When I Read Complaints About Pregnancy on Facebook After Losing My Child

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Four years ago I was mourning the loss of our first child, Robby. He was born prematurely at 23 weeks gestation, and only survived for two hours. Once I was cleared to try to get pregnant again, we did. For me, being pregnant after a loss was something that is difficult to describe. I was so happy, yet at the same time, I was so scared that something bad was going to  happen. I was afraid that each night when I went to bed that it would be the last time I went to bed pregnant. At the time that I was pregnant for the second time, with our daughter Ellie, I was friends on Facebook with several other pregnant women/friends. I found myself becoming irrationally upset with some of the things that these pregnant women would post on their Facebook page about their pregnancies.

The one that finally made me “snap” was a status that talked about how at 32 weeks she wanted her baby to come out right now. She was uncomfortable and it was the worst thing ever. I was frustrated that this woman was wishing a premature birth and a premature baby. I had just a few months prior held my son in my arms while he died because his lungs were underdeveloped. I was so frustrated that I responded to her Facebook post with a short comment talking about how important those last few weeks of pregnancy are for lung development.

Well, that obviously made her as angry at me as I was at her, so she responded back with an answer I will never forget.

She told me I would have no idea what it was like because I had never been that pregnant. She continued on to say that it is unbearable when you are unable to even drink water without having heartburn, and that I would just have no idea how terrible that is because I had never been that pregnant before.

Wow. I sat at the computer and thought, “Did she really just say that to me?” And then, of course, I cried.

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I was really upset for a long time. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I couldn’t get it out of my head. I just could not understand how someone who knew I had lost my son just months ago could imply that her heartburn was worse than anything I had ever felt, and ultimately, worse than burying my baby. How could she throw in my face that I would not understand her pain because I had only ever been 23 weeks pregnant?

Four years later, I can say that I eventually realized she could not possibly even imagine what it is like to be in my shoes, and I am glad. Instead of being upset with her, I am so happy for her that the biggest problem she had in her full term pregnancy was that she had terrible heartburn and was uncomfortable. I am so happy she does not wear my shoes.

I can’t say if she said what she said to be hurtful to me, because the truth is she was just a distant friend I knew through some other people on Facebook. I can also say I have not had any further contact with her since then.

I can say this: I learned a valuable lesson that day.

People are going to complain about pregnancy. People are going to complain about newborns. People are going to complain about their children. That does not mean they are not grateful for their children, babies or pregnancy.

I am currently pregnant again, with Alice Ruth, my second child after losing our Robby. I will admit that I am still a very “Sensitive Sally” about a lot of complaints women have during pregnancy. However, now, I just simply hide them from my newsfeed. Of course I have received judgement for doing that, but I have learned not to care what other people think. I am doing what I need to do to get through this pregnancy with as little anxiety as possible.

I can say that I have hit the point in my pregnancy where I am unable to drink water without having heartburn, and you know what? I am thankful. I can honestly say I am thankful because I would take this heartburn over the heartbreak of burying a baby any day. Does that discount the discomfort she felt at the time? No, it certainly does not. It just means that we are different people with different perspectives.

man standing behind pregnant woman who's holding hands with young girl
Amanda, her husband, and their daughter Ellie

So, if you are pregnant after a loss, you do what you need to do.

Maybe you are pregnant after a loss and you enjoy being able to complain about the small things like heartburn. If that is you, then good! Do it!

Maybe you are pregnant after a loss and it brings you sadness to see others complain about something like heartburn. If that is you, then it is OK! Find a way to either tell those people (preferably privately) about how sensitive you are, hide them from your newsfeed, or block it out! Do whatever you have to do to protect your heart.

Maybe you are still desperately wishing to hold a baby in your arms and it pains you to see women complaining about aspects of motherhood you only dream of being able to experience. If that is you, then know your feelings are real and they are valid.

If it hurts you to see others complain, I would encourage you to protect your heart. That is one of the greatest lesson I have learned. People might not understand, but at the end of the day, protect your heart. You are the only person living your unique experience, so you are the only person who can know what will  be best for you at any given time. You do what you need to do.

