Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Silent Epidemic

Did you know that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death in the first year? That is 2,000 every day, 700,000 a year. These are NOT women choosing to end their baby’s lives, these are women who (for the most part) prayed for, dreamed of, and desperately wanted to have this little person to love and hold. It just makes me wonder how this can be so common and yet be seen as a taboo subject that makes people uncomfortable.


I have mostly been very open about the details of my own loss. My blog has received almost 1,000 hits since I posted about losing Landyn. People are very curious and yet I have very few people who have wanted to be on the inner circle.

When my dear friend lost her daughter at the 37th week of pregnancy I was at the hospital. I saw her daughter, I held her, I cried. Later as I explained to others about this they would immediately get all squirmy and be astonished that I had held this little lifeless baby. Makes me wonder how these people can even pretend to be supportive of ME. I felt like the member of a secret club during those first few weeks after Landyn died. I couldn’t believe how many women told me they too had lost babies. Some of them asked me not to tell anyone.

How many people have lost someone close? A grandparent, a spouse, maybe a dear aunt, or even a sibling? Many of you, I’m sure, took the opportunity before the casket was closed to give that person one last kiss or at the very least pat their hand. Why is it ok to say goodbye to someone you’ve known for years yet no one seems to understand how very important it is to say goodbye to someone you’ve just met or only dreamed of.

When a wanted pregnancy ends, whether through miscarriage or stillbirth, you are not just losing a child but also all those dreams you had planned. You will never hear them laugh, teach them to ride a bike, see them have babies of their own. In my opinion there is no one more in need of time to say goodbye then a mother who loses a baby. There are many women who miscarry and will not get to hold their child or know whether it’s a boy or girl. They will have no tiny footprints, no pictures, and no grave to cry at. And since pregnancy loss is seemingly deemed hush hush by society these women go home with empty arms, broken hearts, and cry alone.

To me it doesn’t matter what week you are at. It hurts.

So what can we do differently then? No two situations are the same so there is no one size fits all solution. Not all women will feel the same so some tact is needed here. From reading posts on my baby loss support group it seems most women are in the same place though.

Please do not avoid us or refrain from talking to us because you just don’t know what to say. There are NO right words. We know that. A tight hug and a sincere, “I hate that this happened.” is good enough. Please do, though, use your brain when talking to us. Do not say you are having the worst day ever because your kid spilled juice in your car. I just roll my eyes and hope that you will never know that a real worst day really is, but others might not be able to handle that at all. Also, just be there. If you are close to the mom then continue to be close unless asked for some space. If you are not so close then drop off a meal ready for the freezer. Don’t just offer “call me if you need anything”, just do it. For me personally I have never been so lonely as I was in recent weeks. Having 200 facebook “friends” does not make you feel better when you cry alone every day. Continue to call or send cards, the pain doesn’t stop after the funeral.

We want our babies to be acknowledged. Whether they lost the baby days after a positive pregnancy test or were within days of delivery this was their child. Please treat it as such. If their baby was given a name please refer to it by name. Don’t be afraid to bring the baby up, you don’t need to always change the subject or be worried you will remind us of our loss. We like to talk about our babies and we did NOT forget.

Understand that this is not a thing you get over. My baby will always be gone. I will always miss her. Over time my grief will change and it won’t always be quite so sharp but know it will always be there. Do not in any way pressure a grieving mom to move on. Grief is personal, treat it as such.

So what do you do if you don’t personally know anyone who is experiencing a loss? You can donate money. There are multitudes of organizations that offer free things to grieving parents. I know of one that will send the mom a stuffed heart the exact weight of her baby. There is another that sends engraved necklaces. You can offer your time. I came home from the hospital with a beautiful memory box and one of the blankets that Landyn was in. She was buried wrapped in another tiny blanket. These were all made by volunteers and donated to the hospital. I know they also get donations of small clothes and hats. I saw another organization that has volunteers make teeny flannel diapers for babies to be buried in because they are just too small for the smallest manufactured diapers. You can use your talents. There is a group called Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep and they have professional photographers volunteer their time to take pictures.

Above all, though, just make a point to adjust your thinking. A baby is a baby, no matter the size or gestational week. YOU may not be personally affected but a miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss changes a mommy forever. Remember, it’s 1 in 4. Even if we can’t stop it the least we can do is stop pretending it is not a big deal.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Grief

I hate grief. I hate that grief is so unique to each person.  There is no right or wrong way to grieve. There is no time limit.  There is no definitive list of how it will look, I can’t check off the different steps and know how long until the end.  There is a list of “stages of grief”, but even those will be accomplished in no particular order and you can be in several stages at once or even circle back through them.  I don’t like it.  I am a list maker, I like checkmarks and order. I don’t like surprises and unknowns.  How do you deal with something like that?  Grief is so much more then just being sad and crying some tears.  This sadness is unlike anything I’ve ever dealt with.  The sadness is all through me, it is tangled around my soul.  Sure, I laugh at the kids and still see the beauty in the changing leaves but it is still there, I am not better.  Lately people have been expressing what I take as surprise that I am still sad. I wonder if it would surprise them more to know that NOW is harder then those first few weeks were.  That brief period of shock has worn off, the cards and calls have stopped, and I am alone to deal my broken heart.  Yes, I’m still sad.  Some days are ok.  Some days I can barely function because the pain is just throbbing through me and there is nothing I can do to escape it.  This is not something I can just shrug off.  I think of the verses in Ecclesiastes “a time to be born and a time to die…a time to heal…a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance”.   I don’t need to push myself, I can just be sad and that is ok.  Even Jesus took the time to cry when Lazarus died.  I believe I lost something worth crying over.  My Landyn is one of my children.  She was conceived in the same love, her coming was discovered with the same joy, I saw her ultrasounds and heard her heartbeat with the same amazement, I felt her move with the same excitement, I love her just as much as my other kids.  With the overwhelming sadness comes so many other emotions.  It is very confusing to have so much going on in your head.  There is fear, anger, loneliness, guilt, stress, and depression.  Sometimes it’s not too bad, sometimes they all hit at once.  It is a lot to work through.  Honestly, there is not much people can do to help.  Just be there.  I have to deal with the emotions as they come, I could be fine one moment and fighting tears the next.  Don’t change the subject or be afraid to bring it up.  You wanna know something?  I didn’t forget. It’s ok to mention Landyn.  Actually, please do, because when you speak her name you acknowledge her, you recognize that she is my daughter and that even though she isn’t here now that she DID live. I love her, I always will. A piece of my heart will always be with her.  I will not get over this, I will get through it. I will not come out on the other side the same person I was before.  Grief is horrible but necessary.  It shows my love for my tiny daughter, because if I didn’t love her like I do it wouldn’t hurt so much.