Pregnancy and Infant Loss: The Pain of a Life Cut Short
Pregnancy. It’s a time when parents dream of the child they will someday meet, when they look through baby books for names, decide on nursery decor, and imagine what life will be like when their child arrives.
When these dreams and hopes are cut short by miscarriage, still birth, or the loss of life hours or days after birth, the pain is unmeasurable.
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.
The statistics on pregnancies that end in miscarriage or neonatal deaths (less than 28 days old) are staggering. One in four women has experienced this kind of loss. And yet there continues to be a shroud of secrecy about it.
Some women feel ashamed of their grief and keep it to themselves. Others believe that something is wrong with them because months or even years after the miscarriage or loss they have to hold back tears when their friends celebrate a new birth, a coworker announces her pregnancy, or they’re invited to a baby shower.
If you have experienced the loss of a child in pregnancy or after birth, whatever you are experiencing is okay. Each person, each family, experiences loss differently. There is no one ‘normal’ or right way to grieve a baby who is gone too soon.
- Your loss is individual, and there is no clear road-map as to how your grief will be expressed and experienced.
- Many parents take pictures of their child who was born still, hold them, rock them, and talk to them. It’s natural to need to say goodbye.
- Allow yourself to grieve and mourn the life that could have been. There is no time-line as to when your grief will ease.
- It’s okay to talk about your child to others. Your son’s or daughter’s life may have been cut short, but it still mattered and it was still real.
- You may feel alone in this, but know that pregnancy loss is something that many, many women experience. Sadly, few people talk about it.
- It’s okay to reach out to others for support. It’s okay to not know what you need, or to need different things at different times.
- Allow the people in your life to love you. Your partner may also be grieving, but in a different way. Talk to him or her. Allow yourself to be comforted and listened to. There are people in your life who do truly care.
- You may be plagued by feelings that you did something wrong, or should have done something differently. When a pregnancy is lost, people search for an answer; it gives a feeling of control to believe that a different course of action could have had a different outcome. Yet often there is no answer, and nothing could have been done to prevent the loss. Be gentle with yourself.
- Find the support you need. Look for a support group, a counselor, or an online group. You don’t have to go through this alone.
Loss of any kind is hard, but the loss of a child in pregnancy or after birth is especially so. The death of an infant is the death of the future you imagined. In many ways, you are forced to reinvent what you had thought your life would be. You’ll be reminded constantly of what you don’t have. You’ll be angry when parents complain of midnight feedings and cranky toddlers because it reminds you of your empty arms and that you would give anything to have a baby to feed and comfort.
As much as it hurts, it will get better. And healing doesn’t mean forgetting. You will never forget, but you will heal.
There are many good resources on the internet. Here are just a few of them:
Image from Shutterstock
Harmon, J. (2012). Pregnancy and Infant Loss: The Pain of a Life Cut Short. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 27, 2016, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/your-life/2012/10/pregnancy-and-infant-loss-the-pain-of-a-life-cut-short/