Words of Advice from Baby Loss Moms

At the end of my talk to my local midwifery students, I gave them a handout, that speaks volumes.  You may recognizes some words, because they were simply taken from the comments section in response to my question of what would you like midwifery students to know about baby loss.   Feel free to comment if you have more advice to give! Here is the handout:

Words of Advice from Baby Loss Moms


“Video clips of ultrasounds meant so much to me and I would have like a recording of my daughter’s heartbeat if they could have given me one. At the time I didn’t know it those would be my only memories of her. I appreciated when my doctors were honest but sensitive.” -mother of Caroline, carried to term after a Trisomy 13diagnosis, who lived for 58 days.


“I think they didn’t tell me anything because they had no clue what was going on themselves and wanted to wait until they had more info- but, that choice made things much worse!!!! Talk to the patient, you have to talk them through what’s going on, you have to tell them. Also: if there’s a chance a baby might not make it, you have to prioritize letting the parents see the baby while working out the logistics. I didn’t get to see my kid until after he was gone. I even asked but was told it was too complicated. That’s still absolutely devastating to me, and probably always will be….One other thing: I was given the choice to go to private room on postpartum, or to a different floor. I really appreciated having a choice.” –mother of Sacha who died day after birth from unexpected brain tumor


“Perinatal loss can be such an “ambiguous loss”. It was so validating to see everyone reinforce that he really was a real baby (a concept that almost all brand-new mothers struggle to comprehend at the moment of birth).” –mother of Sacha who died day after birth from unexpected brain tumor


“Even if the death occurs later, call or write or visit the parents. We so appreciated that one of our midwives and her intern were able to make it to the ceremony we held for Paul. But a call would have been just as meaningful…. If applicable, invite the parents to share a photo of their baby for the baby photo board or book.”mother of Paul who died unexpectedly a few weeks after birth


“And for subsequent pregnancy: if you need to discuss the death of the previous baby, give notice in advance so the parents can prepare (especially if you need them to tell their story, or to dig into traumatic events). Also I was offered a viability scan I didn’t “need” but that was really reassuring.” mother of Paul who died unexpectedly a few weeks after birth


“With miscarriage (or infant death in general I suppose), even if there is ‘something wrong’ with the baby that you can prove with genetic testing, no one should ever say ‘It’s OK- the baby had a problem anyway.’ I’ve noticed a lot of pregnancy books use this kind of logic, and it’s bad. We don’t throw out people or stop caring about them because they’re sick, so what are we supposed to feel better that our baby that died wasn’t perfect, and that caused his death?” –mother of Serphim, who died of Potter’s Syndrome five hours after birth


“Encourage parents to hold, kiss, love, bathe their baby… If you’re uncomfortable handling a dead baby, please ask one of your colleagues to take over. This was our only negative experience with the staff- and it felt awful to have someone reject our precious babies. Remember that these parents need your care, support, love perhaps more than anyone else on the floor.” –mother of A&C, twins who died after PPROM at 20 weeks.


I was that woman, sitting in the OB office following my 19 week anatomy scan when the midwife came in with a student and very coldly and matter-of-factly started to explain the slight anomaly found on ultrasound. When I started to cry the midwife offered little support and I could tell she was busy and I think she really believed the finding was nothing major and that I was over-reacting. It was the student who came back into the room alone and sat with me, let me cry, and explained what was going on as best as she could.   So my advice to your students is that there will be days in clinic when you are busy and running behind and stressed, and these are the days when you might have to break bad news to a patient (or several patients), and your pager might be going off, and your receptionist might be reminding you that you have 3 patients in the waiting room, and you will probably have a huge stack of papers on your desk that need to be reviewed… but in that moment, for that patient- your time and presence is what she needs most.” –mother of Clara, carried to term after a Trisomy 18 diagnosis and born still at 36 weeks


“It might be tempting to let the parents know that their loss isn’t a big deal compared to what other people go through, but that can be very disturbing to the grieving parents. Don’t tell them it was nature’s way of getting rid of damaged goods. It was their baby. They loved that baby and would have done anything to save it. To you, it was a blighted ovum, or a common Trisomy problem, or ‘barely even a positive’ – but to that family it was precious and beloved. The loss is still very real no matter how unformed the physical person may have been.” –mother to baby lost to miscarriage


