I Wouldn’t Be Me Without You


I Wouldn’t Be Me Without You

They say parenting changes you, and they’re right.

For many people (but not all!) there is some instantaneous switch that flips when that wriggly little newborn is first placed in their arms, while others walk a journey of learning and loving the children that come into their homes, but it’s undeniable: becoming a parent fundamentally alters who we are and how we see the world.

And sometimes, not becoming a parent changes us too.

To the babies I miscarried,

To be fair, I was already a mom when you came along. I had already learned how to change a diaper with one hand, juggle grocery shopping with two toddlers plus an infant carrier, and how to make a meal out of pb&j crusts, a handful of Goldfish crackers, and the leftovers of lunches my kids didn’t finish. I was used to sleeping in 30-minute increments while someone cut a tooth or had a fever that needed watching. We already went through potty training and preschool graduation and wearing spit up as a fashion statement. 

But I had so much more to learn. I wouldn’t be me without you.

Before you, I thought I knew some things about life and faith and fear and feelings. I had enough experience to know a thing or two but not enough to know how frightfully little of it matters in the end. I had all the answers, but then you came – and then you went – and I was left in your wake with questions and doubts and anxiety. You flipped everything upside down. Without you, would I ever have wrestled with Truth the way I have these last few years? Would I have become this same me, the me who embraces doubt and leans into questions, or would I have doubled down on my so-called certainties, the ones that turned out to be not so sure after all? Losing you led to me losing everything, which ultimately led me to finding so much more.

When you left, I was angry, oh so angry. I was sad and hurt and confused and lonely, but the anger was brand new. I had never known feelings so intense, and you taught me how to feel them. I’m still learning how to embrace them, how to sit with them, how to learn from them, but I never would have had the chance if you hadn’t shown me the depth and breadth of emotion of which I was capable. I never could have grown into this me if it hadn’t been for you.

Without you, I wouldn’t have known the searing pain of loss and the complicated ways we must mourn when nobody else had known about you yet. You taught me to honor pregnancy and parenthood at every stage and to respect grief in its various forms. You taught me to shut up when someone is bereaved, because rarely do we need a word of encouragement so much as we just need someone to show up and hold space for our sadness.

When I was finally ready to tell others about you, to share the secret heartache I had been carrying, it paved the way for healing, both in me and others. Restored relationships, unexpected graces, trust that only comes from knowing someone else has been there too… Maybe it shouldn’t have surprised me, but never before had I known the unparalleled way that shared pain connects us to others. The trauma of losing you was the only way for me to become, like Henri Nouwen said, “[one of] those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.” I couldn’t have become that person without you.

Losing you was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and if I could go back and change things, I absolutely would. I would choose having you here in my arms and risk not learning these things, because YOU are what I want most of all. But while I don’t get to choose the past, I will choose to be grateful that I held you for every moment of your short lives. I can be thankful for the people and lessons you brought into my life through the ending of yours. I don’t have to be happy about it, but it turns out you can be sorrowful and grateful and plaintive and relieved and angry and content all at the same time – I’m sure I never would have learned that if it weren’t for you.

Truthfully, little ones, this version is the best me I have ever been, and I’m grateful to be here. I wish you were here with me, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt:

I wouldn’t be me without you.

I love you forever,


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Mary Beth Unthank
Knoxville born and bred, my love for this area is deep and true! I'm a working-turned-stay-at-home mom to 4 kiddos from elementary to high school. My husband and I live in Knoxville where we both lead nonprofit organizations and are trying to become Love in our community. I love watching my kids learn something new, cooking for other people (but not for myself), and telling myself I'm a #fitmom when I go to the gym like once a month. I'm a bottle-feeding, disposable diapering, public-schooling (other than the time I homeschooled for a minute) mom with the stereotypical chill attitude of moms with large(r) broods. I love meeting new people, but I talk way too much and laugh when I'm uncomfortable. If you don't mind long stories and bad jokes, we are sure to be friends! Follow my family adventures on my blog Unthank You Very Much


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