Let’s talk about this article. I have seen Natalie Morgan’s post shared all over Facebook and it appeared today in the Huffington Post. Natalie shared a plea with readers, “All I ask of you is when you have your dark moments with your baby — when you’re at your wits’ end and feel like you can’t go on anymore when you’re only getting an hour or two of sleep a night — instead of begging your child to go to sleep and being swallowed up in your frustration and exhaustion, find the tiniest bit of strength within you to keep going, and say a prayer of gratitude for your child, as difficult as it may be in that moment,” she wrote.
Natalie shares that her daughter, Eleanor, was stillborn. I do not personally know her pain although I do know what it’s like to lose a child of my own. I also know what it’s like to parent a child after loss and it is oh so difficult. But before I delve into parenting after a loss, let’s take a few more moments to talk about stillbirth.
1 in 160 babies in the US will be stillborn. That’s 26,000 babies a year! It’s not a secret, yet it’s a silent syndrome that is not talked about. Most families are concerned with SIDS, yet 1500 babies died from SIDS in 2013. As a childbirth educator, I share this unexpected outcome with my students in every class I teach but in some places I have been asked not to mention stillbirth. I have talked about this before in a previous post but I have managed to include this unexpected outcome in all my curriculum’s.
There is no way to really prepare for this. There is no way to prepare for miscarriage either (1 in 4 women will experience miscarriage) but to never hear the term stillbirth and to assume this only happened in the “olden days” is doing a disservice to women and families across America. Natalie is now enduring that pain and devastation.
She is someone I would want to serve. Women like her, are the reason I have my ministry, Dragonflies For Ruby. No woman and her family should have to endure this alone. No one who supports her can take away this pain but they can support her in many ways which can ease some of what she might endure. I have listed ways to help in previous posts as well. I hope you will visit that page and the next time you know someone who endures a pregnancy loss, that you will incorporate those ways of helping into your care for them.
Now I return to her plea. The plea that women who are holding their screaming, crying baby; who are running on little sleep, with sore and cracked nipples; who may feel like giving up, should “say a prayer of gratitude for your child,” in those moments as hard as it might be. This plea though, is definitely not easy. I have lived it and lived through the shame and guilt of the feelings I had for my son in those moments she is describing.
I will share an excerpt from my next, upcoming book, “I felt extreme guilt after yelling at you or being frustrated with you because I wasn’t sleeping or couldn’t get something done that I had planned. The guilt was based merely off the fact that I should be happy that I have you and there should be no sad or frustrating times. I lost my baby and you are living so I needed to be happy every second because you could be gone the next.”
I went to my therapist because of the feelings I had and she shared an amazing poem and a blog “Don’t Carpe Diem.” It helped me to feel normal and to release some of the guilt I had been experiencing. Not all women though, seek therapy. I remember feeling ashamed to explore some of the feelings I had.
Parenting after a loss was very lonely. I couldn’t share my feelings with anyone really. There was no support group (at the time) and there was so much shame around my feelings. I was supposed to be happy all the time. I was supposed to be grateful because he was alive no matter how hard things were. I struggled immensely but I was supposed to enjoy that struggle. Society told me I had to embrace every moment.
Nevermind that I am also human and I have feelings too. But I was supposed to push all those feeling aside because I had lost a baby. I was supposed to push those feelings aside because others lost their baby and would give anything to be holding a screaming, crying, inconsolable baby.
But I couldn’t. I was operating on no sleep and I was desperate. So the guilt set in. Therapy helped.
Messages like Natalie’s are strong. They are meant to impact the woman who is struggling, just like I was. It is meant to share empathy. The message has been shared, hundreds of thousands of times. But is her message helpful to the women who are struggling, AS they are struggling?
I am not sure. I can only look back and wonder how her message would have helped me. The only part of her message that I can see possibly would have helped is this, “Say a prayer for my sweet, sweet Eleanor who never got to know life outside my womb. Please. Do it for Eleanor. And do it for her mommy who loves her and misses her beyond measure.”
I could have said a prayer for someone else. Believe me, I prayed for me to have the strength. I prayed for the Lord to continue giving me strength to keep going. I prayed for God to have mercy on me for the feelings and thoughts I had. I prayed for me but I didn’t pray for others in those moments. I didn’t pray for those often enough who loved their babies but could not hold them here on earth.
This post isn’t about discounting the plea that Natalie shared. It’s just a response to let those who are struggling know that you are not alone. That it’s okay to struggle. You don’t need to have shame in your feelings, even though you have lost a child yet the one you are holding won’t stop crying.