It is hard to forget “firsts.” You’ll always remember the name of your first partner, your first crush and your first kiss, and you won’t shake the memory of the first time you snuck out of your house, had sex or got your period. I remember all my firsts, and I am completely and entirely the type of person who commemorates these moments — including my first miscarriage.
It was a Sunday in 2010. I was a newly married young woman carrying Paloma, my unborn baby who I wanted, loved and made me feel like a mom from the minute I knew she was inside of me. But while volunteering at my church in Miami, my stomach began to feel off. I felt nauseated, so I went to the bathroom only to notice that there was blood on my panties. I immediately told my then-husband, and we rushed to the emergency room.
After running some tests, a doctor broke the news: Paloma had died inside of me. They said that sometimes “things happens,” and informed me that the reason for her passing could have been anything from my diet to our genes simply not matching up. To really know, they said they’d have to run some tests, but that would only take place if I miscarried more than three times in a row. I was told a bunch of things that I could not wrap my head around, and all of it felt wrong, but I was too shocked to advocate for myself.
I was advised to pass her naturally, or I could have her vacuumed out of me. Feeling so attached to my daughter, who I had already named, I could not imagine seeing someone suck her from my body. Without much thought, I told the physician I would pass Paloma at home.
No one told me what to expect. I didn’t know when it would happen, how long it would take, how she would pass through me or if it would hurt, physically at least. I was just told to come back if I needed anything else or to call my OB/GYN the next day for further conversation. I didn’t even know what questions to ask. I was so young, and the shock of it all kept me from really asking much of anything.
Later that week, I passed Paloma — but I didn’t know what that meant until it was happening. In my home, and essentially alone because my then-husband slept through it, I went into labor for about 10 hours. There were contractions and there were tears. But not of my newborn. I gave birth to a dead fetus, and it was both painful and traumatic.
This is what I remember every May. While families celebrate their moms on Mother’s Day, I commemorate one of my firsts: Paloma, the first child I lost to a miscarriage. And although I had numerous miscarriages after her, she remains close to my heart.
This year, Paloma would have turned seven. This year, she would have been in second grade. This year, I would celebrate my seventh Mother’s Day of being a mami to Paloma. Yet, I do not celebrate; instead, I remember.
I remember that significant first, a first that marked me and changed me.
Due to my miscarriage, I decided to change my life. I would never say I was quiet or understated, but before my miscarriage, I passively subverted all the things I grew up being told about myself. Things like, “you cannot have a novio,” “only mami is your true friend” and “las mujeres inteligentes no sirven para nada.” I knew these things were wrong, so I did what I wanted in silence, behind my parents’ backs. I learned to subvert what I knew to be wrong, quietly.
But after my miscarriage, something in me began to shift. I needed something to change, because I needed to honor my would-have-been daughter.
Not long after this, I became the first person in my family line to get a graduate degree, and somewhere along all that, I became radicalized. I made Latina Rebels, an online platform empowering fully present Latinas and disrupting binaries placed on our bodies and minds, I started writing for several national Websites and I regularly speak at colleges, universities, conferences and events across the country.
I would never use my achievements to justify such a tragedy like losing your own baby, but I do honor Paloma often by becoming the best woman I can be and for the future iterations of Paloma.
In May, and on Mother’s Day in particular, I grieve and I remember. I hold in my heart all the would-be mamis, all the mamis whose motherhood was robbed from them. I hold all the dog-mamis, all the mamis going through in vitro, adoptions and/or surrogacy. Most of all, I remember Paloma and all that she gave me, all the purpose that I found in that loss.