10 Things to Expect When You Experience a Pregnancy Loss or Infant Loss
If you are reading this post and experienced a pregnancy or infant loss, I would just like to say “I’m sorry for your loss”. I understand because I have been there too. My hubby and I, loss our baby Sofia Valentina Aguilar on March 6, 2018 at only 19 weeks pregnant. I went into preterm labor and my baby was unable to survive on her own after I delivered. We have also survived 2 miscarriages in the past 8 years. Sofia living till 19 weeks was the farthest we got in a pregnancy, her passing left an emptiness in our hearts and hands. There were many events, thoughts, and questions I had after her death which I didn’t have too many answers for at the time. Hubby and I recently celebrate Sofia’s one year anniversary and now I can say I have some answers. In this post, I hope to share what I learned, so you know what to expect as a new #angelmom and #angeldad. I will start from the very beginning, trying to comprehend how to come to terms with your new life, without a baby...
1. ”I don’t know how I am going to survive this” thoughts.
Unfortunately, I said these exact same words when I experienced the loss of my Sofia last year (Read more about My Story). I remember getting home from the hospital, heart broken and achy, slowly mustering up enough energy to take a shower. While I stood there, letting the water run over my exhausted body. I wept and spoke to God about my life and what happened. I questioned “how am I going to survive this?” I begged God to help me because I didn’t know what to do. #AngelMom Confession: I would be lying if I said, I wasn’t angry at God because I was. But I also knew this anger was coming from my hurt. I knew deep inside, I needed his help to get through this. So I prayed. I prayed a lot. I asked God to help me with my anger, to forgive me for it and help heal my broken heart. I implored God to help me see hope when all I felt was loss and an emptiness nothing could fill. I knew he was the only one that could help me manage this level of hurt.
TIP: Pray to God, hold on to your faith, even if you are angry. God understands you are hurt. There are experiences in life we are not prepared for but our faith in God will pull us through. You don’t need to know how but that you will survive. Also, if you believe in the Virgin Mary, pray to her. She understands your plight, as she lost her son so our sins could be forgiven. She understands your pain and feelings of child loss.
2. Depression, up and down days.
From the day you become #angelparents to an #angelbaby the hurt will be very difficult to understand, let alone manage. The days following your loss as to be expected parents will go through the stages of grief, becoming very vulnerable to depression. I experienced strong symptoms of depression and was unable to return to work for sometime. In the first month, I felt extremely tired, uninterested in everything that once brought me joy, wanted to wear black all the time, didn’t do my hair or makeup, low energy, some confusion, very forgetful and had a difficult time concentrating. On an up day I was able to get up, shower and not cry. On down days, I didn't even want to get out of bed. As the months past, I started having more good days than the bad ones. My hubby went to work two weeks after Sofia’s funeral, he had ups and downs too. On his good days, he would go to work and come back home, encourage me even to get back to our regular routine. On bad days, he would come home and just hug me, while we wept for our #angelbaby. My hubby and I would express our feelings when we felt them. The mutual support definitely helped us get through the hurt.
TIP: Be patient with yourself and your feelings. As time passes, the hurt will become more manageable. I don’t think you forget or stop feeling loss because you love your baby. This loss just becomes easier to manage as well. Speak to your wife, husband, family, friend, or online support websites like PALS, HopeMommies and TheMiscarriageAssociation about how you are feeling. Join a support group in your area, so you don’t feel alone. If you become severely depressed make sure to get professional help with a doctor experienced in grief and loss.
3. People may ignore your grief.
I found that to some friends and family didn’t know how to react to the loss because it was such a shock. People just assume when you get pregnant you will have a healthy living baby when this happy ending is not always the case. This shock causes people to not know what to do or say, so people may ignore you for a while. I know this sounds bad but I think it’s actually a way to give parents space and time to process their pain. A baby loss is so tragic and many people just don’t know how to react. In my experience, my hubby and sister sent out a text message for the funeral arrangements. Some people who I thought would be present at the funeral, were not. Didn't reply to text or call or anything. I felt hurt at the time but later realized not everyone's the same and we all process loss differently. I may never know why they didn’t attend, but it doesn’t mean they don’t care. Sometimes a few week or months later, I received a phone call or text from those same people sending their condolences.
TIP: As a grieving parent, you are hurt and may take offense from people’s inaction but remember we all process loss differently. A baby loss is a shock and tragic, don’t assume people don’t care because you don’t hear from them. They may just know what to say or reach out at a later time.