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Why There Are No Calendars for Bereaved Mothers

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With my son’s one-year mark closing in, I am reminded of exactly how short-lived our time here on Earth really is. I can’t believe a whole year has almost come and gone. That’s 365 grief-stricken days since my husband and I lay in his hospital bed with my head on his rattling chest, as he struggled to breathe and we said our final goodbyes. I held his little hands in mine, wiping the tears steadily falling from my eyes away with his tiny fingers. I had so much I wanted to say to him, but so little time to say it. I just kept telling him over and over again how sorry I was, how much I love him, and how we would be together again soon.

Most days I feel as though the world is moving on without me. No matter how much time passes, it’s like I’m still in room 548 on the 5th floor of the Hasbro Children’s Hospital, the clock on the wall still reads 5:45 a.m. and I can’t seem to pick myself up off that cold, hard floor and put my life back together.

It’s as if the world has forgotten about me; it has left me behind. It seems the more things change, the more they stay the same. I just wish I could tell my heart what my mind already knows. But sometimes, I still can’t believe he’s really gone.

I never pictured my life this way. These kind of things only happen in the movies or to other people. Not to me. Not to my family. Not to my blonde-haired, blue-eyed, freckled-nosed little boy. I’m completely frozen in time.

Honestly, I feel like I haven’t taken a whole breath since he took his last one.

My calendars aren’t marked by birthdays and anniversaries anymore. Those happy days are long gone. I have two days out of a whole year that mean anything at all to me. August 31st, a day that used to be a celebration, the day Rylan was born. Now the only significance it holds is a reminder that he will be 8 years old forever. He will never make another wish and blow out his candles. There will be no more parties or presents. It’s just a sad day to sit along side his grave and grieve for what could have been. Then there’s September 24th, a day that needs no calendar to mark its place. It’s forever embedded in my mind. The day my soul was ripped from my body and the life was sucked out of me. The day my family fell apart, and a day I will relive for the remainder of my entirety here on this Earth. The day Rylan died.

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It’s hard for me to remember what my life was like before Rylan came along. I’m sure it was just as empty as it is now that he’s gone. I can’t recall a single memory without him in it.

See, when you lose a child, what was a 12-month calendar now consists of just those two days.

We just survive every one in between.

I mean, how can you move forward when so much of you is missing? 

Follow this journey on the Remembering Rylan Blog

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The Days Are Long, and the Nights Are Longer After Losing Our Son

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Child loss is a never-ending and debilitating journey.

The days are long, the nights are longer. When the sun starts to set, memories seep into our veins, and we wait for the world to fall asleep so we can fall apart. Sleep evades us, and tears soak our pillow. We bow our weary heads knowing we are lost and scared that we will never find our way again.

If only others could see into the window of our soul, they would see how much we’re drowning in our grief and constantly struggling to surface for air. Bereaved parents are swans. We appear composed and graceful above water all the while paddling like hell underneath.

Guilt and regret confront us every chance they get. There’s always some painful reminder lurking around every corner. Gone are the days when we didn’t have to hide in the dark shadows of grief and pain of child loss. Oftentimes, after the death of a child, the world looks and feels as if it’s been turned inside out. We fear the quiet and will do anything to drown the silence because it screams out what’s missing.

We are physically exhausted, mentally drained and emotionally depleted, but we can’t escape it enough to fall asleep. The storm rages on between our mind and heart. Our mind knows the truth, but our heart refuses to accept it.

When we express our sadness, we don’t want pity. We want understanding because we’re the victims of a horrific tragedy. Our child lost his breath of life. His permanent absence causes deep suffering for us, but we have no other option but to factor it into our daily lives.

Please be patient with us. We are fragile and weak. We are lost at sea and long to calm the waters. Hold our hand and help us swim to shore.

Follow this journey on RememberingRylan.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

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I Was Warned About ‘Phantom Baby’ After My Baby’s Death. I Should’ve Listened.

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If you lose a baby, they might warn you that one “side effect” of the death may be “phantom baby.” It’s a real thing. A psychological part of the grief process.

When my baby girl, Madeline, died, July 31, 2004, I was warned about phantom baby, too. However, I was thunderstruck during those darkest days, too numbed to understand anything they said to me. It wasn’t until the house was quiet, the casseroles were tucked in the freezer and the sympathy letters stopped filling the mailbox that I came to understand exactly what they had warned me about.

