When I was brainstorming this week about what to write about for this blog, a few things came to mind. A Halloween DIY project, Fall decor, things I'm learning about time management and scheduling. I will probably still get to those things, but this morning I was walking through Target and stopped in front of the baby section. Right then a song I had never heard before came on and I only heard the lyrics, "I would rather make a living being myself, than make a killing being someone else," (DAMN. THAT GOT ME RIGHT IN THE FEELS.) And I immediately knew what I had to write about.
For a moment I thought, "Wait, this is only my second blog post. Maybe I should just keep things light. I mean, I don't want to scare anyone off." I quickly dismissed that thought, as I remembered WHY I started Mama's Mercantile to begin with. To authentically acknowledge and support mamas of all kinds, and acknowledge all of the "not-so-amazing" parts of becoming a mom, and being a mom, even though it's 100 million percent worth it.
You see, walking into or even past the baby section brings me a boatload of emotions. For years before I found out I was pregnant with our spunky little Lex, I didn't know if I would be able to have biological children. The more time that went by, the harder it got to do something simple like go to the store. Because I knew that I would have to walk past the baby section and see all of the failure, seclusion, loneliness, and my deep, painful longing to be a mom in every onesie, tiny sock, and rattle that sat on the shelves. THAT is what infertility does to you. I did finally get pregnant, and was able to feel some joy from seeing and running my hand over those sweet infant hats and footies.
Then I DID have babies. And after the second one, things got even harder than before.
"Wait, it's October 15th" ran across my brain--which is a very gloomy, yet special day for my family along with many others' out there and I would be doing us all a disservice if I didn't write about THIS subject TODAY. So here goes...
*takes a deep breath*
TRIGGER WARNING: Stillbirth, miscarriage, and trauma
Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. It's also the day of the month that marks the day in April 2020 that my beautiful baby boy took his last amniotic fluid-filled breath. The 15th. The day of the month most people are most concerned with getting bills paid. Every month, on the 15th and 16th, I have to wonder what my baby would look like, and what his laugh would sound like if he were still here with us. And that is something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.
"OH MY GOD. IT'S SO QUIET" I yelled out in terror as I threw my hands on my head and literally pulled my own hair. My sweet nurse tried to calm us by saying that sometimes the monitor didn't pick things up right away; but, there was no thumping, no sloshing sound, not even static when she placed the heart rate monitor on my abdomen. Just. Straight. Silence. And I immediately knew. She knew it, too. And Alex turned white.
I was 39 weeks pregnant. We had made it. There was no way this could happen now?! I was having contractions! Google said that the baby was just resting for labor! But our baby was gone. And life would never be the same.
We were all talking and laughing with the nurse literally seconds before. Phone calls were made. And I just laid there. I couldn't even cry. I couldn't form any thoughts other than, "I'm so sorry, Alex" and "I have to give birth to my baby boy, and I can't even take him home. How am I going to do this?! How does anyone do this?!" I had heard about other moms I knew having stillborn babies, and my reaction was always, "My God. That's my worst nightmare. I don't think I could do that." And now I had no choice. I was quite literally living my own worst nightmare. And we were now going to have a story of our own.
And then a lot of things happened that will all be burned into my brain for the rest of my life. The large amount of drugs I asked for can't even erase them. Maybe one day I will be able to share those events in detail, but I think that will have to wait until the sweet baby boy currently residing in my belly gets here alive and healthy. In some strange way, I feel like I would be jinxing this baby's life and this pregnancy, which sounds so silly to say out loud. But it's really the way I feel.
After about 3 days of being home, my milk started coming in. You see, a woman's body doesn't understand that there is no baby there to nurse, and continues to do everything the way that a postpartum body normally would. You still have this psychological and physical NEED to have your baby with you. This was one of the worst parts of the entire experience for me...
Every time my daughter got upset, (basically every 5 minutes- the way 2 year olds do) my chest would ache SO BAD. The sound of her cry, or just a loving thought of her would instantly make me let down physically and break down emotionally. I couldn't snuggle my living baby when I really needed to without it hurting me to the point of tears. And, unfortunately, I quickly found out that there were some people I love very much who didn't understand that concept. And didn't even try to. Even acted like they didn't care. (Please note, I am NOT talking about my husband here. Alex was great and helped as much as he could.) I spent more time in therapy trying to understand all of it than I would even like to admit.
I had another early miscarriage later that December, and didn't tell anyone outside of our extremely close friends until way later on, in fear of getting a hurtful reaction (or no reaction at all).
Please don't get me wrong, we had an abundance of financial help, meals sent and brought over, groceries (and booze) delivered, memorial type gifts, and for these we are still SO GRATEFUL. We will never forget the kindness that was shown to us by so many. But the entire experience brought something to our attention that neither of us had ever experienced before:
MANY PEOPLE DON'T KNOW HOW TO ACT OR WHAT TO DO WHEN SOMEONE LOSES A BABY.
I wanted to bring to light some of the things you can do/say to help, and then some things NOT to do or say to those grieving the loss of a child, no matter the stage. Whether it's an early, mid, late term, or infant loss, ALL of these should be acknowledged and treated attentively and carefully if the parents choose to share that information.
I talked to a few friends who have experienced miscarriage or child loss and this is what we all came up with:
What NOT to do:
- Don't assume that a newly bereaved father can just pick up and take 100% of the reigns of the household because "he is a man" and "he didn't give birth. DAD needs time and rest to grieve, too. NOT just mom. He lost his child, too. He needs help, too.