4. People who are trying to help but say all the wrong things.
You may face this a little or a lot. Hubby and I didn’t really have too many “OMG, I can’t believe she/he just said that”. However, BE AWARE SOMETIMES FAMILY, FRIENDS, STRANGERS WILL SAY WEIRD THINGS THAT DON’T HELP. Many times, people mean well, trying to console you end up insulting you, minimizing the experience or saying some fucked up SH*T.. Some examples are:
- You're young, you will have another baby. (So we should just forget about the baby loss, No! The baby loss is still your child and will not be replaced by a new baby)
- You gotta stop doing this or that the next time you're pregnant. (Making it seem like it was your fault. There is no way to prevent a baby loss.)
- It was for the best. (This is painful to hear, especially because it was your baby, how was this loss for the best of anything.)
- This happened for a reason. (People mean well, especially if they have a strong faith but hearing this too soon can be difficult. Overtime it has been easier to trust in God’s plan, accepting his will but this was very difficult to hear the first few months after my loss.)
TIP: Although something someone says may make you upset. ITS OKAY, JUST BREATHE. Many people mean well and are trying to comfort you. If what they are saying makes you uncomfortable then just end the conversation and speak to them at a later time. We can’t control what people are going to say but we can control how we react.
5. Learn About Other Couple’s Experiences
I enjoyed learning and reading about other couple’s experiences. Whether the cause of loss was preterm labor, stillbirth, or miscarriage etc...I felt doing this helped me process the emotions I was feeling about my baby loss. It made me feel I was not alone. I especially like watching videos online of parents expressing different ways they coped as a family. It gave me ideas on ways to cope myself. The MiscarriageAssociation, has good interviews with parents who experienced miscarriage or pregnancy loss, which I found very inspiring. Check out videos here.
TIP: You are not alone. There are many couples out there that have gone through the same or similar experience. I believe we can learn from each other and support one another, especially through loss.
6. Join a club, no one wants to join but helps tremendously.
When I started my blog, I was pleasantly surprised to see so many organization like PALS, HopeMommies or personal IG or FB pages (Check who I follow on Instagram) pages offering support to women and parents who experience pregnancy loss. Make sure to like, follow or join a support group in-person or online. Go as a couple or if hubby is not ready grab a friend or sister, brother and ask them to come with. I went to a bereavement group about a year after Sofia’s loss and I am so glad I did. I went with a friend who also experienced a baby loss because I felt less anxious going with her. It was such a release because each couple was speaking about how I felt, the emotions I had experienced. I felt free to say things that only they would understand. I didn’t feel judged, I felt supported. No matter how crazy it was.
TIP: Talk to people about your experience when you are ready. It took me a year to be ready to join a support group. I know a couple who within the first month of their infant loss, were at a support group. Everyone has different ways of processing their grief. Join online FB/IG pages which offer lots of support so you don’t feel like you must go through this baby loss experience alone.
7. More doctor visits and therapy.
After my baby loss, hubby and I saw my OBGYN to ensure my body was getting back to normal. I love my OBGYN, he was very sympathetic and understanding through the whole process. He worked with my high risk doctors to determine the cause for going into preterm labor so early in my pregnancy. They determined the fibroids in my uterus caused me to go into early labor, so I would need to get a myomectomy (fibroid removal surgery) which should improve my chances significantly of going full term during my next pregnancy. I had the surgery in October 2018, which was successful. I am planning on see another high risk doctor too, for a second opinion. Parents, it's important that you understand why the loss occurred and if more testing needs to be done. Trust your gut, if you're unhappy with the current doctors or feel a change is needed, look for a second opinion. I know this can be difficult to deal with after your loss but take your time and when you're ready take the steps. Doing so may increase your chances of a successful future pregnancy. Remember to pray for heavenly guidance to help find a doctor that best fits your need. I also advise seeing a therapist that specializes in grief, they are better equipped to understand what you are going through as grieving parents.
TIP: I would recommend, when you are ready, to understand as best as possible, what caused the baby loss and decide what’s the next course of action when trying to get pregnant again. Get a second opinion, if you need one. Finally, find a form of therapy that is best for you or as a couple that helps cope with your loss. Join a support group or speak to a priest/pastor. I believe this is a form of therapy too.
