The Moment My Journey to Healing Began After Losing My Baby
Maternity floors are usually filled with joy. Parents look forward to bundles of pink or blue wriggling baby and count the fingers and toes. Few people talk about the times that an unhealthy child is born and rushed to NICU, and no one talks about or to parents who’s child is stillborn. Today after years of silence, shame and depression, I’m speaking out. I’m sharing my story in hopes that other parents who may have been through something similar will find their voice and the courage to speak if they need.
It was my second pregnancy and it went so much better than my first. I was so excited to have another baby. My blood pressure, blood sugar and weight were excellent — all things that had been issues during my first pregnancy. Christmas was upon us and everything could not have been better. My six month appointment went well.
On Christmas Day I did not feel well. Was it too much excitement or the stress that she was traveling to her biological father’s house in Texas? The sick feeling seemed to pass, but I still was tired and not my peppy self. I called doctor and he checked on my blood pressure and blood sugar and all seemed OK. But a sense of unease remained.
Mid-January, I knew something was wrong. The baby had not been moving. Frightened, I called the doctor. This there was an ultrasound and hushed voices and decisions about next steps. My baby was dead. The cord was wrapped around its neck. I needed to go to the hospital so that labor could be induced.
My world stopped. I don’t remember much of the rest of that appointment. I remember dreading being separated from my daughter and wondering what would be the most supportive situation for her while this procedure took place. (I could not say “labor be induced.”) I remember the hours leading up to going to the hospital and how alone I felt. I wanted to talk to someone who would listen to my pain and hear me. No one would broach the subject and everyone seemed anxious to talk about the weather or current news events.
I have absolutely no memory of the actual birth process. I was told it was long and painful, but that I was given medication to cope. I lost 34 hours of my life. I did choose to see and hold my beautiful son. I am so glad I did. I wish I had professional photos of him and not just two snapshots and his footprints. After this ordeal, I wanted to see only a few people-my daughter, my minister and a close family friend. And they visited for short intervals. After a short recovery period, I was sent home. Sadly I was not given anything but a pamphlet on grieving.
I felt incomplete and lost. I was shocked. I was confused. I wanted God to explain. But there were no answers. I could not eat or sleep. I could barely function. I could not work. I could not parent. I did not know where to turn or with whom to speak. No one was willing to talk about this seemingly taboo subject and I knew of no one who understood this pain and grief. Even my husband seemed to have moved past this event as if nothing had happened.
I wanted to shout, “My baby died! I am so sad and I want to talk about it!” But I was silent. I did not know who would listen much less understand my feelings. Slowly I lost my voice. I stopped speaking about anything and everything. I stopped caring. I stopped making choices. I simply stopped. The depression was severe and overwhelming.
I remember attending an intensive outpatient program for quite some time. I saw an individual counselor and did various groups while there. It was very difficult for me. At first, friends drove me to get me there. I had difficulty participating because I literally could not speak much due to the depths of my grief. The breakthrough for me came when I was motivated to complete an art therapy activity which required us to find pictures showing our feelings and paste them on poster board. Everyone cut and pasted busily. I moved slowly, but actually found a picture of a shattered mirror that represented my tumultuous feelings. When the time came to share, everyone was surprised to hear me speak.
“I feel broken.”
It was the first time I had spoken to these people. They encouraged me to talk and words came forth — surprisingly calm as tears poured down my face. I shared my grief with others who grieved, for their own reasons, but who understood. Among strangers, united by our common thread of grief, I began my journey to healing. It began with telling my story. Within this safe and supportive space, I learned to cope with my overwhelming grief and depression following the death of my baby. Perhaps others too will benefit from sharing their stories with supportive individuals and also begin a journey to healing instead of being locked in silence as I once was.
If you or a loved one is affected by infant loss, you can find grieving resources at The Grief Toolbox.
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