I have a “friend” on Facebook. She’s an acquaintance whom I met through my best friend. We share similar political opinions, and have connected occasionally on various issues. She had been documenting her pregnancy journey over the last several months, and knowing what a struggle it was for her to become pregnant, I have delighted in every update and glowing photo that she posted. She recently shared that her baby had fallen asleep forever inside her womb. That night, I read her words over and over, and felt intense grief for her over this unimaginable loss!
I’ve been thinking about her situation and the immense sadness I felt for her, and have been trying to understand why I was experiencing such an intense reaction. The truth is, this isn’t a close friend, or someone whom I connect with regularly. I came to the conclusion that one of the reasons is because I understand how deeply she wanted a child. From as far back as I can remember, all I’ve ever wanted to be, is a mom. I worried that as a woman in her late 30’s, it might take me awhile to get pregnant. Add into the mix that I had been diagnosed years ago with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, and I thought for sure getting pregnant would be a struggle. But by the grace of God, we got pregnant quickly. And I am forever grateful for that, and for my two precious munchkins!
This woman’s loss reminded me of the very real struggles that many women go through to become pregnant, and carry a baby to term. It’s a nightmare that many women do not talk about, because of the shame and guilt and pure devastation associated with this medical, biological issue. After all, a woman’s body is “supposed to be able to do this”.
Although I have never suffered a miscarriage or lost a child, I experienced something of this shame when I was unable to breastfeed. I’ve always had big boobs and would jokingly say that they were built for breastfeeding. I felt deep shame and disappointment when I could not do so for either of my babies. This was compounded by the hospital staff and other moms who kept pushing me to keep trying, saying, “It’s the best thing for your baby”. But no matter how hard I tried, this over-achiever could not make it happen. I wish then that I had read books or blogs about how to accept that I could not breastfeed, rather than books on how to make it happen! I wish that I had sought out an online forum or support group for women struggling with the same issue. I think that kind of support and information could have helped me cope, and maybe prevented a few of the meltdowns I had in those early days of motherhood.
My “friend” on Facebook has chosen to shut out the world as she focuses on her family and healing. I totally respect her choice to recover from this in the way that’s best for her, but hope that at some point she takes a moment to witness and experience the wellspring of love, support, and prayers that are being sent her way. If I could talk to her I would say this…
- You need to grieve this loss.. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s time to move on, or that you need to pick yourself up and shake it off. This is a devastating loss, and no one is feeling it more than you are! So feel those feelings, cry, scream, and get angry.
- Process your feelings. Write them down in a journal, type them up in your phone. Read them over so that you can understand how you are feeling and why. This helps the feelings seem more manageable, because in seeing them in black and white, you might be able to figure out what might help you cope with those very painful emotions.
- Join a support group if possible. This could even be an online support group. I believe that women need to share and talk about all of these struggles, rather than stay locked up in a world of guilt, shame, and grief. When we hear that others are going through similar experiences, we feel less isolated and abnormal. In sharing your own story, you gain power over it, and little by little, you start to feel less helpless, stronger, and better able to cope.
- You might be questioning why this happened to you, how your higher power could take this precious gift away from you. Maybe it would help to talk to your priest or rabbi, or spiritual leader.
- Establish a support network and even a calling tree. Identify a handful of people who you know without a doubt will love and nurture you, and who will make you feel better, not worse. Don’t call the friend who will try to one-up you by sharing about how hard her life is!
- Do something to honor that lost little one. You might plant some flowers or a tree. You could make or buy a piece of jewelry that includes his or her birthstone, which you could wear all the time. Maybe you could do a charity event or an activity in his or her honor. Choose something that fits for you and do it, because that would be you actively doing something with all that hurt and pain, that can serve as a reminder that this precious child existed and served a purpose.
At the end of the day, I believe that this “friend” from Facebook is dealing as best as she can, and that her grieving process will be unique to her. My prayer is that she feels the love from around the world from all the people who know and love her, and that this love will light her darkness and lead her forward.