A year and a half ago, my husband and I got some life changing news; we were pregnant. Like most women, when the nurse came back and gave me the test results, I cried, and cried, and cried some more. To be honest, I couldn't even understand all of the reasons behind my crying. I felt overwhelmed with so many emotions all at once: scared, excited, stupid for not having figured it out earlier (I was two months late), and scared again (downright terrified, really)! The moment after the nurse told me, as if he could somehow sense it from across town, my husband called to check on me. Since I was still in shock and didn't think I could find the voice to speak at the moment, I ignored the call and attempted to gather myself. The nurse stared at me, not sure what type of cry I was having, therefore not sure what type of emotion she should exhibit, and waited patiently. I eventually did compose myself, finished the exam, and went home with my prenatal vitamins and my huge packet of pamphlets and paperwork for women who are expecting.
Over the next month, my husband and I began changing every aspect of our life to prepare for our new arrival. I (of course) immediately stopped drinking and smoking. I said my sad “adieu” to cold deli meats and sushi. Meanwhile, my husband took over cleaning the litter box, smoked pot outside, cooked me healthy dinners and surprised me with a yoga video for expectant mothers. He even insisted that I switch from regular soda to the more expensive all-natural soda brand (which, at the time, seemed like the most romantic thing he'd ever done)! We started discussing the pros and cons of a boy versus a girl, public school versus private and every other aspect of raising your first child.
Before I knew it, I reached eleven weeks and had my very first ultrasound appointment. With the help of pregnancy books, I had already been tracking our baby's growth (about the size of a large lime) and we had both begun talking to our child. Needless to say, by the day of the appointment, we were desperate to meet the little person we were already bonding with inside of me! Unfortunately, it wasn’t the happy day we expected. The ultrasound revealed that the baby was not developing properly. One week later, after a series of GHC tests, I endured a D&C procedure to remove our dead child from my womb. It seemed in a single instant, that everything had been taken from me. My world was shattered. All the hope and joy which had built up over the previous month melted into agony. I felt alone. Empty.
I was battered by all the stages of grief.
Shock and Denial: For a while, I acted as though nothing had happened because I couldn't stand to think about it at all.
Anger: Mostly towards those around me because I felt so isolated, but also myself.
Guilt: Wondering over and over again what had I done wrong, perhaps, if I had known sooner?
Acceptance: Took the longest. It was months before I would allow myself to recall the memories.
Sadness: That has never actually left me.
When a family member dies, friends and loved ones gather around you in support; they bring casseroles, help with funeral arrangements, and give you a hug every chance they get because they know you need it. When you miscarry, often you are much more alone. My friends and family didn’t know we were pregnant since we planned to tell them after we had the precious ultrasound picture to pass around. Then it turned out differently, and I didn't think it wise to announce a dead baby.
Surprisingly, my doctor didn’t give me any information or resources to help us with our loss. After the surgery, I had a follow up exam to ensure I was physically healing properly, but what of my emotional healing? Where were all the pamphlets and papers like the ones I’d received when they told me I was pregnant? My husband did his best to comfort me but was also struggling with grief himself. We were together, yet alone, in mourning a secret death.
A year and a half later, my pain is still with me and will never truly leave. On October 16th, our baby would have celebrated its first birthday. I still imagine the scenarios of a life that was stolen from me; a child sitting in a high chair, face covered in frosting, surrounded by gifts of new clothing, not fully able to understand what all the bright colors and noises are about - but giggling with joy because Mommy and Daddy are so happy.
I'm sharing my baby's story now because I think it's important for parents of lost children to embrace the memory of their little angel. Looking back on my experience, I wish I had found the courage to open up about our loss. Every year in the United States nearly one million parents lose a child through miscarriage, stillbirth or infant death. Still, when it happened to me, I felt completely isolated.
If you have experienced or are currently working through the death of a child, I want you to understand that you are not alone. I hope hearing my baby's story will give you comfort. Know that there are others who have experienced the pain you are feeling. I encourage you to open up to someone who can support you in your loss. If you feel as if you have nowhere to turn, there are many community based groups of parents who have also dealt, or are dealing with, the loss of a child. No one should have to mourn a death alone.
Compassionate Friends www.compassionatefriends.com
A Place To Remember
Mothers In Sympathy and Support