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We all have pain in our lives. We all have a story that most people don’t know. We might look like we have great lives and have it all together but there’s almost always pain buried down deep. For many women, it is the loss of a baby through miscarriage or stillbirth. Most people don’t know what to say or how to act around a woman that has just lost a baby. Others think it’s not a big deal and women should just get over it. If you’ve never experienced this kind of loss, you don’t understand and may be afraid to ask questions. I have experienced this pain twice and I hope to answer some of those questions.
Every woman’s experience is different and I can only speak from my perspective. I was very fortunate to not experience any infertility issues, became pregnant quickly, and had 2 uncomplicated pregnancies. It was when we decided to try for our third that my faith was tested again and again. I lost my first baby boy at 14.5 weeks and it shook my world. Everything was going fine until March 25th, 2008 when my water broke at home. It all seemed surreal and happened so quickly. After losing a lot of blood, having an emergency surgery, getting a couple blood transfusions, and spending a night in the hospital I was able to go home to pick up my broken heart and to explain to my two young children what had happened. My daughter was almost five at the time and understood what was going on. We had told them a few weeks before about the baby and they were so excited.
At this point in my life, I didn’t know many women who had lost a baby. I didn’t have anyone that I could talk to that understood this kind of pain. Like an answer to a prayer, my local mom’s group started an angel baby support group that I joined. At first I felt almost guilty that I shouldn’t have been so sad since I wasn’t as far along as other women in the group. I quickly came to realize, that it didn’t matter. A loss was a loss and we all asked ourselves the “what if” questions and grieved for a baby we never got to know. What If I didn’t eat that? What If I didn’t sit in a car for so long? What If I rested more? How come I couldn’t protect my baby?? These were all thoughts that continuously kept running on a loop through my mind. Through the support group, I was able to cry and share freely with these other women without the risk of being told “It wasn’t meant to be” or “You can always have another” or “Something must have been wrong with the baby and it’s better to have it happen now than later.” Although these may be said with good intentions from loving people, it doesn’t help. I wanted that baby and I needed to grieve in my own time and way. The support group helped me through my grieving process tremendously. I highly recommend one to anyone needing extra support.
After a few months, we decided to try again, a little more hesitantly this time. Again, everything was going fine, we heard and saw the heartbeat at 8 weeks and I was nauseous all the time. I went in for my 12 week appointment and remember telling the nurse I just wanted to get through the first 14 weeks and then I’d feel more relaxed. I laid down to listen to my baby’s heartbeat and there was none to be found. Really, could this be happening again? We had just told our children 2 days before and we had to go home again and tell them the news. I still remember my daughter asking “Mommy, why does God keep taking our babies to heaven?”
I think with the second pregnancy, I was already guarded so when it happened it wasn’t as shocking as the first time. I was already a member of this club and knew what to expect. It is not an experience I’d wish on anyone. You know sometimes you have that silent wish that other people would understand what you are going through. Like when you have your crazy boys out and you see a mom of only girls give you the “judge-y look”or when your very stubborn and passionate little one is throwing a fit and moms of mild mannered children give you the “Why can’t you control your kid?” stare, you know you say that little prayer of “God, please humble this woman by giving her a boy or a highly spirited child”. You know we all do it, so don’t pretend you don’t! Well in the case of losing a baby, you never wish that pain on any other woman. Instead, I say the silent prayer “Thank you God for my friends not to have endure this kind of pain.”
Every woman grieves in her own way and accepts the loss in different ways. As women, we should not judge others going through loss. Some women get closure more quickly than others, some need time alone, some want to talk about it, some don’t, some plan a memorial service, some can’t be around other pregnant friends for a while, and some stay in bed and cry. It isn’t for any of us to judge and say that they are grieving wrong. Everyone needs to support these women and give them the time they need to process what is happening. After my second miscarriage, I didn’t really take the time to grieve and just jumped into figuring out why this was happening and finding a doctor who would help me. After never having a problem getting pregnant four times, now after 2 D&Cs, I experienced the world of fertility problems.
A year came and went with no pregnancy. For some reason, we used my husband’s 40th birthday as our “give up date”. Looking back on that time in my life, I am so thankful for my family and friends that helped me through it. My daughter just started kindergarten 30 minutes away, my son started his first year at preschool, I started as a leader for a girl scout troop, and I didn’t anticipate the need to grieve for the third child I would never have. My mind realized it before my heart and everything gave out from under me. I started having daily panic attacks and ended up in a deep depression. When you have two small children and can’t get out of bed, it doesn’t take long before you realize you need professional help. Through therapy, I was able to see that I needed to give myself time to grieve for my second loss and for the fact that I would never give birth to another child. I started meditating and praying a lot more. I planted a bird of paradise plant in remembrance of my babies. Slowly I went through all the stages of grief and finally entered into acceptance. It wasn’t easy and it still isn’t but because of these hard times, our lives went a much different direction than I had “planned”. I eventually came to realize that my plan was not necessarily God’s plan and I had to still trust in him completely.
Through all of this, I also had the guilt of wanting too much. People would say, “You have 2 healthy children already, isn’t that enough?” And I would think, yes, it should be enough and I know how very blessed I am but the truth is I felt like someone was missing from my family. There were times at dinner I would look around the table and just get this sense that someone else was supposed to be there. I can’t explain why, but it was there. Most women know when their family is complete, and if you ask them if they are having more children, they will give a definite “No!” I never reached that point and there was still a part of my heart that was missing. This hole was finally filled a few years later through the blessing of adoption (that’s a whole other story!). I vividly remember when our youngest was a few months old and we were walking out of Costco. My hubby had him in a front carrier and was holding our other children in each hand. I experienced this over flowing sense of peace, and with tears in my eyes a thought popped into my head: “My family is now complete, this is what it was supposed to look like!”
I still will never forget the two babies that were a part of me for those few short months and the exact days they joined God in heaven. I would say most women no matter how old they get, will always remember the exact dates and still carry around small holes in their heart for the babies they never were able to meet.
So, what can you do for friends who have lost a baby?
- Just be there for them. Give them a big hug and say “I’m so sorry for you loss”. Saying “I don’t know what to say, except that I’m so sorry and you’re in my prayers” is much more comforting than someone trying to give a reason for the loss.
- Follow the woman’s lead. If she wants to talk about her experience, just listen to her. It may be uncomfortable for you but for a lot of women, the thought that their baby will be forgotten is just as agonizing as the loss. Some women don’t want to talk about it so if she changes the subject, let her.
- Don’t pretend nothing happened. A simple text, hand written note, flowers, or a hug is all it takes to let someone know that you acknowledge their heartache and are thinking about them in their time of pain.
- Bring them a meal. I know after my first miscarriage, I was so weak from all the blood loss that it was physically hard for me to walk around for more than a few minutes, so meals were much appreciated.
- If they seem to need extra help, try to find a support group or counselor they can talk to. Remember that women’s hormones change dramatically after a loss, and that just adds onto the pain and might make it harder to deal with.
- Respect their wishes. One of the hardest things after losing a baby is being around friends who are pregnant. As happy as they are for you, it might be too painful. Don’t take it personally and give them time. Time is the most thing they need to heal their heart.
Eight years later as I write this on Mother’s Day with tears rolling down my face, the pain is still very palpable. I love the way my life has turned out and I know I am the woman I am today because of the pain I have gone through. It doesn’t make it any easier though. I will always wonder about the angel babies I never got to hold. I know it is an uncomfortable topic for a lot of people, but it is a pain we shouldn’t have to bear alone.
If you have experienced this pain, let’s help other people understand. What helped you the most during your grieving period?