The Unique Grief of Mothers without Living Children

Sad woman staringIn my practice, I see many mothers who have lost their only children during pregnancy or early infancy. They show up at my office struggling with grief and feelings of isolation. Some also grapple with infertility and the prospect of never being a mother to a living child.

Many of these mothers have been to multiple therapists or support groups, yet their search for adequate support continues. They report feeling like outsiders in support groups where other women talk about their living children or who are pregnant again after experiencing a loss. They talk about struggling to find a therapist who understands the unique experience of being a mother without living children.

Again and again, these mothers share feelings of invisibility and isolation and the intense grief of having empty arms with no children to fill them. More than anything, they want someone to acknowledge the pain of their loss.

Having an awareness of the unique experience of being a mother without living children is vital in supporting these women. Here are some things therapists should consider when supporting a mother without living children.

There Is No Guarantee of a ‘Rainbow Baby’

It’s common in the world of pregnancy loss to hear talk about “rainbow babies” (babies born after loss). Often there’s an assumption that moms who have experienced loss will go on to have such babies. Many support groups include discussion of mothers desperately trying to get pregnant again.

I call the idea that another baby will fix a woman’s grief the “myth of the rainbow fix.” Even if a mother goes on to have a living child, it won’t replace the baby she lost or miraculously cure her grief.

More importantly, not all moms who have experienced loss have the option to have another child. Many moms are dealing with the knowledge that they physically or emotionally can’t have another baby. Others tried for years and are struggling with infertility. For many, the baby they lost was a “miracle baby” after years of apparent infertility and trying. Some have accepted that they may never have another pregnancy and have been on adoption waiting lists for years.

Not every mother who loses her child to stillbirth or miscarriage will have another child. Making the assumption that they can or will may be detrimental to the emotional health of these mothers.

Many Need Reassurance That They Are Indeed Mothers

Many mothers who have lost their only baby struggle with whether they are “allowed” to claim the title of mother. Their idea of what it means to be a mother has been suddenly and unexpectedly altered. Being able to claim the identity of mother even though their baby did not survive can be a valuable piece of the healing process.

It’s important to work with these women to redefine what “mother” and “mothering” means to them now that their baby is no longer physically here. In what tangible and intangible ways can they continue to mother their child?

Early Loss Does Not Mean a Lesser Loss

Far too often when a mother loses a baby early in pregnancy or has an ectopic pregnancy, her loss experience is minimized. Many women whose babies died in their first trimesters often feel that their grief is dismissed or invalidated through statements like, “It was so early,” “You didn’t really know it yet,” or, “You just found out you were pregnant, so try not to get too down.”

However, for many women the love and attachment come the moment they know they are pregnant. For others, the attachment and love were formed long before the pregnancy occurred, through years of trying to get pregnant, fertility treatments, or planning to become a mother.

Depth of love has no basis in time.

Questions about Children May Be Difficult to Answer

Many intake assessments and initial sessions for any kind of medical or mental health provider include the question, “Do you have any children?” or “How many children do you have?” For those who haven’t lost a child, this probably seems like a simple and straightforward question. For those who have lost one or more children, it’s often not so simple. Internal debate immediately comes up:

Do I say yes and explain?

Do I say yes, but then what if they ask how old he/she is?

Do I have the energy to go through the story all over again?

Maybe I should just say no, but I always feel so guilty when I do that.

What is his/her reaction going to be if I say I have a child but he/she is dead?

I want to acknowledge my child, but I don’t want to deal with discomfort and that awkward silence.

Gah, I hate this question!

For therapists, I don’t know that there is a good solution for the pain and uncertainty questions like this bring up. However, asking about living children and deceased children separately may make the situation more comfortable for mothers and help them feel more accepted.

Nothing therapists can say or do will completely take away the grief and pain a woman feels after the death of a baby. We can’t fix the ache of not having a living child to hold, raise, and love. As professionals and compassionate human beings, however, we can be more aware and sensitive to the unique experience of being a mother without a living child. Support without judgment or assumptions can go a long way toward healing, not just for these mothers but for anyone in pain.

© Copyright 2015 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Doug

    Doug

    March 9th, 2015 at 7:17 AM

    My wife and I lost two babies to miscarriage earlier in our marriage and while we have gone on to have two other children, I know that for neither of there is nothing that will take away the pain of those first losses.

  • Kar

    Kar

    January 30th, 2018 at 5:14 PM

    Reading this as was forwarded to me

  • susannah

    susannah

    March 9th, 2015 at 3:50 PM

    It’s so hard with this kind of loss because I think that we all automatically pin our hopes and dreams onto this small tiny being, and when you lose it, then where do all of those hopes and dreams go too?

  • Karen

    Karen

    March 9th, 2015 at 7:15 PM

    I have two healthy children but lost my third child at 20 weeks pregnant The pain ripped through our family and not one day goes by that I don’t think about my baby. As. Therapist, this loss has effected my work. The pain is always there.

  • Kim O.

    Kim O.

    March 9th, 2015 at 8:31 PM

    As a therapist and an invisible mother, I applaud this article’s compassion & amp; for raising awareness.

  • Tracie

    Tracie

    March 10th, 2015 at 4:45 AM

    Thank you so much for this article! This is the first thing that I have ever seen dealing with this issue. I am in this situation and feel validated after seeing this acknowledged.

