By: Rebecca Stockwell
Hello to all the bereaved parents out there and all the family members supporting them.
You are true warriors.
My name is Rebecca, I became a bereaved mom in 2010. I was having an uneventful pregnancy until we went for a routine 18 week ultrasound. I can vividly remember the ultrasound hurting it, which was different than when I had my daughter the previous year. I would later learn it hurt because the ultrasound probe was pushing directly on him because there wasn’t enough amniotic fluid.
It was the same tech from the ultrasound for my daughter. She was very chatty when doing the ultrasound for my daughter and this time she was noticeably quiet.
When she stepped out of the room I tried not to tell myself something was wrong. You see, I’m a nurse, I know what it means when a tech goes to get the radiologist.
They told us the baby had multiple cysts on his kidneys and wasn’t making amniotic fluid as he should. They were also worried about a cyst on the brain and other abnormalities. They said we should go 45 minutes to the nearest teaching hospital for more information and a second opinion. By the grace of God, they got us in that day.
Ultrasound number 2 confirmed what we had already been told. I can remember the tech labeling the ultrasound with things like “bladder area” because there was no fluid in the bladder and they couldn’t really tell if it was there.
It was excruciating, and I had to turn away from the screen.
We met with a maternal fetal medicine doctor who presented options to us. She said I could continue to carry the baby but there was very little chance of survival after birth. Or I could opt for early delivery – known to the larger public as an abortion.
This never felt like an abortion as I had previously thought about it. This was a decision about what was best for my child. A child with little chance of survival and almost certain suffering should he be carried to full term. I believe, and there’s some evidence, that delivery before 22 weeks means little to no pain based on the development of the nervous system at that point.
So we went ahead with early delivery. We had to wait to find out if a certain doctor was working because he/she didn’t do this kind of delivery. That was a really difficult thing to hear, and it felt like judgement. A judgment that doctor didn’t have the right to because he/she was not the parent and not living with the reality that our very wanted child was not going to live. Then we had to wait the weekend to be admitted for the delivery.
My nurse, Michelle, was amazing and never made me feel anything other than what I needed to feel, loss for the baby I loved and wanted.
The labor was was relatively short and I got to hold him as long as I wanted. My husband opted not to hold him. The hardest thing I have ever done is watch the nurse walk away with my baby and know that I wasn’t going to see him again. And when I allow myself to think about that moment, it brings me to tears.
I spent several years not caring about my body. I didn’t care about what I ate and I certainly didn’t exercise.
I felt justified in not taking care of my body because it failed me in the thing that every woman is supposed to be able to do, grow a healthy baby.
One day I looked at myself and my whole being had just slipped away. I didn’t know who I was except a mother to two beautiful daughters and one angel son, barely keeping it together. I was just surviving at that point.
Because I’m a nurse and because I have a very active mother and I know the research says exercising boosts the feel good chemicals in your brain, I decided maybe it was time for me to consider adding exercise to my days. I had lived with pretty severe anxiety since the birth of my second daughter and was using prescribed medication to control it. It was mostly working but if I forgot a few days in a row, I felt it.
Right after my second daughter was born, I started walking on the treadmill. It didn’t last very long. Then I tried walking outside during the warm weather, but everything felt so overwhelming.
One day I came across a few posts on social media about women joining a virtual gym and working out at home and then checking in with each other, encouraging each other. I didn’t have anything to lose, so I signed up.
With much encouragement, I learned to fit exercise into my day. It was hard, really hard. So many days I didn’t feel like I had time, I didn’t feel like I was worthy of being taken care of, I didn’t want to have to shower after, I could make excuses like it was my job. And so many days I gave into the excuses, I chose to NOT choose active.
But the seed had been planted and something from inside me kept urging me on. Even after I had given up on myself for 6 months. Something told me to start again. I learned to ask for what I needed, like setting my kids up with a snack and TV so I could exercise for 30 minutes.
I learned that it’s okay to take care of me. That, in fact, I wasn’t serving anyone if I didn’t take care of me and I certainly wasn’t honoring the life of my son.
Over time, this developed into a calling to help other bereaved mamas feel worthy of taking care of the body they feel failed them.
I realized it would have been so helpful to have a guide for getting back to trusting my body. When I couldn’t find one, I wrote one. It’s called the Guide for Trusting Your Body After Miscarriage. It includes the things that worked for me in learning to trust my body again. A big part of that was exercise. I had neglected my body so much that when it started to respond by feeling stronger I was completely in awe of it. Even though I had three hard pregnancies and one pregnancy loss, my body was still capable of pretty amazing things. So I hope you find the guide helpful and you might share it with someone who needs it.
Every part of me wishes there was not a need for this. And every part of me still longs for my son. But I have embraced my place in this world to help other bereaved mamas feel strong and worthy.
The Guide can be downloaded at https://linktr.ee/rmstockwell.followyourarrow
About Rebecca Stockwell
Rebecca, RN, is the author of the “Guide for Trusting You Body After Miscarriage.” Stockwell’s own experience with pregnancy loss, and insights from other women who have lost babies during pregnancy, prompted her to create the guide, which is aimed at helping bereaved mamas feel in control of their bodies again.
Stockwell has enjoyed a career as nurse since 2005, which helped feed her desire for preventative health and wellness as a means to living her most fulfilled and joyful life. She is an avid gardener and fitness enthusiast, and is training for her first triathlon this spring.
Stockwell lives in Vermont with her husband and two daughters.