What I want you to know about losing a baby

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest posts is by Wendy.




What I want you to know is how emotionally crushing it is to be pregnant again after losing a baby. I lost my first child, my son, 31 weeks into my pregnancy. I've been pregnant 4 times since my son died, and have 2 beautiful daughters. Each of my pregnancies was fraught with problems, filled with weekly and even daily doctor's appointments. The last one, the one that lasted the longest, was the most difficult of all.

I want you to know that I'm glad my first pregnancy was perfect until the day my son died, because it was the only perfectly happy time I've ever been granted in pregnancy. While other women gripe about weight gain, fat cankles and morning sickness, I adored being pregnant from the start. I glowed. I was so happily pregnant, I could have stayed in that state forever. When I learned my son had passed away, my life folded in on itself in an instant, and the life that unfolded before me was a nightmare that I could never have imagined living.

I want you to know that my third pregnancy was 6.5 months of fearfulness and dread that made me want to hide in a cave. I feared losing my daughter every day, and every day, I had someone tell me that everything was going to be okay. I want you to know that telling a mother who has lost her child that everything is going to be okay is essentially lying to her face. "How do you know? Did God tell you that?" The comment "It won't happen twice" would burn me - I knew people who had lost two babies in a row or in a lifetime. Deep down, I don't think I ever could have accepted that would happen to me, but the death of my son taught me that "those things" do not just happen to "other people." Everything was not okay in my case: the day she was born, my daughter came within hours of her death. Again, I felt a lack of movement, just as I had in my first pregnancy. I went to the doctor and she was delivered by emergency c-section at 28 weeks due to restricted blood flow in her cord. The doctors agree she had less than 2-4 hours before she would have joined my son in death. I want you to know that her premature arrival only added to my venom against people who tell me that everything is going to be fine. (I also want you to know that she is a thriving toddler and the miracle of my life.)

I want you to know that those benign things that everyone says to expectant mothers are slaps in the face to a mother who has already lost a baby. "Is this your first?" is so plain a question, but to me, it's a conundrum that takes me back into the pit I fell in when my son died. "No, it's my second," brings on the subsequent question "Oh! How old is your first?" "He died." Silence. Minced smile and scrunched up eyes. "Oh, I'm sorry." End of conversation as the questioner slides away, sorry she asked. But if I respond "Yes, it's my first," in the interest of easing the conversation, a knife slices my heart - the open betrayal of the existence of my first child. It's a betrayal that I find impossible to make, so I always err on the side of making the other person uncomfortable through acknowledging my loss.

I want you to know that platitudes don't make a woman who has lost a baby feel better. "Don't worry" belittles my very real, very valid feelings. If your only experiences of pregnancy were loss and failure, wouldn't you worry too? During my fifth pregnancy, I was told by many a family member, friend, and co-worker to "try to enjoy my pregnancy." I was way beyond "enjoyment" and was focused on fetal survival. I had 4 pregnancies in my wake, all of which ended in different tragedies: a stillbirth, a tubal, a very premature baby, and a miscarriage. Telling me to "enjoy" my pregnancy is like telling someone in battle to "enjoy" the view from the front line - with the range of medications I was on and the history my body has of killing babies, I was literally in a mortal struggle for both my own and my child's life. That comment also made me feel like I was taking something from my baby - taking the bonding she deserved in an effort to just survive the time. It's not true. Plenty of women adopt babies and bond fantastically. Plenty of women have surrogates carry their children, and they bond perfectly well. I want you to know that "enjoyment" is not necessary in pregnancy, and telling someone with a difficult pregnancy history to "enjoy" their pregnancy is adding that tiny bit of stress and emotionality that could be the straw that breaks the camel's back.

I want you to know that I woke up multiple times every night during my subsequent pregnancies to feel the baby kick. I want you to know that I visited the doctor daily for testing. I want you to know that I injected myself twice a day with drugs to keep my blood thin enough to sustain my pregnancy. I want you to know that I quit doing most of the activities I loved - exercise, sex, travel - in an effort to have no regrets if I lost this baby too. I want you to know that I woke up every morning wondering if my baby were still alive, waiting, waiting to feel a kick. I want you to know this wore me down, this broke my spirit. There was no time I could rest and enjoy being pregnant. There was no time I felt safe.

I want you to know that it's hard for me to listen to and participate in all the pregnancy talk at baby showers and moms groups. You don't want to hear my labor stories - 18 hours in labor to deliver my dead son - put under general anesthesia to deliver my daughter, only to not hold her for days while she's in her isolette in the NICU. My history frightens you. And that fear keeps my mouth clamped shut tight and keeps me forever separated from you. I want you to know that I'm tired of answering the questions "What did you do wrong?" I did nothing wrong, and what happened to me can happen to you. I hope to god it never does, but I am not special in any way.

I want you to know that my last pregnancy ended well, with the live birth of my daughter at 36 weeks.. I want you to know that the dread, the fear, the stress, that made my life hell, that made me a terrible mother to my living child, that made me a terrible spouse to my husband, that made me a complete bitch to my neighbors and friends, is gone. I want you to know that horrible burden is not forever, and if you are a mother who has lost a baby, you can make it through another pregnancy if you choose that as your path. I want you to know that there will never be guarantees - many women are put through the hell of loss many times - but that you are strong enough to try again for a new dream and there are women who have done it before who can help carry you through it.

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