When I was pregnant with Reya, I attended the high risk maternity clinic every 1-2 weeks. During one of these appointments, as I walked down the hallway, I saw that the door to one of the examination rooms was open. Inside, there was a couple; the woman was sobbing into her hands, her husband’s eyes were dark and wet, and he was holding her.
I felt that woman’s pain that day, and I will always feel her pain. Because I was her, not too long ago. And I am coming to realize that no matter how much time passes, I will never be too far from that pain. The pain of losing your child.
It is an untouchable grief. It feels deep, rooted in my karmic energy.
Looking back on how my life has unfolded, on how my first trembling steps into motherhood have been – I wouldn’t want to change a moment of it. I wouldn’t want to rob myself of the chance to meet my first child. I am the only woman in this whole world who was given the honour of being her mother, and it is not something I take lightly.
When I was pregnant with Mia, I was so excited to attend prenatal classes and to find an antenatal group of women all expecting babies around the same time. I created an account on BabyCenter and quickly joined the “June 2017” birth month forum. I enjoyed reading all the different posts on there. I felt like I belonged with these women, all of us together embarking on the journey of pregnancy and motherhood together.
But slowly, as things started to slowly unravel, I stopped being able to relate to my June 2017 forum. Everyone else’s baby was growing and everyone else’s baby was getting stronger. But my baby was getting smaller and weaker. I didn’t feel like I belonged in this group anymore.
So I joined the “IUGR babies” group when we found out that Mia was severely growth restricted. I felt like I belonged there for a couple of short weeks where we shared and compared our babies growth centiles and dopplers.
Well, it wasn’t long before I realized I didn’t belong there anymore either, and I started to prepare ourselves for an extremely premature baby. So I joined the “Micro-preemie babies” forum.
That belonging lasted only a couple of days before I had to quit the group and finally joined “coping with stillbirth” and it dawned on me that I will always be part of this group. I will always be coping with the stillbirth of my daughter.
It was, and still is, a sad trail of belonging and unbelonging. In my subsequent pregnancy with Reya, I didn’t join any forums.
But I did find my people.
I started sharing my journey of motherhood without my baby, of grief, of hope, of hopelessness, of pregnancy after loss – on instagram and here on my blog. And in doing this, I have been welcomed into a group of courageous mamas of loss. I have always felt at home here and I have found so much support and strength in these women. They found me when I was broken and empty and they held space for me to walk this path and share what was in my cracked heart.
I shared my pregnancy with Mia with a few other girls I knew. We were all due around the same time, and we all greatly anticipated the arrival of our sweethearts together. But our pregnancies took different turns. They held their babies in their arms, and I scattered my baby’s ashes into a stream. I was not one of them. While they were sleepless during those newborn nights, I was sleepless in silence and sadness.
But these women, they stuck with me. They kept talking to me. They kept supporting my journey. They were thrilled for me when I found out I was expecting again. They stayed in touch with me during my next pregnancy. They kept asking me how everything was. They kept caring. They stayed. They welcomed my Reya into the world with me. They offer me gentle encouragement as I experience life with a newborn baby.
If you are one of these women in my life, and you are reading this – I can’t tell you how much your friendship has meant to me. Thank you for not letting me slip through the cracks.
And in turn, these days, I receive many messages from women who have recently lost their beloved babes, and they all ask me the same thing – how. How do you come back from such heartbreak? How do you make life beautiful again?
I recently had such an exchange with a lady who also lost her daughter, and I would like to share my thoughts with you here.
To to the woman who just lost her baby,
My heart breaks with yours. And I am so sorry. And you are not alone. I know that you feel like the only one in the world that this has happened to. I felt that way too. But, there are many of us who walk this unimaginable path with you. You are now part of a club that you never imagined yourself to be a part of, a community you probably never knew existed – but there is so much strength and beauty here. You might not feel it now, but one day I hope you will be proud to be one of us.
You have a very different path ahead of you to the path you had ever envisioned for yourself. You are coming to learn that all the plans you made while you were pregnant are over and that is no easy thing. Walking this path is going to be very, very difficult, and everything will hurt for a while.
But know this – after some time has passed, you will find joy again. Things will still hurt. But you will find joy.
I still hurt for my baby Mia, even with her sister in my arms. In fact, the journey of pregnancy after loss and parenting after loss both serve as constant reminders of my daughter who died, and I had to learn how to live with that – how to live so close to death. Now I can’t imagine any other way to live.
I know you probably want to know how to heal from this. The journey of grief is a long one, and it is part of our life’s work.
Here are some things that have been important for my healing:
Take it day by day. Honour your baby. Your baby lived. Their life is real and true, their memory protected. Speak their name. Celebrate their birthday. Remember their due date. Be informed – find out what happened. Find out what can be done to help prevent this in the future – this can be a small piece of the closure you seek.
Find your way to process your sadness. For me, it is writing in my blog. If you are feeling even just a little bit brave and vulnerable, all at the same time – share it with us. There are so many women out there like us, and we will find you and we will take care of you.
And when and if your heart is ready, you may want to try again for another baby, a little brother or sister for your angel. Having my rainbow baby Reya in my arms, has been incredibly healing. Holding my living, breathing, wide-eyed baby in my arms has healed one of the many deep cracks of my heart.
Your life will be beautiful again if you choose to make it so. My life is beautiful now because I saw my time with Mia as beautiful. I saw my experience of giving birth to her and meeting her as beautiful. I considered the fact that I am mama to my baby in heaven as beautiful. All these things made my life beautiful.
It might be difficult for you to see these things as beautiful now as it is so fresh and raw so just let the days and weeks pass slowly, and your sadness will transform if you allow it to.
I have had to accept that losing my daughter has changed me forever. I don’t think I can ever go back to how I was before. That is also a part of grief – grieving for the life you thought you would have. I know I will never be untouched by loss. I know I may never take a moment of another pregnancy, or another child, for granted again.
That being said, I’m not sure I would want to go back to that ignorant bliss again. Too much goodness has grown from the deep roots of pain. Too many flowers have blossomed from my tears. Too many rainbows have blessed my skies in the sweet moments when my rain met the sun.
My life is not consumed with despair anymore. There is too much beauty in everything.
I know you don’t see it yet. But I am your sister. And I will walk with you, hand in hand, until you do.
With Mia on the left. With Reya on the right.
Today is my daughter Mia’s 1st still-birthday. And I am deeply saddened. But I wanted to write this for you – because I have come to learn that my pain is a gift. And I do not want to waste my pain. I must use it.