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How I Honor My “Should-Have-Been” Babies

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Image Source: Aela Mass

After four years, multiple IVF cycles, four devastating miscarriages, and countless setbacks … Aela’s road to motherhood has been anything but easy. Follow her story on Babble and don’t miss the latest chapter in her journey below.

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When I read that Oprah Winfrey recently named a baby she lost when she was 14 years old, I cried. But my tears weren’t those of sadness. I cried because I was overcome by the beauty and strength it takes to not only publicly admit you lost a child, but to name an unborn child. After I wiped away my tears, I started thinking of all the ways women like me honor our “should-have-been” babies — the babies that left our wombs too soon but remain within us always.

For those of us who have experienced miscarriage or stillbirth, we know how awful the phrases, “Everything happens for a reason” and “It’ll happen when the time is right” are. We know others say it as a way to comfort, but it’s no comfort to think that the baby you carried wasn’t “meant to be.” Perhaps these little souls were only meant to be with us for a short time, but they most certainly are meant to be. And we should all honor them as such.

Here’s how I honor my should-have-been babies, five in total. I think you’ll find some comfort and peace if you join me in honoring yours, however is good for you.

1. I name them.

Depending on when the loss was, and because often these sweet angels never even took a breath, some might feel awkward naming their baby. But doing so is a small way to validate your love for them and the time they were with you. It took me months after I lost our twins at 17 weeks to name them. We eventually decided on the names that were our top choices at the time of the loss: Daphne and Theodore.

It felt so, so good to give them names — to more fully vocalize our love for them. And we realized it was very unlikely that we would use a name we were considering at the time of this loss on a future baby; the names on our list became so much a part of that pregnancy and that time.

So not only did we bring more life to our sweet angels by giving them names, we also got to use names we love. For the babies we lost earlier (8 weeks, 10 weeks, and 5 weeks), we’ve chosen to call them by the pet names we used at the time: Little Bean, Sweet Nugget, and Little Love Love. When we speak to each other about anything to do with the different pregnancies, we don’t say, “the one that ended at 8 weeks.” We say, “the time we spent with Little Love Love.”

2. I create a keepsake box.

It might feel a little morbid at first, but our box has given me so much comfort. I include ultrasound images, name lists, positive pregnancy tests, and other keepsakes of the pregnancies like love notes written to each other at the time and congratulation cards from friends. These babies were physically a part of me at some point, there’s no reason I should be forced to forget them. Plus, having this box allows me to physically hold something when the waves of grief come. I have a place for it all to go. I hold my box. I go through it. Cry. Have my time with it. With my should-have-been babies.

And then, I put it away. I wipe the tears, and I move on — to cooking, laundry, drinks with friends, whatever it may be. But it’s comforting to know I have a place to go, a box to hold when I need to. The dark moments and sad times will come; there’s no escaping them. So why not create a way for yourself to safely have those moments?

3. I find a piece of artwork that reminds me of them (or create one myself).

Plenty of things can remind you of your should-have-been baby — the first song you heard after finding out you were pregnant, the type of tree or flower you were near when you first felt a kick. You might not know what your child would have looked like, but perhaps you can always see them in a daffodil, or a linden tree, or while listening to 2 Heads. Frame the lyrics. Press a flower. See what you can find on Etsy. And the most beautiful part about having a piece of artwork to memorialize your should-have-been babies? You get to tell the story anytime someone asks about it. Or you get to smile and simply say, “I just love it.” But you know.

4. I do something special on their due date(s).

Don’t try to “ignore the day.” Trust me, it doesn’t work. Enjoy a favorite meal. Go on a date. Do something in their honor that makes you feel good. Or be sure to do something special for yourself on the date of your loss, even if that’s simply not making dinner that day and getting take-out. Be gentle with yourself. And always remember to love yourself during these tough dates to get through.

5. I talk about them.

This might be a terrifying thought, but speak of them, say their name(s), even if it’s just with your best friend or therapist. Your should-have-been babies are real — and you’re the only one who can give their little lives purpose.

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