Only a parent who has experienced the loss of a child through stillbirth or miscarriage can understand the pain of losing someone they never got to meet.
For most grievers, happy memories can be painful or even bittersweet at times…but memories are something this type of grieving parent will never get a chance to have.
This is a loss that is not usually validated and is often misunderstood. People may think, or even say, “why don’t you just try to get pregnant again?”, as if one child can easily be switched out and replaced by another.
After this type of loss, some will never get the chance to become a parent. So then what? What to do with the emptiness, the void, the longing and yearning of an instinct that can never be answered?
I was contacted recently by a woman who had experienced a stillbirth loss. Writing became a powerful tool as she tried to move forward after losing her child, and she turned her journal writings into a book that could be a help to others who have experienced a similar loss.
Below is an excerpt from “The Littlest Guru”, By Christine M. Gallo:
As my eyes adjusted to the light on that very first post-partum morning, post-tragedy I blinked slowly and things came into focus. I looked around the room. In front of the window’s pane: a bouquet of white lilies surrounded by delicate fronds reflected the light. And a card poked out from above the foliage. Curving cursive words in onyx ink cruelly punctuated the bleached white of the card with its message:
Not “It’s a boy.”
I blinked again. Slower this time. So as to give my mind the merciful gift of eyes closed. The gift of not having to read that card again. The gift of not having to catch sight of the sailboats on the horizon. Those sailboats that stood still. As still as my middle. My thoughts replayed those moments of the day before. I was brought back to sitting in my wheelchair. About to be wheeled into the elevator to the surgical recovery floor. Not the maternity floor. I recalled watching his isolette as it was wheeled in the opposite direction. Being taken away. I remembered a story I had read in a magazine about a stillborn baby once. (Back, by the way, to when I thought things so horrid only happened in stories…). A story where that baby wasn’t taken away in an isolette, but rather in a box made of cardboard.
I shuddered. Although watching Finn taken away in his clear isolette was awful, all I could think about in that moment was Thank God they hadn’t put him in a box. That may have been too much for me to bear. I also realized how much the phrase “too much to bear” had changed over the past 24 hours…
I realized something about survival. That I had survived something that I never thought I possibly ever could. Because I didn’t have a choice.
Just then, my morning nurse came in and introduced herself. Asked me if I needed more Oxycodone. Asked me if I was in pain. Outwardly I’m sure I just stared straight ahead. I may not have even responded. But inside my mind raced to thoughts like: I’m sure you asked the same of M. Smith next door recovering from his knee replacement surgery. When I’m on this surgical recovery floor, and you as my nurse don’t say my baby’s name…don’t speak my truth and don’t allow me to be separate from the others, you in that exact first interaction may as well say the words ‘You didn’t have a baby yesterday.’ You fail to acknowledge me. And the fact that I don’t belong on the maternity floor, but that I don’t belong here either. And as dramatic as it sounds, to me and my broken heart you may as well have placed my baby in a box made of cardboard. I continued to imagine what I would have said had I had the courage to remove that thin white sheet from covering my face. I have wanted this baby since I was the little girl who played with paper dolls lined up along bookshelves with accordion-folded paper staircases leaning against their corners. I have planned for him since I had rice stuck to the sides of my chic chignon up-do on my wedding day. I have pined for him since the second I felt him moving within me.
But instead, I put my hand out and took the Oxycodone. And again, looked around. The tone-on-tone stripes of freshly wallpapered walls. A gold ornate frame that hung across from the bed. A soothing painting of a lighthouse sitting atop a craggy, sand colored hill at the edge of a reed-lined dune.
I was anything but soothed.
In fact, I was destined, from that dark day forward to despise lighthouses.
Lighthouses. On a surgical recovery floor. Meant to promote the healing that patients on that floor needed. Patients in recovery following hip replacements needed those lighthouses. I had seen countless movies that depicted maternity floors. And I had visited the very one in this hospital during a tour a few months before. I knew the tone-on-tone stripes of the walls of the maternity floor weren’t lined with paintings of lighthouses. I knew the gold ornate frames of the rooms on the maternity floor were filled with Mary Cassatt’s soft, tender paintings of mothers and their sweet babies wrapped in peach-hued blankets. And here I sat, in a room of the same size and shape, just a few feet below those tender mothers, staring at a lighthouse with fury.
I was supposed to be in the room on the floor directly above this one. I was supposed to sit up and bed, and stare at the Mary Cassatt painting. I was supposed to be too enamored and too in love with my own sweet baby to notice the painting.
I was a mother yesterday, but what was I today?
In the silence of my room on the surgical recovery floor, I thought about how I would manage to reorganize my life around this new reality. I wondered how I could ever live without Finn.
Over and over, I contemplated, was I a mother? Or was I just some girl who had a baby once?
If you’d like to read more about Christine’s littlest guru and how you can transform through tragic loss, click here.
And remember, here at www.griefincommon.com, you’ll find others who can relate to the pain of this type of loss. See and share stories, and search for others based on the criteria that’s important to you.