There is a Chinese parable that goes something like this: A farmer has a fine horse, finer than any in the neighborhood, and his neighbors are envious.
"The horse is a blessing," they say.
"How do you know?" the farmer asks. "Maybe it is a curse."
One day, the horse bolts, leaving the farmer with nothing.
"That's too bad," the neighbors say. "What a terrible curse."
"Who are you to say?" the man asks. "Maybe it is a blessing."
The neighbors are puzzled. The next day, the horse comes back with a herd of wild horses that by law, belong to the man as soon as they set foot on his property.
"What a blessing!" his neighbors say.
"Who are you to say?" the man asks. "Maybe it is a curse."
A few days later, the man's son is trying to ride one of the horses and is thrown and badly injured. The doctor's bills will be devastating, and the son's inability to work will severely impact the family income.
"That's terrible!" the neighbors say. "What a curse!"
"How do you know?" the man asks. "Maybe it's blessing."
The next week the Chinese army comes through the village conscripting young men for war. The farmer's son is far too badly injured and does not go. All the young men who went are killed off.
And so to this day, in that village, the people still say, "What seems like a blessing may be a curse and what seems like a curse, may be a blessing."
In November, I was 12 weeks pregnant with my first child. At my first obstetric appointment, my doctor did a full physical, declared me delightfully pregnant, and asked if we would like to see the baby. The image on the screen was the most glorious thing we had ever seen. It was very, very hard to accept it when the doctor told us the baby had died a few days prior.
It was hard to view my miscarriage as anything more than an horrific curse. More than once I left a public place in tears, after watching some mother threaten or belittle her child, or some tiny teenager with her round belly shopping for baby clothes.
Why them and not me? Why did my baby die?
I think that every parent who loses a child must answer this in his or her own way. Somewhere between spirituality and science, faith and mystery, we all must make peace with not-knowing.
As I made peace with not-knowing, and time moved mercifully on, I was startled to learn that miscarriage had brought me some remarkable gifts:
As terrible as it was to lose my child, loving her in the first place was a gift. Being her mother was a privilege I would never ever trade. Even if I had never been pregnant again, I would always have been her mother.
Miscarriage changed my definition of "terrible." I am slower to upset, slower to anger, slower to worry than I was before. I have fewer bad days. I am a better mother because my first baby died in my womb. Worries about my post-motherhood identity, my loss of independence, and the drudgeries of life with a baby dissolved in the face of the real fear that I might never be a mother at all.
There is nothing like loss to make you grateful for what you do have. Even on the days when my kitchen is a mess, the laundry threatens to overwhelm and my child is making me crazy, I am grateful. Being given the opportunity to want motherhood as desperately as I did, made me grateful for it in all its manifestations.
Every November, I experience a time of great sadness and remembering. But I cannot feel that without also giving thanks for how much I received, and how much richer my life is because of it.
I can't say that I would have chosen these gifts for the price I paid. But the choice was never mine to make.