  • Catherine

    Catherine

    November 11th, 2017 at 9:42 PM

    This is the first article I’ve seen addressing this unique situation. I’m 64 yrs. old and I STILL feel isolated, alone and invisible. I miscarried 3 times with time in between not being able to get pregnant. I saw specialists and learned I’m infertile. Finally I gave up trying, got pregnant only to lose our daughter to pre-eclampsia. I was 39. We tried adoption but the judge refused to certify us. He said our financial situation was “iffy” ( despite the fact my husband received three raises that year and I one). I have never gotten over losing the only child I might ever have – Norma Jo.

  • Emily Long

    Emily Long

    March 10th, 2015 at 9:32 AM

    Doug – yes, those losses and the love for those children always remain with us.

    Susannah – That’s the question isn’t it? Where do we put those hopes, dreams, and that love? I wish there was an easy answer. That too is unique to each of us. Much love to you!

    Karen – yes, learning to live with that pain is so hard…and definitely effects our work! It certainly has mine as well.

    Kim – :) So grateful to know you!

    Tracie – You are so welcome. I’m so glad it was helpful! There isn’t much talk about this particular issue – though there are some of us working on that :) xo

  • Virginia

    Virginia

    March 10th, 2015 at 10:38 AM

    Although I have never experienced this type of loss, I have been around others who indeed have and you are so right- their grief is no less than that of any parent who has lost a child. They should never be made to feel that it should be less.

  • Katie

    Katie

    March 10th, 2015 at 5:12 PM

    Thank you for posting this, as an invisible mother, I always feel so very sad, when people ask about children. I know I’ll never stop missing him. My whole world vegins and ends with him. Love my baby boy Lucas John!♡

  • Emily Long

    Emily Long

    March 11th, 2015 at 1:20 AM

    Katie – I’m so sorry for the loss of your Lucas. Much love and comfort to you.

  • Genevieve

    Genevieve

    March 12th, 2015 at 6:23 AM

    No one teaches any of us what to say or what to do to help the families who have lost babies like this.

    We are only taught how to act and react when things go great for a family, but when they go so horribly wrong, I think that we shut down and become a little lost as to what to do for them.

    I mean it should be a no brainer how to help others when they lose a loved one, but that is a struggle for a lot of us.

  • Emily Long

    Emily Long

    March 12th, 2015 at 10:12 AM

    Yes, Genevieve, unfortunately too many of us aren’t taught how to be supportive in these situations. That’s something I’m working on starting to change! Usually, just being present with them, listening without judgement, and allowing them to talk as they need to is most helpful. xo

  • gina

    gina

    March 13th, 2015 at 7:29 PM

    Very nicely said

  • Jess

    Jess

    March 13th, 2015 at 3:22 PM

    I have 6 angel babies,
    Megan Jayne I lost at 12 days old
    Summer who was still born
    My 3 miscarriages and my medical terminatio!

    Not a day goes by when I don’t think of them and it is so hard to talk about them because if I don’t I feel I’m denying them and if I do I sometimes upset people or they feel sorry for me or they just stop speaking because they don’t know what to say!

    I have 2 step sons that I love so much but it isn’t the same and never will be because I didn’t carry them, I didn’t give birth to them, I haven’t been there for all the 1st moments etc. I met them 4 years ago, at 9 and 12, so already grown up etc, and I’ve explained to them no matter how much I love them I’ll never be their mum!

    Much love to you all with your losses, strength, love and prayers go out to you all xxxx

  • Emily Long

    Emily Long

    March 14th, 2015 at 5:27 AM

    Jess – I’m so sorry for your losses. Megan Jayne and Summer and all your babies will always be part of your life and can never be replaced. Stepchildren are wonderful and I’m so glad you get to have that experience, even if it doesn’t replace the pain of not having your babies to raise. Much love. xo

  • jess

    jess

    March 14th, 2015 at 12:02 PM

    Thank you very much xx

  • Ruth S.

    Ruth S.

    March 13th, 2015 at 3:24 PM

    Compassion is what these women need. It is not something you can be taught truly unless you have personally experienced it. Faith is a hope they need also. I have experienced it, and eventually god found favor to bless me with 2 sons.

  • Nicole

    Nicole

    March 14th, 2015 at 8:20 AM

    Ruth, I am very happy for you and that God blessed you with a son. I want to clarify though from your post that it is not for lack of faith that those of us that are without living child are never blessed with children. We must have faith that God’s plan for our lives are better than our own and sometimes that may be without living child. It is with God’s love and faith in his plans for my life that I live my life as a mother of 2 angel babies and no living children.

  • Jennifer L

    Jennifer L

    March 15th, 2015 at 3:26 AM

    Faith doesn’t always = God’s favorability nor promise of Rainbows. While both my Twin and I have lost the same amount of children, she has 2 Rainbows and I will not have any.

  • Brittany

    Brittany

    March 13th, 2015 at 3:29 PM

    I recently had my rainbow and although he has brought me tremendous joy, the joy has brought me guilt. My daughter was less than 2 wks old when she passed away 2 years ago. I was treated w fragility until I announced I was expecting another child. The people who ignorantly said “Don’t worry, you’ll have another”, were correct in yes, I had an other child. Not another. He does not replace my daughter. That grief does not go away. I don’t stop missing my daughter or my son’s sister. I know what it’s like to be a mother with empty arms and I pray every day for all of us mothers.

