We drove to our first sonogram appointment on that cold February morning and I asked my husband, “what if there’s no heartbeat?” To which he responded compassionately, but encouragingly, to my fear around the loss of this little child that I held tentatively in my body but held deeply in my heart.
About an hour later, I sat on the table as the tech left the room to let us soak in the reality that there was in fact no heartbeat to be found in the little body on the sonogram screen. I felt like my insides were being ripped from me. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. This could not be real.
We were sent upstairs to see my doctor. My amazing doctor, Charla Spencer, walked in, sat in front of me and my husband, our knees almost touching, and said, “I believe life begins at conception, so when you find out you are pregnant, you are a mommy and a daddy. So you get to grieve like a mommy and a daddy.”
With that we had the most beautiful permission to grieve as deeply as we needed the loss of our unborn child.
The next weeks and months were filled with the heaviest emotions, questions, and wrestling I’ve ever experienced in my life.
After experiencing pregnancy loss, I am deeply passionate about supporting other moms that walk that terrible, awful road.
This is for my fellow pregnancy loss mamas.
I’ve found it is the most deeply awful bonding experience and I want to share some ways to SURVIVE.
I didn’t think I would survive. I thought my world was over and that there was no possible way I could survive the depth of pain that I felt. But here are some ways I did survive, and later thrived, in the midst of that precious loss.
Let yourself feel your grief…. And whatever other emotion is there.
Allow yourself to grieve, mama.
We tend to work really hard at avoiding uncomfortable emotions, but this is a time where you need to allow yourself to feel all the emotions. I cannot say how important it is to allow yourself to experience all the emotions that arise. No matter what your situation is, you deserve to feel whatever you feel.
I’m not suggesting you stop all that’s going on in your life to cry anytime you feel like crying and neglect all your responsibilities, but I am saying to find space and time to allow yourself to feel your emotion and express it.
Find healthy outlets to allow you to express and feel your grief. It may mean prayer, music, writing, art, reading, talking with someone. Find a way that is your way.
Allow yourself to be where you are.
In our culture we tend to judge and qualify everything: people, things, status, places, and life experiences. As a therapist, I hear so often from someone who is afraid to come face to face with their suffering, phrases such as “but it could be so much worse” or “it’s not as bad as ________”.
Sweet mama, it does not matter, your pain is your pain. Let it be.
I lost my little one at 8 weeks. I struggled to feel like my loss was less because it happened earlier than other women I knew. But my loss is my loss and I am allowed to grieve the short life of that baby and all the broken dreams and hopes that were left behind.
You are too. It doesn’t matter what you did or didn’t do. Or even how you did or didn’t feel about being pregnant. There are no circumstances that deny you your experience of grief.
Part of the depth of the grief I felt is a part of my emotional wiring. I feel all things big and that’s a thing I know, and embrace, about myself. Whether you experience big emotion or not, let your emotion be what it is. Don’t feel you need to judge what you do or do not feel or feel like you need to move on quickly from your emotion.
Take care of yourself. Be kind to yourself.
This is a thing I recommend for all people, but especially for you. Self-care has become a buzz word and we often think of bubble baths and pedicures. Those things may be a part of self-care, but the best question to ask yourself is “what do I need to help my aching heart?”
The answer may be that after the kids are down or you get off work, you need a yummy meal or dessert alone or with a safe, comforting friend. Maybe you need to go to bed early and get a good night of rest. Or maybe you need to take a walk or go to a kickboxing class. Maybe you need to take time to journal. You could benefit from professional help.
Let your self-care be yours, but above all, be kind to yourself and allow yourself to have what you need, when you can.
Look for the right support.
I have no doubt you have loved ones rallying around you, but pay attention to how their support feels. No matter if it’s your sister, your best friend of 20 years, your mom, your grandmother, or an acquaintance at church, pay attention to what their support brings up.
For me, some people had a hard time allowing my pain. People wanted me to see the silver lining or God’s purpose in it all (that’s another blog for another day), but really, I just needed to grieve. I had to learn who could hold my grief and who couldn’t. It wasn’t a knock on my loved ones, it was just about finding the right support.
Find yours. Find the people that can sit with you as you grieve. This might be a family member, close friend, therapist, spiritual director, spiritual leader/mentor, or even a new friend. One of my deepest friendships blossomed from an acquaintance that relentlessly sat with me while my heart broke over and over again.
Pregnancy loss is a terrible bonding experience, but it is one that creates deep bonds in mamas from all different walks of life. In Tyler, we are incredibly blessed to have Glory Babies, a monthly support group for moms and dads that have experienced pregnancy loss. This group is incredible and provides such a unique space for grief and, ultimately, healing.
In all that I’ve experienced in my life, pregnancy loss has been the hardest road I’ve traveled. Even though I have a precious little boy that I couldn’t have if I hadn’t gone through pregnancy loss, I still grieve the loss of that baby I’ll never know.
So, mama, my fellow warrior, I am deeply sorry you are experiencing this hell on earth as well.
But you will survive and one day, you will thrive.