Mothering While Grieving

If you’re a mother to a living child(ren), you already know being a mother is no walk in the park, and if you reading this as a support person or mom in waiting (praying or pregnant), I’m sure you’ve heard a mom say that before. I had no idea what I was getting myself into at 21, but I know for sure I thought majority of the journey would be filled with laughter, matching outfits, extracurricular activities, vacations, etc. I soon learned those experiences are moments that take place throughout a very challenging journey. Sleep becomes a thing of the past, blowouts, tantrums, screaming, tears, urgent care visits traumatize you because of wait times, cooties spread like wildfire, matching outfits get destroyed the moment you leave the house, vacations can feel like work when traveling with multiple kids, etc. Nevertheless, those tough moments are nothing in comparison to grieving and healing while being a mother.

The day my son passed was traumatic in so many ways. I remember letting out a horrific scream with tears that followed. I whaled at the sight of him because I still had an inkling of hope that he’d live. My children and mother ran to the bathroom and knocked on the door. I muffled my cry to reassure them I was okay so they’d walk away and allow my mother to come in and help me. I sobbed in the bathroom while I went back and forth whether I would flush him down the toilet or toss him in the trash. I did neither of those and spent enough time in the bathroom to gather myself so my children would leave me alone when I walked to my room.

I was in so much pain mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. I felt empty physically and emotionally. I was embarrassed, ashamed, confused, in disbelief, and traumatized. But I had to continue mothering my living children while going through all of this. Truth of the matter is I couldn’t the first week. I couldn’t mother my children initially. I couldn’t smile, laugh, or talk. I couldn’t fake or hide my pain. I told them “Mommy isn’t feeling well, my stomach is hurting really bad.” I’d literally took my husband back to work two days before our loss happened. As he was making his way back to our side of the country, my mother took care of my daughters and I. I didn’t realize until I began writing this… both my mother and I were mothering while grieving.

My mother was grieving watching me go through a pain she’d never seen me experience or experience herself. She was also traumatized and in pain from witnessing and experiencing the loss of her grandchild. As I write this, my heart truly breaks for her. She was my strength while I waited for my husband. She continued to work her full-time government job at the peak of the pandemic, cooked, cleaned, and kept my girls occupied. She would keep them away as long as she could, and then they’d all come in the room to eat and watch TV with me for a little. She mothered me in a way that I can’t even put my gratitude in words. Thank you Mommy.

When my stomach no longer hurt, but the mental and emotional pain remained, I told them, “Mommy is really sad and will be for a long time so please be patient with me. I’ll tell you why when I’m able to.” It was the start of my journey in mothering my living children and my precious child in heaven. Nothing can prepare you for such a time. Attending therapy on a computer sobbing next door to your children screaming because of a pandemic is exhausting. Pausing your tears for your deceased child to cater to your 2 year old is soul crushing. So much to talk about in future posts…

Dear TJ,

I was never embarrassed or ashamed of you. I was embarrassed because I felt like I failed you. I had given life to your sisters but not you. I was ashamed because I couldn’t understand why my body didn’t do what it was supposed to do. But I’m much better baby. You and I did EXACTLY what we were supposed to do.

Love,

Mommy…

Your Grief Is Not Mine

One of the biggest roadblocks I’ve had throughout my grief journey is feeling like my grief was “too much” or “unwarranted.” I’ve seen the baby loss community be silenced so many times on social media when users felt the grieving mother was oversharing. I’ve read how so many women felt trapped in their thoughts and feelings because the topic of miscarriage and pregnancy loss was taboo in their communities. In my personal experience, I’ve seen how some of the faces of people I’ve shared with turned flushed the moment I spoke about my loss and who my angel baby is. Can we blame them though? Hearing such a sad story about a painful experience someone has had will never feel good. I’ve also found myself comparing my grief to other women who’ve experienced a miscarriage and/or pregnancy loss. In the process I find myself shrinking my baby and experience because I’ve convinced myself that I made a big deal out of nothing. “I didn’t make it full term, so why cry a year later?” “This other woman suffered a miscarriage as well and appears to have moved on, you need to do the same.”

