Accepting a Messy Life

Someone recently made me stop and think. Literally forced me to stop and think.

Of course, this someone would be my psychologist. I tried to push past something and she simply wouldn’t let me. She caught me and forced me into the conversation and forced me to acknowledge and address my feelings.

Oh, my feelings, how do I loath you.

So, what was the conversation all about?

Simple, our children and me as a mother. And what that all means to me and how I feel about it. (Okay, that clearly isn’t a simple statement or conversation).

Specifically, what is my struggle with allowing our children who never made it to affect my life?

Yes, I acknowledge that I am a mother. I absolutely am. I know that we have had 5 failed pregnancies. 5 flickers of life. 3 of which had known and confirmed heart rates. With all but a few people, I am rather open about it, and honest about the facts of our family adventure.

But, no, I do not think that this means I should live a messy life like mothers with living children. There is a distinction to me – life can and should be messy when you have children. Children make life messy. Yes, I have had children, but none of them are here and therefore I have no reason to be messy. Not now, maybe one day, but definitely not now. Yes, I am trying to learn to live in shades of grey, but I think this is black and white with a clear distinction regarding the impacts that a living vs dead child.

So, I made this statement and tried to change the subject. I tried, I really did.

The distinction in my mind is that children who are alive literally make life messy. Examples of this are easy to find. All the sudden when kids come around, once prompt people are now often a late for everything. Or, the once adult friendly house is now literally messy with brightly coloured plastic toys. Oh, and let’s not forget about the messy diapers and the constant baby spit-up. Children are literally messy. However, children who are not here, and have never been (i.e. lost to miscarriage) are not here to literally make life messy. They are not accepted by society and therefore do not get to make life messy. I guess, part of what I wasn’t willing to accept is that children also make life figuratively messy. This means any child, living or dead prior to birth or even dead shortly after birth, make life messy. Life is no longer predictable. The best laid “life plans” mean nothing once children come along and make an impact, regardless of how long that impact lasts.

I think her point was that children of any sort make life messy. Living or dead. Children make life messy. And, I think my struggle with this is that I still want the order and logic that was part of my life before children. I seem to think that if I don’t have a living child, then I don’t get to be messy. I haven’t earned that badge, at least not in a way that society will acknowledge. And if society will not acknowledge it, then I should not be living messy. Rather, I should be living a childless life, like I did 5 years ago before I even considered kids.

Okay, I see the flaws in my logic and my willingness to accept living messy right now as part of our life. I get that with everything we’ve been through, I do not fit nicely into the category of non-parent, even if society won’t accept us in the alternate category of parent. But, once again, here I am trying to live a perfect life and have my perfect breakdown controlled and occurring in the way I deem acceptablea reoccurring theme in my life.

So, where does this leave us? Yes, society isn’t about to recognize me as a mother or my husband as a father. That just isn’t going to happen at this point in time, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t recognize who we are; what we’ve been through; and the memories of our children however limited those memories are.

But, how do I accept this as part of me, when it’s a part of me that no-one ever wants to hear about and clearly no-one can see it? But, I guess that’s the curse of miscarriage – no-one ever wants to hear about it and when they do, no-one knows how to respond.

It’s one thing if you have one miscarriage, and then you go on to have healthy children. Society can seem to accept one miscarriage as bad luck and it also appears that most parents do as well (although this is just my speculation based on my observations). I have no doubt that parents never forget the experience of miscarriage, but I suspect it would be easier to move forward when you get a healthy child the next try.

But, what about those of us who have recurrent pregnancy loss. What about those of us who may truly never have a child. Then what? How are we supposed to identify with being a parent, when socially we are not accepted into the parent club? How do we balance this dichotomy? How do we function with this critical element of our identity that we are not allowed to socially acknowledge? How do we find a way to balance and yet shift between categories in a way that is respectful to ourselves and to society?

19 Comments on “Accepting a Messy Life

  1. I can relate to this. My heart goes out to you. Perhaps I can share my story in part to commisserate and in part to add some perspective in the hope that it might help you in time?

    As you know, my experience is similar in terms of RPL but also quite different than yours. I had two losses, then a living child, and to date 6 more losses (one with a textbook perfect embryo from a donor egg). So I am recognized as a mother to an “only child”. My grief is monumental over our lost babies – all 8 of them. The 6 I’ve lost since the living child have made a bigger mess in my life than I could have imagined (in part because once I had a living child, every loss was that much more devastating to me – not saying everyone experiences it this way but I do – becuase I know exactly what I am missing out on each freakin’ time). Not only is the mess in MY life, it’s in my partner’s life and in our living child’s life. As you know, I’ve written about how the grief carved into my soul has bled into our living child’s life conscious awareness. Our losses are making a mess of my parenting our one living child (who may prove to be our only ever living child – let’s not get into the mess and grief of that prospect). And that makes me feel like crap. It is a big, stinking mess.

