Today’s post comes from preemie mom Nicole, who had to say goodbye to her preemie far too soon. The experience is one that has already taught her a lot and she wanted to share what she has learned so far in case it can help new parents dealing with the loss of a preemie.
On April 17, 2018 my husband and my whole world changed. It was the day our baby died. NOTHING prepares you for the death of a child. Nothing. After several days of being in the hospital due to pregnancy complications, having a terrible mysterious infection, and being in an insane amount of pain, I gave birth. I had a full labor and delivery at only 20 weeks pregnant due to cervical insufficiency. Babies that little simply just can’t make it.
We had exactly 99 minutes with our little boy, Kade, until God took him Home. The only physical thing we have left of him is the hospital blanket we held him in. That’s it. To say our hearts our broken is an extreme understatement. However, there are some things I have learned going through something like this. I am hoping these can help ease the minds of others who have lost a baby and show that you aren’t alone in how you are feeling.
- Grief sucks. One moment you’re fine, the next minute you’re sobbing on your baby’s bedroom floor holding his never worn clothes. One moment you are walking through Target, but then you come across the infant section and have to put your basket down and leave because you don’t want people staring and wondering why you are sobbing in the middle of a store. One moment, you’re having lunch with a friend and seem to be okay talking about her current pregnancy, the next moment you’re driving home from that lunch and have to pull over because you can’t stop crying about all of the things you don’t get to experience with her anymore. You wake up to “just another day”, but that day was supposed to be your baby shower, a baby appointment, or your due date… and you won’t be able to get out of bed that day. You stare at all the unused baby things people sent you, not knowing what to do with them. Do you put them away? Do you leave them in the room that was supposed to be your baby’s? Grief is nasty. It makes you feel so alone. It makes you do stupid things. It makes you jealous, makes you angry, makes you say things you don’t mean to people you care about. Grief makes you anxious, makes you want to stay home all the time, it just takes over you. It. Just. Sucks. BUT, you have to make sure you go through all the stages of grief, as many times as you need to. Take as long as you need.
- Everything is a trigger. The baby shower invitation you get in the mail? Tears. The baby announcements from your friends and family? Tears. Seeing pregnant bellies? Tears. Seeing babies with their moms and dads out in public? Tears. However- these tears aren’t selfish, no matter what people might think. It’s OKAY to hurt. It’s OKAY to tell your friend you don’t feel like hanging out because you aren’t sure how your heart will handle seeing her newborn baby. It’s OKAY to not attend that baby shower because it will be too hard on your heart. It’s OKAY to leave an event early that may have lots of babies and pregnant bellies. It’s OKAY to feel this way. Triggers are everywhere- even in places we least expect it. It’s okay to cry. You don’t need to defend yourself to anyone, either. Protect your heart. Protect your energy. If people are going to think you are selfish for doing so, then they are one of the blessed ones who don’t know what this type of hurt feels like. Let them judge you, but just protect yourself. YOU know what YOU need, not anyone else. If they are your true friends, they will come to understand. It may disappoint them that you aren’t at a certain event for them or for their baby, but they will understand. Don’t put yourself through something that you aren’t ready for.
- Share as much or as little as you want with people— you might feel judged, but your story might also help someone not feel so alone. Talking about infant loss is uncomfortable. Showing pictures of your extreme premature baby might make people uncomfortable. It’s YOUR baby though. They deserve to be remembered how you want them to be and you get to show them off or talk about them as much or as little as you want. I chose to show all our friends and family our baby Kade. I wanted everyone to see our sweet boy and feel like they got to meet him, even though they didn’t and never will get to. I wanted to share the reality of what happened to us in hopes it would help someone else. It offended some, others thought it was inappropriate to show pictures of my premature baby, but others were proud of us for sharing our story. I will never be sorry for sharing our sweet boy… and you shouldn’t be either if that’s what you choose to do.
- Social Media will make you depressed, so limit yourself or change your settings and change what you can see. My Facebook and Instagram were both filled with monthly pregnant belly pictures, pregnancy announcements, birth announcements, and pretty much everything baby related. I would get to the point where I would become so incredibly emotional and just couldn’t function. The posts were just a constant reminder of what my husband and I have lost and what our baby boy will never get to experience. I eventually had to change our settings and had to “unfollow” people to where I couldn’t see any of those posts anymore. Since doing that, my heart has been able to heal a little quicker. Did I feel bad unfollowing some of my closest friends and family? Of course I did. But I know they would understand. Don’t be afraid to do the same thing if you are struggling like I was. Sometimes you need to distance yourself for a little bit in order for you to heal… and that’s okay.
- You are going to have to let some people go. This is one of the worst parts of losing a child. There WILL be people, even your own family members, who are too uncomfortable with this kind of loss. Some of our closest friends and family members didn’t come to Kade’s funeral. It wasn’t important to them, or they didn’t realize how important it was to us. While we understood that work is work sometimes, we were hurt when we realized how some of the people closest to us simply just didn’t care enough to be there. You think you can always count on those people to be around in times like this, but if they don’t show up when you need them most, it’s okay to let them go. You will still be surrounded by a flood of friends and family that care. I had a friend who sat in the hospital waiting room while I was going into labor—and I didn’t even ask her to come to the hospital, she just showed up to support us. We had people drive from all over to be with us when I went into labor. We had people drive from all over to be with us on the day of Kade’s funeral. THOSE are the people that you keep in your life. The ones that are always there no matter what. Surround yourself with those people. They will be the key to getting through this tough time.
- You will survive this. I’ve had days where I felt like I couldn’t go on. I lost my mom last year to cancer, and now we lost our baby. TRUST ME… I’ve had those days where I just question everything and wonder why God would do something like this. But things will get better. Take it one day at a time. Go for walks, pray, watch a funny movie, go somewhere you’ve never been, read a book. It will get better. Give yourself time.
- You will learn that you have no idea what someone is going through or what they’ve been through. With that being said, you now know to never ask the question “so when are you going to have kids?” or never ask someone you just met “do you have any kids?”…. these questions are so simple, but you don’t realize how hurtful they can end up. I took our dog to the vet a week and a half after we lost Kade. The vet was just trying to be nice and was making small talk, but she asked if I had any kids. The pain of not knowing how to answer that question was intense. Do I tell her yes and then have to explain what happened? Do I tell her yes and just hope she doesn’t ask how old he is or what school he goes to? Do I tell her no, but then feel horribly guilty for not acknowledging my precious son? How do you answer that without ending up in tears or without making that person feel guilty? That question is so simple, but can cause so much pain and confusion.
You lose so much when you lose your baby. You miss out on hearing their laugh for the first time. You miss out on their first steps, their first car, their first heartbreak, their high school graduation. You lose all of those experiences and it hurts to think about.
My advice to anyone who has lost a baby, is to keep going. Even if that means that some days you crawl out of bed, just keep crawling. Little by little, things will get easier. You will feel like you again. You will take this horrible loss and learn how to live with it. You will learn how incredibly strong you are. You will learn more about yourself and will become so much closer to the people who stuck with you. While you will never forget your precious baby, you will be able to continue living for them and you WILL get to see them again one day.
Hang in there. Things will get better. You are not alone.
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