There was a moment while waiting to hear the news of my son Lennon’s fate, that to me, perfectly sums up what it means to be a loss mom.
As I lay in the far too quiet triage room, watching my OB/GYN meticulously gliding the wand of the ultrasound machine over my nearly thirty-two-week pregnant belly, I could hear, clear as day, the steady heartbeat of the baby’s monitor in the next room.
My room was so quiet, not a word was spoken, not a rhythm could be heard from my machine but all the while the steady drumming of a healthy pregnancy next door was a
I wish no ill will towards anyone, ever.
That it wasn’t my sweet boy’s heartbeat upsetting some other unlucky soul.
That it hadn’t been my nurse who was able to effortlessly find what I so desperately wanted to see on the screen in front of me.
His still frame was all I could see. I knew in my heart my Lennon had passed away, but my head waited for the words to believe that this wasn’t all some nightmare that I would wake from shortly.
I hear all too often: “I could never do that” when discussing delivering my stillborn son.
The truth is it isn’t a choice one makes. When you’re faced with that exact reality, you realize all the decisions have already been made for you, and all that’s left to do is live within the new reality.
You think it’s an impossible feat; the truth is – it is.
Somehow, you take your next breath.
Somehow, life carries on.
No one gets pregnant saying, “You know, if my baby passes away right before delivery, I think I can handle that…”
We are all just doing the best we can.
Sometimes, you can spread love in your child’s name. Other days, you resent the fact that it wasn’t you listening to the steady beat of your child’s heart.
Always wishing you could hear that sound just one last time.
Unless you have lived through a similar experience for yourself, finding the right words, offering the right kind of support may feel uncomfortable or overwhelming.
Trying to completely understand something as life-altering as losing your child when you either have never had a child or are blessed enough to be able to hold all your living children in your arms is not something that loss parents expect of you, however.
They expect to have their pain heard, have their child’s name remembered and never, ever feel as if their grief is misplaced or past its expiration.
No person wants to live through the pain of living after their child passes. If it makes you uncomfortable to even fathom being made to deliver your child silently, then remember that the woman you’re talking to has.
She has lived through your worst nightmare (and hers) and your words while discussing her child matter more than you can know.
Remember that her feelings are not something to fix. She is sharing her heart with you in aims of compassion, love, understanding. She is hoping for a lifeline from a sympathetic ear, not a shiny gold hammer from Fix It Felix Jr.
Saying words like “I can’t imagine” or “at least” tend to alienate a grieving mom. Instead, listen with patience, maybe even hug her and be sure she knows that you will always be there to listen when she needs it.
Say her child’s name.
Speak it without fear of her shedding tears.
There may be moments when she cries, but she will always be grateful that she was not alone thinking about the child she lost.
Remember that grief doesn’t just end, care for her when you think she probably is “over it.” Loss parents move forward, living happy, beautiful, meaning-filled lives, but they never move on from the child/ren they have had to say goodbye too.
Be sure to remember anniversaries and try not to act too harshly if their emotions don’t resemble whatever preconceptions you may have for that day. Grief is hard and unpredictable, and there will never be a “good” way to do it.
Lastly, remember that she didn’t choose this. She chose to love her child, to care, and cherish her baby.
The heartache she feels shows her strength, her resilience, her desire to stay standing despite having her world shattered.
Pity should never be a word you should feel when you speak to her, but rather awe that she has lived through the worst of it and still, somehow, wears a smile.
Certain moments in life define who we are. We may wish we could trade them in, call a mulligan, and start fresh, or be the mom in the other room.
Yet, those who face these moments carry the burden of a lifetime left unlived while also facing the undue judgments of society as a whole.
Should she be smiling? Her baby just died?
Why hasn’t she moved on already?
She isn’t handling the loss well. Why is she acknowledging the birthdays of a child who has passed away?
The list goes on.
Many of us are made to feel like we have to carry that quiet room with us. Quietly grieving as we proverbially listen to the next parents’ baby’s heartbeat, living close to the joy without being able to take part fully.
Help us to break that silence, be the bridge that connects us little by little to a world that accepts us and our experiences and our loss.
I hope that maybe one day, no one will know what it feels like to sit in that quiet room.
Until then, I hope no mama feels the need to stay silent.
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.