Watching a friend experience the loss of their baby and the grief that remains can feel so helpless. Unfortunately, there isn’t a “one-size fits all” approach to support a grieving friend through loss, but there are many ways to be supportive. When my daughter died at 33-days-old, it was the first loss of this type…
A response to the #sogladtheytoldme initiative.
I recently participated in the #sogladtheytoldme movement lead by Stephanie Sprenger, a mom and fellow blogger, who started the campaign to raise awareness about the difficulties of transitioning into motherhood and the realities of postpartum depression among women in her blog post, I’m Glad Someone Told Me. It was written as a response to Jenny Studenroth Gerson’s blog post about her seemingly smooth transition into motherhood in, They Should’ve Warned Me.
I was moved by Sprenger’s article and initiative because I too suffered from postpartum anxiety and my transition into motherhood was anything but smooth, with my first daughter being stillborn at full-term. I thought, “What a great way to get my motherhood recognized and to be seen by other mothers.” So I shared this post:
Here is the sign I shared:
I got a lot of great feedback from other bereaved moms on my Instagram account @stillbreathinglindsey and then saw that Sprenger’s movement was featured in the Huffington Post in, 29 Meaningful Pieces of Advice for New Moms, with the signs of moms like me mentioned! I was crossing my fingers and was hoping that my sign was one of the twenty-nine.
Now I realize that I got the hashtag wrong, but I went in and fixed that. I even tagged Sprenger on Instagram with no reply (in her defense I don’t think she really uses Instagram) but I shared it on Facebook too. I couldn’t figure out why my sign wasn’t one of them.
But then I remembered…
I wasn’t really one of them. I wasn’t considered a, “New Mom” with this sign because my baby died, and it wasn’t until recently that I was included in the new mom conversations when my subsequent child was born.
But this masked look at motherhood infuriated me as I re-read Sprenger’s words in her first essay, “It’s about our culture’s absolute lack of support and understanding when it comes to the postpartum period,” and goes on to say later, “It is all of our responsibility to open our minds to the myriad of the postpartum women.”
I agree whole-heartedly with Sprenger’s words and message that is why I shared a sign. But one major part of the reality of the postpartum period is missing from this demonstration of solidarity and mother to mother love that the Huffington Post didn’t seem to include in their article 29 Meaningful Pieces of Advice for New Moms which is the mother who has experienced loss!
Where is the unity and battle cry that includes and supports the mom who has to wait for her milk to come in and dry up because there is no baby to feed? What about the mom who miscarries and experiences in silence postpartum depression because her motherhood and grief go unrecognized and unacknowledged. Where are the stories about me, women who are ushered into motherhood with the traumatic stillbirth of a baby? Women who still gave birth at any stage in pregnancy and now have to adjust to a postpartum period without a baby to hold? Where do we fit into this campaign? Aren’t we, after all, mothers too?
Did you know that, “all postpartum women are susceptible to postpartum depression, regardless of the pregnancy outcome,” according to Katherine Stone’s post How Many Women Get Postpartum Depression at her blog Postpartum Progress. Katherine goes on to report that, “There were approximately 4.3 million live births in the United States in 2007,” but according to the, “The National Vital Reports which indicate that the total number of clinically recognized pregnancies is around 6.4 million” (which includes fetal losses, miscarriages, and stillbirths). This means that 2.1 million women in the United States are not being recognized as “mothers” in this sector of motherhood; the ones that have experienced losses, according to recent research, are statistically at a higher risk to experience postpartum mood and anxiety disorders during their subsequent pregnancy and after giving birth to their next child.
So why isn’t the sign of the mom whose baby dies shown in this campaign? Where is our recognition of motherhood? Our struggles in the new days of motherhood might be different than yours, but we are still moms! We still go through the same biological and psychological changes as the mother whose baby lives. Yes, there is normal grief attached, which I might add is different than postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, but shouldn’t that grief along with our struggles and mental health be a part of the discussion too?
Maybe we are left out of these conversations because of the reason bereaved mothers are always left out of the discussion, because moms who haven’t experienced loss don’t want to catch the, “My child died bug.” It’s easier for people to pretend that child death and pregnancy loss happens to “other people” when in reality 1 out of 4 women will experience a miscarriage and 1 out of 200 pregnant women will experience a stillbirth. These statistics don’t even include SIDS, childhood diseases, or a death of a child due to preterm birth or other causes. I mean this is why people reacted to the Nationwide Super Bowl commercial with comments like, “It was a buzz kill.” With having an attitude from the public like this towards even broaching the subject of child death will forever leave the bereaved mother and father out of the conversations about new motherhood.
Sprenger says some powerful words in her original post, I’m Glad Someone Told Me that I whole-heartedly agree with and can get behind. She goes on to say, “I believe that ALL mothers, regardless of how smoothly or horrifically their transition to motherhood unrolled should be a part of changing the culture of the dialogue about new motherhood.” Agreed! Now what I’m saying today is that I want to be a part of that conversation but, as a woman ushered into motherhood for the first time as a bereaved mother, I seem to be left out.
Don’t get me wrong I love Sprenger’s #sogladtheytoldme campaign, I just wish I could be a part of it.
So since we aren’t recognized there, here is what I would include in the conversation of, “I’m so glad a bereaved mother told me,” #Sogladabereavedmothertoldme until the bereaved mother’s voice is included in the original discussion:
You’re still a mom even if your baby dies.
Grief is a symptom of love. ~Beth Morey
That I didn’t ask for this and it wasn’t anything I did wrong.
That I will grieve for as long as I need to grieve.
That he is loved as though he lived. ~Helen Louise
There are others who have walked this journey before me and they can provide support.
It takes invincible strength to mother a child you can no longer hold, see, touch, or hear. ~Angela Miller
You are not alone.
For all my bereaved mamas out there, what are you, “So glad a bereaved mom told you?”#sogladabereavedmomtoldyou