It’s been two and a half months since I went into early labor, delivered our baby girl, and she died. After the initial shock I did what any grief-stricken parent would do – I googled everything. Chances of this happening again, what to expect, how to move forward, stories of people who had similar experiences and have gone on to have healthy pregnancies/babies. As you can imagine, I found very little. It’s not something that’s talked about often and I get it. We may make up the tragic ‘less than one percent’ statistic that every pregnant woman fears, but for the 140,000 moms who experience infant loss each year, it can feel incredibly isolating to feel like you’re the only mother grieving a child she will never get to know. This article is for anyone out there who may be living the nightmare so that it might provide some insight on what to expect in the aftermath. I am by no means an expert, nor do I want to be, but in short, I hope this will help any other broken-hearted mamas out there. Here goes…
So, it’s been two and a half months since our daughter died. I still just cannot believe it. I walked into the hospital feeling her kicking and moving inside of me and left with empty arms, empty dreams and a broken heart. I won’t lie to you, every single day is hard. You will be achingly aware of every baby bump and every Huggies commercial. You will meticulously unsubscribe from everything pregnancy related but one day you get an email reminding you that you should be 34 weeks pregnant or ask if you want to finish the birth announcement you started and it’ll be enough to send you sideways. You will feel like you’re living in a parallel universe. You will get cards, flowers, support, messages, food. You will have sleepless nights and spend your days physically recovering from labor – all the things that should happen following a healthy, living baby.
In this instance though there’s no baby, and these things are sent out of sympathy rather than celebration. I filled our new baby album with all of the condolence letters and cards we received because I wanted to keep every kind word and thought. I can tell you right now, there’s nothing sadder than a baby book that will never be filled with milestones and dates. Ours is as full as it’ll ever be because there will be no new memories of our little girl.
The first few weeks postpartum may be filled with gut-wrenching sobs where you can hardly peel yourself off the bathroom floor. You will cling to any baby items you collected, stare at the ultrasounds and there might be times you don’t even recognize yourself anymore. It will seem unbelievable that the mail keeps coming, people keep smiling, and the world keeps turning, because to you it’ll feel as if it’s all but stopped or ended.
Then miraculously, without realizing it, one day you will smile at a pregnant lady and tears won’t come to your eyes when you hear that newborn cry in the grocery store. There will start to be more smiles, more laughs. Don’t get discouraged if you’re having a “good day” and all of a sudden it hits you and you can’t help but break down. Those are the days you are fighting the hardest – the days that don’t come easy. Now even on my very best days there is more pain than my very worst days pre-loss. Find whatever may be your lifesaver and hold tight. For me, my joy came from my family – I have an incredible husband who literally held me up on days when I couldn’t do it myself and an energetic toddler who can make me smile even on the darkest of days.
Since I had our Emmy there have been eleven friends and family members around me who have had babies. ELEVEN. In ten weeks. While I’m so happy for every one of them I do have to question – why me? Why my baby? I can tell you, there will never be answers and even though you will replay every moment of your pregnancy and wonder what you could’ve done different, just know that you did everything. For a while all I wanted was to simultaneously rewind and fast forward my life. Now I’m trying to embrace the not knowing and it couldn’t be harder. It’s out of our control as much as we hate for it to be. Life is precious and even though this is a very sad time it sure as hell won’t be a wasted time, because you don’t get days back.
Try to be kinder, gentler with yourself. You will want to place some blame and if it wasn’t the fault of the doctors, your spouse, or your baby, then who is left? It’s incredibly different than someone else dying. This person was inside of you, you were responsible for them. It’s our job as mamas to give life, to protect. It’s the hardest pill to swallow when you do everything you can and the opposite still happens.
People will say that it gets easier. You may not want to hear this and I know it’s early days for me yet, but I don’t think it actually ever gets easier. I don’t think you can watch your child’s life slip away in front of you and one day twenty years from now the memory will be less painful or easier to handle. I do believe, however, that pain changes us. We keep going and we adapt because we are mamas – mamas to the angel babies, the earth babies, and the babies we’ve yet to meet. It’s who we are and it’s the thing that drives the strength we summon when we have to say goodbye to our children.
You may be in the trenches right now and for that I’m so, so sorry. You’ve got to feel what you feel and hurt like you hurt. You can’t do any more than you are doing. Just know that you aren’t doing it alone. From one broken-hearted mama to another: we are out there, thinking of you, hurting with you, as we all silently hold each other up.
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