I do not remember much in the two days that whirled between finding out there was no heartbeat and being painfully deep into stillbirth labor when he should have been alive. To go from carrying a squirmy baby in my belly to 48 hours later, being induced into nightmare left me anything but full of life.
What I do remember is riddling with the idea of announcing it, or not announcing it, on social media. I chose quickly to announce it, just hours after we left the hospital, only because I knew I could not mentally bear the questions of why I no longer had a round belly or why I, in the weeks to come, would drop off the face of the Earth for a while.
From the moments I announced to about 2 weeks after it happened literally took my breath away. The outpouring of support was like nothing I had ever witnessed or been a part of.
I had friends and family following my birth on a private page, I had hundreds of people changing their pictures to elephants in support of my loss (when an elephant loses its baby in childbirth, the herd wraps around the mother and baby for days while the mother mourns), and I had meals upon meals being sent to my husband and me for 10 days straight.
We had calls, texts, messages, blankets, gifts, flowers, and everything in between. We were numb to the pain at times due to the love that embraced us. Some knew what to say, some didn’t, but love met us right where we had fallen on our knees.
I kept telling myself in the weeks to come that the pain would get easier as I echoed everyone else telling me the same thing. I self-talked myself like crazy, verbally saying out loud if I could get through this day, the next day would be easier.
But it wasn’t. The mesh underwear still had to be changed, the scars of childbirth still hurt and my milk came in exactly one week later. My body was telling me I needed to take care of the baby even though my heart knew nothing was there.
Related: Postpartum Recovery After Loss
That part, the nooks, and crannies that no one thinks or talks about, nearly killed me. I remember asking any and everyone if they knew anything about stopping milk from being produced. It trickled down my belly in the shower and I screamed for my baby to be back with me.
There are so many things that are dealt with after the initial, physical loss happens and the outpouring of love trickles to a slow drip. Hair loss, postpartum anxiety, night sweats, nightmares, what-ifs, and uncertain plans of the future are all part of the grief months and even years after the loss.
I didn’t reply to baby shower invites, cried all of the way home when a baby shower happened at my job shortly after. I remember begging God for my period to come back so I knew we could try again, even though I wanted no other baby but him.
In all honesty, I just begged for an ounce of normal.
Grief does not get better with time when you lose a child because we are daily reminded, like a smack in the face, of what their life could have been. Our family tree is broken through every branch in the swaying wind of grief. I promise you it doesn’t get easier, we just become better actors to get through our days.
Co-workers and family can see me with a smiling face when all I want to do is scream on the inside and curl up in a ball some days. I long for normal again, I still blame myself, and I cry at pregnancy announcements. We, as a body of grief-stricken parents, shut down no matter how long it has been or how hard we try. Normal is no longer something we can ever be.
Our grief is like a nuclear bomb, sending waves of emotions through our entire life, with the smoke never clearing.
If I can give advice to anyone that wants to help a parent through the loss of a child it is this: Give them grace 6 months, 5 years, or even a decade later. Our hearts are forever learning to walk again through this dust storm.
Ask us how we are doing, remember their birth date with a cake, and mention their name.
If I can tell you anything, please remember their name.
Photo credit: Author’s own
About the Author: Heather is a wife, a teacher, and a mother of one miracle and 7 angels. She has gone through infertility, endometriosis, ovarian dysfunction, miscarriage and stillbirth. She loves to write and is devoted to helping others no matter where life may take them.