Author, Blogger, Educator

Tag: Parenting after loss

Shame in Parenting Your Living Baby

Natalie Morgan with Daughter EleanorLet’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

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.



Breaking the Silence of First Trimester Miscarriage

So, what does this picture of the name Timmy on the door to his room have to do with acceptance? I realized several weeks ago that my house is virtually empty of anything representing Timmy. Why? Am I too busy? Is this second child syndrome? Am I afraid? I don’t know. What I DO know is that I have a wall FULL of family photos and not one of them includes Timmy and he has been in our lives for 9 months (outside the womb).

One day last week, Timmy was sitting on the floor in the upstairs hallway and he was looking at Joey’s door. Joey’s door has the name “Joey” on it in big, colorfully painted wood letters. They aren’t the original letters for his door. I made those years ago out of smaller letters but when Joey was about 4-5 years old, we made some new ones and he assisted in painting them and decorating them.

Timmy looked at Joey’s door and looked at his door. Did he notice there was nothing on his door? Did he realize that there was a difference? I am not sure, but I certainly noticed. Then, as he crawled through the hallway, he was looking at all the pictures on the family wall. Was he searching for a picture of himself? I am not sure, but I certainly noticed there wasn’t anything of him on the wall.

I have pictures of Joey as a newborn, infant, toddler, and years on up but nothing of Timmy. Well, I think the pictures of Joey stop around age 6 so it looks like I need to update some of those as well but Joey is splattered all over the house. Timmy…is nowhere to be found.

So I fixed that today by ordering some photos and putting these letters on his door. I will hang the pictures this weekend so Timmy has more of a physical presence but deep down, I wonder if I haven’t accepted him into the family. I wonder if my fear of losing him has kept me from placing reminders of him everywhere. It’s as if he died and I have no real reminders, it won’t hurt as bad…YEAH RIGHT! Silly brain for trying to cope that way.

I am glad I fixed it. As soon as I hung the letters and Timmy woke from his nap, I showed him the letters on his door. He flapped his arms by his side and laughed. Then he reached and grabbed for his letters. It was as if he knew and he was excited to have his own letters. It was as if he knew he was accepted. His mother has finally accepted that he is here, he is hers, and he is a welcome member of the family. Acceptance.

– Breaking the silence of First Trimester Miscarriage

Tears of my Heart

It was so surreal tonight. The Goosebumps and chills I got from the exercise we did together were amazing and welcomed. It was the ultimate bonding experience…at least for me. Tonight, I played the same music I listened to while I was relaxing in the bathtub while pregnant with you.

I wanted to see if you remembered the music. One song in particular, by Enya. I would breath very specifically with this song, Deora Ar Mo Chroí. I would rub my belly and think happy thoughts. I blogged about it here but tonight, you were outside my body. Outside my body for the last 7.5 months.

My body yearned to place you next to my belly. I placed you in between my legs and held you close to me while we listened to the song together. You were quiet but you wanted to eat the iPad. I rubbed your back and rubbed your legs, hoping you would remember this feeling from inside the womb. As I did this, I began to have Goosebumps.

My mind was brought back to the warm baths we used to take with long minutes bonding with each other; talking with each other spiritually. I did not feel you speaking to me like I used to but it was quite amazing. I was sending energy to you as you remained in my lap. You were peaceful and not fussy.

I don’t know if you remembered this music at all. I tried hard to hum it onto your body so you could feel it reverberate within you. You loved the attention and the hugs. It was definitely healing for me. At one moment, I felt a complete release. It was as if my body and soul FINALLY recognized you. It was so weird but amazing. It’s really indescribable.

– Breaking the silence of First Trimester Miscarriage

It’s Christmas…

Oklahoma Ice Storm - All That is Seen and UnseenToday is Christmas Day, 2013. I love Christmas. It is my most favorite time of the year. We welcome the birth of Jesus and celebrate with our family and friends. I wasn’t intending on writing a blog today but while searching to purchase a certificate of life or some other print for someone who just lost their baby, I ran across this blog at Still Standing Magazine.

I fully support Carly Marie. She has an amazing talent. I am struggling with the site and how to purchase the print I want but her photos are amazing and I am glad she wrote this article. I saw the responses to her post and they go both ways (thanking her and chastising her). I get why she doesn’t use the term “angel” to describe her son who was born still. I get why she doesn’t use the term “rainbow baby.” Everything she said resonates with me but there is something that also wasn’t spoken about. There is something that bothers me…the guilt I feel from time to time. Guilt sucks.

