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  • Leah Outten

10 Ways Miscarriage Heartbreak and Birth Mother Grief Are Similar

Updated: Jan 26, 2023

When I had a miscarriage two years into my marriage and needed a D & E at twelve weeks along, I was heartbroken. Although it wouldn’t have been the best timing for us as I was finishing my last year of college, I bonded with my new little ones-- yes, twins-- from the moment those two lines appeared on the pregnancy test. It was devastating for them to be gone so soon. During that experience, I felt emotions similar to when I placed my daughter in an open adoption 5 years earlier. It was actually very triggering of adoption memories and grief. Here’s how:

1. Leaving the hospital empty handed

I was wheeled out of the hospital doors empty handed twice. Once after I placed at 16 years old and again as a young married mom after my D & E. Each time I went in with a baby (or two) inside me and was wheeled out with empty arms and a broken heart. It was incredibly hard knowing in an ideal world this wasn’t the way it was supposed to be.

2. Physical recovery with nothing to show for it

With that same idea, the aftermath of physical recovery with leaky engorged breasts, cramps galore, and IV punctures with no baby to show for it. You are plagued with reminders of what you just went through without the joy of a baby to distract you from the physical nuisance of having just given birth.

3. Invisible healing and feeling forgotten

There isn’t just healing to do physically, but emotionally as well. The invisible healing isn’t always out there for the world to see, and some may push to move on and let go before you are ready. It is difficult as others around you move on. There was a child after all, a birth of some sort happened, and it is hard to feel like that child and the experience you just had is already forgotten.

4. Not knowing what they would look like

I will always wonder what my twins look like. I don’t even know if they were boys or girls, or one of each! All I have is what I envision them to be, or how they appear in my dreams as I sleep. For some in closed adoptions, that is all they have of their child as well.

5. Emptiness

The physical emptiness after birth or a miscarriage is so strange. It literally feels like a part of you is missing as your stomach resembles a still pregnant belly with nothing inside. It is a reminder of the emptiness within your heart too, a piece has gone elsewhere.

6. Triggers

I remember going shopping a few weeks after my miscarriage when a cute pregnant lady came into view. I had to leave the store to avoid crying right there in the middle of the electronics department. Triggers can be everywhere and arrive at any time—a song on the radio, or a TV show. And yet, sometimes you are okay in the same situation on a different day. Still, you never know when you will have to deal with the emotional impact.

7. Not getting to be their parent

I wanted to be my birth daughter’s mom, I really did. I fought for 7 months within my heart and logistically to be that role in her life, but it wasn’t the best choice for us at the time. The same goes for my twins, my heart ached for them to hang on when I saw the warning signs of a pending miscarriage. I wanted to be their mom but it wasn’t what was best for them either. I have learned to trust a bigger plan; however, not getting to be the parent you want to be is a hard reality to face no matter what the situation may be.

8. Dreams to let go

I dreamed of having my birth daughter with me when I was pregnant. I was excited about having her in my life. In the beginning, I visualized a family with her included. I dreamed of the things we would do together—ride bikes, draw together, read the books that my parents read to me before bed. But they were just that, fuzzy rainbow filled dreams, blind to the reality of how hard our lives would be as a 16 year old single mom. I had to let go of my desire to do what was best for her. As for my miscarriage, I dreamed about those same things for my twins—those soft, feel good moments that I won’t get to share with them in this lifetime.

9. The heartache

Both of my pregnancies were unplanned, but both so wanted once I knew about them. Unplanned does not equal unwanted. It can mean love and acceptance that our life will change. Sure, it may be harder, but it would be worth it. Once that love has found root in a mom’s heart, heartache remains when our vision for things that could or should be are dashed. Whether we make the choice or not, whether we know it is best or not, whether we have peace or not, there is still heartache.

10. Grieving process

Regardless of the situation, the grieving process is the same: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I felt like going through the adoption process (with a wonderful social worker and counselor by my side) helped me to handle and move through the stages with my miscarriage. I knew that I needed to do what worked for me. Cry, write, talk about it, surrounded myself with people who love me, and dig deeper into my faith. Eventually, in both situations, peace and acceptance came. It doesn’t mean that either situation doesn’t still have triggers, but it does mean my heart is fixed on the truth that it is what it is and I’d rather make the best of it.

So why am I sharing this? I hope it can help give someone a taste of what a birth mother may feel when placing her child for adoption. Miscarriage and adoption aren’t the same and I don’t claim that they are, but the feelings are somewhat similar. I share this so, just maybe, someone can put themselves in a birth mother’s shoes to relate to her, to care for her, and vice versa. What if we take our experiences and try to relate as best as we can with one another? Perhaps a birth mom can relate some to a friend who is experiencing a miscarriage? Or an adoptive mom who struggled with miscarriages now preparing to bring home a child from the hospital can understand better the birth mother as she says her goodbye for now. Adoption can be so complicated and emotionally hard on all sides, and we need each other. We need to know we aren’t alone. We need our feelings validated. Sometimes that means we relate the best that we can and give others love the best we know how.

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