It had been three months since my sweet friend, a truly beautiful soul, lost her angel baby to unexplained complications after a premature delivery and a few precious but fleeting days spent loving her while she remained here on Earth. I was on a walk with my pup when she rolled the window down as she drove by. Her eyes were just so sad. Hollow from the lost sleep and the constant tears and the strain of trying to put on a happy face for everyone else, including her first daughter, now three and healthy and happy. 

“Happy Mother’s Day,” she whispered. And then she paused—apologetically, unsure, a bit shocked at what she thought was a transgression. Her words stopped me in my tracks. They took my breath away.  

It was Mother’s Day, but I was not at home holding my baby. Or at brunch, marveling at the human I’d had the pleasure of creating and bringing into the world. I was not even pregnant with my baby. I felt empty. I felt like a failure. I wanted the knowledge that my baby existed at all, and I was angry about all that I’d imagined she would have been and yet would never be. 

Mother’s Day after miscarriage. It was Mother’s Day, but I’d miscarried my first. Her two pink lines had faded slowly and painfully after they’d taken her away from me in an operating room, because even that task my body had not been able to handle on its own. I’d held onto her. My body was defying reality, begging for the truth to be a lie, fighting back against the agony that was ripping my heart in half.  

You know what, though? In those moments, after my lovely and loving friend had said “Happy Mother’s Day,” I felt seen. She’d suffered an unimaginable loss, but so had I. And though she was a parenting mother, the status of my motherhood was not less because I’d never had the opportunity to hold my child. She saw me in those moments, acknowledged my child’s existence, and held space for my pain and my loss on a day that should have been a happy one.  

What is it to live through Mother’s Day after miscarriage? 

It is love

First, it is always love. Love for a soul that lived within us for weeks or months. For a life that had meaning if to no one else then to its parent, who held that life within their womb and bloomed in knowing it existed there.

It is deep, gutting sorrow

And pain, with nowhere to put it. Because where does one go and what does one do when their experience is taboo, so often feared as a topic of discussion by society at large, acknowledged only as a “natural” process, after which one is often expected to return to work as normal without personal time, without assistance for grief, without accommodations for physical pain let alone emotional turmoil, and with the constant unsolicited suggestions to “just keep trying,” because “that baby wasn’t meant to be.” 

Related: Sometimes Mother’s Day is complicated—just like motherhood

It is anger and misplaced hate

Listen: It’s not your fault, or my fault, or their fault, or anyone’s fault.

Miscarriage is a reality that ends 20% or more of all pregnancies. Our logical selves can acknowledge this fact. We can even appreciate the fact that many of the women we envy on Mother’s Day probably also experienced miscarriages at some point along their journey.

But the truth is that on Mother’s Day after miscarriage, the non-parenting feel a lot of anger, envy, jealousy, and even fleeting hatred toward those who have children at home to make them handmade gifts at preschool, to bring them terrible but adorable breakfast in bed, to give them a card and candy, or even to completely forget Mother’s Day and not do anything at all. We know all this, but we feel it anyway. 

It is fear

Mother’s Day after miscarriage is the kind of fear we never imagined we’d feel. Miscarriage, until it happens to you, is an experience nearly impossible to adequately characterize. And after? After it is the only thing we can think about, and our only fear greater than miscarriage itself is the fear that it will be the thing that prevents us from ever holding our own baby in our arms.

So every image, every social media post, every Hallmark commercial in the weeks leading up to Mother’s Day and on the day itself are like a constant waking nightmare, a terrifying reminder of what we’re afraid we’ll never have despite it being our greatest desire. 

It is guilt and regret

Pregnancy loss happens. We get it. But logic and reason and truth and fact are not a part of grief. Grief comes from a place beyond the reach of those things.

So on Mother’s Day after miscarriage, when we are without our child and our partner (if we have one) is suffering alongside us, our guilt is nearly all-consuming. We feel guilt that our bodies failed. We feel guilt that there is no baby, that our partner doesn’t have a child either, that there may never be a baby to snuggle and love.

And we regret putting them through this. As if we could have prevented it, as if we could have saved ourselves and our loved ones the sorrow, as if something we did or didn’t do would have made all the difference.  

Related: What to say when your friend has a miscarriage

Do you know what I did in those moments of regret? I offered my partner an out. I told him he could go, and that I would understand. That having children was part of the deal, and since it was my body that couldn’t make good, that leaving was an option I’d never hold against him. That is the power of the guilt and regret of miscarriage. That is the damage that it can do to a person. To their life. To their relationship. It can make us let go of the most important things, say goodbye to the love of our lives, bury our deepest desires.  

Hold space for yourself and others who have suffered pregnancy loss

On Mother’s Day, every single aspect of miscarriage is magnified 1000 times. Mother’s Day after miscarriage is an invisible, soul-crushing pain that links millions of people and yet so few of them speak of their connection.  

This Mother’s Day, hold space for a woman you may know who has suffered a pregnancy loss. 

Acknowledge her motherhood, because she felt it the moment she knew she held a life there in her belly.

Love her. Support her. Hold her hand. Send her a card that simply recognizes her pain. 

And for the mamas reading this, know that we see you. We have you in our hearts, knowing that no one can give you what would mend your soul. We see you on Mother’s Day. We see you every day. And so many of us share your hurt.  

This story was originally published May 2, 2022. It has been updated.