  • Emily Long

    Emily Long

    March 14th, 2015 at 5:23 AM

    Brittany – yes, as much as you love and enjoy having your son, he can’t replace your daughter. Grieving her and enjoying his life may always be a challenge to experience. Raising a child after loss is also a unique experience. Much love to you as you navigate that experience. xo

  • Debra

    Debra

    March 13th, 2015 at 3:32 PM

    I know that this forum deals with loss in infancy or miscarriage but what about we parents who have lost older children?
    I wish you would also share the stories of parents who have suffered the loss of an older child and how they coped or are coping still.

  • Stacy

    Stacy

    March 13th, 2015 at 3:47 PM

    I agree with you, I have this site to find ways to help my best friend who lost her only child, an adult daughter who had not married or had any children yet.
    This page helps me some but I know from having friends who lost children when we were all young and having babies this grief in old age is very different.

  • Maria

    Maria

    March 13th, 2015 at 3:48 PM

    I agree Debra. I’ve lost my only child. He was 22. Being a childless mother after 22 years of being mum, mama, mummy…..

  • Emily Long

    Emily Long

    March 14th, 2015 at 5:17 AM

    Debra & Marie – yes, losing a child later in life is equally painful and heartbreaking. I don’t deny that loss and pain at all. I agree that more can be shared and discussed on that grief and experience as well.

  • Jennifer L

    Jennifer L

    March 15th, 2015 at 3:44 AM

    Debra, I am sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine losing a child after spending 22 yrs with them. If you are unable to find support online for Parents who have suffered loss of Adult children, (try typing it into Google? Or Facebook support groups?) Then I suggest maybe starting one! I know FB is free to start a group and I imagine their are other sites that would have free access to a site that you can have for a group. Good luck! I hope that your able to find support for yourself and other mothers in the same position.

  • Melissa M.

    Melissa M.

    March 13th, 2015 at 3:32 PM

    This is so fitting. I lost my 1 year old son, William just before Christmas and he was Indeed our miracle baby, after being told I would never conceive my own. The total loss and despair is indescribable, but not acknowledging him, mentioning his name however painful is worse. I have found it hard to vocalise my feelings when asked how I have found comfort in writing a blog to organise my thoughts. amotherwithoutachild.com

  • Emily Long

    Emily Long

    March 14th, 2015 at 5:20 AM

    Melissa – I’m so sorry for your loss of William. Even with the pain, having someone ask or talk about our babies and use their names can be so comforting and somehow validating of their life. Much love to you and your William. xo

  • Melinda P.

    Melinda P.

    March 13th, 2015 at 3:41 PM

    Thank you for this article. I lost my only son at 25 weeks due to uterine rupture. I almost lost my life due to catastrophic blood loss and so the decision was made to remove my uterus. I feel very alone and I won’t go to our town’s support groups since there’s almost always someone expecting or TTC.

  • Carrie

    Carrie

    March 13th, 2015 at 6:18 PM

    Melinda I lost my second baby to uterine rupture at 28 weeks 15 years ago, I chose to have my tubes tied afterwards because both pregnancies were very difficult and traumatic and I could not handle loss again. I’m sorry for your pain and loss.

  • Emily Long

    Emily Long

    March 14th, 2015 at 5:14 AM

    Melinda & Carrie – I’m so sorry for your losses. Though it can be so hard to find support groups that fit sometimes, you are definitely not alone. Sending much love xo.

  • sue

    sue

    March 13th, 2015 at 3:42 PM

    Thank you for this article. It describes exactly how I feel. At almost 47, it is doubtful I’ll have a rainbow baby. We were involved with the Preeclampsia walks for a few years, but it is difficult to be around the families that have gone on to have more children. Their loss is not any less than ours, but we don’t quite fit in.

  • Emily Long

    Emily Long

    March 14th, 2015 at 5:11 AM

    Sue – yes, that sense of not really fitting in with any group is so painful. I hope this was helpful in letting you know you aren’t alone. xo

  • Angie

    Angie

    March 13th, 2015 at 4:42 PM

    I will be 43 in July and my husband and I have lost six babies. Most certain we will never have a rainbow baby and it’s still hard to grasp every single day. Even though our last loss was almost 4 years ago it’s still just as painful.

  • Emily Long

    Emily Long

    March 14th, 2015 at 5:09 AM

    Angie – I’m so sorry for the loss of your babies. Navigating that grief of losing hope for a rainbow baby is so hard. Much love to you. xo

  • Jenn

    Jenn

    March 13th, 2015 at 4:46 PM

    Thank you for this article, I have been struggling for 12 years trying to have a baby and have lost 4 babies. This article really speaks to me because most likely I won’t have my rainbow baby

  • Emily Long

    Emily Long

    March 14th, 2015 at 5:07 AM

    Jenn – I’m so sorry for your losses. Much love to you as you navigate the grief of losing hope of a rainbow. xo

  • Sharyn

    Sharyn

    March 13th, 2015 at 5:13 PM

    Thank you so much for this article. Like others have said, this is the first article I have seen talking about this scenario. The one I have experienced. I was one of 14 mothers in a peer-supporter workshop, and the only one who did not have a living child. Even though all of these women also experienced loss of a child, I still felt different to them, like another whole new level of grief. Anyway thank you so much again. I welcome any further updates which speak to mothers in my scenario. Even now, after reading your article, I feel so much better to call myself a mother. Such a simple gift but a massive help. Thank you.

