for my broken heart.
Let go of words that belittle or question your motherhood.
I pray this isn’t the case, but more likely than not, you, too, have heard statements like, “Don’t worry, you’ll have another.” Or, “Obviously you weren’t meant to have this baby.” Or possibly even, “It wasn’t even really a baby yet.” These words are untrue, unhelpful, and not worth remembering. Forget them. Let them blow away in the wind.
And, perhaps, even more difficult, I want to challenge you to forgive the speakers of these words. Friends and family so often don’t know what to say. For most, they’ve never experienced loss like this, and simply don’t understand it. They did not mean to hurt you or belittle the existence of your child. Tap into the grace of Christ, and forgive them for their hurtful words.
Don’t get stuck in trying to find a reason for the loss.
It’s so tempting to look for reasons why your baby died. God wasn’t just testing you. In this broken world, tainted by sin, death is a reality. One day we will meet Jesus face to face, and live in the light of His presence, and death will be no more. But until that day, we will never understand the fullness of God’s plans.
Allow yourself to find purpose in your loss.
After the Martian (our first baby) died, I began to talk about my miscarriage and had countless friends and acquaintances reach out to share their losses as well. I was able to be real and vulnerable in my pain, and simultaneously encourage others walking the same road. After Max died, I started to blog and to speak into the deep pain of infant loss. I began writing for Hope Mommies. I get to love and support other mommas as they learn to love their babies from this side of heaven. I get to channel the love and grace of Jesus and reflect His glory through my pain. It’s not what I would have chosen, but oh, what joy I have found in the process.
Mama, I know how hard and lonely it is to lose a child—especially a first child. I know how confusing it is to feel your motherhood deep in your bones but have nothing to show for it. But so does Jesus. And He longs to comfort you in this place, to meet you in your pain, and fill the empty places in your heart.