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“Look for the gifts your baby left you,” wrote someone on an internet community board somewhere. When I read those words, they broke my heart. Even now, I can hardly think of them without my eyes welling up in tears. I didn’t like to think of the babies I lost as babies. I preferred to think of them as cells dividing that just didn’t make it. They didn’t have a soul, did they? But, they were so much more than “just cells dividing,” regardless of whether they had souls or not.

We had been trying for years just to get a positive pregnancy test. My pregnancies came only after much time, heartache, frustration and financial drain. Each time I miscarried, I lost not only my hopes and dreams surrounding the arrival of the babies I was carrying, but also the possibility of relief from the infertility nightmare we were schlepping through. And, of course, so much more than that.

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The day of my D&C procedure, and the weeks after my first miscarriage, were some of the saddest--if not the saddest--that I have known and ever hope to know. At the hospital, I had to leave my husband in the waiting room. Except for unfamiliar faces, I was alone. It was cold floors, white stale, cold lights, and a cold, naked body covered with a green gown and paper hat.

The crying came from another world. I was watching myself yelp, and I couldn’t stop. My mind went blank. Sadness simply poured out of me, and that’s all that was there. I’d never experienced this kind of sadness. I went to the bathroom and stared out the window and cried; I walked into the second waiting room and cried; I laid down on the procedure table with tissues in my hands and I cried some more.

When I woke from the anesthesia-induced sleep, there was some relief. My pregnancy was over, but so was the painful waiting to find out whether I was going to lose my baby. I had my answer. It wasn’t the answer I hoped for, but it was my answer, and I had to accept it.

Through this process I learned that when I mourn, sadness comes in intervals. When the sadness came, I allowed myself to mourn. I didn’t try to cheer myself up. I protected myself, and took care of myself in every way I could think of, and I allowed myself to go into the darkness. It was so terribly sad and dark. It was just awful.

The lows were followed by highs and then the lows would set in again. During the highs, I received one of the greatest gifts from my first baby. When the tears ran dry for a while, and I had some time before the next low, I felt amazing peace. My heart was open. The pain had cracked it open. When the river of tears ran dry, there was an opening that let the light in.

Maybe too exhausted to think, I would experience the world just as myself, with no commentary from my mind. Colors were vibrant, everything was beautiful, love and intimacy came more easily. It is something that I still practice now--trying my best to stop the mind so that I can enjoy the moment as myself. With the help of this sweet little soul, I had some pure moments filled with love. These moments still help me in my practice of keeping my heart open, and I am forever grateful.

I was still experiencing the ups and downs of my first miscarriage when we transferred our next embryo. When I was pregnant with this baby, I remember feeling so happy and thinking to myself what a sweet girl this baby is (we knew the gender because we had genetic testing done on our remaining embryos). I believe I could feel her sweetness.

She did not make it far along at all. I think this was considered a chemical pregnancy because we never saw much, if anything on the ultrasound. “I think I see something but I am not calling it your pregnancy,” is all the doctor ever said. Shortly after this, I stopped my fertility meds and the pregnancy ended on its own. I didn’t allow myself to go deep into the darkness this time. I was pissed.

I decided that I didn’t have to be nice anymore. I always try my best to be nice; I am sometimes a real people pleaser, and I am trying still to navigate my way through being nice and being genuine in times of conflict.

But for a while I wasn’t so nice at all. It didn’t make me feel better. In fact, when I wasn’t being nice, I realized the world wasn’t so nice back. I realized that being able to be nice was a gift that I had for many years and took for granted. This sweet baby girl showed me that being sweet is a gift, and I didn’t deserve anything for it. But the world returns the favor anyway.

After my tears dried for that pregnancy, and life moved on and the pain faded some, I realized that the gifts my babies left me came in the form of lessons. And these souls who never made it to the world except inside my womb, chose to come here to teach me about love. One broke my heart open and created a gateway allowing light inside that prior to her visit did not have an entrance. The other taught me that being kind is not something that I am giving away or something for which I am owed, but it is a gift that I have been given. When I am kind, my world is more beautiful. I get to experience my own kindness as well as reap the gifts of kindness that return to me.