  • Emily Long

    Emily Long

    March 14th, 2015 at 5:05 AM

    Sharyn – I’m so glad it was helpful! There are definitely added layers of grief that come with not being able to have other children and losing that hope of being a mother to a living child. You are a mother, not even death that take that from you.

  • Bree

    Bree

    March 13th, 2015 at 5:52 PM

    I have often felt similar feelings. I have one living child and one lost to abortion. Something that has haunted me decades later. I consider myself a mother of two. But no one else does and I fear being judged.

  • Emily Long

    Emily Long

    March 14th, 2015 at 5:03 AM

    Bree – yes, you are a mother of two. Much love to you.

  • Carrie

    Carrie

    March 13th, 2015 at 6:15 PM

    thank you, from an invisible mother I was just discussing this feeling to my husband last night and I said it is hard to put into words but it is the most isolating feeling, and no one understands…..

  • Emily Long

    Emily Long

    March 14th, 2015 at 5:01 AM

    Carrie – yes, it can feel so very isolating. Finding supportive, understanding people can be so challenging – especially when you are just trying to get through each day. Much love to you!

  • Jasper

    Jasper

    March 13th, 2015 at 6:55 PM

    This! So much this. I lost my only child to an ectopic pregnancy aged 20. I was told I would never have children by the counsellor before doctors spoke to me post surgery. My hysterical grief prompted an about face by the doctors with sweet words. Many years later the truth came out. Because of the state of my tubes, both damaged by an unspecified childhood infection, I would not have children without medical intervention. As I have no money for IVF my dream was over. My fragile mental health would likely not have survived multiple failures even if I had the funds. I had a hysterectomy last year aged 43.

    The words I heard after my loss. It wasn’t a real baby. You’re young, you have plenty of time. Get over it. How they hurt. My mother told people I’d had surgery for ovarian cysts. I was an unwed mother. She was Catholic. I had no space to grieve.

    Thank you and blessings.

  • Emily Long

    Emily Long

    March 14th, 2015 at 4:59 AM

    Jasper – I’m so sorry for your loss and the painful experience and lack of support after. You deserved the right to grieve both your child and the loss of hope to have more. xoxo

  • Jasper

    Jasper

    March 14th, 2015 at 5:45 PM

    Thank you Emily. I am slowly working through the process now. I have sacred times and places and keepsakes to hold my child in my heart.

  • Sarah

    Sarah

    March 13th, 2015 at 7:15 PM

    I love the term invisible mother. That’s exactly what I am. I don’t feel like I can claim the title of mom, but I feel guilty for saying I’m not a one.

  • Emily Long

    Emily Long

    March 14th, 2015 at 4:57 AM

    Sarah, yes, I’ve found “invisible mother” to be a helpful phrase for myself and for others to describe this experience. I’m so sorry for your loss – your child made you a mother and not even death can take that away. xo

  • Stephanie V

    Stephanie V

    March 14th, 2015 at 8:19 AM

    No, you don’t have to ask.

    This article is saying: when you ask if someone has children, just accept them and show them love if they reveal that one or all of their children have passed on. Treat those as the mom’s children if SHE considers them to be her children. Every woman feels differently about this, and it is not a matter of prying but instead being open to what she has to say about her own motherhood identity.

  • ashley

    ashley

    March 13th, 2015 at 7:19 PM

    I was wondering- I have never lost a child, but have a feiend who recently did and posted this- are you saying that when I meet a new friend, I should ask, how many children do you have and then after thier answer ask if they have had any who passed away? That seems oddly personal if they don’t offer the info when asked the first question. I hope I don’t sound insensitive, I really am asking what is best. I know everyone ia different and some people will probably be morw comfortable offering their story once a relationship has been built- but people ask about children when first meeting and even to people they may never see again. I dpnt think I would be comfortable asking a mom in line with me at the store if she has lost a child or children.

  • Stacey

    Stacey

    March 13th, 2015 at 10:52 PM

    No, you don’t ask if their child has died. If they want to tell you, they will. Just realize it can be a sensitive question. I had someone ask shortly after I lost my first son in the second trimester. When I hesitated, trying to figure out how to answer, she said somethingg about it “being a simple question.” It’s not so simple for those of us who lost our babies.

    It’s still not. I have a beautiful take-home son, but when people ask “Is he your first/only child?” I sometimes hesitate, wondering how much to share.

    Like I said, just realize it can be a sensitive question with a very complicated answer. If the person wants to share, she will. If she doesn’t, but hesitates or looks sad when answering in the negative, don’t press.

  • Emily Long

    Emily Long

    March 14th, 2015 at 4:55 AM

    Ashley, yes figuring out how to navigate those kinds of get-to-know you questions can be hard. My suggestion for the separate living and deceased questions were more directed toward other therapists.

    For more social situations, I’d suggest simply asking them about themselves, what sort of things they enjoy or do in life, what they are interested in, etc. Asking about children often is a common introductory question, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Most who have kids will bring it up easily enough. Those who have lost children will likely bring it up over time as a relationship builds when they feel it would be well-received and treated with compassion and support. Does that help?

  • Stephanie V

    Stephanie V

    March 14th, 2015 at 8:28 AM

    No, you don’t have to ask.
    This article is saying: when you ask if someone has children, just accept them and show them love if they reveal that one or all of their children have passed on. Treat those as the mom’s children if SHE considers them to be her children. Every woman feels differently about this, and it is not a matter of prying but instead being open to what she has to say about her own motherhood identity.

