Thoughts on SURVIVING after a stillbirth by Jen H.

My baby died November 8, 2012 due to complications from HELLP syndrome, a pregnancy specific condition- cause unknown.

Why me?  Why did I survive?  I was very sick – at risk of losing my own life.  Save him, take me.  It’s not an option, the doctors said- he’s too weak- if we don’t save you, you will both die. Who cares, I thought, in a medically-induced fog, tethered to the bed by my arms and legs. You are the sickest person here, the doctor I’d never met before said, inches from my face. I remember struggling to keep my eyes open: so tired. What’s happening to me? Can’t this just end?

Why me? Wandering through the hospital hallway I felt out of my body, is this really me?  I felt like a freak.  Walking out of the maternity ward, with a cardboard in a plastic bag, I just didn’t know what I would do.  I remember thinking, “How has any woman ever survived this?” I didn’t feel strong.  I wanted to crumble, fall asleep and not wake, drive into a tree.  Morbid fantasies.  I remember thinking about my own mom.  And my poor grandma, who had to bury my uncle when he was just 35. No mother deserves this.

How does any woman survive the loss of the baby?  I’m still not sure, but they do.  The more willing I am in sharing my story, the more I survivors I encounter.  Women I’ve known for years hiding the secret shame of baby loss.  Women I’ve just met declaring loudly “my stillborn was still born!”  Both groups of women brave and strong for their own reasons.  You women inspire me.  You are still here, still standing.  I remember my doctor telling me that I’d never get over the loss of my baby.  Can’t I just go back to before?  I understand now the cycles of grief, the ebbs and flows, the continuity, the permanent scar that never quite heals.  To grieve is to have loved, and that is a beautiful thing.

I am still sad, but also hopeful for the future.  I’ve done a lot of work to help myself heal:  my husband and I took a cross-country road trip; I’ve sought counseling and medication; I am trying meditation and yoga, focusing on ‘be here now’ and being grateful for all the blessing in my life, including a supportive husband and amazing parents.  It is not easy, but I’m managing.  I believe it now when the baby loss mamas I’ve met say “it will get better.”  They understand.

I still don’t know ‘why’ this happened to me.  I’m not sure it matters.  I don’t believe it was my destiny or fate to be an ‘angel mom.’  Biology happens and it takes away our control. I have decided to focus my attention on ‘what’s next?’ rather than ‘why me?’  Sometimes, ‘what next’ is a minute-to-minute diagram for surviving the day: first I will get out of bed to feed the cat, then I will let the dogs out.  What next?  A walk by the river.  A weekend trip.  A project to honor the love I feel for my son.  A new tattoo.  This horrible event happened to me, but it does not define me.  I am strong.  I am brave. I am not alone.

Thoughts on surviving after a still birth- Jen H.