Loved, Not Forgotten

after miscarriage

I find out I’m expecting again in March of 2021. Two bright pink lines on a pregnancy test stare back at me in our bathroom. I count nine months forward to a due date in November. November, a month for cinnamon and cloves, sweater weather, and now, my second child’s birthday. My breath catches. I touch my stomach tenderly and examine my profile in the bathroom mirror. So many mothers know this featherlike moment, when your body whispers a secret, and you hold it close. Still touching my belly, I whisper back, Hey baby, I’m your mama.

At my first OB/GYN appointment for this pregnancy, I float into the ultrasound room, high on the sweetness of expectation. Visions of a new nursery and baby footie pajamas circle through my head. The ultrasound tech moves the wand across my belly, and my husband squeezes my hand. Gently, my doctor says, “There’s no heartbeat.”

Color drains from my cheeks. She’s saying more now, words of comfort and care, but I’m having trouble hearing her. After my doctor exits the room, I crumple into my husband’s arms, devastated. Instead of leaving with a picture of our baby, we leave with instructions for my D&C surgery. The short walk to the car is now a marathon. I struggle to put one foot in front of the other. Tears flow. So do my laments: Why God? Why did my baby die? Why do some babies go straight to heaven?

After I get home from my D&C surgery, I sink into bed, curled up with a heating pad and our dog. Cramps come and go, punctuated by fits of crying. My four-year-old son tiptoes in to hug me once, then, perhaps scared by the state of his mommy, he races back to his daddy.

For a few weeks, the promise of a new child had been a sign of hope for our family. My husband and I had waited four years to give our son a sibling. We endured family illness, a pandemic, and infertility. Now losing our child at seven weeks cuts deeper than any pain I’ve felt — ever. Although I’d experienced the sting of loss before, this grief is new and unwieldy.

How do you say goodbye to a baby you never met but already deeply loved?

My doctor told me miscarriage is common: one in four pregnancies end in loss. Millions of mothers had grieved such losses before me. Some others are likely grieving miscarriages at this very moment. So why do I feel so lonely?

I unearth my phone from the nightstand and text my girlfriends: Pray for me. I’m struggling. Then I cocoon the covers tightly around my aching body and go to sleep.

Kind texts and flowers arrive overnight. One friend sends a Bible verse on a card and prayerbook. Another mails a care package of warm socks, tea, and an open heart ring. I slip the ring on my right ring finger and don’t take it off, even to shower.

A few days later I am driving home after preschool drop-off when an earthquake of grief consumes me. The stop light ahead blurs from red to green. My whole body starts to shake. I hear the horns honking behind me but I’ve frozen up, surprised by the force of my emotions. Finally, I wipe back the tears and put my foot on the gas.

The problem with loss, particularly miscarriage, is that it’s often invisible to others. Women don’t typically announce early pregnancy, and thus when miscarriage occurs, they may feel uncertain about sharing it. The church and society offer few rituals or guidelines for grieving mothers and fathers. The world wants us to hurry up and keep driving, yet a mother who’s miscarried can’t go on the same way she did before without taking time to tend to her healing.

As I turn into my driveway, this is what I know to be true: I do not know how to heal from this insurmountable loss. Maybe the first step is not hiding it.

While working at home, I rise from my desk and shuffle to the kitchen for my lunch break. I swing the fridge doors wide and examine its contents: salad fixings, leftover chili, a carton of eggs. My stomach is in knots. The pregnancy nausea has all but disappeared, but eating regular meals is still a struggle.

I sigh and decide I’ll spend my free time writing instead. Writing hasn’t come easy lately. I write at the intersection of faith and motherhood, and currently I’m angry at God and unwilling to celebrate the joy of motherhood. As fate would have it, I’d signed up for a poetry course that began a week after my miscarriage. Perhaps I should start there. I pick up a pen and write:

Grief Interrupting

us eating breakfast—
a forgotten kettle wailing
crashing against the table my fist
the Honey Nut Cheerios, the small child
in my care.

