Following the loss of our first daughter at three days old, I put myself under a lot of pressure to recover quickly, magically, unscathed.
Our daughter was diagnosed with Trisomy 18 at 20 weeks gestation, and it was unlikely that she would survive until birth or pass soon after that.
After the initial fallout of a ‘normal’ pregnancy loss, I was determined to get through this, to learn, to thrive even, in these terrible circumstances. It’s in my nature.
But following her death, I felt much worse than I thought I would. We knew we weren’t going to bring this baby home from the hospital. We knew that we wouldn’t get to watch her grow up, to teach her to swim, or to celebrate Christmases together as a family.
We knew this, and we were prepared.
I had researched baby loss, enrolled myself in therapy, and reached out to others who had suffered similar losses.
So why did this hurt so bad?
More research on depression and grief led to me pushing myself to be grateful. I wanted to look on the bright side of our experience and move through it as quickly as possible.
Comparing our story to others, I tried to force myself to appreciate what had happened.
At least we got to meet her.
At least we know exactly what caused her illness and that it is unlikely to happen in another pregnancy.
At least I can get pregnant.
At least we have a very supportive family.
At least we are of the middle class and have good insurance, so the loss of our baby did not cause a financial burden.
At least I have a loving husband.
At least I am relatively young at 27, and we can try again without much worry.
At least we didn’t have any issues of error in our medical care.
At least… at least… at least…
We were so lucky that these other things hadn’t happened to us or weren’t part of our circumstances.
Ah, but yes. We had lost a child. And as hard as I tried, you cannot ‘at least’ that away.
There are times I am still tempted to get on that ‘at least’ train. But after living with loss and lots of therapy, I’ve learned it is best to let it roll on by.
It is ok to be grateful for what I have AND mourn my daughter. One doesn’t take away from the other.
And sometimes it is ok not to look on the bright side and to sit in the dark depths of loss. Being sad doesn’t make you ungrateful. It makes you human.