- If the phrase "at least" starts to leave your mouth, JUST DON'T SAY IT. "At least you can get pregnant." or "At least you have other children." or "At least it wasn't later in your pregnancy." JUST NO. If those or ANYTHING ELSE starting with that seemingly innocent, yet extremely hurtful phrase start to come out of your mouth, STOP YOURSELF. "At least" NOTHING. Their baby died. They get to be devastated and angry and there is no bright side.
- Don't pretend like nothing's wrong. Please, dear GOD. Don't pretend like everything is ok. UNLESS! Mom and dad tell you that just want to feel as normal as they can in that moment or actually say that they don't want to talk about it. Otherwise, acknowledge the situation for what it is. Will it feel sad and/or awkward. Probably. But you'll live.
- Don't say things like, "Everything happens for a reason" or "God has a plan" or "God needed him/her more." Are these things true? Maybe. But bereaved parents DO NOT NEED OR WANT TO HEAR THESE THINGS.
- Do not tell mom and dad anything about how or when they're supposed to grieve. Their grief is built on their own terms for however long they want to. The same goes for anyone out there grieving anyone they love.
- DO NOT say God-awful things like, "He/she probably would have had problems" or "He/she would have had a hard life" or LORD HELP US, "He or she may have been retarded." *Crinnnnnggge* Please note: I 100% do not support the use of that word in a derogatory context. Someone actually said this to someone I know.
- Do not assume that everyone else "has them covered." Everyone could be assuming this, and the parents get no help. This is a shitty feeling.
- Don't say, "Let me know if I can do anything." Because most likely, they won't. Just like most of us, it's hard to ask for help even when you really need it. Instead say, "WHAT can I do to help you?" And then see #3 below.
Things TO DO:
- Say things like, "This is TERRIBLE" and "I'm so sorry, this effing sucks" and "LET'S SCREAM AND PUNCH SOMETHING" because it is, it does, and sometimes they really need to.
- Check in! And check in a lot! You'll start to feel like you're being annoying, but they will appreciate it. Promise.
- Ask mom and dad what they need help with. And then HELP THEM. Whether that's making or sending a meal, mowing the grass, watching other children, coming over for a drink and a cry, doing their piles of laundry or the mountain of dishes in the sink. JUST DO IT. It's not going to kill you. Be the friend that shows up. Be the friend that follows through.
- If there are other children in the home, ask if you can take them for a few hours or even days so both mom AND dad can sleep, cry, scream, or whatever the hell they need to do to grieve without having to worry about entertaining kiddos or the little eyes and ears watching.
- Encourage self-care to the bereaved parents. Sleep, baths, changing clothes (yes, seriously), eating, all of the every day things. Also, maybe suggest going to a grief counselor or support group. There are even journals for just this kind of thing. Click the one below that you can actually get right here in Mama's Merc. It has some really good prompts that encourage the healing process.
- When you talk about the baby that has passed with the parents, SAY HIS/HER NAME if he/she had one. It's ok if you tear up! It's ok if they do, too! But I promise you, they will appreciate that SOMEONE remembers and cares enough about the life that never got to be lived Earthside to mention their baby's name.
- Everyone checks on mom--- but few people directly check on dad. Ask him how he's doing, too.
- When they're ready, encourage them to do something that makes them feel joy again. Whether that's a hobby, a trip, something they've always wanted to do-- remind them that while life is and always will be different now, joy and life are still out there.
- Send a card with a hand written message from you. I know, I know. There are texts, emails, DM's, and a ton of other technological ways to communicate with someone (and ALL are appreciated, believe me), but there is just something especially warm about a card with a hand written expression of sympathy, empathy, and/or condolences. I actually selected the one below to put in the store with this scenario in mind. It reads, "Days like these can be painful reminders that our hearts are aching. Sending you love."
- Acknowledge due dates/future birthdays. Whether that's a quick, "Hey, I know today is hard. I'm thinking about you." or a "Happy Birthday in Heaven!" or going and decorating that baby's grave. These are the things you do in life that matter. And mom and dad WON'T forget this kindness.
- Light a candle on October 15th at 7 PM (today) in remembrance of their little one along with all of the other lost babies from miscarriage, stillbirth, and into infancy. Send a picture of it burning to ones you know who have lost babies.
- Last but DEFINITELY not least. Please, send me an email and give me their name and address. Yes, me, Andrea Kraft of Mama's Mercantile. I'll explain below.
I have been trying to figure out a way to use my late son, Will's name to help others who are going through similar situations that we have. And I think I've come up with a way to do just that. Will's Way.
When checking out online at Mama's Mercantile, you will see an option to "tip" AKA donate to something called "Will's Way." 100% of your donation will go into a fund to support those who have recently experienced a miscarriage or stillbirth by either:
- sending a card to someone who has recently experienced a miscarriage OR
- sending a few tea bags of "No More Milk" tea by Earth Mama to help mama with lactation suppression.
If you are or know someone who has recently experienced a miscarriage or stillbirth, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org including Your name, the names and address of the bereaved parents, the name of the baby if he/she has one, and whether the baby passed in miscarriage or stillbirth. I will personally package and ship the cards/tea myself.
My baby. God's Will. Will's Way.
"Where there's a Will, there's a Way."
Thank you all for reading. I promise it won't be this heavy on every blog, but I felt like this was the right topic for the week. Don't forget to light your candles at 7 PM in remembrance of all of the late, precious babies!
Please leave your late baby's name and birthday in remembrance in the comment section below! Feel free to include a picture if you'd like. I'd love to see your angels. <3
Have a lovely Fall weekend!