Grieving parenthood

As I slowly continue to work my way through this article, I keep finding little points, where I’m nodding my head. “Yes, yes.” I say in my head as I read. It’s incredibly validating. One section keeps reverberating through my head. For some of us, we lost our first pregnancies, which in addition to mourning the loss of our child, we are also mourning the loss of transition into parenthood. Into a new stage of life.

 Especially when it is the first pregnancy or when there are multiple pregnancy losses, there may be developmental interference rather than progression. Internal stagnation is common. Women and their partners experiencing pregnancy loss often talk of not getting on with their life goals, plans, and dreams. They feel stuck, off track, as if they are running in place as life is passing them by. Erikson’s landmark delineation of the eight stages of human development emphasizes the crucial role of generativity, serving as mentor to the next generation, which is typically, though not inevitably, realized in parenthoood.104 A qualitative study of the elderly suggested that lingering grief for their pregnancies of decades ago, and perinatal losses, may be related to their not having any grandchildren, failing to take one’s place in the generational hierarchy.

And that grief is real too.

Many of the usual responses to perinatal loss, such as visualizing or hearing a baby, wishing to have another baby as soon as possible, and feeling intense pain and envy when exposed to other babies, may sometimes be based less on grieving the death of their particular child than on confronting the painful frustration of not being able to parent.

This last line especially speaks to me. I don’t have to justify how sad I am about losing Mabel- losing her as a person. But I want to scream that I am also so sad … SO SAD… that I lost the opportunity to parent. Just like the article says, it hurts watching others with babies, not just because the babies make me think of Mabel, but also watching others parent their children in a way I don’t get to do! I’m so angry about the unfairness of that. I don’t get to see if I can comfort my crying baby, if I’ll struggle with breastfeeding, if I’ll be miserable and sleep deprived. I don’t get to see if I even enjoy parenting. I simply want the opportunity to do so and I have such little control over it.

I know I’m still a mother, a parent- I don’t need reassurance with that. I just wish I could have the chance to be a more traditional mother and parent in an active may, not simply tending a grave and making sure my baby’s name is not forgotten. I am not only grieving my daughter, but I am also grieving the loss of parenthood.

Do you feel this loss as well?

Dream child

She was a child- a real child, seven years old maybe. Tow-headed and petite, with the button nose that was the same as in her newborn photos, she appeared in my dream. She didn’t speak much, but I imagined my mind was formulating how she would have been realistically, with the Down Syndrome and her health problems. In the dream she was healthy. She had two little boy friends, who also had Down Syndrome and she played baseball.

I have dreamt about her a few other times- mostly sad dreams, like trading her in for a health y baby. But this was wonderful- I got a true glance of the what-might-have-been.

Hi Mabel.

Sigh. How sad it is that we see our children only in photos, in memories and in dreams. I’m so thankful I have this one.

Have you dreamt about your lost love one? How would you like to dream about them?

Small moment of jealousy

“Oh hey!” I could hear my assistant greet my next patient. “You’re doing it again? How’s the baby?”

They were all smiles and celebrations.

“Great- he’s in the other room! How’s yours?”

The niceties were genuine and went back and forth for a few minutes. The patient and my assistant had been pregnant at the same time and so their faces were pleasant reminders of each other’s pregnancies.

I easedropped until I couldn’t take it anymore. I yearned to be in one of their shoes for just a moment. Sure, they each have their own struggles, but at that moment I was deaf to them.  All I could think of is not only did I lose my child, but I lost out on all the things that follow- the big and the little.   Oh, to be able to have a simple moment like that, remembering my pregnancy fondly with someone else and talking giddily over my living child.

Perhaps someday…

Do you have small moments of jealousy? What do you yearn for?

identity struggle

I had two stints in the hospital, pregnant with Mabel.  The first was a long weekend to determine why I had no fluid (her kidneys weren’t working) and meeting with specialists to determine her prognosis (poor). The second was the final two weeks of my pregnancy for monitoring- it was supposed to be longer, but she had her own ideas and labor started weeks before my planned induction.

Both times I had my nurses, doctors and midwives visit me on a daily basis, mostly just for talking because there wasn’t much more they could do.  I essentially monitored myself, ensuring my baby was on the monitor when she was supposed to be, and the rest was just watching.  I had many conversations about the direness of my situation, often crying about how unfair it was that this was happening to my first child, my only child.  (not that losing a second or third or forth child is any easier!). I think I was lamenting not only the future loss of my baby, but the loss of the identity I was supposed to be taking- would I be a mother?  I thought if only I had a child,I would at least (there are those darn words I dislike so much!) know that I would be a mother.

I’m not sure who it was trying to reassure me, but I heard a few times, perhaps from a few different people- “Just think, if you had a kid at home, you’d be struggling with caring for that child and this one.”  At the time, I said, “you’re right,” trying to focus on things to be grateful for- that my only responsibility was me and this child.

This memory came back to me recently and it angers me.  Of course whoever the speakers were, their intentions were nothing but good- trying to find a silver living, to help me find some gratitude.  I am grateful that my decisions for Mabel were uncolored by any other life circumstances- they were made soley for her and us as a little family of three.  But I think I respectfully disagree.  I do wish I had another child.  It wouldn’t make the pain of losing Mabel and less, but it would let me feel like the mother I so badly wish I could be.

(Disclaimer: I know having living children through loss comes with its own set of struggles. I in no way mean to say that having living children makes it easier- I’m sure in some ways it makes it harder. My only intention is to highlight how I still feel like I don’t quite belong in either world- the mothers and the not mothers. )

Do you have flashbacks to little details?  Do you struggle with your identity as a mother?