  • Tina W

    Tina W

    March 14th, 2015 at 9:38 AM

    Ashley,

    When asked if I have children, I now say that I have Angel Babies… This helps both of us bc I get to tell them that I have children but they’re in heaven and sends a caution warning that is a sensitive subject. Usually they say I’m sorry and we move on to a different topic.

    In the beginning just after my loss (about a year) I struggled paused and stuttered through that question and evidently said no. But this led to more questions… which I was trying to avoid. I’m a teacher and my students just couldn’t understand why I didn’t have children. I lovingly told them that I have 120 rowdy teenagers because you are all my children. This worked for a little while but always came up again out of the blue and when I was unprepared. I lost it in class one day mid semester when a new student asked the “dreaded” question. I was completely caught off guard and was very upset which in turn upset my students. So from then on I have always said I have Angel Babies… and whenever a new student asked that “question” the entire class would quickly change the subject.

    If a friend is ready in their grief process they will tell you but if they try to dodge the question just leave it alone bc they’re trying not to break down in front of you. It’s never fun when both of you are crying… Also I don’t ask people if they have children because I know that if they do they will usually work into the conversation. I hope this helps.

    Tina W
    Mommy to 2 Angel Babies

  • Kristin

    Kristin

    March 14th, 2015 at 10:19 AM

    no they are not saying that you need to ask about passed children. That is the whole point of the article. Our grief is invisible. People do not want to talk to you because they don’t want to make you uncomfortable but then No One ever talks about this huge thing in your life that has changed you. It is everyone else that is uncomfortable, not me. I will always gladly talk about my beautiful little girl. This article is trying to shed light on what grieving mothers deal with. Because no one talks about it. It is not about what you do or don’t do. It is not about you. But maybe when you meet someone new and ask if they have kids and you notice a nervous or strange reaction or answer, hopefully you now have insight into what may be her reality.

  • Jen

    Jen

    March 14th, 2015 at 11:22 AM

    My first son was stillborn, then we had two early miscarriages and now have three living children – I hate hate hate hate the question of how many kids do you have. For years I carried around so much anxiety that this question would come up – and I never knew how to answer it. So my advice is just don’t ask – if they want to mention their baby in Heaven, they will on their own terms. There are so many ways to have conversations and not directly ask that particular question. I think it’s very thoughtful of you to consider how to approach this topic:)

  • gina

    gina

    March 13th, 2015 at 7:44 PM

    I was 22 weeks when I lost my son. Coming in complaining of pain. No one took me serious, finally strings pulled and they said it was a threatened abortion. I looked at the doctor like I was a monster. Did I do this to him? Was it because I did too much? Then my water broke. They said he still had fluid and I refused to give up and days later I lost more fluid and started bleeding. Labor started without me. I had no choice. They said my life was at stake for infection, the baby would suffer and most of all his lungs weren’t strong enough. He died while being born. I said over and over “he didn’t wanna go”
    I dont know why I’m saying this. I dont remember much. I blocked it out. I was on sedatives. I buried him four days before Christmas 2014. I put boxing gloves there. I read an article that said our children become apart of our DNA. So I will always have him with me.

  • Emily Long

    Emily Long

    March 14th, 2015 at 4:50 AM

    Gina, I’m so sorry for your loss of your son. I’ve read the DNA article too – I hope it brought you some comfort as it did me. Lots of love to you!

  • Carrie H

    Carrie H

    March 13th, 2015 at 10:08 PM

    Ashley, I feel like it is less insensitive to ask, Do you have children? rather than, How many children do you have? Do you see the difference? The choice to answer is up to the person being asked the question. I hate, How many children do you have? so you automatically assume I have children? why? I always say I do not have children, and I always feel guilty

  • Gerri

    Gerri

    March 14th, 2015 at 4:03 AM

    I had two miscarriages in 1980 at 8 weeks. Back then, there was no support at all. It wasn’t talked about. It was like it should just be forgotten. I have 3 children (all adults), but I have never forgotten those first two. My mother had a stillborn little girl in 1961 & she didn’t get any support either. For her it was she already had 7 children, so get over it. A few years ago, one of my sisters (who lost a son when he was 29), found where the baby was buried. So, we brothers and sisters bought a plaque for her and took mum there, (dad died the year before we found out where the baby was). She was happy knowing & had somewhere to visit.

  • Emily Long

    Emily Long

    March 15th, 2015 at 6:35 PM

    Gerri – yes, as challenging as it can be to find good support now, it is infinitely better than it was 20+ years ago. I think it’s beautiful that you and your siblings were able to give your mom that gift and honor your sister.

  • krystal m

    krystal m

    March 14th, 2015 at 4:51 AM

    Having twins premature at 23 weeks I am living a emotional roller-coaster. My baby boy passed away ten days after their birth. My daughter is still in the fight to stay here. I am grateful for everyday I have my daughter but I am still grieving for the loss of my son. I can never be fully happy or completely sad. Its always both. Trying to find a balance without feeling so overwhelmed. Its been 2 months since my baby passed away I am counting those days as well as the days I still have my daughter.

  • Emily Long

    Emily Long

    March 15th, 2015 at 6:37 PM

    Krystal – I’m so sorry for the loss of your son and the struggle of your daughter. Sending love and light to all of you for this painful and fearful time. xo

  • Cindy

    Cindy

    March 14th, 2015 at 8:28 AM

    I have two beautiful little boys sitting here with me. They are my world and will be legally adopted within days. As much as they mean to me, I still hurt for the babies I never carried within me. I refuse to attend baby showers and avoid pregnant women like the plague. I’m not jealous, I just can’t take the pain. Thank you for posting this article!!!

