A Conversation With My Adopted Kids About Miscarriage

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


2 thoughts on “A Conversation With My Adopted Kids About Miscarriage

  1. Hello, thanks for posting this…it’s good to hear how people handle this sort of thing. I recently suffered my second, 2nd trimester loss. I have two boys aged 7 and nearly 4. They have been very keen for another sibling for some time now…and talk about it a lot! Including telling random people that our babies died, which people often don’t believe, or when they realise they are telling the truth – just look extremely uncomfortable and try to change the subject.
    My oldest was 5 first time, so old enough to know what was happening, especially because we’d told everyone about the pregnancy at 12 weeks. He had been extremely excited. So then when I couldn’t stop crying because we had been told our baby had died, he really struggled with the whole thing and I think felt a lot of anger. We told him that the baby hadn’t been well enough to survive (though we don’t actually know what happened) and that it had to go to heaven. He was very curious about it all and wanted to know how it was going to get out of my tummy and to heaven…I didn’t know at all what to say so said that the doctors would take it out and didn’t go into any more detail. We involved both boys in the farewell and memorial service we held both times and they drew nice pictures for the babies’ graves but didn’t come to the cemetery. Second time round, he is much older and still very curious about things but in a sort of morbid way. He wanted to come to the cemetery and they both wanted to open the coffin but we said it wasn’t possible. He was very confused about how she could be in the coffin but in heaven at the same time, which is something we’ve still struggled with explaining. I am looking for resources that might help with the ongoing questions, as, 3 months on, they still bring it up a lot and ask about it. I don’t really know how to answer them most of the time without being too honest and leaving them with a long term complex!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rachel: First, I’m so sorry for your losses. And it sounds like you’ve done a wonderful job of helping your boys understand something that we as adults barely grasp–the untimely loss of a beautiful baby.

    One thing I’ve found to be important in talking to my kids is to admit when I don’t have the answers or to agree that sometimes, these things are hard to grasp.

    You raise an interesting question…what resources are available to talk to children about loss? I know several years ago, Sesame Street did a big outreach project related to helping children grieve. While your boys are too old for Sesame Street, there might still be some age appropriate information available online from PBS Kids. I’m actually going to go check that out myself.

    All the best, Rachel, and thanks again for sharing.


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