There isn’t one right way to have this conversation. I’m going to share with you how it went down with my three children, ages 8, 5, and 4. My kids don’t remember ever being told they were adopted because it’s always been a part of their life story. They also have always known that Mommy and Daddy tried for a lot of years to get a baby to grow in my belly before we changed our plan and pursued adoption.
In a recent conversation, we were talking about how my belly doesn’t work quite right because it can’t hold a baby. I mentioned that there had been a baby in my tummy briefly a long time ago before we adopted them, but that it didn’t grow. I explained that this made us very sad and that’s when we decided we wanted to adopt children. The conversation then went something like this:
8 yr old: So the baby died?
Me: Well, yes. But it wasn’t a baby in the way you think about a baby who drinks from a bottle and cries. It was extremely small. Like this. (I showed them the tip of a pen.)
5 yr old: Was it a boy or girl?
Me: I don’t know. When a baby is that tiny, you can’t tell. We actually don’t even think the heart ever beat.
4 yr old: Mommy, what is your baby’s name?
Me: (pause) We didn’t give the baby a name because we didn’t know if it was a boy or girl.
5 yr old: How did the baby get out of your body when it died?
Me: When your body stops holding on to a baby, it bleeds. It’s not like bleeding when you get a cut on your arm. But it’s a way for your body to clear out the things that would make it sick if they stayed inside. The baby was so small, I never saw it.
8 yr old: How did it die?
Me: It stopped growing. You know that when babies are born, they’re much bigger than the end of this pen. They’re about the size of some of our baby dolls. My baby stopped growing when it was still very, very small. And we don’t really know why it stopped growing.
And that was it. We were on to coloring after that. Had I planned to talk about my miscarriage with my children on a Monday afternoon? No, but it came up in the course of normal conversation about our family and the fact that our family was formed through adoption.
The story that binds us together is a story of how beauty comes out of loss. My husband and I think a lot about the terrible, irreversible losses our children have experienced by being away from their birth family and birth country. But our losses as an infertile couple are also a part of our family’s narrative. It felt good to speak to my children about our pregnancy loss in a straightforward and honest manner, to show them that I don’t feel shame, only sadness, over my body’s inability to grow my baby.
Have you ever spoken to your children, adopted or biological, about your miscarriage(s)? I’d love to hear how other parents have handled similar conversations. I’m sure this conversation may come up again with our children.
Top image via Flickr by SarahCartwright