  • Emily Long

    Emily Long

    March 15th, 2015 at 6:39 PM

    Cindy – yes, those children lost can never be replaced nor do living children take the pain of that loss away. Baby showers and other women’s pregnancies can be so hard after loss. Taking care of yourself and honoring your needs is so important. xo

  • Ruth

    Ruth

    March 14th, 2015 at 8:55 AM

    I recently lost my 26 year old son and I can fell ur pain He was not a infant but to me he will always my baby

  • Emily Long

    Emily Long

    March 15th, 2015 at 6:40 PM

    Ruth – yes, always your baby. I’m so sorry for your loss. xo

  • Holly

    Holly

    March 14th, 2015 at 9:12 AM

    I found this article interesting. I am the surviving middle child of two siblings who passed away. One at 14 months and one at 2 months. My sister was 3 years older and my brother 3 years younger.

    My dad never really brings them up, he still finds it really difficult even after 30 years. Mum has begun in the last 5 years or so to talk about them. I see her wanting to say sometimes that she has three kids, then I see her stopping herself. When strangers ask her why she only had one, she sometimes goes into it, other times she just says something like, ‘just the way it happened’.

    I am really proud of my parents for how well they raised me and didn’t let it affect the way they raised me. I was always aware of the whole situation and so I always had/have a lot of time and understanding of why they protected me from things most parents wouldn’t. But they seemed to know too when to let go.

    I know they have probably shielded me from a lot of their pain, but I know too that they came to terms with it for my sake. I am sure they still hurt, but I believe it got easier for them. I just wish that they had groups like this to share their thoughts and anguish with.

    My thoughts are with you all and I hope eventually you all can in some way come to terms. My thoughts and heart is with you all.

  • Leslie

    Leslie

    March 14th, 2015 at 10:15 AM

    I lost a baby at 11 weeks when I was 41 years old and then again at 6 weeks when I was 43 years old. I haD waited for the right man to be thee father of my children, and thought I had found him, only to have him say he wasn’t sure he wanted any more children. We were together 5 years when I became pregnant the first time unexpectedly. I was shocked, but excited. When I lost that baby, I was devastated. I lived under a black cloud for what seemed forever. I had just come out from that black cloud for a few months when I found out I was pregnant for the second time. I refused to accept the second pregnancy for fear that I would lose that baby too. I am now a childless mother. Such a horrible feeling! Especially when there are friends and coworkers getting pregnant and having babies. When people ask if I have children, it has taken discipline for me to respond that I do, but they are in heaven. All of my friends have children, a few have lost children and do understand that loss, but, they don’t understand the emptiness of having no children.

  • dawn

    dawn

    March 15th, 2015 at 12:54 PM

    i too am a childless mother i lost my first at 12 weeks due to miscarriage and my 2nd at 6 weeks with an ectopic. was 15 years ago but every mothers day and listening to mothers talk about there children and grandchildren knowing I’ll never have what they have is hard ..i keep hoping one day i wont feel this way xx

  • Emily Long

    Emily Long

    March 15th, 2015 at 6:41 PM

    Dawn – I’m so sorry for your losses and the continued grief and pain. Much love to you.

  • Emily Long

    Emily Long

    March 15th, 2015 at 6:43 PM

    Leslie – I’m so sorry for your losses. It’s so hard when your arms feel so empty. Much love to you. xo

  • Michaela

    Michaela

    March 14th, 2015 at 6:45 PM

    I was 30 weeks when my son went to heaven but I didn’t know I had lost him until I was 34 wweeks. It was unexpected I wasn’t told I was a high risk. I wasnt told there was only one artery in his umbilical cord. We were planning the baby shower I had already started collecting stuff for his room. On August 14th 2014 I delivered my son. I held him but it wasn’t enough. I knew he was gone and it was almost harder because it would have been such a blessing to see him smile to have him hold my finger to kiss his forehead and be able to tell him good bye. All of my friends are having children or are pregnant its so hard to see them and how they don’t take very good care of their children its almost like they take advantage of having children somehow. In my losing my little Alex I feel like somewhere I did something wrong I find me blaming my self a lot for losing him. Its difficult. Its heartbreaking. It shouldn’t be possible.

  • gina

    gina

    March 15th, 2015 at 5:43 AM

    It feels that way. But you and I both know that we would have done anything to save them. It is a guilt you will have without control. But trust me your a great mother. There many woman like us and I honestly open my heart to say I’m sorry. I know that no one says that right comfort. Love him , miss him, celebrate him but don’t attack you. He loves you and I know you will never feel the same. None of us will, we just know how to wake up everyday. Prayers to you. I’m so sorry

  • Emily Long

    Emily Long

    March 15th, 2015 at 6:46 PM

    Michaela – I’m so sorry for the loss of your Alex. You are right, it doesn’t see, right that the death of babies still happens with all of our medical knowledge and tools. It’s clear your loved your son and would have done anything to protect him, you are a beautiful mother. xo

  • Elisha

    Elisha

    March 15th, 2015 at 1:11 AM

    Depth Of Love Has No Basis In Time…Those Words Spoke To My Soul. I Have A Beautiful 21 Year Old Daughter, But I Should Also Have A 6 Year Old. I Didn’t Think I Could Get Pregnant Again Because I Had Endometriosis So This Was My Miracle Baby. I Miscarried Early In My Pregnancy And It Nearly Broke Me. I Felt At Times That I Had To Hide My Grief Because Even Family Members Made Comments Like “At Least It Happened Early Before You Got Attached” Or “It Just Wasn’t Meant To Be” Even My Gynecologist Said “At Least We Know We Can Get You Pregnant We Can Do It Again.” I Honestly Was Not Brave Enough To Try For A Rainbow Baby Because I Wasn’t Sure I Could Live Through Another Loss. I Had A Hysterectomy At Age 40 When My Endometriosis Became Life Threatening.
    I Thank You For This Article, And I Am Praying For Comfort And Peace For All Of The Mommy’s Of Angels.