“Our nurse hung a doorsign of a baby in an incubator on our door so that those entering my postpartum room would know that we had a NICU baby. That was great as it eliminated any too-cheerful questions. However at my six week postpartum checkup, the doctor didn’t know my baby had died.” –mother of Anderson, born at 24 weeks who lived for 26 days


“Cyr, take photographs- YES. And remember, you can never tell a loss mom that her baby is too beautifulm too perfect, too special and too unique. She will never hear this as her child grows. Give her a lifetime of school picture Oohing and Aahing in the short time you have with her. Use the baby’s name.” –mother of Anderson, born at 24 weeks who lived for 26 days


“I was pregnant with our 2nd baby and had our first u/s at 9 weeks. They couldn’t find a heartbeat. I t was hard and still is. I recall the u/s tech saying ‘oh I just know you’ll be back in 3 months pregnant again!!!” She was just so hopeful. But that’s not what I wanted to hear. I needed to honor THIS baby and THIS loss. So overall, I just wanted the midwife team to honor the present and respect what we are going through at the moment.” –mother of baby lost through miscarriage


“To make sure parents have all mementoes of their baby that they would like; to make sure parents know they have no been ‘cast adrift’ from the unit- you become so close to staff whil your baby is being cared for going home is like an estra wrench on tope of the loss of your baby; to make sure parents know how to access counseling. I would also add a couple points about traumatic birth- whether it’s something like PPH or an illness such as preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome- that mums know where to get information about what happened to them and why, and how to access support/forums/debrief about the birth.” –mother of Hugo, born at 24 weeks and lived for 35 days

What more do you have to add?

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?

System Error

I was sitting on the floor of my bedroom when my cell phone rang.  Pieces of scrapbook paper and photos were strewn around me on the carpet as I organized a photo story of Mabel for a scrapbook to show at her wake.  When I picked up the phone, I could see it was a hospital number.


“Hi, Meghan?  I’m a social worker at the hospital.  I’m calling to follow up on your stay on the maternal special care unit.”

I recognized her name and her voice- she was the social worker on the unit I work on.  I have spoken to her many times about patients- women who have depression, no electricity, problems with drugs.  She is very good at her job, which is a difficult one, one that I do not envy.  She was actually one of the first hospital staff to know about Mabel.  I approached her early in my pregnancy when I learned of Mabel’s Down Syndrome, hoping she might know about any resources and she gave some to me readily.

Though I greeted her familiarly, it took a few minutes for her to realize she was talking to me– someone she knew.  I can understand that.  There are many times in my job when I see a name, or even a face, that I know, but taken out of context I don’t realize who it is right away.  Eventually it clicked for the social worker and we chatted more easily.  She asked about my satisfaction with my stay and if anyone in particular had given me good care.  I rattled off a dozen names- from the two women who cleaned my room, to the nurses and my doctors and midwives.  The phone call was relatively brief and we ended cordially.

After I hung up, I went back to my project- the only thing that helped me get through those early days between the death of my daughter and when we laid her body to rest.  As I held a photo of her in the NICU, my phone rang again. It was the social worker.

“Meghan, I am so sorry.  I did not know your baby had died.  That information wasn’t passed on to me.”

I had thought the conversation was a little odd, that she never mentioned my baby or gave condolences, but I wasn’t exactly trusting myself to pass judgment on what goes for normal conversation in my grief saturated haze.  She went on to be very appropriate and kind and I reassured her it was fine.  It was fine.  The phone call hadn’t upset me- it was almost normal- whatever that is after your baby dies.  But she was lucky that it was me she was talking to.  I could imagine another mom in my situation who could have been upset.  This was not the social workers fault- it was a system error.  The system should have a way to make it so very obvious when a postpartum mom has lost a baby.

When I work my way back into the hospital, maybe I can help fix the system.

Puppies & Rainbows vs Doom & Gloom

I arrived at work and my first patient was early, already in an exam room waiting for me.  I put down my things and quickly went to see her. Afterwards I took a minute and reviewed my schedule for the rest of the day- something I usually do first thing, but I didn’t want to keep my patient waiting.  I saw that my next patient was coming in for a procedure.  Our new scheduling system told me only that and I was curious what procedure, so I opened the chart and discovered I’d be inserting an IUD (intrauterine device- a form of long acting birth control).  I also saw that she was eight weeks postpartum.  By the time I figured this out, I had already seen her walk past my office, toting a baby carrier, following my assistant.

