“When She Smiles, Is There Dimples?”

How My Miscarriage Helped Me Love the Little Things Even More

“[T]iddlers in a jamjar…Buttermilk and whippets…Rock-a-bye-baby…Washing on the lineWhen she smiles, is there dimples?…What’s the smell of parsley?”

— Dylan Thomas, 1953, Under Milk Wood

I read Under Milk Wood when I was in high school, and it’s been on my bookshelf ever since.  One of the many, many things I loved about Thomas’ quirky radio play was the celebration of the minutiae, the mundane and day-to-day.  When Captain Cat dreams of his “dead dears”, it’s the little things the dead ask the living of.

This is true of my own life so far, my memories.  The smell of sweet peas.  The sound of the rain on the roof.  My children’s eyes on Christmas morning. The way my mother’s face can change in the blink of an eye, from happy and light to careworn, sad, and lonely.  The hot, firm, slippery feel of your newborn child.  As I get older I collect more little things that make me smile, or that twist my heart – or both.  Little things like knowing when your child hurts you can always kiss it better; until one day you can’t.  The touch of a partner’s hand as you walk along together, before that hand is wrestled away by one of the children – that little gesture a moment in time in itself.  Just feeling the sunshine on your face in the morning.  But big things have happened in my life too.

Having a baby is a big thing

I’ve been lucky to have three beautiful children.  They make me smile every day; they’ve taught me what unconditional love really means. Motherhood can strip you down, lift you up and empower you, only to bring you to your knees pleading desperately to a non-verbal (and non-compliant) infant ‘Please, please sleep’ – all on the same day.  Being a mother has taken me apart and put me back together stronger, wiser, and better than I was.  Having babies is a big thing.

Losing a wanted baby is a big thing

A wanted baby takes on life as an idea before it becomes ‘viable’, before it becomes real.  There is an instant love connection, a sense of excitement as you see your future.  The physicality of losing a baby is hard enough, but the idea of the baby you wanted is what you grieve for.  Explaining to my loving , observant four-year old who knew I was pregnant that the new baby wasn’t coming – that was one of the biggest little things I’ve done.

I’ll never forget his question: But where has the baby gone, mummy?  My stilted and inadequate answer:  She’s just gone.

I felt so many things in the weeks that followed.  I felt that god hated me (I don’t believe in god, but there it was).  I was angry that this had happened to me.  I felt I was owed a baby, I deserved that baby – hadn’t I proved myself to be a good mum with the first two??  I felt a great wrong had been done to me by god, the universe, whatever.  I wanted to get pregnant again as soon as possible to ‘make it right’, using those exact words to my husband.  At the same time, when well-meaning friends and family told me that I would feel better when we started ‘trying’ again, I felt enraged.  I haven’t finished losing this one yet, I thought but didn’t say.  I felt grateful; for select friends and family, for my living children – how lucky I knew I was to have them with me, happy, healthy, and in my arms.  I felt alone.

I felt distant from my husband.  He was grieving too, while being ‘the strong one’ for me.  I remember saying to him, This is happening to me.  I didn’t have a D & C and the bleeding lasted for nearly 2 months.  There will always be a tiny break in my heart for her.  Just a little one:  for she was just a little thing. An early miscarriage at 9 weeks.  Of course I’m guessing at the sex, it hadn’t got that far.  A tube-like, foetal pole.  Aren’t medical terms great?

In medical terms, she wasn’t much at all.  But I was a mother grieving for someone I was dying to hold, and never would.

Heaven knows what it’s like to lose a child you’re nursed and nurtured – this was enough for me.  I exorcised my grief by journaling.  I put a yoke around my anger by lifting heavy weights to help me heal.  We decided not to have another baby. That was 2014.

April 2018ii 002

On June 16 2017, our third baby came to us.  She was big and beautiful, and has brought us all so much joy.  Now it’s 2018, and she’s close to walking.  Soon she’ll be like her brother and sister, walking ahead of me on the way to school and towards her own future.  My heart fills and twists at this little thought.

Birth is common, miscarriage is common.  In the larger scheme of things, they are little things, not big things unless they affect us.  Wars rage on, regimes and superpowers rise and fall.  Big things happen, and as I hear about the plight of people in Syria and similar places, I’m thankful big things aren’t happening to me.  Through it all, the things that unite us all as humans are little the little things. “Tiddlers in a jam jar…washing on the line…rock-a-bye-baby…”; the things that make us vulnerable, the things that make us stop and draw breath; the things that make us smile.  These things make us human.

And in case you’re wondering “When she smiles, is there dimples?”  Yes.  Yes there are – and they’re gorgeous little things.

It can be hard to find the words to write about grief and loss.  I’m a highly empathetic blogger and working copywriter. If you find yourself choking on your own words but want to share your experience with others, check my Work With Me page and shoot me an email on my Contact page.