  • Emily Long

    Emily Long

    March 15th, 2015 at 6:47 PM

    Elisha – you are most welcome. I’m so sorry for the loss of your baby. Much love to you.

  • Crystal

    Crystal

    March 15th, 2015 at 5:19 PM

    I finally found something that explains how I feel I have 4 beautiful children I lost my first pregnancy very early had my first child and then over 3 years 2 more I then became pregnant with baby number 4 lost her@ 16weeks gestation it crushed me my husband was willing to try again we lost 2 more at 6 and 8 weeks I thought I was broken that I couldn’t give my newlyweded husband a child then after 6months of hormones we had our rainbow baby I was so broken hearted to know she as loved and as sought after as she was didn’t fix the hurt of our losses I have had to deal with people saying well you have Thalia now …or at least you have the other three kids…you didn’t know this baby to get attached… but their wrong a lost is a lost no matter how small !!!

  • Emily Long

    Emily Long

    March 15th, 2015 at 6:50 PM

    Crystal – I’m so sorry for your losses. Yes, every baby matters, regardless of how long they stay with us and regardless of how many other children we might have. Much love to you.

  • Betty

    Betty

    March 17th, 2015 at 5:40 PM

    you hit it right on the nose. In 2001, after 1.5 years of injections and iui, I finally got pregnant, but my son was stillborn at 29 weeks. I was the only one in the support group who had infertility issues, and after just months all the other women were expecting again while I was struggling with international adoption. I was so miserable my parents gave us money to try more treatment cycles. The first cycle worked, and in 2003 our daughter was born. In 2007/2008 we tried 3 cycles in the hopes of giving our daughter a sibling. The third one worked, but we miscarried right away. Next came the process of settling into the reality of having only one child while surrounding by families with multiple children. I never felt complete, just settled. In 2011, at the age of 41, I got the beautiful surprise of being pregnant without even trying. That dream quickly turned into a nightmare because our son had polycistic kidney disease, and died 16 hours after birth. I was a devastated 42 year old who felt betrayed by a rotten joke, and desperate once again to have another child. My daughter was also now desperate to have a sibling. We tried on our own, got pregnant twice, and had 2 early miscarrieges. We are now foster parents hoping to adopt one day so our daughter does not grow up alone, but every day is a struggle in grieving our son, and knowing we will not have more biological children. This has not killed us, and not made us stronger either.

  • Char

    Char

    March 28th, 2015 at 5:43 PM

    Still grieving the loss of my angel at five weeks. Taylor Lane, I only knew you for a week, but I love you with all that I am and all that I will be. Thank you to the author for acknowledging the love and emptiness I feel. Death is supposed to get easier but it never does.

  • Rachel

    Rachel

    March 31st, 2015 at 10:47 PM

    Reading this article and these comments is like a balm to the wounds of loss that I know will forever be healing. My baby–wow, I’ve never called her or him that before–was just 5 weeks when I miscarried. I will always, always remember. So many friends are having babies now and I keep thinking I’d be holding a beautiful 3 month old December baby now. I am a mother and always will be. The love the grows in your heart when you know a new life has begun inside you cannot be taken away. My baby. My December baby.

  • Kim

    Kim

    June 5th, 2015 at 2:13 PM

    As always, an amazing article, Emily. Proud to be your friend, colleague, & invisible mother with you. Love ya, girl. This was beautiful.

  • Bex

    Bex

    June 6th, 2015 at 12:39 PM

    Good article, after years of infertility all I have to show for it is two losses; one at 6 weeks and the other at 10 weeks. Next Saturday marks 2 years since we said goodbye to our angel baby. It doesn’t get easier. We didn’t tell most of our family about our loss as my nephew was a few weeks old and everyone wanted to celebrate him. I still don’t talk about our losses as to be frank no one wants to hear about it

  • Tina

    Tina

    July 30th, 2015 at 5:15 AM

    Hi Bex,
    I heard your pain and I want to acknowledge the loss you are feeling for both of your babies. Sending you a knowing hug.

  • Christina

    Christina

    June 6th, 2015 at 7:55 PM

    I lost my first and and only child to SIDS. He was born on November 17th and left us on December 28th 2015. It was the second night I was able to get some extra sleep and his loving father stayed up with him. We found him just looking like he was peacefully sleeping to find out sometime between 1 am to 5 am he stopped breathing. We called 911 and tried to preform CPR on his lifeless little perfect body til the paramedics came but it was too late. I have had such a hard life thought he was my reward but with a blind of an eye all my dreams turned into a nightmare! I tried to end my life and had to go get some help. I have come to accept my son is gone and nothing I can do will ever make him come back. But there isn’t a moment that goes by that I don’t miss or think about my precious baby boy and wonder if I will ever have another baby or how it will effect my husband and I? But I pray to my angel every night to let us know when he is ready for a brother or a sister because I know we will love it too very much and hope to look at it as a gift from him. Thank you for letting me share.

