sharing your stories and remembering your children
By: Rebekah Slonim
“I don’t believe that grief passes away. It has its time and place forever. More time is added to it; it becomes a story within a story. But grief and griever alike endure.” —Wendell Berry
I think about my two pregnancy losses every single day—the miscarriage three days after Christmas in my first year of marriage, the ectopic pregnancy on a beautiful fall day in my second year of marriage. Time, many supportive conversations with friends and family members, and a living baby have eased the pain and ache. The miscarriages no longer actively hurt me.
But the grief remains. After my first miscarriage, I struggled mightily with the idea of “moving on.” The perception I found lurking in my own mind and in some comments that people made to me was that, in order to grieve in a healthy manner, I had to “move on.” “Moving on” seemed to suggest “moving away”—to bury and ignore my horrible sense of emptiness, both physical and emotional.
Eventually I opted for the phrase “moving forward.” I came across the above Wendell Berry quotation and began to envision my grief as a chapter in the book of my life. I would not always be in the chapter of crying in the shower, sleeping in late to avoid the yearning, cringing at every pregnant woman in the grocery store, trying to change the topic if anyone was talking about baby-rearing.
Still, that chapter would always be part of the book. It was essential to the story. It would never be removed.
Grief shapes my life.
As a teenager, I remember rebelling against the idea in L. M. Montgomery’s “Rilla of Ingleside” that there would be “a little patient ache . . . in [Rilla’s] heart until she died” after her brother Walter was killed in battle in World War I. Yet now I live with a similar patient ache, most of the time submerged and not really a part of all the thoughts flitting through my mind about sleep training and dishes and my work as a copyeditor.
Still, that grief shapes my life. It’s always in the background, and it comes to the surface every now and then. A sense of loss attends me when I mark down my son’s family tree in his baby book, feeling like he is not really the first or only child, but knowing that in practice he is. The patient ache returns when I remember, acutely, how painful it is to see a dark expanse on a ultrasound screen rather than a tiny body with a tinier, pulsating heart. And every single time someone asks me how many children I have, or if I have children, I wince just a little. Barbara Crooker writes, “How many children do you have? / Two, we answer, thinking three, / Or three, we answer, thinking four; / They are always with us.” And so I answer one, thinking three.
Grief reflects a true sense of the way the world is.
To live with a sense of loss is not improper. We shouldn’t try to scrub it away. We live in a world full of loss. To have a particular loss imprinted upon us enables us to understand ourselves, other people, and the world around us better.
While in my grief I initially closed in upon myself, I also found that—gradually—the world began to open up to me in a new way. Before my miscarriages, I had never had a great loss—the kind of loss that turns your life upside-down, makes you confront your dreams and expectations, and makes you wonder what happiness and contentment will look like. But great losses are a near-universal human experience. Now when a friend or acquaintance talks about any type of loss, I lean in and listen carefully.
My pregnancy losses have opened a door into a different kind of experience. I live life differently because of them. And I am grateful to have been molded and transformed by two tiny unborn babies with brief but meaningful lives.
Grief gives me gratitude and perspective.
As Michelle DuBarry explains, “Grief is exactly as painful as you think it will be, but with time you will learn to love your sadness because of the tiny shoots of joy and gratitude that sprout around it, like new growth on scorched earth.” I do love my sadness. I love how it gently instructs me. It causes me to notice when another woman seems uncomfortable with talking about babies. It helps me to delight more in everyday pleasures. And it is the necessary backdrop to what my son’s life and birth mean to me.
The cliché that grief is the price of love is true. I hold onto my grief as a reminder—a sign and symbol of my love. It’s the only way I can love the babies that I lost.
My grief is of course not the whole story of my life. It cannot be—that would be wrong and misguided. There are other chapters in my life, other stories being told and yet to be told. Yet I do not wait or wish for it to go away. It has its time and place. I remember it and return to it and learn from it and hold it close.
Rebekah Slonim, a 2016 graduate of Hillsdale College, is a freelance copyeditor, proofreader, and indexer. She lives in West Lafayette, Indiana, with her husband and son.
 Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow (Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint, 2000), 148.
 L. M. Montgomery, Rilla of Ingleside (New York: Bantam Books, 1992), 189.
 Barbara Crooker, “The Lost Children,” Verse-Virtual.com, 2016, https://www.verse-virtual.com/barbara-crooker-2016-march.html.
 Michelle DuBarry, “When Sturdy Love Is What You Need,” The New York Times, October 19, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/19/style/modern-love-when-sturdy-love-is-what-you-need.html.