Ten Years After My Second Miscarriage, I Still Wonder

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A woman holding a teddy bear after a miscarriage. It was July 20, 2012.

The corridor was cold, my skin prickly as I walked toward the operating room, my blue cloth gown swaying, my hands desperately trying to hold it closed. My eyes were wet, and my cheeks tear-stained as I counted the beige tile squares as I walked. Twenty-five, twenty-six, twenty-seven. I kept counting as the room grew closer, trying to forget what would happen moments later—my final goodbye to the baby we desperately wanted.

I was only nine weeks pregnant, yet already our baby seemed so real. We’d already lost one pregnancy before receiving an ultrasound, but this one we had seen just two weeks earlier, the thin fetal pole a grainy white against the black screen.

The baby had looked a little small for the dates, according to the doctor, who had scheduled a follow-up for the next week. But there’d been hope. A due date. A guarded celebration.

Seven days later? No heartbeat. And now I was walking toward the OR, ready for a D&C.

Noticing my distress, a nurse tried to comfort me. “Shh, it’s okay,” she said. “Look at you, so young! How old are you?” 

“Twenty-eight,” I whispered.

“Oh, don’t worry! You’ll be back having a baby in no time!” she said.

And yet her words made me cry harder because I’d already lost a pregnancy. Because that loss combined with this one proved there was no guarantee I’d be back soon. Or ever.

So I returned to counting squares—Thirty-one, thirty-two, thirty-three. Before I knew it, the procedure was over, and I was home. But the small swell to my stomach remained.

And I wondered. Where was my baby now? Had he or she felt our love? Or known how badly we wanted to bring it home to our small house on that tree-lined street filled with basketball hoops, swing sets, and strollers? The home we’d chosen for a baby?

When we told our families of our second loss, everyone said much of the same thing. “It’s probably for the best. The baby was sick. It wasn’t meant to be.” Yet these words did little to ease my pain.

“But that baby was ours, and I loved it!” I’d say. “Even if it was sick, even if it needed me. I would’ve taken care of it! I would’ve done anything!”

Grief poured over me as I wished I could have done something to save my pregnancy. Yet nothing could be done, and few knew how to help ease my pain. As my world grew darker, I wondered. This time, “Why again? Why me?”

Healing took time. With my faith guiding me, I prayed and spoke to our little one at night. My mother gave us an angel figurine, and we placed it on our mantel next to the one my mother-in-law gave us after our first loss. Then my husband and I took time for each other, planning a last-minute trip where we unplugged and reconnected. Back home, we again began to hope.

A few months later, I was pregnant again. But there were problems with the pregnancy, and the doctors weren’t sure I’d carry it to term. Grief crept in again as I prayed.

“Please. Please,” I begged. “I don’t want another angel on my mantel. Let us hold this one in our arms!”

And then one day we did. Just eleven months after my second miscarriage, we welcomed our first daughter. Three years later, we held our son. Two and a half years after that, we welcomed another girl. And the pain of our losses faded.

Sometime after the birth of our third child, I even tucked the angels away, not because I wanted to forget but because our house was so full – of artwork and school projects, family photos, and masterpieces from the paint-you-own pottery studio in town.

Yet I never stopped wondering. Miscarriage is a very personal thing. Some women grieve deeply, others find it easier to move on. There is no right way to experience it, no accepted definition of what the loss even means. Is it the loss of a baby? The loss of a potential baby? The death of a mother and father’s dream?

For a long time, I grieved my lost pregnancies. Yet as I became a mother, this grief also seemed a paradox. For if those pregnancies had continued, I wouldn’t have the children I have today, the children who make my life complete. Who give so many gifts to the world each day. 

Which made me wonder. Were those first babies always meant for heaven? And if so, why weren’t they given the opportunity to bestow their gifts upon the world?

For years this haunted me. Until one day when I realized their gifts were all around me. Those babies taught me of the fragility of life, making it easier to endure two high-risk pregnancies and one high-risk delivery.

Then they made it a bit easier to navigate the sleepless nights and tantrums and “I hate yous!” from upset kids. You may hate me now, but I love you more than anything. I am so thankful you’re here, I still tell myself through their anger, their sadness, their tears.

They helped me savor all those early stages of childhood so that when I found myself grieving their end, I could also celebrate that we got to experience it – the first steps, the smiles, the gymnastics meets. Not everyone gets to experience this. Not everyone gets to have what comes next, I’d think.

And they made it easier to throw out my idealized conceptions of motherhood and to accept my children as they were. To embrace their unique personalities, interests, imperfections, and strengths.

Through my miscarriages, I had become not just stronger but more compassionate—more understanding. And so much more appreciative of all I’ve received.

So much so that today I no longer grieve my losses but rather thank my tiny babies for their short existence. For teaching me how to love. For opening my eyes to the beauty of the mundane. And for leading me to the children I have today.

Ten years ago, on July 20, I wondered if I would ever become a mother or carry a child of my own. I wondered if my body was broken or if I’d done something wrong. I wondered if I should give up on motherhood and give more to my job. If I should stop putting myself through an emotional cyclone that left me so stressed and anxious, I often could focus on little more than my sadness.

I wondered what the future held for my husband and me. If we would adopt, or become foster parents, or follow some other path. I wondered if the day of my D&C would be one I would bury away or carry with me.

Ten years later, the image of that hospital floor is as clear as the day I took those steps. But I didn’t know then that even though those steps were the last ones I wanted to take, they were carrying me toward a future that wasn’t easy but filled with laughter, fulfillment, and love. 

A home filled with children. Three who fill its walls and two who live in my heart. This is why in the quiet moments of the night, still I wonder. Now about the biggest question of all.

One day will we finally meet? My faith tells me yes. And so, I continue to believe even as I wonder.

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Jackie Nastri Bardenwerper lives in Fairfield, CT with her husband and three children, ages 8, 5 and 3. She is the author of several novels that encourage tween and teen girls to listen to their inner voice, from saving the family fishing business in ON THE LINE, to following a passion for crafting in SALTED CARAMEL DREAMS, and exposing a friend’s hurtful social media platform in POPULATTI. She is currently working on a new children's book series along with a novel on new motherhood. She also shares her own motherhood experiences on her Instagram @jnbwrite. When not writing, you can find Jackie and her family enjoying Fairfield’s beautiful coastline where they love fishing, swimming and sailing.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Oh Jackie I love this so much. Sending you a hug. Thank you for sharing this. I had five miscarriages in between Cannon and Kamryn. I still hold space for those losses in between. I always pictured having three children but Earthside I’ve got the best 2 I could ever ask for and I definitely agree with you that in someway you just appreciate every second even more because you know how lucky you are to have them. And in heaven I look forward to the celebration when I get to see my babies I never got to hold in my arms.

  2. Katie, my heart breaks knowing you went through this five times. I am so sorry you had to endure so much pain before finally holding your rainbow baby. But I agree, it will be an amazing celebration when we are finally reunited, and until then we are so lucky for the kids we have here. Wishing you all the best, it was so nice to run into you a few weeks back!

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