    Do I want to erase it or pretend it doesn’t exist? No. To me (and again, I speak only for myself), that would be like erasing those little lives I so wanted to continue. I can’t do it. So I try, one foot in front of the other, to keep walking and healing and trying to come to terms with the mess. I go out less, we invite people over less, I don’t plant flowers in the Spring because it’s too much work and I’m busy surviving… I think of our children – the ones that did not survive – every day. Several times a day. And I refuse to exorcise them so I can make my life tidy in their absence, not so much because I choose that as because I don’t feel like there is any other humane choice.

    Our grief counselor suggested writing letters to our babies (individually or collectively, whatever felt right). I think I need to do that again, I have not done it for the more recent losses this year and I wonder if getting that out there would help me move forward. Not mess-free, but grounded in my messy life. Has your psychologist ever talked with you about grieving your lost children? I am not saying it’s for you. I’m just trying to think of pathways to honour the mess that your losses have already made of your life, even if you aren’t really comfortable owning a position as mother in a society that finds RPL to be that ugly elephant under the rug they wish would go out with the trash.

    Sorry this is so long and disjointed. Evidence of my messy mind and life, I guess. Hugs to you.

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    • Thanks for such a great comment – as always I really appreciate your perspective.

      A few thoughts that came to mind while reading your comment:
      1. The suggestion of writing letters to our babies has also been by my counselor. The idea peculates in my mind every now and again, but for some reason I haven’t been drawn to actually do it. Writing is organic to me, and I don’t want to force something that isn’t coming to me naturally. I’m sure I will eventually, but I’m not going to press the issue and force myself to do it.

      2. Do I want to erase and pretend the last 2 years has not happened? Absolutely not. The old saying – to have loved and lost is better then to have never loved at all – holds very true for me. Life is what it is, and at times we are not in control of the outcome. Clearly, had the choice been mine, our path to parenthood would not have included 5 dead babies. But, it is our path and we cannot change it, so we/I must embrace it and live with it. And the key part, is that I need to learn that it is okay that our unplanned route makes our lives messy and that its okay for things to be messy. I think its more about my acceptance of messy then anything else. Maybe.

      3. I love your perspective of being a parent to an “only child.” It’s an interesting perspective, that I clearly cannot relate to. The idea of knowing what you are missing out on by not having a second child, is really interesting to me. That sentence alone was like a light bulb for me because many times I have wondered why someone would keep trying if they already have a child – sort of like, why put yourself through this if you already have one child. But, now, thanks to your sentence, it makes so much more sense to me! You know exactly what it is that you want and what you are missing. Thank you for sharing that with me!

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      • Thank you for being so gracious. I felt after I wrote that my comment may not have been very helpful.
        About trying so hard for another living child – I know you’re a black-and-white person so this may not resonate with you but part of why I keep trying is because I have communicated with the second child we are meant to raise and I believe with all my heart that I am meant to mother that child and our “only child”. Maybe fate will deal me a different set of cards in this lifetime and it won’t happen, but in my heart I know that is where I am meant to be… someday.

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  2. Thank you for posting this. I never thought about the struggle as being “messy,” but it’s definitely appropriate. I constantly think about all the kid things that we’ll miss out on. I see all my friends having lives with children. Their lives ARE messy and complicated and I want all of that messiness. But no one see our messy struggle. No one sees how busy I am going to doctors, worrying about an unborn child and fetuses who no longer have a heartbeat. No one sees inside the mind of someone who is waiting for miscarriage to start. No one sees the messiness of that… literally and figuratively. It’s acceptable for a family of five to be frazzled and late to appointments… but for someone who is childless… what is their excuse. They don’t know that we have insomnia and haven’t slept in days. They don’t know the hours spent crying over a dead baby in their belly. They don’t know that messiness. Thank you for posting this. It’s an excellent post.

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    • Thanks for the comment and the compliment about this post.

      I too had never thought about the struggle as being “messy” and given my obsession with order and control it was a really good analogy for me to hear. Every now and again my counselor says something like this that just resonates with me, and I’m glad I was able to share it in a way that resonates with you as well.

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  3. The question you raised at the end, identity issue, is what I have been struggling with too. I cannot identify myself to others, as a mother, with a lost son. I cannot not consider myself as a mother, since I had my previous son for 15 hours. The grey area we live in is never going to make me comfortable or being understood. Sigh…

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    • The identity issue is such an important one for those of us who don’t fit in anywhere. And I’m not really sure that we, as a collective group of non-identifiable parents, will ever be truly accepted by society. We make life too uncomfortable and unless you have been there you really don’t understand. And because its an invisible pain, we are easy to ignore and it sort of turns us into some sort of shape-shifter like being as we try to live our lives as closeted mothers and fathers. We know we are, but no-one else does either because we’ve chosen not to tell them, or they’ve chosen not to try to understand and appreciate what we are going through. All of this resulting in us and others being uncomfortable.
      Anyways, I think that was a long winded way of saying, thanks for the comment and the thoughts, it got me thinking. 🙂

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  4. Thank you for sharing your heart and your experiences. I especially identified with this:

    “But, what about those of us who have recurrent pregnancy loss. What about those of us who may truly never have a child. Then what? How are we supposed to identify with being a parent, when socially we are not accepted into the parent club? How do we balance this dichotomy?”

    Blessings ❤

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