Before I had children, I thought I knew love. I certainly knew what it was to love my family—my parents, brothers, grandparents—to love friends, and to love my husband. But loving a child is different. There is no choice in it. I believe I would do anything for the people I care about, but I’m aware that it would be a choice. With my children, there is no choice. They can have whatever of myself they need without question. That is a love I did not know before I had my first daughter, Aden.
When we decided to have a second child, we got pregnant on the first attempt. As the birth of our daughter, Mona, grew closer, I wondered if it would really be possible to love this new baby as much as the first. My love for Aden was so all-encompassing; how could anyone compete? What would I have left to give? But my ability to love expanded easily to include Mona. That was an amazing thing to learn, that love could be so huge.
I was raised with two brothers and always pictured myself as a mother of three, so as Mona reached a point where she was up and around and causing trouble, it seemed time to get pregnant again. Getting pregnant had been easy, so we didn’t think much of it.
It never occurred to me that I would have a problem staying pregnant. When I went for my 13-week ultrasound, I was alone. My husband had gone to most of my appointments for the first baby. With the second, he brought Aden along so she could wave to the image of her new sister on the screen in the lab. But by the third, there were two small children to watch at home and there didn’t seem a pressing need to have everyone along. So I was by myself when the doctor came in looking serious and explaining that what I had thought of as a baby had stopped developing and the pregnancy was over.
I held myself together on the drive home. I burst into tears when I saw my husband. He held me. I wanted to shield Aden from my grief, but my sweet girl has always been empathetic and kind. Even though she was only three years old, she did not want to leave my side while I was sad. I had to explain to her that the baby was gone. “Gone?” she asked, trying to understand. And I had to finally say, “The baby died.” Tears came to Aden’s eyes, but she staved off her own grief while I needed tending. She sat and patted my hand, and at one point brought me a baby doll, saying, “Here, Mama. This one won’t die.”
I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much as after that miscarriage. I had to decide whether or not to let things progress naturally or go to the hospital for a procedure called a D & C. It’s hard to make a decision when you don’t want either option, but I realized I just needed it to be over and went to the hospital.
Motherhood did not teach me one lesson about love, but several. The same way that every child is paradoxically both universal and unique, so is the lesson each one of my children has offered me.
I don’t remember as much about the second miscarriage, except that it was eerily like the first. It’s a blur of tears and déjà vu. I asked Aden at one point if she thought we should try one more time and she said no, it was too sad when the babies died. My husband had doubts that trying again was a smart thing to do.
But I had to know if there was one more person for us to love and raise as part of our home, and we tried again. And now we have Quinn. His name means “fifth,” which I tell people seemed fitting because he made us a family of five. But in my heart I know part of it is that he was my fifth pregnancy. When I look at him I’m reminded how close we came to not trying again, and that as inevitable as he seems to me now, he didn’t have to be.
Motherhood did not teach me one lesson about love, but several. The same way that every child is paradoxically both universal and unique, so is the lesson each one of my children has offered me. Aden taught me what love can be. Mona taught me that love can be bigger than I ever imagined. And after two miscarriages, Quinn taught me never to take that love for granted.