I can do this, I thought.  Compartmentalize.

Even when I ask to see gyns only, some of my gyns are pregnant.  Even when I ask to see no postpartum, some of my patients are postpartum.  It’s the nature of our business; there is a lot of overlap.

I saw the patient, did my initial spiel of risks/benefits.  I had to leave the room to look something up before getting started on the procedure and while I sat at my desk for that minute, I burst into tears.  I had just sat across from this woman, living the life I was supposed to live, her eight-week baby making noises just feet from me.  She was the me that I was not, the me I wanted to be, the me with the take home baby.  It took all my energy to stay focused on the woman and not look at the baby.  I did not coo.  I was not cheery.  I probably appeared annoyed and grumpy to the patient.   Little did she know…

But how am I supposed to be when I was faced with a newborn before I was ready to be?  And to have to act professionally.  In an ideal world I would just say, have her reschedule- but that’s not fair to the patient.  If I’m at work, my goal is to do what’s best for the woman I care for, which means my own mental well-being may be sacrificed.  I knew this coming back- just the mere act of returning to work personified it.

I survived.  I know this is a lesson in You Will Go On 101.  But as this spot-on article says… so what?  I survived but I’m still sad.  Sadder than I was before I saw that woman with her baby.  I survived, but my baby’s still dead.

There were moments of reprieve too.  I think I’ve made it clear that my life is not all puppies and rainbows.  But it’s not all doom and gloom too.  I recognize the good moments.

“When do you turn forty?” I asked one patient trying to figure out if I should order a mammogram this year or next year. “In February,” she responded.  My ears perked up- February is my birth month.  And Mabel’s.  I couldn’t help myself.  “Oh, when in February?”  “The 15th,” she says.  “That’s my daughter’s birthday!”  I said smiling and that was that.  There was no pause trying to figure out whether to use the present or past tense.  The sentence just spilled out of my mouth.  No follow up question, which I was actually glad about.  I don’t want people to think I’m fishing- purposely trying to get people to ask about my daughter.  But I also want those moments of normal mommyhood.  To feel what it would have been like for a split second, if she had lived.

And my final patient of the day was one that I was close to, someone I enjoyed.  When I entered the room, I could tell instantly she had read the sign.  She looked at me with sad eyes and asked if it was ok if she could give me a hug.  We spent the next few minutes talking about my daughter.  She asked what had happened, if it was ok for her to ask.  I told her that I love talking about my daughter.  I told her about how we knew she had Down Syndrome early on, the relief that came with the first essentially normal ultrasounds, the despair following the oligohydramnios diagnosis, the kidney problems, the lung problems and her short life.  God, I love telling her story.  The lovely woman cried for me and for Mabel.  She told me I looked like I was doing well, with almost surprise in her voice.  So I told her how I had cried earlier that day.  I have my moments.  As our time talking about me was wrapping up, she ended with a usually cringe-worthy saying.  She said “I don’t know if you are religious at all, but everything happens for a reason.  God has a plan…”  and a few other words that would make other fellow grievers gasp.  BUT it was ok.  She had proven herself- she was kind and compassionate.  I think those words were going to help her find some peace regarding my daughter’s death.  I didn’t correct her, nor did I agree with her.  I just smiled and returned the attention to her- to help her with her visit.

Are you pregnant?

The tailor asked if I was expecting.  I could have simply said ”No.”  Then would come the awkward beat of silence followed by an even more awkward apology.  I’m used to this.  For years I have been asked if I was pregnant when I wasn’t.  I think I’ve been asked more times when I’m not than when I actually was.  I have a little belly and I slouch which can emphasize it.  You would be surprised how many people ask that question without thinking.  When I was 5 weeks pregnant, a patient asked me and that was the only time I lied.  I told her no, because she was not going to be the first person I told!  After a question like that when I’m not pregnant, I often spent more time making the other person not feel so bad, “it’s ok, it’s ok,” when I should have been the one being comforted.  I was just called fat!  As if I weren’t self conscious enough about it.  And to be asked if I’m pregnant at less than 6 weeks postpartum, when I’ve lost 25 lbs (9 more to go til pre-pregnancy weight), having exercised almost daily (sometimes twice daily) since 2 weeks post birth, is a little cruel.  I think I’ll add a pair of spanx to my shopping list, thank you very much.