Even as I write my feelings on this page, tears stream down my face. The pain doesn’t necessarily go away. But, I have no doubt that these gifts will help me be a better mom, wife and person. And, for that I am grateful.

*Natalie is currently 28 weeks pregnant with a baby boy!

To read more about Natalie visit her here.

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Happy half-birthday! Can you believe it was only six months ago that your baby's schedule consisted of just sleeping and eating? Now, your happy buddy is probably working on a whole new repertoire of skills.

Although the cake will have to wait, this milestone can be celebrated with your baby's first bites of solid food. Just be sure to keep the camera ready as your little one gets more mashed avocado on their face than in their mouth.

Now that they're ready to sit in a high chair, it's time to envision all of the family meals to come. This makes right now a great time to start thinking about the dinner rituals you hope to create… and upgrade your dining space to match those dreams.

As you round the corner on your little one's first year, here's what we suggest adding to the shopping list:

Never fear the messy bites: Cloud Island bibs

Cloud Island Bibs

It's a pretty successful meal if approximately half of the food ends up in your 6-month-old's mouth. Make sure the other half doesn't end up on their clothes by stocking up on bibs that are easy to wash.

$9.99

Make room at the table: Graco Floor2Table high chair

Graco High Chair

Feeding your baby requires your full attention, so it's generally best to do it before or after your own mealtime. But it's still nice to include your baby at family dinner with their own seat at the table. It won't be long before they ask you to pass the mashed potatoes!

$149.99

For those first bites of “real food”  Beaba training spoons

Beaba

After a lifetime of only drinking from a bottle and/or breast, eating from a utensil has to feel like a major adjustment. Help your baby warm up to this new way of eating with a supply of baby-sized spoons.

$19.00

For mastering the art of baby food prep: Baby Brezza food processor

Baby Brezza

Good news: There are no advanced culinary skills required to make baby food. By steaming and pureeing their first meals, you can take charge of what foods and flavors you introduce.

$99.99

For last-minute mealtime: Happy Baby pouches

Happy Baby

Let's be honest: It can feel miraculous to get one meal on the table, let alone two separate ones. When you want or need a simpler option, it's nice to have a stockpile of convenient, healthy baby food pouches.

$6.49

For the splatter zone: Bumpkins splat mat

Bumpkins splat mat

As your baby begins eating, prepare to be amazed by all of the places you'll find traces of pureed sweet potatoes. This makes it a perfect time to swap out your dining room rug for an easy-to-clean option.

$19.39

For easy family meals: Instant Pot Duo Nova

Instant pot

When there are only so many hours in the day, the less time you can spend cooking and cleaning up afterward the better. There's a reason this is called an 'instant' pot—it'll free up so much precious time for you to spend with your family.

$119.99

For greenery without the commitment: Project 62 artificial plant

Project 62

We love including greenery in our home decor, but when you're busy enough keeping the people in your house alive, the last thing you need is a houseplant to water. Thankfully, today's faux plant options look so convincing that no one will know the difference.

$7.99

For counting all those steps: Fitbit Inspire activity tracker

Fit bit

Between walking and lifting that growing babe, you've been exercising this whole time without even realizing it, mama! Give yourself a boost of confidence by realizing how much movement you clock on a daily basis.

$99.95

For nighttime reading: Threshold table lamp 

threshold lamp

After months of tip-toeing around your own bedroom so you don't wake a sleeping baby, it's slightly thrilling to reclaim the space as your baby transitions to their own bedroom. This is a perfect time to start a new bedtime reading routine—complete with a stylish bedside lamp.

$44.99

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Our list of 100 baby names that should be on everyone's list this year includes more choices than in the past of names that are obscure and surprising. That's because there are so many more unusual baby names coming into widespread use and baby namers have become a lot more adventurous.

Expectant parents do not need to be told to move beyond Jennifer and Jason. Their thinking about names has evolved to the point that the most useful thing we can do is offer a large menu of intriguing choices.

Here are our picks for the 100 best surprising + unusual baby names now.


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