From the Hearts that Have Endured Loss: A Collaboration

In honor of Infant Loss Awareness Day I could think of nothing more fitting than a collaboration written by those who have experienced the loss of a child first-hand.

I never realized how large this club was until becoming a member and although I would rather have my sweet boy here with me, I am still extremely grateful for what I have learned going through this journey and incredibly thankful to have met these amazing people along the way.

Death is scary. Death of an infant/child is horrifying.

In hopes to better shed some light onto this I asked some of my oldest and some of my newest friends on this grief roller-coaster the same three questions.

Each story is unique, each experience is its own, and EVERY person grieves differently.

I would personally like to thank all who participated and helped make this all come together. Thinking of you all this Infant Loss Awareness Day and every day, holding you so close to my heart, and remembering your sweet babies and the incredible impact they have already had and will continue to make.

Shannon’s Story

My boys were perfect until the final two weeks; lots of ultrasounds and trouble finding heartbeats . Although I was dilated and having 2 minute contractions I was never admitted to L&D. They saw them Friday, we lost Teddy the following Tuesday. There was no cause of death; just a stillbirth at 34 weeks.

What is the one thing people have said to comfort you that actually makes you more upset?

At least it was before the birth, like a miscarriage.

What have you found to help cope with your emotions during your grief journey?

I’m still looking; I tried to bury it with projects and trips and once the smoke clears I see that I’m in a bad place. If a smell reminds me of the hospital my PTSD takes me back to their birthday. I’m currently seeing a psychiatrist to find the right meds for me. I tried to go without and it wasn’t working. I also do yoga.

If you could tell the world one thing after experiencing such a tragic loss, what would you want them to know?

That despite everything I still want to be included, Not left behind.. I’m moving much slower and need patience and grace. Sometimes saying nothing is best, and strong hugs are ALWAYS needed.

Kara’s Story

I have had two miscarriages. One was a “traditional” loss around 8 weeks. The other loss was an ectopic pregnancy. I learned I was pregnant when I went to the ER with severe pain and was immediately sent to have emergency surgery.

What is the one thing people have said to comfort you that actually makes you more upset?

In both circumstances people told me I was lucky I didn’t have an opportunity to get attached to the baby before I lost it. It made me feel embarrassed for grieving and I hated that feeling.

What have you found to help cope with your emotions during your grief journey?

My grief didn’t really surface until the following pregnancy. It was when the fear of another loss surfaced that I had to fully face my grief and emotions. I had to be willing to be open about my grief and process it aloud with a few safe friends. After my ectopic, I sought counsel from several bereavement doulas and that was extremely helpful.

If you could tell the world one thing after experiencing such a tragic loss, what would you want them to know?

You cannot allow yourself to compare in the midst of grief. On paper, you can always find someone who has it worse. Grief and suffering are not limited to extreme circumstances. They are not biased. If you have experienced the loss of a child, it is devastating. Not only did your baby die, but all the dreams you had for that baby died as well. It feels like your body let you down, like you’re a failure somehow. All of those variables factor in to the grieving process.

Heather’s Story

The very first month my husband and I started trying, I got pregnant. I was very enthusiastic and excited about having a baby. During an ultrasound around the 9th/10th week the pregnancy was found to be nonviable, there was no heartbeat. The missed miscarriage element of my loss was very difficult, I saw the image of a 9-10 week fetus on the screen during the ultrasound and was elated, then in denial, then distraught. In the months following the D&C I had a very difficult time recovering, both physically and emotionally. When we began trying again (after the recommended time to heal) I could not conceive. We tried for another 3 years until my son was born. We decided to try for another baby after his first birthday. That was two years ago and we have yet to conceive again. For me, the pain of miscarriage and the pain of infertility are intertwined.

What is the one thing people have said to comfort you that actually makes you more upset?

“At least you know you can conceive.”
“You probably had a miscarriage because _______.” People in my family suggested everything from keeping the temperature in my house too hot to working out at the gym as causes for the miscarriage.
“Everything happens in God’s time.”
“Just stop stressing about it and it will happen.”

What have you found to help cope with your emotions during your grief journey?

Therapy, journaling, talking to other women in similar situations, exercise, being kind to myself.

If you could tell the world one thing after experiencing such a tragic loss, what would you want them to know?

When I was waking up following the D&C from my miscarriage I was very upset. Many of the younger nurses did not know what to do. An older nurse came up to me and shared that she had had a miscarriage when she was younger. She said that many people who have not experienced this type of loss cannot relate and struggle knowing how to help. She suggested seeking out other families who have had similar experiences, and looking to them for support. This was some of the best advice I received.
Also, a therapist once told me that everyone grieves differently and that is completely fine. Learning to accept my grief was a huge step in healing.

Anna’s Story

We were pregnant with our third child and around the 10th week my pregnancy symptoms subsided. After an ultrasound at 12 weeks we found out that our baby had stopped growing around the 10 week mark. We were completely shattered. I was able to miscarry at home around 13 weeks which was torturous and precious all at the same time- nothing can prepare you to lose a child.