For once I had a real legitimate excuse for how I looked.  I wanted to justify my body, give myself credit for the loose skin and pouch of a belly.  So I said, “No. I just had a baby.”  Well that invites some natural follow up.  “Oh! How old is the baby?” she asked.  And then I paused, unprepared, my eyes welling up.  I was sad for two reasons.  First, the obvious, I had to admit to a stranger that my baby died.  And second, I didn’t know off the top of my head how old she would have been.  When I was pregnant, I new to the day how far along I was.  And I feel like a new mom would have that answer ready.  It highlighted again how I have no baby.  I finally responded to the tailor “She would have been one month.”  It’s almost painful to see how people react- I don’t think she even said those simple words “I’m sorry.”  She instead said, “You lost the baby? Oh, I don’t have any kids, but a long long time ago, I lost one too.  I had a miscarriage.”  How do I respond to that?  To a stranger?  I just left it.  I wanted to scream- don’t ask people such inappropriate questions, especially if you don’t want the answer!  And a miscarriage is not the same thing!  I in no way mean to minimize the sadness that comes with a miscarriage- it can be truly heartbreaking- but I simply can not compare it to carrying a baby that you know will likely die, hold her for too short a time and then tell the doctor to remove her vent so she can die peacefully in your arms and not in a warmer hooked up to a machine.  A different kind of mourning accompanies those who watch their babies die.

I know people’s intentions are good.  They want me to know that they sympathize.  They are at a loss for words, so they fill the space with things they regret or don’t even know are hurtful.  There are a lot of websites out there that tout What not to say/ What to say to a bereaved parent.  I think these in general are good.  And the babyloss community often likes to vent about the careless things people say to us.  There is some good to this sharing- it is cathartic to write what you would have liked to say in response and to be the recipient of sympathy for the careless things people say.  But just don’t get caught up in it.  I continually try to remind myself that people are simply trying to be helpful.  They don’t know what else to say.  I didn’t either until I was on this side of things.  They are sometimes making themselves feel better, because my loss affects them too.  These words are what help them make sense of this tragedy.  I’ve had a few- but not a ton- of hurtful comments so far.  I know there are more to come.  But I try to tell myself that they are trying.  And trying but saying the wrong thing is better than saying nothing at all.  At least when they are trying they still recognize that my daughter existed and the loss is real, rather than pretending it didn’t happen at all.  That said, there are some things that I hope even the most good intentioned people keep to themselves- things like: it’s better this way, be thankful for what you do have, everything happens for a reason, at least you’re young/can have more kids.  Please hold your tongue if these phrases are at the tip of it.  If nothing else, say “I don’t know what to say.” Or “I’m sorry.”  You can’t go wrong with either of those.

But Seriously?  Are you pregnant?  I am having trouble seeing what good intentions are behind that remark.  I almost wonder if that’s the worst thing someone will say to me.

Who has a baby shower at a bar?

Mabel would be two weeks today.  I woke up at 5:30am with a stomach ache, which calmed down and I thought to myself as I lay awake for a bit afterwards, I can be awake for 6:25- this is good.  I feel back to sleep a little after six.  I was sad that I missed the time, but I think my mind was still thinking about it.  I dreamt of Mabel.  She was a day or two old and I held her in my arms.  She was the baby I held after she had died- quiet, motionless, eyes closed, wrapped in her white blanket wearing her pink hat.  But she was warm and alive.  As I held her she let out a small cry, opened her eyes and began to nurse.  The dream was quick and lasted only a few seconds but spotlighted all that I want right now.

On this day, Mabel’s two-week anniversary, rather than wondering “is my baby getting enough milk?” or “When will she be discharged from the NICU?”  I am  struggling with other questions.

How do I say it?

I had a baby and my baby died.  My baby passed. (Passed what?)  I lost my baby. (Where did she go?)  I had a baby and she lived for six hours. (and then what happened?)  Her birthday was also her death day.  So what do I say- the day Mabel was born? The day Mabel died? The day Mabel came? The day we met Mabel? Mabel’s day? The day Mabel was?  Was it the best day of my life or the worst day?

Where do I belong?

