My Sister Stole My Baby

That’s one of the many irrational thoughts that come to mind almost daily.  She didn’t really steal my baby of course, but because she announced she was pregnant less than a month after my miscarriage, it feels that way.

She was conceiving while my baby was dying.  I love my sister dearly, and I wish her all the best, but it pains me to hear others congratulating her – and expecting me to join in – knowing that they would have congratulated me the same way.  I told her I was happy for her, and deep down, way deep down where my pre-miscarriage self still lives, I am happy for her.  I told her not to worry about me, that it “isn’t like you think it would be”, and at the time I meant it.  But the moment she walked away, heaviness fell on my heart & over a month later, that heaviness still makes it hard to breathe when I’m around her.

My husband & I did not announce this pregnancy.  Only a couple of very close friends and my husband’s grandmother knew.  We wanted to surprise everyone by announcing it at our daughter’s second birthday party.  It was nice keeping such a happy secret.  I was surprised how easy it was, since I’m not generally very good at keeping secrets like that.

We had an early ultrasound to date the baby. From a customer service perspective, it was a disaster. It was such a bad experience that I told the practice manager we would be looking for another healthcare provider. Aside from all that, I knew from the ultrasound that something was wrong.  They told me everything looked fine & I was six weeks along, but from my estimates I should have been closer to ten weeks.  My cycles are a bit irregular (hence the ultrasound), so I was expecting it to show anywhere from eight to ten weeks.  Heck, seven weeks even, but not six.  No way.  When I saw that tiny spec on the screen, I knew something was wrong.  When they told me the due date, my first thought was “that’s not my baby”.

Naturally I pushed those thoughts away.  Three days later I started cramping & bleeding.  It seriously felt like something clicked in my body, like a switch had been turned on.  Suddenly there was pain & blood.  My husband and I rushed to see my midwife.  Because I had caused a bit of fuss by complaining, we had an ultrasound within the hour.  The tech gave us pictures & said she saw the heart beat – we could see it too.  My husband & I were comforted until we spoke to the midwife.  She told us the heartbeat was low enough to cause concern, but there was no way to know exactly what was happening.  I will always appreciate the way she walked in the room, threw her hands up in the air & said “Well, I don’t know.” I think she did know though, because she scheduled us for a follow up ultrasound the next day, and even though she said she wouldn’t be there, she was.

My midwife stayed late so she could come with us to the ultrasound.  My husband & I had spent so much time thinking the best, hoping for the best, that we were unprepared to see our dead baby on that screen.  I could tell immediately that it looked different, and the tech kept saying she was looking at my cervix.  I knew that babies aren’t supposed to be hanging out near the cervix.  Then she said it looked impending, and my midwife immediately spoke up.  “She’s saying the baby doesn’t have a heartbeat.”  My husband & I cried and cried.  I don’t know how long we stayed in that ultrasound room.  They told us to take our time, no hurry, and told us which way to go so we wouldn’t have to walk back through a waiting room filled with happily pregnant women.

My midwife explained how a natural miscarriage works & we went home.  I didn’t want the D&C, but I had no idea how hard it would be to wait for a natural miscarriage.  I didn’t know it could take weeks; I thought that ‘impending’ meant within a few hours, maybe a day at most.  I was lucky that it only took about 48 hours, but those 48 hours were the longest & most difficult of my life.

I am thankful that I know (more or less) when my baby died.  I was with my family & friends the night before that last ultrasound, and it comforts me that my baby was surrounded by those who would have loved her, if they’d known she was there.  I’m grateful that I caught my baby before she slipped into the toilet (my midwife was right; I knew the moment my baby was passing from me).  My midwife told us there are no laws about disposing of ‘the remains of conception’, so we had the opportunity to bury our baby.  It may sound strange, but I am glad we did.  I would have hated to flush it down the toilet or to know it had been disposed of with other medical waste, if I’d had the D&C.

I am comforted by husband, whose grief is as great as mine.  We share our thoughts & feelings daily, even the ugly ones, and it’s good to know we’re going through this together.  I’m glad that we hadn’t announced our pregnancy, although it makes the grief extremely lonely.  We told my mother & sister because we see them almost every day, and they knew something was wrong.  They offered to be there for me, but I didn’t want to be there, for them to be there for me.  My grandparents sent a card & flowers, saying they were sorry we’d experienced a ‘disappointment’.  Unless there’s been gossiping (which there probably has been), no one else in the family knows, nor do our coworkers.

