Updated: Oct 26, 2020
This month was deemed Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month in 1988 recognizing the unique grief of bereaved parents in an effort to demonstrate support to the many families who have suffered such a tragic loss of life. 1 in 4 couples experience pregnancy and infant loss. Although this is the month to celebrate those who have experienced pregnancy and infant lost either before, during, or after the pregnancy was considered to be termed, the reality is the effect of the loss doesn’t end there. It can seem like every moment, of every day, of every month strikes a thought, feeling, or evokes emotion that doesn’t feel like much of a celebration, when you have lost the life you created. If I am being honest, many men and women simply wanted to cultivate a lifetime of memories. They weren’t just planning for a child but for the opportunity to watch their child develop through the stages of life. Oh yeah, Hi, my name is Ashley Thomas, PLMSW, with You Matter Therapy Solutions. I haven’t discussed this issue publicly because of the shame I felt after losing my unborn child, especially after being able to have a previous successful pregnancy. Now sure this wasn’t my first pregnancy, but it resonated differently this time. When my husband and I discharged from the hospital, we left empty with no baby to place in a car seat. We left with unanswered questions and disappointment in the same God we needed to pull us through the confusion testing our Faith. That’s it! In that moment, it was like a slap in the face. Like many of you, I felt like a disappointment, a failure, and immensely insecure! July 15th on my husband’s birthday, we were a little over one month pregnant and as we transitioned into the second month we felt the weight of carrying a child we would never see. I was carrying an ectopic pregnancy. At two months and one week, I said goodbye to our child. Although the pregnancy was over, the pain in my heart, and the failure affecting my psyche followed me home. I’ve heard people say, since the fetus wasn’t born and developed into a living and breathing human, it should be easy to get over it. I disagree, because this unborn fetus, in my mind, was our child. If I’m being honest there is a small truth in the need to move past the loss, but you have to take it one step at a time and deal with it on your own terms.
So, where are you now? That’s a real question.
We need not be passive or dishonest with ourselves about our feelings to appease others who think we aren’t moving on fast enough. Death is never easy. The death of a baby either via preterm miscarriage, stillbirth or during infancy is absolutely no exception. There may be an instance your grief is triggered when you encounter another woman happily nurturing her newborn. It’s ok to feel overwhelmed. It’s ok to have emotional pain. We should choose not to be like Elsa in the Disney movie, Frozen. Let’s feel our Emotions and not conceal them. Be different. Don’t Minimize the Loss If you are like me and have experienced an ectopic pregnancy, you may have felt weighted by the decision to choose your life over that of your child’s. You may attempt to conceal the weight you are carrying, displacing the shame in an effort to decrease overwhelming feelings. Like a double-edge sword shrouded in shame. I chose to receive Chemotherapy injections to end my pregnancy to save my life. However, I had to look to my strengths. I have a husband and two children who need me. I also had to acknowledge the fact we could always try again for a healthier pregnancy. That chance provided me with hope. Even as I pulled from my coping skills to move forward, I had moments of reflection, was it just as hard to say goodbye because I never had the chance to say hello? It is appropriate to grieve and acknowledge what happened to you and your family. Take time to process your loss, grief has no temporal limitations. You may even encounter various stages of grief. This is your story, this was your baby, grieve properly in your own way. What I Learned Through My Journey of Loss • Sometimes you have to let the storm pass before you see the rainbow. • Give yourself permission to feel every emotion, its ok to not be ok! • Take time to rest and recover. • Celebrate every moment of healing, no matter how small the success. • Don’t expect everyone to understand your experience. • Know that you aren’t alone in this battle. Take advantage of any available support systems. Whether your spouse/significant other, a support group, spiritual leader, or a therapist to help you process your feelings. • We should be mindful that everyone’s grief is unique to them. For example, though your significant other may share this experience with you, they may process their emotions differently. We at You Matter Therapy Solutions are here for you and with you!
If during your grieving process, you notice severe symptoms such as worsening depression and/or suicidal ideations, please contact either your healthcare provider, the local crisis hotline, the local police station or the national suicide crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255.