I also feel as if people think my loss was not as great a loss as someone whose child lived outside the womb (for however long). Though I do not know how it feels to lose a child in that way, it doesn't mean I love Lily any less or that my loss is not valid. Having a child who was stillborn brings an entirely different road of grief. I grieve that I never once got to look at my child in the eyes, among a thousand other things that other parents who have not been through this will not understand. Instead of grieving what Lily's life held, I am grieving everything it could have held and everything I will never experience with her.
Lori reminds us that though losses are all different, we should not compare, but rather support one another in our grief. Let's extend grace and love. I think she speaks for all stillbirth families by describing what we all think/feel/experience so acutely.
First, try to imagine the baby you have spent many months in constant company with, the one you have felt grow, move, turn and even hiccup, is suddenly gone. You feel so blindsided. As women we are educated early on about the possibility of miscarriage. But not this thing called stillbirth. And while the soul is gone the physical body remains. This body still has to be birthed. The body does not just disappear because the heart has ceased to beat. To come to the realization that you will be giving birth to death is something beyond compare. Now imagine laboring for hours fearful of what that birth may reveal. Maybe horrible birth defects or causes so terrible you can't even bring yourself to think about or even worse, no known cause at all. And somehow you can't help but feel by birthing your child you are contributing to their very death. Then after hours of hard labor your little miracle is delivered to your arms, silent. Wrapped in tiny blankets. The sweetest face you have ever seen. The face of an angel. You unwrap the blankets and marvel at 10 little fingers and 10 little toes. Maybe he has your nose or maybe she has his chin. There are handprints, footprints and a lock of hair for keepsakes. The name that took you months to choose is recorded for the stillbirth "birth" certificate, the death certificate, the marble slab. A name that whenever you hear it, even in casual acquaintances, in the days, months and years to come will pierce your heart with an ache that will take your breathe away. Then you are asked to make decisions about burials, cremations, caskets, services, obituaries, all the things that mark the end of an earthly life, and you feel like the breath is being choked from your very lungs. You attend a memorial service with engorged breasts and aching arms. They say your body will heal in 6 weeks but you know your soul never will.
Having a stillbirth means you will always feel panic when your friends, sister, or co-workers announce their happy news. Especially when they start off with “now that we are past the risk of miscarriage stage..” You feel like the dark shadow of experience has robbed you of the joy surrounding any impending births for the rest of your life. You feel like you owe it to other women to educate them but you don’t want them to look at you like you are the grim reaper.
This is the reality of stillbirth. And while miscarriage has it's own tragedies that I can not even begin to understand, they are not the same thing...they just aren’t. I can’t imagine the heart of a mother who never even got to know the sex of her child, their face, or to cradle that child in her arms. One who had to send that child to Heaven without a name, or one robbed the memories of those first gentle flutters that every woman cherishes. My heart aches for these mothers in ways you can not imagine. But still they are not the same. You don’t know how I feel any more than I could possibly know how you feel. Anymore than I know how a mother feels who had her child at home for hours, days, months or years.
As women we need not diminish each other experiences but uplift and support each other in the face of these unimaginable tragedies. As women we must educate each other for potential signs, risk factors, or causes. We must strengthen our sex by uniting, no matter what the experience, not weaken it by comparison. In care, concern, and in the name of healing ~ Lori