Friends with kids, friends without kids.  I’m in that club no one wants to belong to, between two worlds.  I was on the cusp of changing worlds.  I was about to be the ultimate friend with kids- we had not only committed to a baby (big commitment), but a child with Down Syndrome who might never move away from home.  And committed to a child who could require daily dialysis and vent care for years.  We kind of made the ultimate commitment.  But now we have no commitment.  We are free again.  If I had a child before Mabel, I would still be a friend with kids, but where am I now?

How do I rejoin the real world?

I’m often better when I’m around people.  I can usually talk very easily about Mabel and her story.  I’m sure people are often surprised how composed I am when talking about Mabel.  It’s because I save my real tears- the raw, hot, unstoppable tears- for the early mornings and late nights, when I’m alone or with Chris.  Sometimes when we are with groups, I’m quieter, more reserved than I ever have been.  I like certain aspects of a group- I like that others can carry on a conversation and I can listen, contributing only when necessary.  That I’m not responsible for the conversation going forward.  I have trouble contributing because in my mind, life has stopped.  The world as I knew it and as I know it has stopped.   I am no longer pregnant- that world is gone.  And I am not caring for a baby like I should naturally after being pregnant- that world is gone. Though others are talking, it’s all I can think about at times.  And these big groups are not usually the venue to talk about Mabel and how we are doing in our grieving process.  How to I re-engage?  How do I join the conversation?  How do I rejoin the world?

Who has a baby shower at a bar?

I wrote yesterday about how I was uncertain about going out for happy hour with friends, but I was going to try.  We went to a restaurant not far from our house, which was a nice treat because we live a good bit outside of the nearby city- a schlep for most of our friends.  And since it’s not a city restaurant, it’s usually pretty low key.  We gathered with friends in the bar area at a table and I was working on simply being present.  And then the table next to us starts filling up.  First middle aged men, then a more diverse group- younger and older women.  And then one younger woman starts opening presents- baby clothes and diapers.  It was a freakin’ baby shower in a bar.  On a Friday night.  Really?  There’s a whole restaurant side of this place and they were squeezing twelve people around a table meant for six so they could be in the bar.  I was able to sit so I couldn’t see them, but I knew what was happening.  We had already ordered food and drink, so we stayed.  I didn’t cry then.  I was just really really annoyed.  When we left, the tears found me.  I cried because the night was overwhelming.  Just being out was a big deal.  I cried because this was the first of many times I’ll be surprised by something baby related that hurts me in the deep gut.  I cried because maybe this was a sign that I shouldn’t have been out at a bar two weeks after my baby died.   I cried because who has a baby shower in a bar?

When does it get better?

Yesterday I began reading another blog- one written by a mother who lost her baby a day after birth several years ago.  I was bouncing around reading her posts- skipping ahead to one, two, three months post birth.  I wanted to see when it got better for her.  The hard thing about reading blogs is that they don’t always represent the whole picture.  We blog about the hard and the memorable stuff, not the mundane.  Though I write about the pain I felt seeing a baby shower at a bar, I don’t write about laughing about a Barbie story over ice cream with friends. I have those moments too.   This woman’s blog described her grief over months and months- and then I stopped reading.  I know I will always grieve my child.  I read the posts closer to the birth of her son, so I could relate to what she was feeling in the time I am in now.  When does it get better- I’m not sure, but I know it’ll get different.

The long weeks ahead…

I’m having so much anxiety looking at the weeks ahead.  Chris and I will have a few days home alone together and then he goes back to work on Monday.  I’m already dreading it.  I’ve been so fortunate that I have had Chris around for so much time.  My mood is so variable throughout the day and when I have crying spells, it helps to just tell Chris what I’m crying about.  When he leaves, who do I tell?  There are so many people who have offered to lend an ear, which is kind.  But people work and sometimes picking up the phone is hard or if I do, which one do I call?

