How can you comfort a friend who has experienced baby loss?
- Know there is nothing you can say or do that will fix it or ease the pain. Do not even try. What is the most helpful is to sit with them in the pain. Acknowledge it, and validate that this is really hard. You can do that by listening, texting, or even sending a card. You do not need to offer a silver lining, as much as you may want to.
- Say their baby’s name! Let them know you are thinking about their baby. Don’t be afraid to bring it up. Remember important dates like heavenly birthdays and due dates. Send a text or call on the anniversaries of those dates, year after year. That is such a blessing to a mom or dad whose baby died.
- Be understanding if they don’t seem like the friend you used to know. They are never going to be the same, and they are coming into their new identity. Be supportive of that. Invite them, but let them know it’s ok if they don’t come to your baby shower or if they want to sit out your birthday party. Give them grace after grace, but please keep inviting them. It is very isolating to lose a baby, and it can often feel like you are losing friends too. Keep reaching out.
What’s the best way to tell a friend who lost a baby that you are pregnant?
We had wonderful friends write us a heartfelt letter telling us they were pregnant a couple months after Ginny died. It meant so much, and we were truly happy for them. I definitely recommend writing a letter, text, or private message. It is good for the friend to be able to process the emotions ahead of a face-to-face meeting. You can tell them one on one, but I definitely would not recommend announcing in front of a group or via a social media announcement. Even if the friend is really happy for you, they will still have a lot of conflicting and difficult emotions. Give them grace and patience.
How could you bear the pain of childbirth without a living baby? Why didn’t you have a C-section?
There are more risks to the mother with a C-section than a vaginal delivery, and I wanted to deliver her as I had imagined. It was a way to mother her. It was so scary, but it felt like such an honor. I did have an epidural, but it didn’t work on the right side. Looking back, I’m glad it didn’t because it gave me physical pain to yell through. My heart was in such agony that I needed that physical outlet. Although it was hard, I look back at that day with love and pride. Giving birth was the easy part. Living everyday after without Ginny was the hard part.
Did you take pictures of Ginny’s body? Do you share them? Why?
- There is absolutely nothing wrong with sharing pictures of a baby who died. Just as all parents are proud of their kids and want to show them to the world, loss parents feel the same way. These are the only pictures we have of our children. When we see them, we see their life, not their death.
- This wasn’t something I thought about before Ginny died. We made this decision while I was in labor. It seemed so strange to me to take pictures of a dead person, but it would be our only chance to have pictures of her outside the womb. It didn’t seem right to me to take pictures of her with our phones. That seemed so casual. I didn’t want to take a picture of her the way I would take a picture of a latte. I didn’t want to see her as I scrolled through my phone. It felt like a sacred moment, and the phones did not seem sacred enough. We decided to have the nurse take pictures of her with a camera. I wish we did take pictures of us holding her as a family, but I couldn’t handle that at the time. We made the decisions best for the moment. We keep the photos in our memory box the nurse made. I have only shared them with a few family members and close friends. They are so precious to me. Maybe one day I will share them more broadly, but for now I hold them close.
- There is an excellent organization called “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep” that send photographers for this very purpose. I knew about this, but decided I didn’t want a photographer there.
Why do you talk about your stillbirth? Why do you blog?
- I talk about Ginny often to whoever will listen. I talk about her because I think about her all the time. She’s my child and is still a huge part of my life. I love her so much. When I think and talk about her, I’m filled with love (just as anyone is when they talk about their child). I appreciate all those who listen and who bring her up in conversation. I’m sorry if it makes you sad or uncomfortable. It really does make me happy.
- At first I struggled with whether I wanted to post about Ginny’s death on social media. But then I realized that I had posted about expecting her so it felt strange to not say anything else. I planned to post once to announce her death and not mention it again. But then I started writing. I started writing just for myself for my own healing. I was not planning on sharing; I didn’t typically share much on the internet, especially something so emotional and personal. But then I felt that the Holy Spirit was prompting me to share. I didn’t want to, but I did anyway. After I posted, I realized how many people could relate to our story. It led me to meet several women who also lost babies. I realized how much of a stigma there is around baby loss and death in general. I realized how little people actually know about grief. It is valuable to share our stories to help each other feel a little less alone and give each other permission to grieve.
What’s the hardest part of stillbirth?
When your baby dies, you don’t just lose a baby. You lose a toddler, a child, a teenager, an adult child. You miss every birthday, Christmas, first day of school, wedding, grandchildren. You miss every “good morning” and every “good night”. You miss every hug. You miss every sporting event and evening stroll. You miss all the would-be memories and all the mundane moments you would’ve forgotten. You miss it all.
What’s the hardest part of pregnancy after loss?
The hardest thing for me was feeling like my body was a ticking time bomb. It was painful not knowing when or if your baby is in danger. By the end, waiting and trusting was so difficult. It is the second hardest thing I’ve ever been through. Of course it was worth it all to have Baby Chet.
Do you plan on telling Chet about Ginny?
We already talk to Chet about his big sister Ginny in heaven. We will continue to talk about her, so Chet will always know her as part of our family. We include her in family traditions. For example, when we went to the pumpkin patch, we picked out a pumpkin for Chet and one for Ginny. We have a Christmas stocking for Ginny too. Anytime we see a butterfly when we go on family walks, we are reminded of Ginny. I tell Chet that Ginny’s thinking about us and loves us.