Hindsight is 20/20
Honestly, a more true statement has yet to be said, even in grief. There are so many things I wish I knew when I was first starting on my grief journey, so many things that could have helped me maneuver while I was lost in my feelings.
Here are four things I wish I would have known in the hours and days after the stillbirth of my third son, Lennon.
1. You can spend all the time you need with your little one at the hospital.
A lot of hospitals today are equipped with cuddle cots to keep baby warm while you send time parenting your sweet little one, having family meet your baby and also to say your goodbyes in a way that doesn’t feel rushed.
I regret not being aware of the options I had for my time with my son. Although everyone around me wanted so much to support me in saying goodbye to my son, the focus was on just that – saying goodbye.
It was difficult because when I held my son for the first time, I was very medicated. I was barely able to keep my eyes open. I wanted to take time, memorize his perfect features and lovingly say goodbye, but that’s hard to do ten minutes out of a cesarean.
The entire time, I was rushed. As soon as he left me, I felt immediate regret and asked for my baby back, but my poor husband could no longer emotionally see our son, lying completely still.
The next day, when I was of sound mind, I asked for my son back. I was able to hold him and say the goodbye I needed to be okay. My husband was grateful for the time as well as we were able to sing him our goodnight songs that we sing to our older children before bed each night.
As a general piece of advice to any new loss mom, you will never regret spending that time with your baby. There are options (like cuddle cots) available, and you should take advantage of them if at all possible.
2. Yes, breast milk still comes in.
Looking back now, logically, it makes sense that my milk would arrive shortly after my son was born. My body was unaware that he was born still, it only knew that it had carried this little life, and its next job was to nourish that life.
In the moments after finding out my son had passed away and in me saying hello and goodbye to him, logic escaped me. I have never felt more betrayed by my body as the moment I realized my milk had come in.
Once the initial shock subsided, I quickly turned to anger.
How could this be? How could my milk be here? How could my sweet boy not be?
I was completely and utterly crushed.
I was told that I could donate my milk, but after some thought, I realized that I couldn’t do that selfless act. I needed the milk to leave me and do so quickly.
Some women may know that milk will naturally arrive as early as twenty weeks, even if your sweet little one passes. I do wish, though, that my doctor warned me at some point to ease the sting of the shock.
When you are lost in grief, the last thing you need is to be caught off guard with something that is so closely tied to what should have been for the care of your baby.
3. Grief is anything but predictable.
Controlling is a word that some would describe me as. My need to control didn’t end with grief. I assumed grief followed certain steps – was linear in nature.
In the beginning, I would get so frustrated if I had a relatively good day only to crumble by the end of it. When I was a pile of tears on the floor, I saw it as a step back, as some failure of mine.
With time, patience from all around me, and group therapy, Slowly, I learned that there is no right way to grieve.
Each loss is unique, and each person’s expression of that loss is too, and there is no wrong way to maneuver grief. Letting go just happened to be part of mine.
Letting go and accepting wherever the day led me emotionally.
Happiness often mixed with sadness, sorrow with joy, and it was all okay. Just remember that at the beginning (and maybe even years later), it will be miraculous to get out of bed; other times, you will be productive and joyful and quite possibly almost like the you before you lived through loss.
Be patient with yourself, be gentle and allow yourself some grace.
4. Recreating boundaries after loss.
This seems like a sad thing to have to in include in this list. After all, when you are newly in grief, one would assume everyone that loves and cares for them will be positive support in the journey through loss.
The truth is, many people were a positive part of your life before loss that will make you miserable in the after.
There will be people who always say the wrong things, who will refuse to acknowledge that the loss happened, who will wonder when you will move past the sadness already.
Those people may listen if you tell them how you feel, or they may not. Either way, creating firm boundaries with old acquaintances or family members will save you so many headaches and a lot of heartaches.
This list is not all-encompassing, I know. I assume right now you’re thinking of a time you said to yourself, “If only I knew…”
I hope that with this list and word of mouth, we all can help each other out. Providing resources, knowledge, and support to any parent who is newly grieving.
We all are aware of the fact that grief, in the beginning, is about taking things one moment at a time, one breath.
Maybe, in time our “If only” moments can be another person’s, “I’m so glad I knew…”
Morgan McLaverty, a world traveler that has taken roots in southern New Jersey where her husband Sean was born and raised. Now, a stay at home mother, she cares for her three living boys; Gavin Cole(5), Rowan Grey(3) and Holden Nash (1). She also is a mother to Lennon Rhys. Lennon was born still at thirty one weeks and five days. His loss spurred on a need in Morgan to write her feelings, share her grief and help others in the process. She hopes her words will help shed the silence and taboo nature of discussing pregnancy and child loss.