“Hold them in your memory find them in your dreams” -author unknown
The first year is difficult. Each moment seems like a different, sad milestone – the actual due date (if your baby was preterm) and first birthdays. Your mind gravitates towards what you would (or should) be doing in the first few weeks. Would you breast or bottle feed? Then around 6 months post-birth you think about your baby crawling and how you need to baby proof, then the teething, and finally the first birthday. Their birthday exists and after 365 days you realize you really did give birth to a baby, a baby born an angel. You may start to wonder or drive yourself mad with the “what ifs” or feel guilty. Everywhere you look you see a baby or a pregnant lady. You may have an unnatural concern for their pregnancy. And the list goes on and on and on. Take a moment to breath, slowly, be aware of your breathing and then really read this:
“I love my baby. I did not fail my child and my child did not fail me. It was my calling to give birth to this baby and I was chosen to mother this child. I miss my baby and I always will.” -Jake McKenna Ibarra
Grief and loss are often paired together in a marriage of sadness but most don’t take the time to read and understand their individual meanings. Grief actually calls out death whereas loss calls out the experience itself. The process has a unique look and feel to each individual impacted and it is important to avoid judgement or thinking you know what is best.
The definition of grief is: deep sadness caused especially by someone’s death.
The definition of loss is: failure to keep or to continue to have something; the experience of having something taken from you or destroyed.
Unfortunately, there is no recovery timeline on loss. You have a wave of emotions and they may come and go or you may stay in a suspended state for a few days or weeks. If you feel overwhelmed by your loss share with your doctor. Find a peer.
- Fear – Of becoming pregnant again and/or delivering a healthy baby.
- Guilt – About your body failing or about not doing doing something differently.
- Triggers – Maybe you were fine one minute then saw a baby in the very stroller you had or wanted
- Alienation – Do you feel like you have a sign on your head and everyone knows you are the woman who lost her baby. What does “lost her baby” even mean? My child died.
- Relationship Changes – The staggering truth is 80% of relationships fail after loss of a child1. Remember the loss didn’t just happen to you. The dynamics are very complicated as you have physical and emotional aspects where your loved one has visual and emotional. It is important to talk about your loss, respect each others perspectives and seek help if needed.
“It was hard to look at my husband post-loss. I felt responsible for causing all his pain. I know we were in this together but it was hard to distinguish at the time. Physical complications prevented intimacy for a period of time and it was difficult for us not to have that connection. We had to learn how to “be” again after loss. It is normal to feel this way but talk to your partner of how you are feeling. The person you love still exists and still needs you and wants you. Try scheduling weekly dates, go back to places you enjoyed together. Watch funny movies and learn how to laugh with each other again.” – -Jake McKenna Ibarra, Bereavement Director Doula Spot
The most important fact to understand is you do not actually “get over” loss. The reality is you learn to live with the fact day in and day out. In time it won’t consume your every thought, you will laugh again and enjoy life’s simple pleasures. You will carry your child(ren)’s memory forever. Maybe you will remain private, spend time at the cemetery, keep your baby’s picture in a frame, memorialize them in a tattoo, display their urn, memorial quilt or other keepsakes. It is important to live in a way depicted by you. If you feel like you are stuck in a rut then try making a few changes. Try painting inside your house, face a fear and try something new. Change does not erase memories but might prove therapeutic.
It is important to discuss trying again with your doctor but most recommend 2 to 3 menstrual cycles post loss or up to 6 months post caesarean section. Once you and your health professional determine physically how long you should wait you must then determine mentally when the time is right.
If you conceive again it is important to remember each pregnancy is unique and your body will respond to each pregnancy uniquely. It is highly likely you will have additional sonograms, testing and a scheduled delivery.
Maybe you won’t try to conceive again but you are already a parent. Cherish your moment, as brief as their life was it is still life of your child.
If you are unable to conceive (due to hysterectomy or other medical issues) again be kind to yourself. Remember you are a parent and always will be. Perhaps you are thinking about adoption, surrogacy, and foster parenting. Find a support person while you select what is best for you.
There is no magic word to take away the pain but you can show your support in many ways.
- I’m sorry – saying you are so sorry for their loss is validating their pregnancy and loss.
- I’m here for you – let your loved one know you care.
- I love you – the three best, healing words..
- Be supportive of the individual grief and loss process – grief has no time frame and each person handles loss uniquely.
- If you need support talk to a provider – loss impacts all loved ones and you may find yourself needing support.
- Don’t offer unwarranted advice – tread lightly and listen.
- Respect decisions to “try” again or not try again – the decision is a highly sensitive one and trying again might not be possible.
- Get involved! Start a team and participate in a walk or fundraiser in memory of – this shows them you care and their child matters.
* If mom is pregnant again ask before you plan a baby shower or offer an alternative “meet the baby” party.
“After delivering 3 full-term babies, surviving 3 miscarriages and 1 preterm labor and loss of my twins I was told it was highly unlikely I would conceive again let alone carry to term. I became pregnant in the same calendar year as my loss and decided since I was pregnant against all odds I would try and carry my miracle pregnancy. I was high risk, advanced maternal age, required a cervical cerclage2 at 14 weeks (I was already dilated 1cm), had low amniotic fluid and a variety of other challenges. I decided to keep my pregnancy private and did not discuss my pregnancy until I passed the 24 week viability mark. I welcomed my rainbow baby on August 9, 2012. Against all odds, I carried him 38 weeks and 6 days” – Jake McKenna Ibarra, Bereavement Director