Postpartum loss body

I have a lot of facebook friends who are in the OB world, plus I follow some OB related organizations (American College of Nurse Midwives, American College of OBGYN), so my feed often has lots of articles pop up around OB issues.  One theme that reappears every now and then is embracing your postpartum body. I see photos of women proudly showing off their battle scars- or tiger stripes as I’ve seen them affectionately named- roaring that these marks made them moms.  The photos of them in their underwear often have them holding the baby that gave them the body that they are embracing.

After seeing one such article, I was inspired to make a before and after babyloss photo of my own and asked readers to do the same if they felt up to it. But these ones were more symbolic- we wore clothes.  Though I would love someday to see an article of babyloss moms in their underwear and their postpartum loss bodies.

Because what about those of us that don’t have the baby to hold to remind us why are bodies look the way they do?  What about those who lost their babies before they got any stretch marks or sagging skin?

My midwife friend hesitantly gave me this book for Christmas.

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When i unwrapped it, initially my heart sank a bit.  A whole book of mothers with babies- great, just what I don’t have.  But she explained that not all the stories were “good” ones.  There were sad stories in there as well.  I’ve flipped through the pages, but haven’t read it really yet, because to read the tough stories, the ones I might relate to, I have to sort through the happier ones first.  But I will.

And then I stumbled over this article and this article.  The first one I like better than the second- only because the second reflects on how her rainbow baby helped her embrace her body (though it does address the idea that for some of us, it feels like our bodies betrayed us).  But the first is great- it recognizes how it’s hard enough for women to embrace their bodies after birth, but tells of the extra burden that we loss moms carry and gives some ideas how to embrace the changes.

I was left with little physical reminders of my pregnancy- just my pelvis/tailbone issues, really.  The most visible marks I have is some stretch marks on my breasts from engorgement- when my chest filled with milk for a baby that wasn’t there.   I guess I both enjoy my changes- proof that there was a baby and resent them- proof that there is no baby.

How do you feel about your body after loss?

Day 10: Support

My grief journey started well before Mabel was born.  I grieved the original vision I had of a typical baby when I learned she had Down Syndrome.  I grieved the potential risk of miscarriage and stillbirth that came with that diagnosis.  I began grieving the death of my child when we learned it was a real possibility at 27 weeks.  My grief wander high and low as I crept week by week, my baby still alive inside me and then hit hit full force in the days, weeks and months after she was born and died shortly after.

“Down Syndrome children are born without malice,” one of them told me and I began to celebrate the new vision of the child I was going to have.

“You need to meet with this doctor,” another told me, encouraging me to seek out a well respected neonatologist on the medical ethics board.  With that meeting I began to plan how to best help my baby.

She didn’t put me on bedrest, like many would have done, simply because no one knew what to do to help my baby.  “Exercise,” she said, “is good.”  She gave me a little sanity.

She came with cabbage leaves and breast pads to soothe the raging milk that kept reminding me there was no baby.  She put me on a sitz bath, reminding me that my body needed to be cared for too.

“Parents aren’t supposed to bury their children,” she cried unabashedly, sitting in my bed with me in the days after.

My OB team- my midwives, my doctor- was and still is a huge support for me.  It’s national Midwifery Week.  So it’s well timed that today I thank my midwives (and my M.D., my Midwife Doctor).

#CaptureYourGrief

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Diagnosis: Irish

Sometimes I feel like my swollen breasts are the only proof that I had a baby.  I do take some comfort in the fact that my body knows what to do.  Many women have trouble with their milk coming in.  Without any nursing and despite wear 2-3 tight sports bras at a time, I seem to have no such trouble.  My body seems meant for pregnancy, birth and recovery.  I had little physical complaints in pregnancy.  I had a fast labor.  I’m recovering well- very little bleeding, no real cramping, and an apparently sufficient milk supply.

Engorgement lasts longer than I thought it would.  I was preparing myself for 48 hours, which is what I tell nursing moms.  I, however, am not nursing.  It is an especially sad thing for me- to have been pregnant, birthed and not breastfed even once.  For a non-nursing mom, engorgement lasts quite a bit longer. It’s a blessing and a curse- a reminder that there was a baby and a reminder that there is no baby.  On the second day of engorgement, my breasts were very painful; I couldn’t be hugged and had to sleep only on my back.  Then they got a little better- not so tender but still very full.  By the fifth day I was getting concerned or maybe just anxious.  I needed to hear that I’m fine, it’ll go away and it sucks that this is happening.  They looked pink to me- not full blown sign of infection, but I needed some reassurance.  So I made an appointment with my midwife who diagnosed me as Irish.  She agreed, it did not look like mastitis, but the pinkness was probably just from blood flow, which apparently is very visible on my pale Irish skin.

I have been sleeping.  In the few nights I’ve been home, I’ve had two kinds of sleep- medicated or interrupted.  I’ve taken an ambien every other night- I’m afraid I’ll become reliant, so I’m trying to do without on some nights.  The nights with medication I sleep through.  The nights without, I have been waking up around 3am.  Maybe it’s my body doing what it’s supposed to do biologically.  Waking up every 4 hours to feed a baby.  As one of my friends with experience commented on an earlier post “one of the oddest things about delivering a baby who does not live is that your body doesn’t really know that.”  Maybe my body is again doing what it’s supposed to do.  Or maybe it’s part of the grieving- those 3am wake up calls are raw with emotion.  Whenever I first wake up I have a moment when everything is as it was before Mabel.  I used to have these moments when I was pregnant.  I’d wake up and it seemed like everything was normal, and then the realization that I was pregnant would sink in.   Now it’s the realization that my baby died.

And then there are the dreams.  During my unmedicated nights so far, I’ve dreamt of death. I was a very vivid dreamer pre-pregnancy, often with bad dreams.  In pregnancy I dreamed less.  Now, my first night home, I had two memorable dreams.  I dreamt about my midwife who spoke of father who had died 30 years before (in real life her father is still alive).  And worse, I had another dream about a child falling from a mountain to his death.  He had just save his younger brother from falling, but lost his balance in the meantime.  We watched as he fell into the depths below.  A few days later I dreamt that my youngest brother died in a car crash.

This morning I woke up around 6am.  I stayed awake, watching the clock until it hit 6:25.  I shook Chris awake and told him, It’s 6:25.  One week ago Mabel was born.  And then I cried myself back to sleep in his arms.