My sophomore year of college I went on a walk with my best friend. The topic of our conversation was what we pictured for our lives in the next ten years. I had visions of finishing school, getting married, and having four kids all by the time I was 30. My plans worked out for the first couple of years.
I finished school, got married, and had been married for just over a year when we got pregnant with my little boy. We did not have to try long and we had no complications with his pregnancy. After he was born, things changed. I was hit with postpartum depression (common in my family) and with some unidentifiable health challenges. I was told it would be risky to get pregnant again until I had seen considerable improvements in my health. I worked with different health care providers and spent thousands of dollars over the next two years to get to a place where I felt considerably better physically and emotionally.
With a positive pregnancy test in my hands, joy in my heart, I thought that our “trials” were over. Boy was I wrong. That pregnancy ended with a very early miscarriage, the next pregnancy ended with the delivery and burial of a baby girl during my second trimester, and my most recent pregnancy ended at twelve weeks with a botched D and C, one less fallopian tube, countless tests, and no answers.
Each loss was completely different and the combination of the losses have been really hard to handle. However, I hope that my experiences can help even one reader navigate miscarriage. So here are some things I have learned along the way.
Comparison will not help anyone
First and foremost, a loss is a loss NO MATTER WHAT! Once you are pregnant, you dream of that child’s whole life. You also dream of yours, forever altered because they will be in it. No matter when you lose a baby, you lose that dream and you grieve that loss! We cannot compare our stories and say “I should hurt more than you”. If you are reading this you are well aware of the very tender feelings associated with this topic.
I have literally been told that I should not be as sad as someone else who has had…fill in the blank experience. While some of the stories I have heard, have made me extremely grateful for my particular story, that doesn’t negate the fact that my story was real, my feelings were/are real, and so are yours. Your story counts! Your feelings count! Never let anyone say less…especially yourself!
Dealing with the grief of baby loss
Our society does not understand grief… nor does it handle baby loss well
People want to stay in their comfort zones. It’s the way our brains are wired, there’s not really much we can do about it except understand it and work with it. Being with someone who is grieving generally makes a person feel uncomfortable. As a result, they will say anything to try to make you feel better or they will say nothing at all. I have been hurt by people’s words and I have been even more hurt by people’s silence. I used to let it really bother me. I have since learned that I needed to coach the people who were the closest to me, on how to handle my grief. The people that were just well-meaning acquaintances, I have had to forgive because of their innocence.
However, there are groups of people who are neither acquaintances, nor people I feel safe being vulnerable enough to coach. For example, my husband’s family. I am with them regularly, but don’t have the type of relationship with them yet, where I would bare my heart to them and ask them to be more careful around me. I wish I could be braver. For now, in those types of situations, I either leave or I get hurt…silently.
Grief is an unpredictable creature
Please learn about the grief cycle. It’s real and you have boarded that train, so it is better to understand what the journey is going to be like. We had the great fortune of attending grief counseling. I shamed myself by saying that my losses weren’t that big of a deal, that I should save the counseling for someone who really needed it. Well, shame does us no good. I needed it. I was indeed grieving. So I went and it was one of the best decisions of my life!
Some simple things I learned were:
- Each person in the situation will grieve differently. I am different than my spouse, so I will grieve differently than my spouse. I am different than my child, my mom, my friend, my … so I will grieve differently.
- Grief is unpredictable. Different things will trigger it, usually at inconvenient times.
- The best way to deal with your grief is to feel what you feel, when you feel it, then get up and do a fun activity. This one was/is hard for me. When you are feeling that sadness or anger or confusion or whatever, it is really REALLY hard to drag yourself out and to do something fun. It seems easier to wallow in it or numb it out with a lot of Netflix, which I have done both on more occasions than I can count.
- In general, it is socially unacceptable for a man to show any emotion other than strength. I have had some friends who’ve lost babies and then were hurt by their husband’s lack of emotion. No one tells these men by our sides that it is OK to be emotional. Our counsellor kept telling my husband it was OK, I kept telling my husband it was OK, yet it took years before he allowed that emotion to surface. For men who are not told its OK, it could take a lifetime.
I should no longer hurt
Someone once wondered if I had lost enough babies that I had just gotten used to it and if it no longer bothered me anymore. It hurt the first time, it hurt the second time, it hurt the third time, and it will hurt every time. However, it did make me wonder if I should be over my feelings of sadness or anger? I felt shamed by others, but mostly shamed by myself for what I felt. Let me give you a quick definition of shame: Should Have Already Mastered Everything. In this context, I should have already mastered my feelings. There have been so many times that I have chided myself for still feeling sadness over the losses, fear of trying to have more kids, and frustration that people weren’t more careful with my feelings. Then I had an experience that taught me a lot.
During one of my nephew’s birthday parties, his great-grandma on the other side (not related to me) asked me how I was doing. She had known that I had lost a couple of babies at that point. First of all, I love when people are not afraid to ask how I am really doing! I told her pretty openly how I was at that point, what the losses meant to me, and how life had been since. As I talked, I noticed tears in her eyes. She listened patiently, another gift to me, then explained she had given birth to a stillborn sixty years ago. Sixty years ago and she still was emotional about it! I asked her about her feelings. She explained to me that she still felt sadness over the loss. However, she felt those feelings less and less often as time went by. This was a good news/bad news scenario for me. I thought feelings would eventually be completely gone. I am grateful that now the emotions come back maybe a couple of times a month instead of every single day. They last for a shorter period of time and when I feel them, I allow myself to feel what I feel when I feel it, then go do a fun activity.
After our losses, I hurt physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. I have been on a journey seeking healing in all of these areas. As a result, I have grown in ways that I never would have if I hadn’t lost the babies. It’s taken me years to be grateful for our challenging journey, but now I can look back and see how far we’ve come. Everyone is unique and what works for healing will be unique as well. For me, I sought out grief counseling, attending spiritual women’s events, and have studied topics related to my personal experience. Healing is real and available if we open our hearts to the possibility.
I don’t know why I felt like there was such power in being a “victim”, but I did. I liked that I had a reason to be mad, despondent, moody, etc. I liked the attention and feeling like everyone should feel bad for me. However, being the victim is exhausting, lonely, and unhealthy. I eventually grew weary of being so upset all the time. I grew weary of wanting everyone to feel bad for me all the time. I read a quote, “Sometimes we have to let go of something simply because it is heavy.” Playing the victim is heavy and there came a point where I needed to let go of it. I was nervous to, but I found not being the victim has allowed me to gain so much more.
How can I Choose happiness
Two years ago, I would have punched the current-me in the face for saying this…so I almost hesitate to say, “Happiness is a choice.” It is one of the most difficult choices to make, but it is a choice. I felt in some way, I was betraying my lost children if I chose to be happy even though they weren’t here. That somehow, that indicated they didn’t matter to me. However, I looked at the people who were living: my husband, my son, my family, my friends, and most of all, me. My sadness was keeping me from having full and rich relationships with those that were living. I didn’t want that. I wanted to honor my lost children and the living people I love with a life full of memories, adventures, laughter, etc.
I have learned so much from my journey and may god bless you on yours.