I was planning to write last week about being a grieving mother, the mother of an angel baby. But then life got hectic and there was so much negativity in the news that I had to put it off for a week.
Then today, so much more negativity.
I’ve read several blog posts in the last couple days from other grieving mothers. They’re full of swears. And anger at doctors. And anger at people who are only trying to help. And anger at God. And all the swearing!
Let’s just stop right here and get things straight: I’m human, I’m not perfect, I don’t claim to never swear. But you won’t see in on the blog. This simply isn’t the place for it Like it or not, things publish online are here forever. Is this how we want to be remembered? Writing a long sweary blog post is not impactful in a positive way. If we really want to raise awareness, we need to be calm and rational. We don’t have to be happy about the lack of research concerning stillbirths – we should definitely raise concerns. But insulting readers and doctors alike is not a helpful solution to the problem. I see things like that and almost immediately disregard them. It’s just not classy.
Okay, tangent over.
And I know those feelings or anger exist, but it breaks my heart for these women that they’re still focusing on the negative and cannot or will not find peace (from what I can tell these women experienced their losses years ago).
And that’s really the whole point of today’s post.
How can I move forward after losing my child? (And also a bit about where I am now in my personal journey)
Notice that I didn’t say move on. In fact, one of the posts that I vehemently disagreed with* did have one good point: some things can’t be fixed, only carried.
It’s so true. Sarah Catherine will always be with me. I am forever marred because of my loss. I am the mother of an angel. I want people to know. I want to raise awareness. Loss and grief will always be a part of me. But I won’t become bitter. I will not let this define me.
So here I am – let’s try Q&A format like last week, but this time from one grieving mother to another.
Q: I’m so sad after losing my baby, will the sadness ever go away?
A: No, not really, but it will evolve and become more bearable. In the beginning, there is so much sadness and so many tears. It feels like the sun will never shine again, like you’ll never be able to figure out life without the baby that was meant to be.
For me, I found comfort in routine. I put one foot in front of the other. I played with my boys and got them to their school events. I volunteered at the school. I was big into “Fake it ‘til you make it”.
And slowly, the laughter came back and the tearful days slowly spaced out. If you want to see my frame of mind at that time, go back to the earlier angel wings posts. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, the first few months are rough.
Now that it’s been nearly two years since my loss, I still have to fake it sometimes. Days (like today, in fact) when my facebook is bombarded with pregnancy and birth announcements, a little weight sits on my heart. But now it’s a little twinge of sadness. Instead of curling in a ball (which would have happened 18 months ago), I’ll just limit my exposure to social media until it fills up with cat memes again
Q: But I’m so angry! No one understands!
A: I hear ya, sister! The first few months, especially, I felt like I was living is some sort of alternate universe. I could scarcely believe the life that I was now living. A life without my daughter, instead of with her. And it was so odd to see people going on with their everyday when something so tragic had just happened to me.
I used to look at people and wonder how they could just go on living when my world had just shattered.
Then I got angry. I wanted to punch everyone and swear like a sailor, because I couldn’t believe the hand that I’d been dealt.
But like it or not, things happen. I firmly believe that things happen for a reason. No, it doesn’t diminish or invalidate my grief, but, to me, it offers some comfort. God has an ultimate plan. I will probably never understand while I walk this Earth, but God has a plan and a reason, and I need to trust in that. Trusting in God has helped me make strides toward peace.
This isn’t to say that there isn’t still anger. I would say that anger is one of the bigger lasting impacts Sarah Catherine’s death has left on me. I think that I still get angry faster than I used to (having a 5 & 7 year old doesn’t always help this!) I’ve been working on my anger and relearning patience this year. I definitely have slip ups, but I’m trying to be more aware of it. Like I mentioned before: Fake it ‘til you make it. I know I’ll get there.
Q: What is the hardest part?
A: There are a lot of hard things.
