By: Lindsey Dell
I’ve never had a great memory. I tend to remember a few very specific but random things from way too long ago, but I can’t remember what I did yesterday. As long as I live, I will never forget anything about February 18, 2020. I was 21 weeks pregnant with our first child, a precious baby girl. I had a doctor’s appointment that morning. I remember what I was wearing. I remember what my husband and I talked about in the car on the way. And I will never forget the moment I heard “there is no heartbeat.” Nothing in life can prepare you for that moment.
It’s been two years since that day, and I’d love to be able to say that I’m doing ok. But that is not the reality. You see, I don’t believe that we ever really become “ok” with losing a child. I think we become a little bit more comfortable with the discomfort of the sadness and grief that have been part of our lives for the last two years. We learn how to push through the grief in order to function in our everyday lives, whether it’s raising other children, work, etc. We find ways to try to do the things that used to bring us joy in our lives, hoping it will fill the void. But it doesn’t.
I’ve struggled with a lot of feelings the last two years. For two years now we’ve been trying to get pregnant again. Deep down you know that you can never replace a child you have lost but for a very long time, you feel like having a child is the only thing in the world that can even remotely begin to help you heal. We’ve been unsuccessful in our journey to conceive again, and I’m convinced it is largely in part due to my anxiety about getting pregnant again. There is no easy way, whether through therapy or otherwise, to convince yourself that you’ll be fine with whatever happens. I’ve tried to adopt that mentality many times over the last two years, but the truth is, I’m not ok with whatever happens.
I struggle with all the “shoulds” that the last 24 months has thrown at me. At what point “should” I give up hope of having a baby? I mean, I am 39 years old. In fertility years, that’s practically 100. Yes, I know the medical field has taken giant leaps in the last several years as far as fertility procedures, etc. But that doesn’t necessarily give me any comfort. When “should” I give away all of the wonderful baby gifts we received and turn the nursery back into a guest room? When “should” I stop feeling guilty if I ever do feel any sort of happiness? When “should” I stop thinking I have to put on my brave face because it’s been two years and I “should” be better by now? I realize in actuality, there is no rule book or time limit on any of these feelings. However, it doesn’t change the fact that I feel like I “should” be further along in my journey than I am.
One of the hardest parts of this journey is trying to explain and/or justify your feelings to others. People have good intentions, but if you’ve never walked this road then there truly is no way you can understand. You can empathize or sympathize, but there is no other comparable feeling to the loss of a child. People often times say unhelpful things in an effort to “help.” People don’t always understand that a lot of times, we don’t want to go out and do things. Being social, while you think it might make us feel better, is sometimes way too exhausting and more work than we feel like putting in. We don’t want to disappoint our family and friends by missing events, but some days are just too hard to be present in the moment.
I remember very recently a time when I was talking with a friend and referred to “my daughter.” It stopped me dead in my tracks. I’m not a mother. I never considered myself a mother. I have zero living children and two angel children. But that was an incredibly difficult concept for me to grasp. In my brain, you’re only a parent if you actually GET to parent. I did not have the chance. While I know in my heart, I am a mother to my baby girl, I still answer “no” if someone asks if I have any kids. I don’t know when it will feel appropriate for me to say “yes.” Maybe it never will. The guilt of even having those feelings is tough to manage at times.
I know that I’ve made forward progress in my journey to heal because I no longer cry when I see pregnancy announcements. I am able to feel happiness and joy for friends or family that are having children, and it is sincere. I’m able to talk openly with family and friends about my feelings most of the time. It doesn’t mean I don’t go through phases where I don’t want to leave the house. Or respond to texts. Or get out of bed. But generally, people are pretty understanding and don’t push too hard.
If I have any advice for grieving families, or friends of grieving families, it’s this: Give yourself or your loved ones all the grace in the world. Be gentle with yourself and with others. Don’t “should” yourself to death. You deserve to feel happiness but if you don’t feel it right now, that’s ok. Anything you’re feeling is ok. Don’t compare your journey to others because what works for some may not work for you. Try to find things to do in life that you enjoy, and if there are days you don’t feel like doing it that’s ok. Cancel plans if you need time for yourself. Reach out to people you feel comfortable talking to if you need help. Know that you will never be the same person you were before your loss, and that’s ok too. I smile when I see rainbows or butterflies because I know that’s my daughter’s way of telling me she’s there. The world does have a way of sending you signs when you need them but sometimes you have to keep your eyes open to really see.
About Lindsey Dell
Lindsey is a mother to 2 angel babies. She lives in Cottleville, MO with her husband Nathan and their 3-year-old Wheaten Terrier, Louie. They are still hopeful that they will have their rainbow baby one day.