The first night she came, I was fast asleep and was awakened in the darkness to the crystal clear sounds of a baby crying in the distance. In the confusion of the moonlight, there was that moment, that split second when my heart told my brain that her death had just been a bad dream — it had to be, because she was alive and she was crying out for me. “Go to her!” my heart said. “Hurry!” So I got up in a panic to reach her, to comfort her, to stop her crying… and then, in one gut-wrenching bolt, as my feet hit the cold floor, it hit me. She is dead. Her crying stopped and mine began. Sobs washed over me until I could not breathe. I was left shattered.

That first year, she came to me often. Each time as devastating as the time before. My saving grace is that my husband and I were in grief counseling together. He was hearing her, too… our phantom baby. Otherwise I would have thought I was truly coming unhinged by my sadness. Despite the depth of my grief, and no matter how much I wanted her back, I never once believed it was truly Madeline reaching out to us from beyond, although I came to understand how easy that would be to believe. I always knew, in the light of day, that it was just my body’s way of trying to process her death. It didn’t make it any easier when it happened, but I understood what they had warned me about and why.

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As the years passed, the phantom baby stopped coming at night. My heart was still broken and my grief was still raw, but at least the nights held less fear. That changed the year of the 10th anniversary of Madeline’s death.

It was the summer of 2014 and my husband was out of town. I had tucked my two living daughters into their beds, read my book and gone to sleep as usual. I was shocked awake in the darkness of night by a voice calling out to me: “Help me, Mama! Help me!” I sat up and raced down the hall, my heart beating out of my chest, only to find both of my daughters, lying still, fast asleep. I was so confused. I had heard one of them crying. I was sure. I walked back to my room and looked at the baby monitor perched at my bedside. I turned it on and off, wondering if it was picking up another baby in the neighborhood. Although I was still shaky, I lay my head back down on the pillow. As I drifted to sleep, the voice urgently called to me again. “Mama! Help me!” I ran like lightning to my girls’ rooms, faster this time, terrified. Once more, I was met with two beautiful little girls sleeping peacefully. I walked a second time back to the baby monitor and stood there in the quiet darkness.

It hit me like a lightning bolt. Phantom Baby had grown up. My Madeline would have been 10. There, in the darkness of my room, my fear subsided. I smiled. Ten. I felt the old pain, familiar now, somehow comforting. I padded back to my bed and cuddled in the covers, deep. I cried softly as I closed my eyes and whispered, “Goodnight, Madeline. I love you.”

This year, it has been 12 years since my Madeline died. I still miss her. I still grieve deeply, though not as often now. As we approach the anniversary of her death day this year, I wonder what tricks my heart will hold for me. Will Phantom Baby return or will the day pass with me quietly crying, remembering those raw moments after she died? I cannot know, but I welcome the pain as my last reminder of her.

Image via Thinkstock Images

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The Message of Hope I Received After Losing My Son

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Our 14-year-old son, Noah, passed away in 2014 from a rare childhood cancer called Ewing sarcoma. There is nothing that prepares you as a parent to see your child have a disease that is aggressive and cruel in its silent relentlessness. So many emotions and feelings consumed us during the three years our son lived with cancer. Afterwards, the fear departed, but the desolate despair of grief that took its place was no kinder companion.

As the months passed, my search to find some meaning despite this tragedy consumed my waking moments. I imagine most parents who lose a child struggle with similar questions. How could life be so cruel? What if I had only [insert every possible scenario here]? The ups and downs of recriminations versus acceptance for what cannot be changed interspersed my days, weeks and months.

As the daily recriminations lost their stranglehold, other elusive concepts started to emerge within my consciousness. I’ve always considered myself somewhat spiritual without attaching to any one particular religion. Before my son died, I had never really considered in depth what happens to a person after death, but suddenly this question became all-consuming. I desperately needed to believe that death was not an ending, in a spiritual sense, and that Noah was still with us in essence and always would be.

As my mind grappled with many possibilities, a strange thing happened. In the quiet spaces of reflection, I noticed simple yet profound things that reminded me of my child:  a rock shaped like a heart directly in my path, an angel wing in the clouds, rainbows on his birthday and more. They filled me with wonder and a hope I cannot describe. The more I surrendered my senses to accept these golden nuggets of hope without any expectation, the more comfort I found.

Here is a recent experience I’d like to share; I share it in the hope that a kindred grieving soul will read this story and find some comfort along with a measure of hope.

In June of this year, my husband was not well and needed minor surgery. He was feeling discouraged, so I encouraged him to take a walk with our daughter one summer evening, hoping it would lift his spirits. They returned some 20 minutes later with a new spring in their step and something else quite unexpected.