-Seeing pregnant ladies, especially ones who aren’t taking care of their bodies
-The fact that there are still so many unanswered questions about stillbirth.
-The fact that this happened even though I don’t fit into any of the high risk demographic groups (obese, over 35, carrying multiples, African-American, diabetic, smoker or drug user).
Q: What advice can you give?
A: Give yourself permission to heal. Give yourself permission for whatever it is you need when you need it.
I’ve mentioned before that in the early months, after the loss, I turned inward and focused on me and my own little family. I needed to take care of us.
I needed to give my heart time to heal.
I needed to make sure Hubs was okay and that our marriage would be okay (we have a very strong marriage, so thankfully, our marriage was the least of our worries. We weathered the storm.)
And I needed to make sure my little boys were going to be okay. You can read this letter I wrote to Sarah Catherine on the day of her burial, if you want a glimpse into a grieving 3 & 6 year old.
What does giving myself permission look like?
I looks like spending a day reading a book when it’s too hard to deal with life.
It looks like letting the housework go for one more day.
It looks like playing Legos and board games for hours with a preschooler instead of getting dinner on the table.
It looks like saying no, even though I’m the one who always says yes.
Now, all that being said, be careful. Giving yourself permission to take care of yourself isn’t the same as giving up.
Take care of yourself go into what I call “survival mode”, but check back in with yourself and make sure you get back to the real world. If you’re having trouble with that ask for help! Seek help from family and friends or a doctor if you need to. Postpartum depression is a real thing. Hormones go crazy after giving birth. Couple that with the grief of losing a baby and you’ve got the perfect storm.
So basically, take the time you need and get help if you need it.
Q: I feel like I’m losing friends or driving them away.
A: In last week’s post, I talked a lot about how to support afriend who has experienced a loss. I talk a lot about good intentions shining through. Don’t be too quick to judge. Challenge yourself to look past the words and into the intent.
The flip side is that you see those who weren’t real friends to begin with.
I’ve always been quite introverted. I’m the type a person who has a few close friends. I do not have a giant circle of friends. (Remember fake it ‘til you make it? I can deal with social situations, then I go home and hibernate with a book).
In the past year, a few friendships have needed to be evaluated. Is this person making me a better person? Do we offer each other mutual support? It is all drama? Is it give & take or one sided?
Loss bring friendships acutely into focus. Now is the time to prune away toxic friendships and cultivate true friendships.
Q: So what happened, did you ever find out?
A: Despite all of the tests, we never did find a cause for Sarah Catherine’s death. Based on the observable signs and symptoms (history of pre-eclampsia, history of placental abruption) it’s possible that I have some sort of a blood clotting disorder.
However, none of blood tests show evidence as such, so no one really knows.
Therefore, I’m not actively being treated for anything, but I do need to be careful. My doctor does not want me on any hormonal birth control, just in case. That decision is totally fine with me, I was on it once for a month and I felt so awful, that I stopped taking it, so it doesn’t really change anything.
Q: So, are you going to have another baby? Wait, am I even supposed to ask that?
A: It’s okay to ask. I know there is a bunch of stuff on social media lately where women are getting all uppity about people asking when they’re having children. I’ve personally never minded these questions. Sure it’s a little nosey, but at the same time it’s a way of people showing they care.
As for having another baby, at this time, no. I’ve been considered high-risk since my pregnancy with Dude (he was born 6 weeks early due to pre-eclampsia & placental abruption). Coupled with Sarah Catherine’s death, I am now very high risk. Another pregnancy would require a lot of extra interventions (weekly ultrasounds, consults with specialized doctors, early delivery). So with the risk to my own health, and the health of a baby is too high for us right now.
Grieving the loss of a baby is such a huge topic. I still want to talk about your post-loss body and body image, but it’s such a major part of my journey that I feel like it needs its own post. So until that time, if you’ve had a loss, I pray that you can find peace.
*If you must, you can read it here, but beware of language and anger