Photo courtesy of Jamie Kenney

12 Ways My Toddler Helped Me Through My Pregnancy Loss

Miscarrying my second pregnancy is one of the most difficult things I've ever experienced. I lost my baby early, at about six weeks, and the loss left me feeling bitter, conflicting feelings for weeks, even months, afterward. Another thing that complicated the experience was the presence of my 20-month-old son. However, and while having to care for another person through my grief was not always ideal, the ways my toddler helped me through my pregnancy loss, for me, far outweighed the drawbacks.

In some ways, I think the fact that I already had a child when I suffered a miscarriage made things harder for me. I knew what it was like to carry a baby, give birth to that baby, and watch that baby grow. I knew the opportunity that nature had taken away from me. On the other hand, my child (and the fact that I had one) provided me with some comfort — a healing comfort the likes of which I never could have found anywhere, or with anyone, else.

Certainly there is no one way to feel about any aspect of pregnancy, including miscarriage. Moreover, having a toddler while having a miscarriage is not a monolithic experience among all women in similar circumstances. However, the following is my experience. My toddler made a devastating, life-changing struggle more bearable, entirely without meaning to, in the following ways:

I Was Forced Me Not To Dwell 24/7

Kids DGAF about your physical or mental anguish. They are constitutionally incapable of being selfless or self-sacrificing. So, even if my then-toddler could understand what I was going through, I still don't think there's any way he could have allowed it to change his behavior.

This can definitely be a bad thing, because sometimes you just need to sit and have a good cry and wallow for a bit. However, in the long-run, I think this was a good thing. It gave me time, every single day, where I had to put aside my hurt and give my child my all (they accept no less).

I Had To Remain Active

Similarly, staying huddled in a blanket fort on my couch — amazing as that would have been — wasn't happening. At least not for very long. I had to be out of the house, play, and keep healthy and active. I miscarried in the spring, and there is no way my toddler was going to let all the green grass and sunshine pass him by.

I Was Able To Enjoy Toddler Snuggles

I remain convinced there is nothing that a high enough concentration of toddler cuddles cannot solve. Newborn snuggles are great, because it's like squeezing an adorable, living pillow, but toddlers hug back. Their emotions are so big and earnest that when they hug you it's never half-hearted. It's full-on, pure, and absolutely magnificent love.

I Watched My Toddler Remain Unaffected By The Loss

When it came to the adults around me, I honestly resented the fact that they weren't affected by my loss, even if they didn't know about it. It wasn't rational, to be sure, but I just couldn't help but feel slighted by their happiness.

However, when it came to my child being wholly unfazed by my sadness, somehow, that was comforting. I think the reasoning was twofold. Not only did my toddler show me that life goes on and two, he showed me that this pain wasn't going to take away from all of my happiness.

I Was Encouraged To Eat My Feelings (Because My Toddler Wanted Chocolate, Too)

Is eating your feelings, strictly speaking ,healthy? Not exactly. Under no circumstances is devouring half a pint of Ben & Jerry's a nutritionally sound decision. That said, eating feelings (within reason) can be good for your mental health, and I found that this was a nice short-term solution for the worst of my struggles with my miscarriage. My toddler, of course, was so down. He saw the chocolate and he literally pretended to be a baby bird so he could eat some, too. How do you say no to that? Denying yourself would be denying your poor, hungry baby bird.

I Had To Keep A Routine

My miscarriage didn't stop dinner at 6:30, bath time at 7:15, play time at 7:30, and story and song at 8:00 every evening. There is something to be said for ritual, especially in the face of a profound change or trauma. Keeping in your routine can be soothing, and a good way to show yourself "life goes on and so will you." My miscarriage didn't stop dinner at 6:30, bath time at 7:15, play time at 7:30, and story and song at 8:00 every evening.

I Had An Excuse To Zen Out On Cartoons

I'm generally not the type of person who likes to watch the kind of mindless TV one zones out to (no hate on those who do, it's just not for me). However, after my miscarriage I was very sensitive and easily triggered. You know what wasn't going to trigger me? Curious George. It was nice to be able to sit with my child and just be soothed by bright colors and silly animals.

Also, sorry not sorry but I find George and the Man with the Yellow Hat's dynamic really funny.

I Was Grateful For The Child I Had

Don't get me wrong, when people told me I should, "Just be thankful for the baby I had," I wholeheartedly believed those people were being insensitive and diminishing and the worst. T fact that I already had the "healthy baby" and "motherhood" boxes checked off, didn't do much to ease the pain of knowing I had lost a child.

Still, I was grateful for my son, both for who he was as an individual and for the fact that, yes, I did at least get to have one child. That comfort, however, is for me to take as I will and not for someone else to wave at me in order to try to make me feel somehow less sad about having had a miscarriage.

I Was Able To Enjoy Spontaneous, Distracting Cuteness

Toddlers are work, to be sure, but they often make up for work by being entertaining as hell. Whether adorably mispronouncing a word or doing something uncoordinated and preciously clumsy, toddlers have so many "LOL! WTF?!" moments that it's often enough to pull you out of a negative head space and just allow you to laugh or coo for a little while.

I Knew I Absolutely Wanted Another Child

I had always said I wanted another child — my husband and I were literally talking about "our next" while I was being stitched back together after my c-section — but by the time my son was a toddler I began thinking, "Do I? Things are pretty great right now. I wouldn't want to spoil it."

However, as soon as I received the pleasant surprise that was that second pregnancy, I realized I was very much looking forward to watching my son become someone's brother. When it became a real possibility my desires became clear in a way they hadn't been — couldn't have been — before then. After miscarrying my unplanned pregnancy, that shadow of doubt vanished and I knew that there was another member of our family who hadn't shown up yet.

I Knew My Toddler Still Loved Me, Regardless

On the surface, and deep down, I knew that nothing about my miscarriage had been my fault. Still, between the surface and the depths was a pit of bitter self-loathing. I felt that my body had failed my baby and that I wasn't doing what women are "supposed" to do. (Hey: thanks for the all the shame and linking gender identity to anatomical sex, Patriarchy! Heck of a job there.)

Amid all this hatred, though, was my my toddler, who didn't love me any less than he always had. I know we shouldn't base our self-worth on what literally anyone thinks about us, but seeing how much he loved me and, moreover, knowing that he was who he was because of who I am allowed me to value myself again, bit by bit over time.

I Was Reminded Of The Good Things In My Life

Photo courtesy of Jamie Kenney

Because come on: look at this punim. There's only so sad one can be looking at this kid.