8. Fear of future pregnancies
My hubby and I are planning to become pregnant again later this year, God willing. I can already feel my body tensing up and going into a sweat at the idea of being pregnant. When this happens, I pray. I ask God to remind me this is a different pregnancy, to keep my faith that everything, will be fine. If something occurs, I can get through it. To remind me to lean on his words “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength”(Philippians 4:13). I have done my best to get my body and mind healthy for a new pregnancy. I know I will still have that nagging thought “what if a loss happens again?” in the back of my head because of my previous three losses but I must hold onto hope. I know I have done everything in my power to increase my odds. Now, I just hold onto my faith and know my rainbow babies are coming. I’ve decided I will see a therapist too, to eliminate any anxieties hubby and I will deal with while pregnant. I suggest doing what you need to do, to help you along with the next pregnancy. For some, it maybe waiting a while after the loss to become pregnant, for others it maybe getting pregnant right away. Only you know what’s best for your family. Above all things pray and remember the new pregnancy is a different pregnancy.
TIP: Speak to your partner, to ensure you are both ready for a new pregnancy. See a therapist, priest/pastor, or anyone that can help calm any anxieties you may have during pregnancy. But most importantly, hold onto your faith and pray to God for your future baby and your well being as parents when pregnant again.
9. Gaining Hope and Strength
Dad by day you will gain hope, strength and the grief of your baby loss will get easier to manage. It may not feel like that at the beginning but it will. The feelings of emptiness and longing were the most difficult for me to deal with, when I felt this way, I would pray. I prayed that God help heal my heart and he did. I got an idea to start doing things that made me feel happy. When I was ready to start, I decided to take walks outside when I could, I bought flowers for myself to admire at home, I read poems and prayed daily. Taking these action, slowly helped me get through my pain the first months. I also started to see a therapist, which helped me weekly get through my rollercoaster of emotions and figure out how I was going to start on this new journey in life, without my Sofia. Then I got an idea to start a blog, so I started this blog, Bloom Where You Are Planted. This blog helped me cope with my loss. I felt better being able to help others in my same situation through my writing, the same way others helped me. Believe it or not, you will get strength from people you don’t even expect, which I believe is God giving you earth angels to help you on your journey.
I met my earth angel (who is a real person, #angelmom too), who donated a gift basket (in the memory of her stillbirth baby Shane) to the hospital, just 3 days before I delivered Sofia. In the basket, she included a book, candle, frame, adult color book and a card, all which were to help the grieving parents who were to receive this basket. In the card, she left a message of hope that if she could get through her loss I could too and a phone number to call if I wanted to talk. I called her a year later to meet up and thank her. She is a friend now and we go to bereavement groups together. There we met another woman who experienced a stillbirth as well and now we make 3 baskets together on our baby’s anniversary which are donated to a local hospital, where we all delivered our angels. These new experiences and actions have helped me gain strength and hope in my loss and honoring my baby girl Sofia and two miscarriages.
TIP: Find your way to gain hope and strength through your baby loss. Ask yourself, what can help me feel better? I feel many times doing something for others helps me. Keep your eyes open for your earth angels, God is always supporting you, especially through this trial. Join a bereavement group, even if you just sit and listen, it will give you strength to hear how others are trying to cope too.
10. Celebrating Your Angel Baby’s #Angelversary
Your baby has an #angelversary or anniversary, which is their birth date which I believe should be celebrated every year. This celebration can take many forms, you decide. My baby Sofia’s angelversary just pasted on March 5th and it was a very difficult week for hubby and I, it was like reliving everything we went through the previous year. Even though this was the case, we still wanted to celebrate our angel, so we went out to eat and decided it should be just the two of us this year. In my family, for everyone’s birthdays, we usually celebrate by eating out at a restaurant, so why not for our Sofia? We went to Red Robin and had burgers, why burgers? When I was pregnant, this was the only type of meat I could eat , once I started eating meat again. I think it was therapeutic and a special way to keep our baby’s memory alive. This is why I believe it's good to celebrate your angel every year. Some ideas are to cut a cake, get together with family, do something that reminds you of your baby, stay home and chill, visit the cemetery and decorate headstone/add flowers, anything you want to do is perfect.
I know having a #babyloss is not what you expected but it happened. All we can do is try our best to keep our faith, find ways to cope with our loss and do our best to help others who will experience the same. I know this is not easy but I hope my list can help you understand what to expect after your loss, along with ways to better deal with each situation. Please share any additional tips or comments below, I would love to read. Sending you comforting hugs and prayers.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog are to provide support to couples who are grieving the loss of their babies. These are my opinions and not intended as medical advice, as I am not a doctor. Please check with your doctor on what is best for you.
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