Lessons

I’m different now.

I’m part of that group of people who are rarely understood, unless you’ve also been there.

Please don’t come here. I pray you never will. It isn’t a group I ever expected or wanted to join. But here I am.

Life is different now. I’m not out of the woods yet – maybe I never will be. But here are some things I’ve learned through the changes of the last month (has it already almost been a month?)

From happier times, with Wilbur

From happier times, with Wilbur

1) I will never, ever ask another pregnant woman the typical questions we all expect to hear:

  • Is it a boy or girl?
  • When are you due?
  • Have you picked out any names?
  • How is the nursery coming along?
  • etc.etc.etc.

One out of every four pregnant women you meet will not get to bring her baby home, or, she might lose her precious little one soon after, like a stillbirth, or SIDS. Some women you see who are pregnant may know they are losing their babies, and yeah right if they’re going to be talking about it. It’s a respectful cautionary thing that I will just omit from conversation.

In the group of friends we sometimes spend time with, at one point a few months ago, there were five pregnant women in the room, including myself. Of this group, me and another friend never got to nine months. For the time we spent in the happiness of expectation, the rest of our time on Earth will be spent in mourning and remembrance of the ones we lost.

2) People don’t know what to say to you.

A little over a month ago, I wouldn’t have known what to say to me either. I’ve been shocked and saddened, though, that even after a few solid weeks of blogging about this, I still get insensitive and hurtful things said to me.

I don’t know if remarks intended to be uplifting, but are actually soul-crushing, will ever not be hurtful. But right now they are, and I’m still shocked when I hear or read them, despite all the words I have poured from my heart to point out helpful ways to talk to bereaved parents. Oh well. I can’t expect everyone (or anyone) to read this, or remember anything I write.

You have your own lives to think about. This is just the way it is and I hope, over time, to find a space in my heart that only fits compassion and support rather than being an open door to everything everyone has to say.

3) Kindness lurks in every corner, especially in unexpected places.

I’ve had to make a few phone calls, taking care of business, financial stuff, bla bla bla. When it’s relevant to the conversation with the stranger on the other end, every single time I’ve had to bring up that I’m no longer pregnant, I cry. Every single time, the person I’m speaking with has been infinitely kind, patient and understanding. And these are bank employees, Service Canada employees, my local pharmacy, etc.

Friends I haven’t spoken with in a while have popped up with incredible support and gestures of selflessness and kindness, like Anita, who set up a charity page in Henry’s name with Water Aid. Parents of friends have helped us with weekly tasks, and have left us food, flowers and messages of love. This tragic event seems to have opened people’s heart to us, and we’ve spent a lot of time in teary-eyed gratitude.

I have questioned myself for what I would have done if this happened to a friend of mine instead of me. The new Mel knows the answer, but I’m concerned about the old Mel – would I have shown as much compassion as we’ve been shown in the past month? I’m not going to worry about answering that.

I know that my life is going to get to a new normal, and I am taking my time with it.

4) My last lesson is a work in progress – which is to try to learn the difference between actually feeling ready to do something, and forcing myself to go outside my comfort zone to do something, like I would have normally done. I guess I have to give myself time to see what new Mel will do.

Thank you for reading this very self-centred post!

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You aren’t alone

This post is written in honour of the parents who have shared their stories of loss with me, miscarriages consisting of the bulk of them. While I didn’t suffer a miscarriage, Henry’s disease is so rare that I doubt I’ll ever meet another parent who has lost a child to osteogenesis imperfecta type 2. Losing a child, no matter how the loss occurred, is absolutely devastating, and needs to be recognized by your friends and family.

I’ve been in contact with some parents whose children are suffering a terminal condition, and if it’s anything like the few days I spent between wondering, finding out, and deciding what to do about Henry, I can assure the rest of the world for you that these days are difficult and dark, but also that you are tenacious and brave.

If you’re not one of these parents, and you don’t know what to say to us, that’s OK. We were like you before our own losses. I came across a post yesterday that brilliantly summarized what to say, and what not to say to those of us who have lost a child. Please have a read here.

If you have lost a child, the book “When your child dies” by Nagel and Clark is very helpful. It validates every type of child loss in short, succinct paragraphs, and gives empowering healing tools for parents, like breathing techniques, creating memorials for your child, honouring important dates, expressing and accepting your grief no matter what form it’s in (sorrow, anger, regret, relief), and imagining what you want in the future (for me, that idea is far-fetched right now, but I’m glad its covered in the book).

This book brought on a wave of shock when it was given to me because the fact that I now owned it meant that my baby was dead. I knew that I gave birth to Henry in the hospital several days prior, and I knew that he wasn’t alive when he was born, but this book was a physical recognition of my devastation and loss.

We all grieve differently, but one thing I have had in common with some parents who have shared their stories with me is that messages of faith actually do not help. Hearing that it wasn’t meant to be makes me feel like I just lucked out of winning at a gambling machine. Hearing that losing a child or having a sick child was “given” to us because “God knew we could handle it” is a crock of shit to me. And anything that tries to make this event cute, like, now I have a little angel watching over me, is actually quite painful to hear, and diminishes my experience. These are covered in the article that I mentioned above. But if spiritual and faith-based messages help, that’s great – you have to take what works for you. But because I don’t believe in that, it doesn’t work for me. And if you’ve expressed any of these to me, I still thank you for it, because there’s no way for you to know what I need to hear. Not even I know sometimes.

No thanks.

I spent time searching for support groups online, and I came across a few websites that I found beautiful, inspiring, and made me feel as though I wasn’t alone.

Still Standing Magazine posts articles, stories, resources, special dates and more. They publish poems weekly on Sundays, and often have calls for submissions for stories, which I hope to participate in one day.

Small Bird Studios and Carly Marie Project Heal are amazing sites run by two mothers finding ways to express their grief. I think they know each other, too. Each site is beautiful, and reach out to parents through crafts, sharing stories of loss, and recognizing important dates for parents of loss worldwide. I sing praises for these women. They have been a real source of comfort for me. Carly Marie has worked to have international days of awareness for infant loss and infertility. The entire month of October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, and her beautiful work has helped push this month and its pinnacle date, October 15, into the spotlight.

I have isolated myself for nearly a month, but I have rarely felt alone thanks to the resources I have mentioned, and the constant flow of love and support I’ve felt from friends, family and colleagues.

As one parent who shared her story of loss with me said, the more we talk about our experiences, the more comfort we can feel. Whether you have fertility complications, have had miscarriages, stillbirths, have a child who is living but you don’t know for how long, had a child who was only with you for too short a time, or you’re like us and had to choose to end your child’s life due to a fatal genetic disease, you are unique, but you aren’t alone.