What is the one thing people have said to comfort you that actually makes you more upset?

I feel like I had quite a bit of grace for people who were just trying to say something to make me feel better. But it was so discouraging to hear that having a child taken from me was part of God’s plan. Maybe someone is comforted by that but it doesn’t align with my God-view and it makes me cringe every time.

What have you found to help cope with your emotions during your grief journey?

Family and friends, and keeping his memory alive with traditions. Friends and family who allowed me to feel whatever I needed to and process the loss at my own pace. And then taking time to honor our baby with family time and traditions that spread love and kindness in his memory have been so healing to our hearts.

If you could tell the world one thing after experiencing such a tragic loss, what would you want them to know?

Every life is precious. We can’t put a timeline or depth on grief based on the length of a life. Allow people to feel what they need to feel and be there before they ask.

Kaley’s Story

I lost my child unexpectedly and suddenly around 11 weeks pregnant, after having had the diagnosis of “Looks perfect! Congratulations!” at the ultrasound before. The bleeding came suddenly and intense. I knew my baby was gone. I labored three days and delivered at home. We buried our sweet baby in our garden under the Japanese Maple Tree that we bought in his memory.

What is the one thing people have said to comfort you that actually makes you more upset?

The phrase that bothered me the most was “Everything happens for a reason.” Instead of comforting me and allowing me a space to mourn, this felt like a band-aid answer. It didn’t give me permission to mourn my loss; in fact, it felt like dismissing the significance of my loss. I wasn’t looking for an answer in that moment: I just wanted a partner to walk with me through the pain.

Another phrase that hurt was “Well at least it was only [insert number of weeks here].” It doesn’t matter what stage my “fetus” was in. To me, it was and will always be my baby. I spent 11 weeks imagining my life with him and preparing for this child in my arms, and the loss I feel is of losing that opportunity, of losing the baby I expected to hold.

What have you found to help cope with your emotions during your grief journey?

People who shared their journey of loss with me helped me cope with my own. They helped me to know I’m not alone, and that it’s okay to grieve, to sob, to seek closure. They allowed me a safe space to share my loss. The cards, the meals, the babysitting all helped. Babysitting was huge — it was hard to take care of a toddler who didn’t understand why mommy was crying and feel like I could totally release my grief to walk through it. It was good to have time alone just with my husband to process.

Emily’s Story

I have lost 2 babies to premature birth. The first time around I got in to a car accident 4 days prior to going in to labor so those circumstances clouded the judgment of my doctor, therefore there was little to no investigation as to why it happened. My baby was born at rest at 19 weeks gestation. I had contracted an infection due to my cervix being slightly open(but no one knew that part yet) and that is what took her life.

Since no one in the medical profession tried to figure out what went wrong with my first pregnancy, it was just chalked up to bad luck. With my second pregnancy, at about 22 weeks, my mucus plug came out. I immediately raced to the midwife and there she saw membranes bulging out of the cervix. I was sent by ambulance to the hospital. A high risk maternal fetal medicine specialist saw me there and he determined that I had a condition referred to as an “Incompetent Cervix” which means my cervix begins to funnel and open prematurely. It is treatable in the early 2nd trimester but it was too late for me and my baby boy. In the hospital I managed to stay pregnant for almost 2 weeks and delivered a baby at 24 weeks gestation. He lived in the NICU for about 10 days but his little body was just not ready to be outside the womb.

What is the one thing people have said to comfort you that actually makes you more upset?

“Everything happens for a reason” or “it was God’s will”-I can’t decide which one.

What have you found to help cope with your emotions during your grief journey?

Finding other mothers who have had similar losses. Being around other bereaved mothers made me feel less crazy.

If you could tell the world one thing after experiencing such a tragic loss, what would you want them to know?

You don’t have to worry about reminding me that my baby(ies) died by talking to me about it. I remember constantly.

October 15th is a day for remembrance, love, support, and understanding. The loss of a baby is something that you can never recover from. You will never be the same as you were before but you can learn to move forward and begin to see the world as a beautiful place again. Give yourself some grace and take the time you need to heal your heart.

I will be lighting a candle for my sweet William and for all of these babies gone too soon.

Infant Loss Resources:

Kids Joining Eternity – OKC

Tristesse Center – Tulsa

Both offer individual, and group counseling for bereaved parents.

 

Miscarriage: 10 Ways to Love a Mom Through Loss

http://oklahomacity.citymomsblog.com/learning-live-loss-baby/

7 Things to NEVER Say to a Woman Who Has Lost a Child

 

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2 Responses to From the Hearts that Have Endured Loss: A Collaboration

  1. Lauren October 17, 2017 at 2:17 pm #

    Calm Waters Center for Children and Families also offers free infant loss support groups to children and families in the Oklahoma City metro-area.

    • katyjohnson
      katyjohnson October 17, 2017 at 4:04 pm #

      Thank you so much for the resource Lauren!

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