The next weeks stretch out in front of me too far to see the end.  What do I do with my days?  I envision many mornings in bed- which is more or less how I’ve been spending them so far.  I’ll need to exercise.  I’m hoping my body will be ready to do something real next week.  This week I’ve been walking, with some side effects- warnings that I shouldn’t do too much too fast.  My pubic bone still bothers me after walking.  It caused me discomfort in pregnancy and that discomfort lingers.  I know the mechanics of it- there’s a joint that separates to allow a baby to pass more easily through the pelvis. It’ll come back together, but it takes time.  I took myself to the chiropractor, to get some help and hopefully heal more quickly.  I really wanted that help, but I knew going back that I’d have to tell them about Mabel- I’d have to say the words.  They knew the story.  I say “they” because they are a husband and wife chiro team.  I usually see the wife and was supposed to for my first visit back, but she was out sick so I saw her husband.  I was tearful in the car just before getting there but held it together until he asked “how are you feeling?”  He could see I was no longer pregnant, so I felt the need to explain.  “I had my baby a week and a half ago and my baby died,” I blurted as I began to cry.  It’s so awful to not only say those words but to see people’s reactions.  He was very appropriate but people are scared of the grief, especially when it’s so raw.  There’s not much to say.  He said, “if there is anything we can do, let us know.”  I told him he could make my pubic bone feel better.  I think that gave him the needed out to move on.


I’d like to go back to bootcamp, but I’m scared.  I only went for three weeks before I went into the hospital.  It was long enough for people to recognize me, but not long enough for people to really know my story.   When I go back, I imagine people will ask how the baby is or say congratulations.  It will be part of the process.  I know I’m going to get better at saying it- my baby died.  Maybe I should say something more.  My baby died.  We knew she was going to be sick when she was born.  Her name was Mabel.  It might give people something more to respond to.  Might show that I’m ok to talk about her.  It’ll all be an experiment- try different phrases, see how I feel, see how others respond.  The other hard part of going is that bootcamp was that it a very pregnancy-associated experience for me.  I only went in pregnancy.  I probably wouldn’t have gone if it were for the limitation pregnancy placed on my body.  I used it to help deal with the mental turmoil I was trying to process in pregnancy.  I’m sure I can use it to help with the mental anguish I have now.  But in the beginning it may be hard.


I’ve made some dates.  I’m so anxious about being alone, I’ve set up many dates.  So far at least one every day next week.  I think it’ll help me get out of bed in the mornings.  I know I have to be alone at some point.  It’s an important part of the grieving process.  I know the days will get easier.  I both look forward to and dread the time that it doesn’t hurt so much.


The next six weeks just seems like such a long time.  It feels wrong and it feels right.  My body is so nearly physically recovered that six weeks seems too long.  But my mind is so far from recovery, will six more weeks even be enough time to be ready to return to work?  Returning to work means returning to some sort of normalcy and routine, re-introducing myself to the life I had before Mabel.  Returning to work also means facing pregnant women every day.  I interact with 20-30 patients every day.  Some will be pregnant.  Some will be unhappily pregnant or uncomfortably pregnant and I will need to care for them and their woes.  Some will know I was recently pregnant and ask about the baby.  Times like these were I yearn for that office job where I can just make one big announcement and be done- not have to relive the pain over and over again as I learn how to say my baby died without derailing the visit.


The six weeks also feels long because I’m supposed to have a baby during that time.  Six weeks would feel so short if I were breastfeeding and bonding and sleep deprived.  I wake up in the mornings, with my arms around my body pillow, thinking I’m supposed to have a baby right now. There is supposed to be a little warm body in this bed- not a pillow.  Or if I’m being really realistic I think, I should be going to the hospital right now- seeing my baby.  When Chris gets back to work, I’ll wake up and it’ll be just me, physically recovering quickly.  I feel almost guilty.  I know I’m in no way able to return to work at this moment, but I can’t help that little bit of guilt from creeping in.  I also feel it when people bring food.  People are supposed to bring food when you have a baby and are too busy with the baby to think about cooking.  What’s keeping me from cooking?  There is no baby.  It’s just me.  So I’m dealing with grief mixed with guilt about the time it takes to grieve.


I saw my therapist yesterday and we talked about how to survive the next weeks.  She suggested mindfulness and distraction.  Doing some things that are normal.  I talked about how it’s even difficult to be around friends because I’m not the Meghan I usually am- I think I’m  hard to be around. I’m not engaging. People don’t know what to do with me.  She assured me that my friends still want to be around me and I should do some things I used to do.  My friends are getting together for a happy hour tonight.  I’m going to try to go, though it feels weird. Inappropriate even.  I’m going to the bar two weeks after my baby died?  It feels wrong.  I wasn’t supposed to even be considering it, because I was supposed to have a newborn.  But it was my normal before, it used to make me happy.  I’m trying to do the things that people suggest.  I’m trying.

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.