Deathday before birthday. The loss of an unborn child is extremely confusing. All our plans and dreams for the future are thrown out the window and replaced with seemingly endless contradictions. It is hard to find your emotional footing. When I feel such intense grief and breakdown, I tell my husband or my mom that I’m feeling sad. But that’s not true – I’m not sad. I’m feeling more than I can describe. I’m feeling more than I can comprehend.
My mind tricks me. My body tricks me. My emotions trick me. I feel like I’m living in a topsy turvy world full of paradoxes.
Physically giving birth to a stillborn baby messes with your mind. Your body releases happy hormones: oxytocin, endorphins, adrenaline. Hormones that tell you this is the best day of your life. Hormones that cause you to fall in love with your newborn baby and tell you to forget the pain and have more children. How can I feel strong, happy, and proud while also feeling sorrow, sadness, and despair? These hormones tell you that your arms should be full, but your arms are empty.
That’s the beginning of your body’s consistent reminder of your empty arms. Next your milk comes in causing your boobs to swell. They start to hurt, yelling at you, “FEED YOUR BABY! FEED YOUR BABY!” You just want to yell back, “I CAN’T! I HAVE NO BABY! SHUT UP!” I want nothing more than to feed my baby with this milk meant for her. The pain becomes cathartic. Something feels good about having some physical pain to go with your emotional pain. Then the pain slowly leaves, and you are sad to feel it go. Is my body forgetting? Am I forgetting her already? My boobs are empty and my arms are empty.
I dread the day when I meet someone new and they ask me, “Do you have any kids?” or “Are you a mom?” Am I a mom? Yes or no. There is no obvious answer. In my heart I am, but there is no proof on earth. I treasure the one fading milk stain on my robe. Even though I’m the only one who sees it, it is one small piece of evidence that I am a mom. I guess I will answer that I had a stillborn baby or I have a daughter in heaven. It may make people feel awkward, but I never want to minimize or deny her life or my motherhood.
One of the most unexpected feelings I have is the happiness I feel when I think of her – happiness when I think of being pregnant, of the cute nursery, of the plans we made. I love her so much. I loved every minute with her. I feel happiness when I think of her. It is the unknown future that makes me sad – the future that was planned and is now blurry. At first I thought, “Why did this happen now?! I was so far along!! Everything was ready! We were ready for her! Why not earlier when we had no nursery?” But then I realized those were the times with her. I now wish that it had happened later so I had more time with her. How do I have such happy memories while at the same time my heart is torn apart? My heart is happy that she is in heaven and is so so loved. My heart is broken for the future we won’t have together on Earth. We will be together as a complete family one day and for forever.
The ultimate paradox is the love, strength, and faith that comes out of the woodwork in these hard times, from family and friends but more surprisingly from myself.
“But he said to me, ’My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10