I remember talking to an acquaintance, a friend of my husband’s, after our second 2nd trimester loss. I mentioned something about preferring this hospital over the one where we delivered our first still child, and she snapped her head up at me, gobsmacked.
“Hospital?” She was fully confused. “What do you mean?”
That was when I realized why so many people have a hard time ‘getting’ the grief that follows pregnancy loss.
They don’t ‘get’ the pregnancy loss in the first place.
I’m not sure how, or why, but it seems to surprise a weirdly large amount of people to learn that I delivered my 18, 20, and 27 weeks-old babies, in hospitals, with doctors and nurses.
That I received pitocin. That I labored and was given pain medication for contractions.
That I held my babies in my arms.
That I organized cremations, burials, and funerals for them.
That I named them.
That I loved them, and still love them, exactly the same as I love my two surviving sons.
I guess I’ve been on the other side of loss too long to remember the ignorance of not needing to know.
I can’t imagine a space anymore where I wouldn’t know how much goes into a pregnancy loss, and how much goes into grieving it.
But for those who do not know…
It is not just a death but also a birth.
We deliver these babies into the world, through sweat and tears, in the same labor and delivery wing where you birthed your own children, under the guidance of nurses timing our pushes.
It is not just a ‘loss’ but also a baby.
This sounds like such an oversimplified statement, and yet I have often felt like my pregnancy loss is treated more like an event that has just kind of happened to me rather than as a human child I brought into the world with my own body and soul.
You cannot leave the hospital without your child. Legally. This is not a personal decision.
You must organize to have your child’s remains handled, either via cremation, autopsy, or burial before you are allowed to be discharged.
And you do this from your hospital bed. In the labor and delivery wing.
While outside your hospital door, all you hear is laughter and newborn cries and happy visitors passing up and down.
Sound torturous? It is!
Your body still produces milk, still bleeds; episiotomies still exist and C-section recovery is still sometimes a reality.
I had a former employer ask – in all real and true sincerity – why I needed more than a day off to recover from my almost seven months along pregnancy loss.
There was some sort of misconception that I had just dispelled a bit of tissue over the course of twenty minutes and should be back at it like nothing had happened.
The emotional impact and very real need for mental recovery not even withstanding; the physical recovery alone, she honestly had no comprehension of.
But she is not alone.
I don’t think enough people really know, or even seek to know, what a stillbirth is physically like.
It’s like every horrible part of delivery without any of the euphoria; every difficult milestone of recovery without any of the joy.
And not just done in the mere absence of euphoria and joy, but under the crushing weight of all-consuming, inescapable despair.
This is what it’s like.
This is what we live through.
This is why it’s so hard.
This is why I talk about it; so they can learn.
Learn, listen, and stop being so damn surprised.