Dear Parenting-After-Loss Mama,
I want you to know that I am here with you. I am five years into parenting my baby boy. Before him, one infant loss and two miscarriages. Since his healthy birth, three miscarriages.
Parenting is hard work no matter what your journey to get here looks like. But this parenting after loss gig, it is really hard.
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. I wanted to share our story because I am here to tell you this huge spectrum of emotions you may be feeling is okay. You are okay. You are a brave mama who wakes up every morning and chooses to see the joy in this world.
I carry this “I am okay” mantra with me as I parent during this time of waltzing between the joy and grief of this life after loss.
You are okay if when your child is born and placed in your arms that for a moment you search their face for your child that died. I know I did.
You are okay if in those first few days of mothering this new life, this life that got to live, if you felt indifferent and almost detached from your baby, worried about getting too attached because this baby might be taken from you too. I know I did.
You are okay if when you bring your newborn home for the first time, you spend the evening crying over their tiny body, grieving, missing, and longing for your babies that died as you sing your baby to sleep. I know I did.
You are okay if grief comes back and stays for a while. This new life is a reminder of the life that did not get to live. Embrace this sadness and allow your body to wade in theocean of grief. Grief is a way of honoring your loss.
You are okay if joy overwhelms you. Welcome this old friend back into your life with every fiber of your being. You have waited so long to feel pure joy. You deserve to feel happy. Enjoy these moments you get to spend together. I know I do.
You are okay if anxiety and depression arrive. Don’t judge yourself. Don’t be hard on yourself. Just breathe mama. Reach out to a mental health professional, doctor or midwife, and ask them where you can find support. I know I did and I still do.
You are okay if checking on your baby’s breathing each night before you can fall asleep has become part of your bedtime routine. I know it is part of mine and my husband.
You are okay to be happy when he lifts his head, walks, and talks for the first time. Living life to the fullest after the loss of a child is one of the greatest gifts you can give this child that survived. So when your baby smiles at you, remember to welcome the joy. I know I do.
You are okay to not be okay all of the time. Parts of this life after loss and raising your baby born, after the ones that died, are still going to be hard and sad. Just remember, you are completely okay to not be okay all the time. I know I’m not.
You are okay to still be scared. The fear of losing this child too doesn’t go away in the first week, month or, apparently, the first five years. You have suffered the greatest loss there is, and it makes sense if you still fear it happening again. I know I do.
You are okay to embrace every bit of life after loss: the love, the pain, the grief, the joy. Because these emotions make up what this life will be. It is hard. It is beautiful.
You are parenting after loss.
You are walking through this uncharted territory that there are few baby books about. And if it’s anything like my journey, not many people understand the spectrum of emotions you fluctuate between several times per day. Only a handful of people understand that you not only suffered loss but you endured real trauma.
You are incredible. Parenting children in two different universes takes superhero strength.
You are brave. You are a superhero. I see your invisible cape because I am wearing one too.
Photo by Tony Ross via Unsplash.
What's the significance of a rainbow and pregnancy loss / birth after a miscarriage or loss? "A rainbow baby is a baby born shortly after the loss of a previous baby due to miscarriage, stillbirth, or death in infancy. This term is given to these special rainbow babies because a rainbow typically follows a storm, giving us hope of what's to come" (The Bump, 2017). Read more here.