5 Things I’m Not Since My Baby Died

“1 in 4”: I couldn’t find a reliable credible source as to where this statistic comes from. The Pregnancy Loss Directory claims the “1 in 4” statistic applies to pregnancy loss at any gestation while this article asserts it is only for miscarriage (without defining the weeks of miscarriage, though commonly it is a loss before week 20). Regardless, I’m not 1 in 4. I’ve even found the name of this blog to be misleading, 1/160 refers to the statistics of stillbirth (intrauterine fetal death after 20 weeks gestation) in the United States (other countries categorize stillbirth at varying gestations). Our best guess is that Corva died around 39+5 due to a massive fetomaternal hemorrhage (FMH). According to this study, a woman has a 1 in 775 chance of a 39 week stillbirth. It’s thought that FMH may not be as rare, occurring in every 1-3 per 1,000 births (~1 in 500 births).

A Mother to an Angel: I don’t believe Corva “grew wings” when she died and transformed into an angel. I don’t assert to be an expert on religion and I don’t practice the Christian religion. However, if one does subscribe to Christianity, note that the Bible is clear that angels and humans are different entities and humans do not become angels when they die. This isn’t to say I am offended by angels. A friend of mine, who years ago had a 2nd trimester loss, sent me this figurine iaicixhzhw6ixysvykuv__51534.1549715191 and sent Astoria a Vermont Teddy Bear dressed like an angel. I also don’t care if other people believe their baby is now an angel and I’m not offended nor do I argue with people about if their baby is an angel.

“Over it”–even 21 months later: I think about my dead baby everyday. To those who respond with “ew, get over it already,” I challenge you to go a day without thinking about one of your children. Just push them right out of your head and your heart. Don’t give them a second thought. Impossible, isn’t it? This isn’t to say that I cry everyday, although lately I’ve had quite a few tears. And it isn’t to say that I ONLY think about Corva. Of course I have other things to think about. But she’s always there.

Replacing my baby: Here I am in the 3rd trimester, mere weeks away from delivery (although it still seems like months). The truth is, if Corva had lived I wouldn’t be pregnant right now–she was to be our last child. Pregnancy after loss is….complex. I find that I can’t succinctly put into words what tumbles in my heart. There is no reconciliation for wanting my dead baby to be here and also desperately wanting this baby to be born alive and to continue living for many many years.

Ungrateful: I know from first hand experience that life can change in an instant. I don’t take that for granted. I thank the universe every single day that Astoria’s heart continues to beat. In the middle of the night when she’s crawling in bed, between my husband and me, I don’t care (too much) that her feet inevitably end up in my face because she’s ALIVE. I put my hand on her chest and feel the rise and fall and I am SO THANKFUL. Every time I feel my baby kick, I say a silent prayer of thanks that this one hasn’t died. So while the world may look at me and judge me for my anger or my grief, know that I AM grateful for what I have. As Angela Miller says, “You better believe any bereaved parent in the world could school you in the art of being thankful.”


Support Groups

One of the first things I did after the birth and death of Corva, was seek out support. I wanted to know–no I needed to know–that there were others surviving this nightmare. The hospital had given me contact information for a local support group, but I actually knew of the group’s existence prior to my loss. As a WIC nutritionist,  I referred clients to the group, not frequently, but often enough considering the 1 in 4 statistic.  I didn’t really know what the group did though.

The support group in my area specific to baby loss welcomes bereaved parents who have lost a baby at any gestational age, and after birth up until age one.  They meet monthly. The first meeting post loss arrived ten days after Corva’s delivery. I went, though it was the same day that earlier, in my grief stricken state, I left my purse in a friend’s car and it was stolen (the purse, not the car). So it had been an exhausting day, complete with a panic attack and a police report. There was one person at the group that night–Elisha–and I found immediate comfort from her. She sat with me for over an hour and for that I am forever grateful.

After that initial meeting, I attended four more meetings. I also went with several other moms to get coffee, attended a butterfly release and a social dinner out.  In October I attended a remembrance walk for infant loss awareness month.

Then I started to feel angry and frustrated.

First there was the prayer. Now, I’m not a stranger to prayer; after all I pray everyday, to a God  I ambiguously believe in, that I will die before my eldest daughter. At this walk in October, a board member of the support group, we’ll call her Jenny, said some touching words then invited her husband to say a prayer before the walk. This fueled so much anger within me.

Then I started reflecting on the stories. I’m not saying that my loss is worse or greater or more painful than anyone else’s. I only say the following because I cannot relate to these losses. Each month at support group, we went around the circle, saying our name and “as much of your story as you wish to share.” I got so tired of hearing those stories. (All names have been changed). There was Ashley, one of the leaders, who portrays her loss as further along than it actually was. Jenny, who lost her daughter with congenital defects at 19 weeks. Shaina, who delivered prematurely due to complications of preeclampsia at 23 weeks but whose son lived for 10 days. Tara who experienced an ectopic pregnancy in the first trimester. And Elisha who lost her beautiful twins at 20 weeks due to an infection.

And then there is me. Me, who carried my beautiful wanted baby for 40 weeks. Me, who had no complications during that time. Me, whose baby was healthy and growing (until she wasn’t). Me, whose baby lived only inside me, who did not get any sort of acknowledgment of life.

Elisha was the mother who was present at my first meeting. She was the one who was there for me, the one I connected with by default. On that unusually hot day in May, she was the one who watched my tears fall, who listened without judgement. She was the one who demonstrated survival.

Elisha’s story is complex–and it’s not mine to share. And, although, I am thrilled that she is carrying a successful pregnancy, it hurts to no end that she is due May 5, 2018–almost exactly one year (May 8, 2017) after my due date for Corva. I just can’t bring myself to watch her growing belly each month at a support group for infant loss.

So I stopped going.


Tell me about your in-person support groups.

Not Ready to Make Nice

The other morning, as my daughter and I were heading down the garage steps to get into the Jeep, she stopped abruptly and plopped herself on the top step, crying. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “You stepped on me!” she wailed. I did? I didn’t think I was anywhere near her but perhaps I did step on the heel of her shoe. I didn’t argue with her because her perception was that I had hurt her, even if in my mind I wasn’t near her at all. Instead, I sat down next to her and gathered her in my arms. “I am so sorry, I did not mean to hurt you. Will you forgive me?” And then it occurred to me: “Do you know what forgive means?”

These are my most candid moments as a parent–the ones where I really have to stop and think about something in order to carefully explain it in 4-year-old terms. What does it mean to forgive?

I explained that when we forgive someone, we still love them even if they hurt us.

Okay, it’s not the most complete definition, but it was the best I could devise on the spot with minimal coffee.

But really, forgiveness is much more complex. For me, related to the death of my baby, forgiveness is muddled with anger, betrayal, sadness, and guilt. I’m angry with my midwife, I’m angry with myself, I’m angry with the universe.

FORGIVENESS:

“A conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.”

Wow. How does a person even start? To forgive my midwife. To forgive myself. To forgive the situation that nobody can change. 

Why does it matter? Why can’t I live the rest of my life harboring this guilt, anger, and bitterness? Advice about forgiveness abounds. We hear it from psychologists, poets, religious leaders and our mothers.


But all of these feel-good sunshiny quotes I found online–I say “Eff you.”

My baby died.

My heart hurts.

I just cannot make myself forgive that easily.

I’m still mad as hell.


Is there anyone you haven’t been able to forgive? Have any of you been able to forgive someone without receiving an apology? Has anyone received an apology but still wasn’t able to forgive that person?