“Hey Mommy, you know the other baby you were going to have before you had me? How come you had me instead of them?”
So, out of all the things I agonized over in the immediate aftermath of my miscarriage 8 years ago, the existential crisis of my eventual rainbow baby was definitely not one of them.
My son has spent a large portion of the past year exploring his family tree. Studying old pictures intently, inquiring about the ways the family has grown and changed over the years. For a while, he was fascinated by my late father-in-law, the grandfather he never got to meet. He asked my husband lots of questions about him and ruminated about how he would react to losing his own dad. Heavy stuff for a second-grader.
But learning there had been another child besides him and his sister? Now that was a doozy.
My daughter was two years old when I had my miscarriage, so her memory of that time is probably very fuzzy, but she did live through it. Somehow explaining to her what had happened hadn’t appeared to affect her all that much. She was so unfazed, in fact, that she just brought it up in casual conversation with her little brother years later.
On the heels of learning about the grandfather he never got to meet, this was a bit of a mindfreak for him. He had already been on a campaign to get another sibling out of me, so this development demanded answers. I made the mistake of saying, in an attempt to make him feel better about everything, “Well if that baby had lived, then we wouldn’t have had you!” Even though that seemed to pacify him in the moment, it led to a whole other line of questions several weeks later.
Tough questions and tougher answers
And so we arrive at the opening question, posed as I was trying to fix him a bowl of rice and stew. I found myself trying to explain to my 7-year-old that I didn’t actually decide not to have the other baby and have him instead. Lest I make it seem like I would have made a different decision had I a say in the matter, I made it clear that I was happy he was there.
Because I was so caught off guard, I probably didn’t give the most well-thought-out answers. (There was a lot of “I suppose that was what God thought was best at the time” and other platitudes you definitely shouldn’t say to a woman who has recently suffered a miscarriage.) Despite the fact that I prefer to be prepared to have difficult conversations, I actually don’t wish that I’d been anticipating these questions. After all, pregnancy loss is hard to relive. Having to come up with age-appropriate answers on the spot kept me from having to dwell on the emotion of the memory for too long.
Making sense of it all
The fact of the matter, though, is that it’s complicated. Having my son, whom I love to pieces, doesn’t make the pain of losing the one who came before him any less real. I still can’t fully reconcile why I was given the promise of that child if I wasn’t meant to raise them. I may never fully understand it, except to the extent that it puts me in a position to be empathetic when it happens to another woman.
Sometimes things happen that don’t immediately make sense or don’t ever make sense. And that’s the answer that has had to be good enough for me for 8 years now.
If only that answer were good enough for my little philosopher.