What I’ve learned through therapy (and what I keep telling myself) is that grief should not be compared. I’ve told myself several times that is a simple concept that should be understood, but my mind forgets it when I allow insecurity to set in. My husband made an excellent point one day I was feeling a little down. “Would you expect a person who lost their father when they were two months old not to grieve their deceased father just because they didn’t lose them at 35 years old?” Do you have to have someone in your life long in order for you to feel the pain of losing them? That’s not fair. He said, “It’s not fair to put that sort of restriction on yourself.”

The fact of the matter is that all of our grief is different. We’ve all lost our babies in different ways, and we are all different people. The grieving experience may be similar, but definitely won’t be the same. Family members will grieve loved ones differently, and strangers will grieve their deceased babies differently. Some women will not be deeply saddened by losing their babies, and that is OKAY. It shouldn’t be frowned upon. Some women will grieve their angel babies for the rest of their lives, and that’s okay too. Your grief is your grief, and the important thing is to make sure that you’re healthy mentally, physically, and emotionally. Grief is an ongoing cycle and has no destination. Grieving doesn’t mean being in a deep depression the entire time, but you may feel it from time to time depending on the season.

It’s so important to give yourself grace and to take it one second at a time.

Dear TJ,

The sun has been shining bright, and you have been shining bright in the night skies. These have been some of my better days, and I’m so grateful. I love you baby!

Love,

Mommy…

Would You Do It All Over Again?

If I were asked the question, “Would you do it all over again?”, I wouldn’t. If I had a time machine, I’d never choose to go down the path of losing my baby again. I struggled with this answer for so long because, for a while, my answer would have been yes. I didn’t find out I was pregnant until I was about 8 or 9 weeks along. I was pretty in denial before caving in and taking a test because all of the symptoms I was experiencing were synonymous with PMS. Strangely, it felt like I was pregnant for a short and long time, at the same time. The days were long, but the weeks were short. It felt like as soon as I’d learned and accepted that we would be having our third child, he was leaving. Early in my grieving, I would choose to do it again just so that I could embrace and love my baby sooner. So that I would have technically had a longer time with him. Although I lost him at 11 weeks and 2 days, I had only known about him for close to 4 weeks. 2 out of those 4 weeks were spent worrying if he was ok because of the bleeding. At the time of my loss, the world had just shut down a month earlier (OB/GYN appointments were spaced out and moving to Telehealth), and the emergency rooms were filled with sick and dying people due to Covid. So I stayed home as long as I could in hopes that I’d make it to my first in-person appointment.

Now, the feeling of wanting to do it all over again visits for a few seconds, but then it’s quickly removed when I remember everything that took place after. If I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t. However, part of my heart breaks saying that. It feels like I’m saying I wish my baby never existed. It feels like I’m saying my baby brought me pain. It feels like I’m saying that I would have been fine if I had never been pregnant with him. I often let those thoughts consume me so let me speak the truth instead of letting my emotions marinate on lies. Although my loss pains me, I’m so glad my baby existed. The truth is that I do wish I’d been pregnant with him, but I wish I’d been able to hold him in my arms and watch him grow. But if I knew my baby wouldn’t live, I wouldn’t do it again.

The pain of losing a child is one that I will never be able to put into words. The heartache you feel. The darkness you feel surrounds you. The sunken place you feel yourself crying and screaming to get out of, but no one can save you… It’s by far the hardest thing I’ve gone through thus far. It doesn’t matter what gestational age your baby was when they died… it crushes you and leaves you with so many questions and pieces to pick up.

But… What if I didn’t experience losing this baby? Would I have continued to push the date back to start therapy? Would I have ever truly allowed my husband to care for me the way he did and still does? How long would it have taken for me to truly work on finding my purpose and pursuing it? Losing my baby has changed me in a painful way, but it has also blessed me. And that breaks the other part of my heart to say. It feels sick to speak on some of the good things that came out of his death. I try to remind myself of my therapist’s words, “There is duality in grief.” “You can feel both heartbroken, but happy at the same time.”

To me. To other moms of babies who aren’t with them physically… Take your time. The journey of grieving and healing after loss is not linear.

Dear TJ,

“You mean the world to me. You are my everything. I swear the only thing that matters to me…” Is making sure that I honor you forever!

Love,

Mommy