There's Always a Silver Lining

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I returned home from the hospital upon learning that we had lost our second pregnancy to miscarriage early in the second trimester eager to hold my 14 month old son. I was seeking normalcy and the things that bring me joy in the wake of receiving heartbreaking news, I suppose.

Upon walking in the door, my toddler shrieked excitedly. I scooped him up and held him close. He writhed in protest, trying to escape my grasp. In the two hours that followed, he proceeded to throw no less than four temper tantrums, as toddlers do. By the time he was crying hysterically while throwing the remnants of his dinner on the floor because I wouldn’t let him eat the chicken bones that remained on my plate after we’d eaten the meat, my husband addressed him calmly and kindly.

“Buddy,” he said to our son. “Daddy and Mommy have had a hard day, and the next little while is going to be difficult for us as well. We’re sad because we lost your little brother or sister. Our patience might be thin for a little while.”

Our son nodded, acknowledging that his Daddy was talking to him, but of course he didn’t comprehend what he’d been told.

In the days that followed, I thought a lot about my husband’s remarks. It was just an offhand comment he’d made at the end of a long, draining day, but I realized that I disagreed. Since we’d lost our second baby during pregnancy, I realized that I had more patience with our son, not less. Yes, I was grieving. And, yes, countless, seemingly irrational toddler tantrums are always challenging to deal with, no matter the circumstances. But, I learned something firsthand amidst my heartbreak. Something that I knew, in theory, but that I hadn’t had to confront head on thus far in my privileged life - until now. Others, I realize, know this all too well: Life is precious and it is finite. We are not guaranteed time with our loved ones. When I think about this too deeply it is truly harrowing.

It’s only been two weeks since our miscarriage. In many ways, the loss is still fresh and I’m most certainly still grieving. It’s been hard to accept that we’ll no longer be welcoming a new baby into our family in April. And, I can only imagine how anxiety-ridden our next pregnancy will be. But, despite the heartbreak, I also know that I’ll be OK. Though devastated, already I’m not spending the majority of my days crying.

But although the grief is not all-consuming, like it was the first few days, I have a feeling that this is the kind of heartache that stays with you. It doesn’t bring you to your knees like it did when it first uprooted your life. You still feel joy, and you can laugh without feeling guilty. It becomes more like a dull ache, with time, but it’s ever-present, like an itch you cannot fully scratch. You’re no longer the same person you were before the loss. It’s part of you now and it played a small role in shaping the person you became ever since.

Last night, my son was playing quietly in the kitchen while I was making dinner. A split second later, he was hanging off my leg, whining to be picked up. I couldn’t oblige right away because I held raw meat in one hand and a hot saucepan in the other.

“Just give mommy a few moments, sweetheart,” I said. Not surprisingly, this didn’t appease my toddler. The whining escalated into hysterics.

It was stressful, to be sure, but I took a deep breath and reminded myself that this is age-appropriate behaviour for a toddler. Instead of raising my voice, I knelt beside my son. “I know you want Mommy to pick you up,” I said gently. “But, Mommy’s cooking and it wouldn’t be safe for me to do that right now.” He continued crying until I could safely take him into my arms. Whereas in the past I’d felt twinges of annoyance that I couldn’t have five minutes of silence to prepare dinner, in this moment I felt calm. I felt only gratitude and love for this tiny human that I was lucky enough to have carried to term, to have safely given birth to, and who I continue to hold today.

I wish more than anything that we hadn’t lost this pregnancy. I miss this baby and the future that could have been immensely. And, yet I’m more appreciative than ever for all the good in my life. After all, you can’t have mountains without valleys.

There’s always a silver lining.

Brittany Van Den Brink is a PhD Candidate and freelance writer living in small-town Ontario with her husband, baby son, and their Golden Retriever, Chevy. She founded Motherhood Her Way to collaborate with other moms as they go through the ups and downs of motherhood. Say hi on Instagram @brittanyvandenbrink.