My Baby's Heartbeat Bear Guest Post by: Allie Page, mother of 2 living and 1 sleeping angel.
Today, she tells what she has learned three years after the loss of her baby.
Photo credit: https://www.jennhydemanphotography.com/
In October 2014, I lost our baby when I was 28 weeks pregnant. She was our second pregnancy and followed her healthy brother. It was completely unexpected; no medical reasoning was ever found. She was fine one day, and gone the next. We named her Mercy. Losing Mercy has been the most pivotal and poignant experience of my life, and while no one would choose this as part of their story, I'm thankful for all I've learned from my sweet sleeping girl.
Three Things I have Learned From Losing Mercy
Face Emotions Head On
Before I lost Mercy, I carried a durable, bulletproof exterior. When my shell cracked, I realized I had two choices: 1. Embrace it and let it shatter, or 2. Pretend to move on by numbing and ignoring the pain. Either way, I knew it wasn't going to be easy and the effects would be lasting. If I tried to fill the cracks before they were ready to be put back together, it would only be a matter of time before the pieces broke again. It's not until we've completely fallen apart, felt the weight of despair, taken the time to mourn and grieve all of the hopes and dreams that tiny person embodied, that we can begin the healing process. If we move forward before we're ready, we become stuck emotionally -Paralyzed, actually. It is hard, and raw, but the consequences of not facing our emotions are much more severe. Even if you put the pieces of your bulletproof exterior back together, or worse, move forward as if nothing happened, it's not as thick as it was. It continually grows thinner, becoming more and more brittle, until one day, it all crumbles and breaks again. The pain is compounded and now regret, guilt, and a slew of other emotions are added to the pot.
I've learned now, three years out, feelings and emotions are much more nuanced and complicated than we perceive or process. It's easier to work out misunderstandings and hurts in the moment. Keep the air clear, a short - ideally non-existent - list of offenses, and to apologize and forgive quickly. This has been a game changer in all my relationships, but especially my marriage. Life is too short and can be gone in an instant. It's just not worth it.
Embrace the Time You Do Have
In the moment, this will look different for every mom, family, and baby depending on what the gestational age was, how the baby was born, and personal preferences. It may feel odd, but I can't urge you enough to actually hold your baby. It is HARD, and uncomfortable - but what I wouldn't give to hold my 1lb 15.5 oz baby girl again! I promise, you CAN do hard things, and you will not regret it. The time you have is fleeting. It will be so quick sometimes you will wonder if it really happened; if it wasn't just a bad dream. Anything you can do to go back to, or hold onto those moments even a tiny bit longer I am ALL for! Can you do hand and/or foot prints? Can you make a mold of her tiny hand? Record her heartbeat if you can! If nothing else, pictures. All. The. Pictures. Now a few years out, this is something that still runs across my mind daily. I have two living kids and think fairly regularly, "If I died today, would they know how much I loved them? Would they know our Creator loved them even more? Do they know nothing matters more than the people you encounter and the relationships you build?" This is the lens our life is filtered through. Losing a child pointedly puts everything else in perspective. The rat race of life is easy to set aside because we've learned how momentary life really is. Any of us could be gone tomorrow without warning. I'd rather spend what time I do have with my people being present whole heartedly, learning and knowing the intricacies of their makeup.
Don't Worry About What Other People Think
This was especially hard for me, but I just kept telling myself, "They don't know what I'm going through." (This was true for me, but if you are surrounded by other loss moms, they'll understand your need to do what you need to do to process, grieve and commemorate your tiny love.) I got really comfortable saying, "I know this doesn't make sense, but I just need to do this." Even if people didn't get it, they gave me the space to do what I needed to in each moment. There is only one thing I didn't follow through with in the moment because I cared too much what other people thought, and it's the only regret I have in all of Mercy's story. This is still something I have to remind myself of regularly. The trajectory of our life took a 180 degree turn and subsequently, every part of our life was affected when we lost Mercy. The way I approach my marriage, parenting, relationships in general, and my big picture outlook on life are all drastically different than before. I said before that it's easy to put the rat race aside, and it IS when I keep my priorities and convictions front and center. But I lose footing and get caught up in what I see on social media or what society is telling me, and start heading in the wrong direction. Fortunately, the conviction isn't usually far behind reminding the direction I'm supposed to be going. Stay the course, remind yourself what your family's priorities are regularly, and mind the gap. It's OK for it to look differently than everyone else. One last word for those who are walking through this with someone and not experiencing a loss of their own. It's OK to not know what to say. I know many times we want to say the perfect thing, but it's OK not to say anything and to just sit and BE with one another. I know this can be uncomfortable, but resist the pressure to fill the void or silence. Let her know you are there for her and 'at the ready' for whatever she needs. We were made to be in relationships and communities. Help shoulder her burden by resisting the urge to pull away thinking 'she wants to be alone_x009d_'. Dig in. Ask what she needs. She may want to be alone, but ask her if she wants to be alone, or if you can come and just be with her. And if nothing else, bring her a meal. If you're walking through this valley, I am so sorry. I pray you are able to embrace and honor each moment of this season. You are not alone. You are actually now part of a club that - even though none of us wants to be in - the support is tremendous and we are waiting to help you heal when you are ready. Blessings to you, dear one. #iam1in4 #infantloss #Infantlossawareness #mercypink #mercypinkpage