Where the heck did guilt come from? Here is my guilt and it’s actually in response to my friend who posted a response to Carly’s article. My friend posted that she doesn’t refer to her baby born following her loss as her rainbow baby. I like the term but understand that some people never receive their “rainbow.” For me, I take solace in the term. It helps me have something to “lean on.” BUT, my friend also wrote something. She stated she was “indescribably grateful to have and hold her every day.” What does this feel like? Does it mean that it’s never hard to have her daughter? Does it mean that she never gets upset with her daughter, feels frustration, feels like she can’t do this because being a parent is hard?

I know it doesn’t because I talk with her BUT, as a mother of a rainbow baby, are we supposed to feel happy and “lucky” 24/7 with our living babies? There are times when it is hard with my son. There are times where I feel great frustration, great fear, great happiness, great sadness, and feel so completely worn out I question if I can do this job. I know I can but sometimes it’s hard. And sometimes, the guilt sets in over the fact that I don’t feel “lucky” every day. That I don’t thank God every day that my son is still with me even though my daughter spends her days in heaven.

Guilt. It sucks.

Are we made to feel like we can’t have hard days because we lost a baby before? Who told us that we MUST love every moment with our rainbow babies? Where did this come from? So, as Carly Marie shares her intimate feelings and knew that they would be very controversial, I too, am sharing that guess what??? It’s hard sometimes. And there are days where I am so frustrated and angry because it was so hard. And yes, there are days where I am not so super happy that I have another baby even though I feel scared about him being taken from me. Guilt.

I feel guilty even just writing this. Carly Marie isn’t alone in her feelings. I really hope I am not alone as well. I am not sure I even spoke clearly in this. And it’s Christmas. Guilt…

The Sad Reality of Life

Timmy and I sat in the hallways of church during Mass last Sunday. As we sat there, Timmy intently watched the people as they walked by us. As each person approached, Timmy garnished a smile and began jumping on his bum, waving his hands and “talking” to them. Some people smiled…some did not.

What was interesting and increasingly sad was Timmy’s reaction when they didn’t smile, look at him, or respond in any way. The more it happened, the more you could see the disappointment sink into his face. As the exchanges took place…or the lack their of, Timmy would stop getting so excited as people approached. Eventually, Timmy stopped responding and returned to paying attention to me instead of trying to engage everyone that walked by.

I think what really hurt the most was knowing that his little mind was working and learning cause and effect. Of all the interactions he had had up until then, he was always greeted with a smile, coos, and personal attention. Now he was being exposed to the reality of life…that sometimes people don’t interact or smile and mostly, that he is not the center of attention. While he will continue for many years believing he is the center of attention, it was hard for me to watch him try to invoke a reaction and not receive one. After all, how could you NOT smile at this beautiful boy’s face?

4 month old boy

It makes me wonder…how does this NON-reaction affect society as a whole?


These horrible random thoughts!

Dear Timmy,

On vacation, I continue to have these random thoughts of you being dead. I hate these thoughts. I don’t feel like there is any reason to be having these thoughts but they enter my mind at odd times and I can’t stop them.

For instance, while changing your diaper and putting your nightgown on, I looked at your feet and they looked very white. You were under the light of the camper on the bed that makes up the kitchen table and I saw your little white feet. I touched them over and over to see if they would turn pink, but they didn’t. I moved you several times, pulled your feet up into the light, but they still remained the same white color.

Then, I twisted you up and turned you sideways on the bench and sure enough, your feet looked normal. I felt instant relief but then I got scared that you might die. Is this even normal? Should I have these feeling about you? Did I have these feelings about Joey? I will have to check Joey’s journal to see if I did. Are these feelings because I lost Ruby? Maybe it’s time to revisit my therapy?

I picked you up and pulled you into my right shoulder. I held you close and hugged you tightly with both my arms. Of course, you let out a big belch and I had to laugh. I brought the side of your head into my face and lips. I smelled your skin and let your hair rub against my cheek. I soaked in your spirit in those moments, telling you I loved you so much and asking you not to leave. I gave you many kisses on the side of your head, cheek, and lips.

I have had similar thoughts before. Sometimes my thoughts will go so far as to see you in a coffin in a little suit. It is so scary. These are horrible random thoughts.

Why? Are you leaving? Am I having a premonition of sorts? I could not bear for you to leave. I ask God nightly to keep you here with us, safe and sound. Why do I have these thoughts?

Timmy, you are a blessing. Every day I have with you is a blessing, even though it is hard sometimes. I love you so much my Timmy, Tim, Tim.

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