“I was so tangled up in the emotions of our situation and trying to prepare myself mentally for what was about to happen with April Rey that I didn’t bother to think about the physical toll of giving birth. I didn’t bother to think about what I’d go through after. I’d given birth before, so I knew what to expect, but it was honestly the furthest thing from my mind.
I didn’t come home with a baby, but I still gave birth.
Gosh, it’s brutal to even write that sentence.
Every physical reminder my body gave me about the fact that I’d just given birth felt like I was running into a wall of emotional pain.
I bled. It’s normal after giving birth. But every pad I had to change was a brutal reminder that I didn’t have a baby to hold.
I ached. My back was sore from where the epidural had been placed, my uterus was contracting back to its normal size. I ached all over. During labor, my whole body had been shaking in pain, as well as from the high fever I’d had. So now, every muscle hurt as my body tried to heal itself. Every chance I got to lay down and rest, I felt the sting of pain rush through my body – the pain of wanting to not be able to lay down because my baby was crying or needing to be fed.
I wasn’t supposed to be able to rest like this. Not now. I was supposed to be rocking and feeding a crying baby with sleepless nights. I was supposed to be in the throws of having a newborn, but I wasn’t. I was resting.
Then was the big blow.
My milk came in. It wasn’t supposed to. I’d been told it was highly unlikely to happen after taking the medicine I’d taken to stop the pregnancy. But it happened. My boobs were engorged, and my body wanted to feed a baby – a baby I didn’t have at home with me.
After giving birth, you bring home a baby and everyone congratulates you. I didn’t get congratulations. I was met with silence from most and sorrow from others. It wasn’t wrong and it’s what I would have done, but I found myself wishing for congratulations instead of the ‘sorry for your loss’ type of communication. I’d still had a baby. I wanted people to congratulate me on her life.
I even requested my moms group send out the famous ‘birth announcement email’ they do for every other child. They send out a congratulatory email, and then everyone replies all to respond with their congratulations. Usually I’d cringe (yes, I’m that person) when it would happen because my inbox was suddenly full of messages.
I never saw the reason to ‘reply all’ on these emails and would send a private message of congratulations instead. After they sent out my birth (and death) announcement for April Rey – crickets happened. One person replied all, and one person sent me a message directly. And then it was silence.
I cried. I admitted my sadness to my husband and told him I’d wanted to be congratulated. He gently reminded me that no one would guess that. No one would guess that I wanted congratulations in a time like this. No one wanted to say the wrong thing. Everyone had good intentions.
I knew that. I knew. But it was still hard.
I know the moms are all reading this feeling horrible now – please don’t. I write this not to make you feel bad. I totally get it now as I can take a step back and see the real reason most didn’t respond. I get it and don’t blame you or hang onto negative feelings on this topic – no worries.
Rather, I write this for the mom about to go through this. I write this for her, so she might be able to mentally prepare for the oddity of wanting congratulations in such a sad time. I write this to prepare her for the desire to celebrate her child’s life, while she’s mourning that very life.
I write this for you, Mama – the one about to go through this – or maybe currently going through this. I want you to be prepared for the physical reminders your body will give you. I want you to be prepared for the odd set of emotions you feel after such an event. I want you to know your friends have such good intentions, but no one knows what to do, because most people haven’t been through this. I want you to know your feelings – whatever they are – are OK.
There are moments I feel completely normal. And then I’m suddenly struck with guilt – like I shouldn’t be able to feel anything but grief and sadness. Then, after moments and moments of feeling “normal,” I hit a glass wall. I never see it coming. It hits me hard. I can’t breathe, and the tears start flowing at the most random times.
Usually dinner time. Dinner is family time. I look around and I want my WHOLE family there. But it’s broken. Our family is broken. There’s an empty space at the table. It’s always been vacant, but now it feels empty. Now it feels like April Rey is missing.
Who knew dinner would be so hard?
And then I realize the moms group – those same women who didn’t know what to say to the birth announcement (because who does!?) – they are helping in ways they probably never dreamed of. Dinner is hard. Dinner is often when my sadness hits. They have no idea. Yet those same moms – guess what they’ve done? They are bringing us dinners! Actions speak louder than words. Yes, their words fell silent (and who could blame them?) but their actions have resonated.
At the time of day when I struggle to find my energy, to find my strength and my sense of “normal”– they’ve made it to where I don’t have to deal. I don’t have to deal with shopping for, cooking or cleaning up – dinner.
These moms are taking care of me in ways I didn’t know I needed. I have an army of women standing by to help. They are there to help with Caroline if I need a moment, they are there to offer a friendly conversation, a listening ear, a hug, a distraction and so much more.
I had no idea how badly I’d need those things and how helpful those things would really be.
It feels weird to be doing normal things. It feels oddly uncomfortable to go on a playdate. I feel like I’m supposed to be holed up in my house crying. I feel awkward if I realize I have a smile on my face. I know, it’s ridiculous – but those feelings are there and very real.
These aren’t feelings that anyone can prepare you for. There’s no book out there to tell you what to expect after you induce labor for your dying child. But I wish there was. I wish there’d been a handbook or a pamphlet, or an ‘Idiot’s Guide to Finding Your Way After Losing Your Child to Trisomy 13’.
There are none of those things.
Just me finding my way through the murky waters, my husband finding his way and my daughter finding her way. All three of us are doing things differently, finding different things helpful and finding different things hard. We are on different pages of the same book at different times. We are holding each other close and building each other up the best we can. And we hold on to one another for dear life as we find our way through.
I didn’t come home with a baby, but I still gave birth. It’s an odd thing to come to terms with but I’m so thankful I have an amazing husband and daughter at home to help get me through this time. I hope I’m helping them as much as they help me. And I am beyond grateful for the friendships I’ve found in the moms club.
I’d be feeling so lost without these wonderful ladies right now. I’m on day two of finding my way through this without grandparents here to lean on, and both days I’ve decided to be around friends instead of facing the day at home. Thank goodness for all of the amazing people in my life.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Katrina Villegas of Mama’s Organized Chaos, where it originally appeared. Submit your story here, and subscribe to our best love stories here.
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