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Why I Celebrate Mother’s Day Even Though I Don’t Have a Child

May 8, 2016

Acknowledging motherhood in loss

On October 1, 2015, at 22 weeks pregnant, my water broke and I went into preterm labor. “I’m sorry, there is nothing we can do to save your baby,” the doctor told us. Those words still play over and over in my head today. The next 12 hours were very much a blur. The pain from the contractions paled in comparison to the pain in my heart. I finally delivered a beautiful baby girl, but I could not even hold her for the short time she was alive because I was fighting for my own life. When I came to a few hours later, I got to hold my daughter and savor precious moments with her that I will cherish forever.

It’s crazy that, in 2016, with so many advances in technology, science and medicine, there is a great lack of knowledge about exactly what goes on inside a woman’s body during pregnancy, specifically when it ends in loss. Different doctors offer me various opinions, but the only thing they can all agree on is that what happened was “extremely rare,” “uncommon,” “is no indication of what will happen in your next pregnancy,” and, my favorite, “just really sh-tty bad luck.”

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As time has passed, I have learned how to combat feelings of grief, anger, sadness, guilt. I try every day to embrace gratitude and remember how lucky I am to have a strong and supportive husband whose patience and love for me somehow increases every day (the feeling is mutual). I have incredible family and friends, I am constantly challenged and stimulated at my job and I have my health. That wasn’t a given when I was in the hospital, and that is not lost on me.

After my loss, there were a few days on the calendar that I anxiously hoped would come and go quickly. My birthday (I had no reason to celebrate), Thanksgiving (how was I supposed to pretend to be happy and grateful?), my due date (though, oddly, it was the weeks following that were the hardest). And Mother’s Day.

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I hear so often, “You are so strong.” To be honest, I don’t consider myself strong. I think I went through hell, I was tested in ways I hope nobody I care about ever experiences, but I was able to keep going because I am a woman with a deep desire to be a mother and I will keep doing whatever it takes to get there. But it wasn’t until Mother’s Day, in thinking about how different things should be and how I should be the one who is celebrating, that I came to the realization that I am a mom, regardless of whether I am holding my child in my arms today or not. I realize that 2015 was the year I became a mother—something I had wanted so badly for years—and I will hold in my heart forever that it was my sweet girl who granted me that gift.

Read more: 5 Things to Say to a Friend Who’s Had a Miscarriage

I am motivated and inspired by the women I have met because of my daughter—mothers around the country who have their own stories of loss and, without even knowing me, have spent hours on the phone or over coffee crying, laughing, commiserating and truly understanding me. It’s as if we’ve become part of a club, one that none of us ever wanted to be a part of, and yet we have accepted our duties to be there for other members and do whatever it takes to help them get through the next day, week or year.

I am a pretty private person and have not told my story to many, but I do so today in an effort to acknowledge all the women out there who have experienced the loss of a child—whether they have other children or not—and wish them a happy Mother’s Day.

Meredith graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, is the director of marketing at Foursquare and lives in Atlanta with her husband, Andy, and puppy, Macallan.