Sunday, December 30, 2007

Mothering After Miscarriage

The pain of my miscarriages is in the past now. Four years and three children later, it is hard to recall the sharpness of loss, the huge question mark of the future, not knowing whether to dread more a negative or positive result from a pregnancy test. Now when I remember the miscarriages, I mostly just feel guilt. Guilt for not remembering more clearly, guilt for not using the suffering of the past as a vehicle of growth in the present.

There is a powerful statement in Psalms: "The mother of her children is happy" - "Aim habonim sameichah" (113). How can I be filled with anything but joy from the beautiful family G‑d has granted me? One can favorably judge someone who has known nothing but blessing, baby after baby, sometimes giving a kvetch about her very full life. But how can someone who has longed for children feel overwhelmed and inadequate? How dare she await, even in her secret thoughts, the time when the pitter-patter of little feet will be replaced by the clomping of youth-sized shoes. Isn't that ungracious?

But the day-to-day reality is a glaring mockery of my best intentions. Before all the miscarriages, I was granted two healthy children. I found their toddlerhood and preschool years very challenging. During the years of waiting and of loss, I was sure that if only G‑d would listen to my tears, I would do better this time. I would have more patience, I would invest myself into providing more consistent and patient discipline, I would provide more nutritious meals.

Yet here I am, once again, struggling with the guilt and depression in the face of my maternal failings. Don't I remember the waiting, the prayers recited, the personal work undertaken, and, of course, the tears shed? Why can't I reach back into the past experience, to draw something good out of it, to appreciate my children better now, instead of calculating how many years until even the youngest children are speaking clearly and rationally, until I am past the physical challenges of diaper changes and protecting children from the physical aggression of their siblings?

Of course, there is a certain dishonesty in comparing the circumstances with my first two children in contrast to the next three. You see, the first child we received after the waiting, the one we prayed and prayed for, the only child we had a chance to really ask for from our hearts since all the rest came with such rapidity, this much anticipated child has PDD-NOS (PDD-NOS stands for Pervasive Development Disorder Not Otherwise Specified.) It used to be called "autistic spectrum," and without getting into all the details of the diagnosis, it means that he is very difficult to raise, although we have high hopes that he will grow to be a normal, functioning member of society.

Often, the literature about special needs children tends to romanticize raising a special needs child, perhaps in response to the years where special children were considered a stigma. But there are different types of special needs that a child can have, and you cannot compare hearing impairment to autism to Down's Syndrome to Cystic Fibrosis. Each type of challenge is different, and even though from reading some of the literature, you might think that all special needs children are giving and sweet and bring out the best in your other children, day-to-day reality is a little less glamorous. While I sincerely believe that my son was given to my family to raise because that is what is best for all of us, I find raising him to be stressful and difficult and replete with feelings of inadequacy.

And I think that this is the real reason for the guilt when I remember my miscarriages. Because at the time I thought I would be happy with any baby, even one with special needs. But now that I have been granted the child that I prayed for, and he does have special needs, I am finding that specialness more than I bargained for.

Perhaps one day I will have a better perspective, when I am not immersed in the daily struggle of coping. Then, when the challenge is past, when intellect can once again dominate over emotions, when I can articulate the correct perspective and mean it, I might be able to reconcile the different chapters of my history. Perhaps I will see that all those years of praying really were to have a child with PDD, because he really is so special that he needed to be prayed for with an extra measure of passion, and I really needed extra merit to be granted such a child.

Or perhaps I will realize that the waiting was for me, to build me into a stronger person so I could better mother my special son. Or perhaps I will come to an altogether different understanding of circumstances, which, of necessity, is concealed from me while I am immersed in the struggle. And perhaps, as is so often the case, clarity will be denied me in this world, and I will come to realize the true level of faith where I don't need to understand, because I will feel with certainty that whatever the reason, it was really for everyone's ultimate good. Perhaps.


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2 comments: said...

Dear One,

Thank you for your beautiful and heart-felt words. I remember well the pain and struggle. I thought I would never lift my head again after all my failures. Until I found the answer.

I can help you. Please let me try.

Yours in parenting success,
Debra Sale Wendler

Catherine McDiarmid-Watt said...

Thanks Debra, interesting site!