The aftermath of this loss is so great.  I’ve read that recovering from a death is similar to recovering from a broken bone, which takes about six weeks.  I think whoever wrote that had not lost a child.  It’s been two months since we buried our baby, and the grief is still so heavy that I can’t speak about it, even when I want to speak about it. Somehow I was able to call my midwives’ office & explain to two different people why I needed to cancel my appointments & didn’t need to be billed anymore, but I can’t look my mother (who had two miscarriages of her own) in the eye & tell her how I’m feeling.

I hate crying in front of people, so that means I can’t talk about it. Sometimes I want to shout it from the rooftops. Most often I want to say something when people are talking about my sister’s pregnancy, just to shut everyone up.  My husband, my sister & I all work together, so the pregnancy talk is constant.  When people tell me I must be so happy that my daughter will have a playmate, I wish I had the guts to say, “She would have had a sibling, if we hadn’t lost our baby.” I want to say it to stop the conversation, to silence the room, just because I know it would.  I haven’t done it yet, and I doubt I ever will. The rational side of me knows there is no point in hurting other people. I do not wish to spoil my sister’s joy. She has every right to flaunt her happiness, and I have every right to remind people of my grief – but I don’t.  It wouldn’t be polite.  It wouldn’t be considerate of my sister. Only my husband seems to think that all her pregnancy talk is inconsiderate of me. Even if everyone knew, they would be moving on by now, like those who do know have done.  I understand; I don’t think my baby was real to them yet.

We all grieved terribly when my niece was born prematurely & died a few days later. I tell myself that this miscarriage is different, that I have no right to expect others to grieve like I do.  Yet I did lose a child. I did give birth, just so very early that it’s not considered giving birth.  I hope my sister gets to hold more than a bit of blood & tissue in her hands. I hate that my body started rejecting my baby while it was still alive. It haunts me that the only ultrasound pictures we have are of our baby dying.  In time, I know this madness of miscarriage will pass.  One day I will stop feeling so angry & jealous.  One day I will smile & actually mean it.  In the meantime, I am glad my rational side wins almost all of the time.  I’m glad only my husband catches glimpses of what my inner monologue is really like.

 — Jennifer

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  1. I’m so sorry for the loss of your baby. I understand having to be reminded of the pain and loss on a daily basis from a pregnant co-worker. It feels unbearable. I too have wanted to shout out at the top of my lungs- if I have to endure your pregnancy stories why is it wrong for me to share my grief and pain? And yet we do the polite thing and suffer in silence. I have not told her about my miscarriage as I realize she deserves to be happy and joyful at this time in her life, and I don’t want to be the one to rain on her parade. I just wish she would please stop talking about it so damn much!!! Is that so much to ask??? I do however get angry at my co-workers who do know my secret, yet continue to talk about pregnancy and babies in my presence. I wonder how can they be so cruel. But that’s unfair of me I realize. Their lives have moved on and they don’t understand that mine hasn’t. I sometimes wonder if it would have been easier to “get over it” if I didn’t have to be reminded of it constantly. Grief is such a lonely place. It puts you in such a tough spot when it’s a close relative that you work with daily, someone who should be considerate and supportive of you during your loss as you would if the roles were reversed.

    You are very fortunate to have such a loving, protective husband who shares your grief and sadness. And it’s great that you can share your inner thoughts with him, especially the ones you’re not so proud of at the moment. Your strength and love for each other is so important to help cope with a loss such as this.
    Wishing you inner peace and sharing your pain,

  2. I’ve lost both of my babies, my first at 12 weeks in my womb and my son just after birth at 40 weeks. I birthed both of them, loved both of them, and grieve both of them. I can say without doubt that although there are differences in losing in the first trimester and losing at term, there are far more similarities. Having the death of my son recognised so greatly by those around us, brought up a lot of sadness and regret at my first born not being acknowledged in a similar way.

    I don’t believe that the happy oblivious-ness of co-workers or family should override your happiness or ability to cope with the death of your child. There is a lot of misunderstanding about what is appropriate to say and talk about around parents whom have lost. I believe the only way to remedy this is by letting others know what we need. Yes it does make others sad to hear about lost babies, but loss is a very real part of life. It is not you whom has made them sad.

    In those hard moments, when everyone is speaking about growing pregnant bellies, I hope you remember that a lost child is just as precious as any other, regardless of how long they lived for.

