I always wanted to be a mom.
As the oldest child in my family, I loved to help care for my younger siblings. As a teenager, I was a real-life character from The Babysitters Club. As an adult, I surrounded myself with children by becoming a teacher. Then I experienced such joy when I became an aunt.
The author, Michelle Holly, right, and her two younger sisters.
But I yearned for the day when I would have a child of my own.
I married my husband when I was 37, and we knew we wanted to start our family right away.
Chris Garofalo Photography
Michelle's wedding day.
So when I tested positive on a pregnancy test about a year later, I was more excited than I'd ever been. A few months later, I had a miscarriage, and I experienced a sadness like I’ve never felt before.
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.
Hope... then another loss
A few months later, it happened again. Positive! The second time I was pregnant I was still excited, but in a more guarded way. Even though I'd tried to hold back my joy, it didn't matter. When the second miscarriage happened — my second in a year — I was devastated. Even so, I kept my hope in God, though it was very difficult at times.
We kept on trying. I was referred to a fertility clinic and tested extensively, but there were no answers. We chose to try a fertility treatment called IUI, but three rounds later, we were no closer to being parents.
As the year went on, we started the adoption process and all of the paperwork that came with it. Then, in October, I asked my family and friends for prayers that something big would happen during that month. At the time, my husband and I were open to any means of becoming parents, and we thought IVF might be our answer.
But God had other plans. We got a call about a baby girl who was about to be born, and the birth mother had chosen us to be her parents! I was about to become a mom, literally overnight.
From darkness to joy
The moment I saw her is one I’ll never forget. All wrapped up in her blanket, with her perfect face peeking out. When I held her for the first time, I was overwhelmed with such love and thankfulness that I was now truly a mom. Her mom. About a week later, when we brought our baby home, I was still holding her every moment I could. She never left my arms for too long, not even for naps.
Michelle and her daughter, on the day they met.
I finally had a daughter of my own!
On Adoption Day, my nieces promised the judge they would love my daughter as their own sister. It’s a moment that I will treasure forever. Just a year before, I had experienced a miscarriage, the deepest pain I'd ever felt. Now, I was experiencing one of the most joyous moments of my life.
Michelle Holly's nieces, with Michelle's newly adopted daughter.
This is just my story — one woman’s journey with loss. And life.
Stay your course
But I'm far from alone. It's estimated that 10% to 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. But my journey will not be your journey. Our struggles and path towards parenthood may be different. Even our feelings of being or wanting to be a mother may be different.
Everyone grieves a lost child and moves forward differently — and no one way is more right than another. No story is the same. Some women who have experienced miscarriages celebrate their would-be-baby’s birthday. Some women bury their fetus. Some women have experienced stillbirth and held their stillborn babies in their arms. Some have gone on to have biological children. Others have gone on to adopt. Some never have any more children at all.
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We, as women, need to be gracious, mindful, and aware of what the women around us are going through.
And just as I needed to be careful with whose advice I listened to, you do as well. Even when reading this. I love Hosanna Wong’s explanation of how we are all running a marathon in life, and each of our races looks different. When you start looking at other peoples’ lanes, you start to trip up and lose course.
So stay on your course, wherever that may lead. Know that for all those who have experienced loss and are experiencing loss, you are not alone. May your hearts be comforted. May you know there are others who know your pain.
You're not alone
You may not want to share your story like I do, but I encourage you to share it in your own way. Maybe it’s journaling, maybe it’s talking to a counselor, maybe a support group, maybe a retreat. I wanted to share some of my story here in case it might encourage others out there struggling with loss.
If that's you, don’t go through it alone. I’ve learned there are many more women who can relate to me than I ever would have thought. Talking about it helped me to see it was not something wrong with me or something I did wrong. In my case, the journey was unexpected, but ultimately ended very happily.
I hope yours does too.
Kendall Grose Photography
Michelle Holly is the publisher of Macaroni KID Winter Garden-Ocoee, Fla., and the author of The Moment I Met You, a book for adoptive families who also experience that first moment of meeting their baby.