“Maybe next year will be better.”
Many of you are telling yourselves this today as a means of coping with the loss of a much wanted baby.
It was a sentiment that I myself expressed during my first Mother’s Day after pregnancy loss.
“Maybe next year there will be a baby,” I thought.
But next year came and went. And while, for a brief time, there was another baby filling the space of my womb, that baby died too.
The next year had only gotten worse. Not better at all.
Babies were everywhere.
Except for mine.
Mine were gone.
Church was hard during those years. Mothers with living children were celebrated as they should be. And even though I was one of them, with my one living child, I longed for mothers like me to be recognized not only for the hard work of raising a living child, but also for the hard work of grieving a dead one.
I was suddenly aware of the women around me with empty arms, and realized for the first time that for many of them, it may not have been by choice.
In church of all places, why weren’t their experiences, their losses, their BABIES being recognized?
I longed for the women who had lost babies to be seen for their own painful, yet unique form of motherhood. I longed for their sorrow to be acknowledged. I longed for someone to verbalize that motherhood doesn’t always include living children.
In a place that celebrates and advocates for life, I wondered why no one talked about the babies, the lives who had been lost to miscarriage or stillbirth.
As I grieved my babies and impatiently waited for God to bless me with another living child, I again thought, “Maybe next year will be better.”
And in time, a baby again filled my arms on Mother’s Day.
In time, a “next year” arrived that truly was better.
Since then, it’s not so much the pain I’ve experienced that I think about on Mother’s Day. It’s the pain that other women are experiencing. It’s seeing women in church—women who have lost a precious baby—and knowing they feel invisible. It’s feeling their pain intimately because their pain is a pain I’ve felt myself. I know their complicated motherhood doesn’t fit into the Mother’s Day box. They are outliers. The Mother’s Day message in church doesn’t usually refer to them or their experience of motherhood.
This isn’t a criticism of the church by any means. Mother’s Day is a joyful occasion and it should be celebrated in such a way. But I wonder if we can make space for the women, the mothers who are grieving. The mothers who don’t look like mothers. The mothers who feel invisible. The mothers who feel abandoned by God.
I wonder if we can recognize them, too.
For those of you who are telling yourselves that “Maybe next year will be better,” I hope you know that you are loved. I hope you know that there is a whole tribe of mothers like you who see you. You are not invisible to those of us who have walked in your shoes. We are praying that next year will be better for you, too.
You are not invisible to God either, though it can surely feel that way. He remains close to the brokenhearted.
Your loss is real. Your feelings are valid. You are not overreacting. You don’t have to get over it.
But can I encourage you by saying that your baby is loved? Not just by you, but by God, and those of us who have also said goodbye to babies too soon.
And can I encourage you by telling you that your motherhood isn’t over? Just because your baby died, does not mean you are no longer a mother. There is more to your story and that of your baby as well.
I don’t know when your “next year” will come. I don’t know if it will look like mine did. I don’t know if it will include a baby or some other blessing.
But there will come a year that is better than the one in which you are in the thick of baby loss and the grief that goes with it.
In the meantime, in the midst of sorrow and tears, I hope you allow yourself to daydream of the moment you’ll meet your baby again.
And when your heart feels like it can’t keep beating, cry out to God and remind yourself that your baby is safe in the arms of Jesus. And so is your heart—even when it’s raw and bleeding.