  • Ruby

    Ruby

    July 8th, 2015 at 10:35 AM

    I’m one of those who lost the infertility battle. I detest the “Do you have any kids” question. There are so many other ways to get to know people than to immediately pigeon-hole them as mommies or not. Use a little imagination and ask someone things like, “What do you enjoy doing your spare time?” “How have you been holding up with this hot/cold weather we’ve been having?” “Did you grow up around here?” (If they answer yes, then make a comment about all the changes they must have seen to the community between then and now. If they answer no, then ask when they moved here, what they like about living here, or where they moved from because maybe it’s a place you’ve lived or visited and then you can talk about that). So many other ways to get to know someone than asking about their reproductive abilities or luck with adoption agencies! I’m so fed up with the “Do you have kids” question that I almost always reply with “No. God decided to keep my children with him instead of giving them to me to love here.” That usually shuts them up. With the “How many kids do you have” question, I usually say, “I would have had two, but God decided he’d rather keep them instead.” Then I switch the subject to something that’s more inclusive, something we both have a chance at being able to talk about together without it turning into just me listening to someone go on and on about their kids or parenting problems.

  • Amanda

    Amanda

    October 10th, 2015 at 11:17 AM

    I know I am late to this thread but I’ve only just found it and I read the comments nodding and crying. I had a miscarriage at 13 weeks when I was 18, a couple so early I didn’t even consult a doctor then I lost my daughter in the 20th week of pregnancy 11 years ago. We have since found out I have antiphospholipid syndrome and PCOS. I am 38 years old and will probably never have a miracle baby. I’m coming to terms with that now, it’s not all bad, but I still break a little inside when I have to say to a stranger (or a form) ‘I don’t have any children’. Sometimes the pain is still unbearable but most of the time it is just there.

    I’m hoping to train as a therapist to help other people like me.

  • Hillary

    Hillary

    December 29th, 2015 at 5:03 AM

    We lost our first baby in February 2015 at 7 weeks, the week after we saw their precious little heartbeat. We would have held this baby in late September. In early September we found out we were expecting again and I struggled with a lot of guilt and pain about whether to be excited or not. At a 6 week ultrasound we found out our baby was gone but there was a twin who had implanted as an ectopic pregnancy. The loss of three children has been a very lonely path for me. Especially now that three of my close friends are expecting, and all due within a week of when our twins would have been born. My husband wants to try again, but I am so scared!

  • Carol T

    Carol T

    December 29th, 2015 at 12:58 PM

    And a nod to men, also, who experience this loss.

  • Julia

    Julia

    June 13th, 2016 at 4:23 AM

    I was talking to a lady the other day about someone we both knew who gave birth recently, and she told me “believe me, you don’t know what it means to be a mother”, just because I don’t have any children. I wanted to tell that ignorant woman, “well yeah, i was about to find out what it means to be a mother, but then i lost my baby!”. I was very hurt by her words, but hey, most of the people don’t give a damn when they open their mouths.

  • Kari

    Kari

    August 15th, 2017 at 5:01 PM

    Wow, this article really hit home with me. I have only been pregnant once and lost the baby at six weeks. This after IVF. Another IVF cycle, more embryos, yet no baby. I had sixteen embryos in all. My doctor said that was really good odds, but i think he just said that to make me feel better. It has been seven years since my miscarriage and for a long while, I thought i was doing well. Now at 47, I don’t believe any miracle baby is coming my way and I have begun the grieving process all over again. It is terrible. One of my close friends knows about my situation and she is also without a child, so we can commiserate a bit about a future that looks pretty bleak. No birthdays, no graduations, no grandkids. It may sound selfish, but it is part of the process. My husband and I are talking about adoption just so we’ll have a child in our lives to share things with, but it’s a solution, not a substitution. I just pray that God reveals what is best for us. I know I sure have messed things up myself.

    I send out my sincerest prayers for healing to all the other invisible mothers (and fathers) here. You are not alone. Many of us are working through this grief process. Whoever said middle age was easy? Seems like it might be the hardest stage of all.

  • Malinda

    Malinda

    December 16th, 2017 at 2:23 PM

    I realize this article is a few years old, but I see some comments from this year. Thank you for the article and all the comments. I read them often to help me feel less alone. It has been almost 1 year since I gave birth to my beautiful sleeping baby boy. I’m still devastated and live in fear that I will never hold a living child of my own. Meanwhile, three of my friends and my SIL are pregnant. I can’t even talk to them. I just want to hide in my house and never have to face another pregnant woman or baby again. A co-worker is pregnant, so I listen to headphones all day to avoid hearing anything about it or having to look at her. I still can’t bring myself to clear out his nursery. I want to be hopeful that I will have a living child, but, at 40, my age is against me (and EVERYONE loves to make sure I’m aware it will likely never happen). I’m still so angry and broken. It’s so unfair that we don’t get to have what comes so easily to others. Everyone thinks I’m crazy and should be okay by now. In response to that, I just want to say ‘when you give birth to your dead baby, let me know how easy it is for you to get over.’ I fear one day, I actually might say it. Then, they can really call me crazy.

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