I am driving in the fast lane
she slices through stale air—
an unwelcome apparition—haunting
to push me off the road, traffic passing
on the right. Not safe
cars blurring into one another not

I put down the pen. The words have come out in a jumble, but I am grateful for any words at all. I need this. It is the one thing bringing me back to life again. To pinpoint words that describe the near-unspeakable ache I’m feeling is a comfort and a balm. I am not sure how to finish the poem, so I set it aside and decide I’ll eat the leftover chili after all.

The next day is Saturday, and I go walking in the woods. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many picked up habits: cross stitch, bread-breaking, meditation. Mine was walking. A year later, I’ve continued walking to soothe my nerves — well, until the miscarriage. This is the first walk I’ve taken since the procedure, the first time I’ve felt strong enough to push my body to resume its regular rhythms. I take big steps, greedy for fresh air and anything to take my mind off the sadness swirling inside of me.

Spring, it seems, is arriving in Chicago. Tiny green blades of grass peek out from beneath mottled brown leaves. There’s still a bite in the breeze, even though the weather has warmed to a balmy 50 degrees. Buttercup flowers are cropping up here and there. I stop at a clearing nearby the north branch of the Chicago River and watch as the water rushes by. Nowhere do I feel closer to God than in nature, and here, before this river, is the first time I’ve felt a sense of peace.

Back at home, I rush to my desk and rifle around for my poetry notebook. My hand quickly scrawls across the page:

We walk through the forest
fresh ground cover dapples
browned earth, hope
grows outside
inside I lost a baby, my womb
is barren
branches reaching
for sunlight, longing to bloom.
That was your baby, Grief murmurs,
taking my hand. You can rest
if you need to. You can cry
if you want to. She
leads me out of these wild woods.

The poem is finished. I am still trying to make peace with this loss, but here is a start. Writing is a ritual and movement toward healing. Maybe one day I will share this poem, too. I will not hide Grief. I will welcome her interruption.

It’s been a year and a half since I miscarried. Grief’s sting remains, though it is softer. I have two beautiful boys now, for which I’m deeply grateful. A few months after our loss, my husband and I were able to conceive again, a rainbow baby boy I delivered in February of 2022. He is a grace for our family.

Every November, I wonder about the baby I miscarried. What if I’d carried my second pregnancy to term and had a daughter? In dreams, I imagine her with fair blue eyes and light brown hair, like me. She’s dancing, and I want to dance with her, to embrace her, but she moves out of reach. Again I reach for her. She twirls away from me.

That’s when I wake, sticky with sweat and questions. Why do some babies live and others go straight to heaven? Do babies grow up in heaven? When God calls me home, will I recognize my lost daughter?

I may never know these answers. But maybe none of that matters if I can trust my faith that teaches my baby is home in the loving arms of our Savior. I touch my open-heart ring, the one I wear in memory of her. A symbol of life held and life lost — but never forgotten.

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Erin Strybis is a Chicago-based writer, mama of two and coauthor of The Beauty of Motherhood: Grace-Filled Devotions for the Early Years. Her stories have appeared in The Washington Post, Coffee + Crumbs, Living Lutheran, The Everymom and elsewhere. She also writes Nourish, a monthly Substack to help you be kinder to yourself and others. When she's not chasing her kids or writing, Erin enjoys practicing yoga, singing at church or curling up with a good book. Connect with her on Instagram @erinstrybis and at, where you can subscribe to Nourish and order The Beauty of Motherhood.


  1. Megan Hogg on 5 March 2024 at 7:11 pm

    Oh Erin… this was so moving and resonated with me deeply. The “earthquake of grief,” yes. The wondering and longing and faith required to persevere. Thank you for sharing your story <3

    • Erin Strybis on 6 March 2024 at 11:17 am

      Thank you for reading and sharing, Megan. I’m so glad it resonated with you!

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