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My daughter raced into the house, waving a fresh, green prize in the air with a huge smile on her face. On their way back home, my husband had looked down at our lawn, and there in his line of sight was a four-leaf clover! This in itself was a lovely message; but that’s not all.

First, let me explain that our lawn was devastated in recent years by chinch bug; in an effort to make it green without the use of chemicals, we had decided to seed it with clover. The clover took hold, and the lawn is now green.

Soon after this incident, my daughter plucked something up from our lawn with a huge grin on her face as I heard her say, “I knew I saw this earlier on my way home from school!” Sure enough, she had found a second four-leaf clover.

But that’s not all.

Arriving home another day, my daughter found several four-leaf clovers and…a five-leaf clover. Astonished, I looked up the odds of finding a four- or five-leaf clover. The odds of finding a four-leaf clover are 10,000 to one; the odds of finding a five-leaf clover are 1,000,000 to one.

But that’s not all.

four-leaf clovers

So far in the last five weeks, we have found a total of 21 four-leaf clovers and two five-leaf clovers in our lawn, and the count continues to grow. While pausing to reflect on just how amazing this was, I couldn’t help but think it was a sign. In many ways I feel the lawn is a parable for our family — broken, ravaged by pestilence and disease.

Pondering these events, I had a clear vision of my son’s laughing face. I believe the true meaning of the clover is a message that even though we cannot physically see him, my son continues to guide us in spirit — as do all our loved ones who have flown home before us. So we take great comfort in these simple yet profound signs and feel his magic all around us — his spirit growing luck and hope where once there only seemed to be desolation and loss.

Follow this journey on Noah’s Blue Ribbon Brigade.

The Mighty, in partnership with Fuck Cancer, is asking the following: What do you wish you had found on Google when you were first diagnosed? Find out how to email us a story submission here.

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Answering the 'Why?' After Losing a Child

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It’s inevitable.

You are trekking through life, minding your own business, and then, bam. Life sucker punches you in the gut when you aren’t looking. If it hasn’t happened to you yet, then lucky you.

When that train derails, trailing steadily behind is a little red caboose with that smokestack of a question: “But why?” The answer may as well be swirling away in the atmosphere in a puff cloud of dirty black smoke.

Almost from our infancy, we are designed to want answers.

I have four voraciously inquisitive kids under 10 years old, and they are constantly throwing questions at me like I’m a dartboard. These days, if you don’t know the answer, it’s so easy to just say, “Let’s Google it.” But what if the question you are grappling with has no hard and fast answer? What if, when you ask it, you can hear your voice echoing back at you from the four corners of the universe?

Nine years ago, when my perfectly healthy infant son died in the delivery room, that question was seared onto my brain with a branding iron. The question with no answer. The harder I tried to reach and grasp it, the further away it seemed.

So far, this is what I’ve been able to come up with…

#1: My husband and I didn’t do anything to deserve losing our child.

#2: God was not punishing us for some offense we have committed.

#3: Other people are not more deserving of a child than we are.

#4: And no, we were not cruel to animals in a previous life and deserving of bad karma, nor do we subscribe to that philosophy.

Here’s what I do know:

I may never fully understand why I had to lose my child when others didn’t.

But here’s the thing:

Why is not the most pressing question. When you are being crushed by the weight of your own grief, why will not save you. What may save you is how.

How now shall I live? Now that the world as I know it has been obliterated. How now shall I pick up the pieces of my shattered heart and make it through another week? Another day? Another hour? Another minute?

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If you’re a family who needs help with neonatal intensive care, please visit Project NICU, One-on-One Mentoring Program, Family Assistance Program, NICU Mom Connect, or Angel Gown® Program.

At some point, you have to make a decision.

Am I going to waste away in my pain or am I going to uproot the dry, dusty fields of my heart and plow through the hardened, cracked dirt? Is this going to become a toxin running through my veins or am I going to use this stench to fertilize new soil where good things can grow?

I don’t know about you, but I want to plant rows and rows and rows of green fields upon green fields as far as the eye can see. I want to witness hope spring eternal. I even want to reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed.

Because even with all that I have been through, I still believe “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no heart has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him.” And, no matter what, I still believe my God is a good, good Father. Without question.

Image via Thinkstock.

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