Miranda Hernandez (37), mother to Adrian James, stillborn at 41 weeks on 30 June 2017. Miranda is currently 6 months pregnant with a little girl whose current nickname is Peanut.
California | Photographed in Chicago
Miranda shares -
“Two years ago, I was pregnant with my first child. As a Single Mother by Choice (SMC), he was both planned and gloriously wanted, and despite the typical complaints of pregnancy, I was happy. At the start of my pregnancy, I was thirty five and slightly overweight, two things which doctors may or may not consider serious. I had no other risk factors. I thought my pregnancy was going well.
On 21 June, 2017, the day before my son was due, I told my providers I wasn’t feeling as much movement. I told them a few other things, things I now know are serious red flags. They told me I was fine. Eight days later, my son died.
I spent the first year after his death in a fog. I went to support groups. I journaled. I crawled inside myself and screamed. I lost good friends who couldn’t watch me in pain. I tried and failed to make sense of the incomprehensible.
The second year was harder. I had moved to a new city where few people knew. Children became a difficult subject. People expected me to be “okay.” I lost track of the number of times I was told to “have another baby,” as if children are interchangeable. Everything finally started to feel real.
How has parenthood impacted your body image?
I've never had issues with body dysmorphia; it's just never been something I've struggled with, but I do have issues with my postpartum body.
Not that I hate my appearance, because I love every stretch mark and curve, every sign of the nine long months I nurtured my son. These are my mommy badges, and I often think I had trouble letting go of the weight because it was one more link to him.
What I did struggle with were the conversations. It simply wasn't possible to say the words, "when I was pregnant," and not have someone ask about my child. And as much as I love talking about my son, there were days after his death when I just needed to get through the grocery store and the rest of my errands and not have to explain to strangers that no--I wasn't currently pregnant; I was just grieving, and I didn't even realize I was stroking my stomach in a public place.
And sometimes I worry that this makes me a bad mother...and sometimes I want to throw things and just walk away. Why are people so damn nosy in our culture anyway?
Now that I am pregnant for the second time, I am experiencing a different type of conversation. I am discovering even more than before that when I present a pregnant body to the world, the world feels entitled to ask about my history. And I didn't realize until recently how difficult it is for both them and me when I refuse to lie and claim this little girl as my "first" child. So I tell the truth. And many people walk away. And I am standing, holding space for both my children.
Feel free to share your postpartum journey.
I came home from the hospital to a fully-furnished nursery, a stockpile of diapers, and a lifetime of broken dreams. I came home to texts and messages from well-meaning friends. I came home, crawled into bed, and wished that I could die.
There aren't enough words to describe those early days. No one talks to you about the possibility of stillbirth. No one tells you it happens to 1 in 160 pregnancies. Not one of my providers ever mentioned that a full-term baby could suddenly and inexplicably die the day before he was born. And because of that, I wasn't prepared. I didn't know how to function in a world where my very much wanted and planned-for son wasn't living.
I didn't know how to go back to work again. I didn't know how to prompt my brain on how to think. I didn't know grief was like having a long-term concussion, or that things that used to be easy would feel out of reach. For months I tried to come back to myself, tried to function in a newly darkened world. For months I tried to make sense of reality, and found comfort only in his memories. And none of this was part of what I originally planned.
Completely separate from the emotions, there was the physical reality. I still made milk. I still had bleeding. I was bloated and carried weight in my belly for almost the next nine months. And for the longest time, I still felt phantom kicking. It was a surreal and painful and a beautiful reminder he was real. And I captured it permanently in a tattoo on my ribs.
It has been more than twenty months since my son was born sleeping. It has been more than twenty months, and I still talk about him. On what should have been his first birthday, I launched a website in his memory. I've held fundraisers in his name. I spread news about how his death could have been prevented. These aren't the things I imagined when I was pregnant. This isn't how I planned to mother him. The old me didn't know it was possible to mother a dead baby. But this is what I'm doing. This is how I'm keeping him alive, in me. Because he was a person, a human being. And his existence will always be part of me.
What is your truth?
There is no cosmic plan. There is no destiny or "meant to be." There is no lesson to be learned in hardship, nor meaning to be found in the death of my son. I was not set on this path to become a better person. I am not strong; I am not brave. I am not a parable or cautionary tale. I am a person; a human being. I have experienced tragedy. It could happen to anyone. I am continually finding my way in the world. I am grieving and I am love. And there is no truth stronger than that.
Why did you choose to participate in this movement and share your story?
I used to believe nature was everything. I used to believe things happened for a reason. I used to believe if I wanted something strongly enough and maintained positivity, nothing could truly stand in my way. But if these past two years have taught me anything, it is that life is unpredictable, and tumultuous, and strange. And even under those conditions, there is still beauty, and there is still love.
I am pregnant now for the second time. I am grieving and I am full of feeling for my second child. I am living and I am moving forward, but never "moving on." I am incorporating pain and beauty and love and hope into my world.
I don't know what the future will bring. I don't know anything beyond the experience of today. But today, I am happy, and my daughter is living. And I want to document everything. I want to share what's real.”
You can read Miranda’s blog at AdrianJamesHernandez.com