A version of this piece was originally posted at She’s Write in 2010.
Six weeks ago, I had a beautiful baby girl named Clara. So it might seem odd to write about a previous miscarriage, but the memory of that child has come to surface now more than any time since. I often think of her as I care for my new baby.
My first child, Henry, was 18 months old when we were surprised to find I was pregnant again. Though my husband and I wanted a second child eventually, this felt too soon. But after initial hesitation, we embraced the pregnancy wholeheartedly. I felt strongly, in the way many moms do, that I was carrying a girl.
My 8-week appointment went well; then I got a call that they wanted me to come back in to check the placenta again on an ultrasound. There might have been something wrong — I can’t even remember now what it was — that would have caused me to have a pregnancy in which I’d have to be extra careful. So the thought of bed rest was on my mind as I lay on the table and looked at the little jellybean on the screen, the one I had seen days earlier and whose heart had been beating away rapidly. I saw no such flutter on the screen this time. For a moment I was confused, and then I saw the look on the technician’s face. Several days of visceral sadness followed, the kind of emotion you do not have to think about or talk yourself into. It just was. The sadness gradually receded over the next several weeks.
I sometimes feel, and felt, apologetic over my sadness about that miscarriage. I mean, it happens all the time. There must have been something wrong, it was nature’s way. And after all, it was only nine weeks. Imagine the pain of miscarrying once you feel the baby inside you.
But nine weeks. Since my husband and I found out as early as possible, at 2 weeks, that means I had seven long weeks of imagining my child playing with her older brother, imagining the softness of her cheeks and the cooing of her little voice. She was not a bunch of cells to me. She was my child. No, I never met her, not literally. But I carried her, and that is an experience unlike any other. The bond grows fiercer the longer the pregnancy, but it is strong from the beginning.
A friend of mine had a miscarriage, too, followed by the birth of her little girl. My friend feels that the miscarried baby was who eventually became her daughter, she just wasn’t ready to come at that time. For me it is a bit different. She is sort of my ghost child, an older sister, the one who came before. She never quite became a part of the family, but she will never leave it. I feel my ghost child in Clara; she is a part of her, but not the same.
My miscarriage has given me deeper gratitude watching my beautiful baby girl sleep and even delighting in her pouty cries for milk. In a very real way, Clara is an honor to her, my first girl.