  3. Oh, Thank God! This is my first time using WP and I almost gave up b/c I couldn’t figure out how to post a comment/reply, but then I finally did. I just joined the forum so I could respond to your post, it was so touching.

    I wanted to send you encouragement, really. You have a wonderful positive attitude and that counts for major good karma to come your way! Keep striving to be happy for others despite your loss, which I know is often easier said than done. I am sorry for your loss. The very thing you talk about happened to me this year, also. Except it wasn’t my sister. It seemed to be absolutely everyone I know… at least 5 women in my inner circle became moms this year. It felt like a cruel joke the fates were playing on me. The jealousy was intense (and still is, sometimes)! We seem to be through the “worst” of it – 2 babies in Jan/I miscarried in Feb/1 May baby/a baby in July and now one left in August. And with each person, each bit of news, I worked very, very hard to be geniunely happy for them despite my own situation… and through sheer will and determination, I was able to let my jealousy go (most of the time). It might have been resolved for a day or a week, but when it came up again, I just found examples of why everything happened exactly as it was supposed to and that has been helpful. I decided to not let my mind go on a bender giving me instances of how my life is unfair, etc. At a mere 7 weeks, it didn’t even really feel like I was pregnant, but like most couples we were still very, very excited and it is hard when you lose that spark and no one really knows. So, I understand what you’re going through.

    And yet, I have found some gratitude for my miscarriage. For me, time helped. Looking back, I just wasn’t ready–too many balls were still up in the air. That simple truth has been pretty liberating. Besides, it wasn’t my decision to not let the baby come. In my thought process, there must be something bigger that I don’t quite understand. Maybe by “digging deep” and not holding grudges or allowing jealousy to get the better part of me was the best thing for me this year. I don’t know… but, I have learned A LOT about the process and the medical field. Luckily, I won’t be going back to my insensitive OB/GYN and have learned how to advocate for myself a little better, as well.

    Another positive I got in the ‘take away’ of my particular life lesson: because I had to listen to the office baby chatter for months, I am determined to be much more sensitive when I get pregnant again (fingers crossed). It seems the kind thing to do because who knows what others may be going through. I feel grateful for that–that my little nano baby gave me a gift of compassion and understanding for others. There have been a few others… went on a couple of great trips this summer and feel much more settled in terms of living arrangements.

    Anyway, thanks for your inspiring post and I wish you all the success and happiness in the future. Be sure to give yourself lots of examples of all the good stuff you’re doing for yourself and others! Based on your post it seems to me that you are a special woman exemplifying grace and courage to your husband (at minimum)! He must admire you so much. I do.


  4. I work in payroll and shortly after my miscarriage one of our employees was complaining that logging on to the system remotely to get her payslips was too difficult because “taking care of a newborn is hard work!”. I distinctly remember being on the phone to her and wanting to scream at her “at least you HAVE a newborn to take care of, I just had a f**king miscarriage!”.

    I didn’t do it, of course but I just wanted her to shut up about having what I so desperately wanted. Does your sister know about your miscarriage? Maybe explain it to her and that there will be times that you can’t handle hearing about her pregnancy, that it’s not about her, it’s about you. *hugs*

  5. I had been six weeks and three days pregnant when I had my ultrasound and was told everything was okay, baby had a heartbeat but I began bleeding heavily. Two days later I lost my baby. Within a week of my baby dying my sister came to me all cheery and happy because she was pregnant, she knew I had suffered yet another loss despite the fact I’m lucky to have 4 little boys I still ache from the loss of my three angel babies. So no I have people congratulating her, the constant baby talk all while I am trying to deal with my own loss. She has now discovered she’s expecting a girl and i am heartbroken because all I ever wanted was a little girl. I love my sister dearly and I do not blame her for the fact her baby survived and mine died but it hurts everyday knowing that she has what I wanted. I just hope that once her baby is born I will learn to get over my feelings towards it because it hurts knowing that everytime she talks about this baby it kills me inside knowing that should be me.

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Unspoken Grief is a non-profit website dedicated to creating awareness and resources for anyone touched directly or indirectly by miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death.

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Unspoken Grief exists to provide peer-to-peer support and resources. The information on this site is intended only for advocacy and educational purposes. It's not intended to give medical advice, to diagnose or to offer treatment for any medical or psychological conditions. Please consult your own health care provider for your own specific situation and needs.