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VICTOR JOECKS: Reflections on Mother’s Day and miscarriage

I’ll always remember where I was when my wife and I found out we were pregnant.

We were living in our first apartment. It could best be described as a two-step home. That is you could stand in the middle of it, take two steps and be in any of the other areas. In our tiny kitchen, I took a picture of my wife holding the positive pregnancy test. There it was — tangible proof that our lives would never be the same. Life bubbled over with excitement and possibilities, dreams and wonderment.

We bought frames for each of our parents. We planned to print that picture and send it to them as our way of announcing that they would soon have a new grandchild.

We procrastinated sending the frames. Then we didn’t need to. Our baby’s heart stopped beating. At what was supposed to be a routine appointment, the technician couldn’t find a heartbeat. There’s no easy way to explain to an expectant mom that what — who — she was waiting to meet will never be arriving. Our preborn baby died. Our joy crumbled underneath waves of shock, anguish and sorrow.

Subsequent miscarriages didn’t get any easier. The shock wasn’t as great, but the wistful wondering of what could have been didn’t lessen either.

Pregnancy loss can be especially isolating because frequently other people don’t know. A cast on my arm would tell you that I broke it. A Band-Aid on my face would inform you that I nicked myself shaving. There was nothing to show that we had experienced a miscarriage. Our miscarriages were fairly early, so we never made them “Facebook official.”

If that’s what I experienced, it seems impossible to imagine what my wife went through. Men can generally wall-off emotions, even if it’s not a great long-term strategy. My wife had a living baby in her belly, and then the baby died. Indescribable emptiness. Frantic, desperate prayers didn’t produce a miracle, just the unavoidable reality that sometimes life is very painful.

There are no times when this loss is easy, but Mother’s Day can seem like a cruel joke. The premise of Mother’s Day sounds simple. If you’re a woman with a child, this day’s for you. But here’s the rub: A woman who’s had a miscarriage has had a child — and almost no one knows. Experiencing a loss in the second or third trimester is undoubtedly even more excruciating. I imagine this sensation is similar for moms who’ve endured infant loss. A woman who had an abortion is a mother, too.

The Lord has blessed us with children in a different way, so it’s obvious now that my wife is very much a mother. But the loss she experienced is still real. A deep sorrow isn’t something you fix, so much as a journey to continue — whether the day brings anguish or acceptance.

I know there will be women reading this who’ve experienced miscarriages. Your pain is real and normal, even if no one else knows about your loss. I pray you find peace and comfort, today and always.

On this Mother’s Day, I want to recognize you — the moms the world may not know about but who are and always will be mothers.

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen to him discuss his columns each Monday at 10 a.m. with Kevin Wall on 790 Talk Now. Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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