It’s been six years (tomorrow) since we heard the words, "I'm sorry, there is no heartbeat." Six years has felt like a lifetime and at the same time it feels like just yesterday.
Here are the six biggest lessons I’ve learned while walking this grief journey after a stillbirth.
1. The hardest question you’ll ever answer is “How many kids do you have?”
Still to this day, I hate this question. I often resort to saying “I have four kids at home with me." At first, I felt INTENSE guilt not sharing about James to every person I talked to as if in some way it wasn’t recognizing him as my son. Now over time, I realized I don’t have to tell my life story to the grocery store cashier...a nd that’s okay.
2. Actions really do speak louder than words.
Oh man, in those early months and year(s) Those “well intentions” and comments from others simply killed me. I.e “It’s Gods plan” or “at least you have other children....” (Yes, people have said that to me)
But, do you know what I remember more than this? I remember those who swam through the storm with me. Literally, every day for the past 6 years in different seasons of this grief journey. There’s far to many to count, far too many I’d Iike to acknowledge, but “my people” quiet literally carried me through and I’m internally grateful
3. You will feel unequivocal JOY again...
There was a time I was convinced I would never feel joy again. And, then there was a time I felt tremendous GUILT for feeling happy. But truly, not every happy moment fades into sadness like it once did. Rather, my appreciation for the life we’ve been given only seems to grow.
4. Even today I still look at my (big!) beautiful family and feel there’s a piece missing.
Truly. I am the luckiest. Not a day goes by I don’t recognize and thank God for the priceless gifts of Jack, Boyd, Mary Ellen and Christine. However, not a day goes by that I don’t still feel the hole in my heat that’s left for James...a hole that will never be filled this side of heaven from any other child than him.
Which brings me to my next point...
5. Not every storm is wrapped up by a perfect rainbow in the end...
I realize for us we’ve been given the utmost privilege in welcoming FOUR sweet babies after James died. It’s not lost on me that for others they do not have this “happy ending” I realized, through my stillbirth experience, I’ve been given a lenses in which I view life in a very different way than I did 6 years ago. I see the brokenness. I see the “what could happen “ I see the “it’s only 1% chance” as a very real chance. Once you’ve seen and experienced death like we have the perspective in which you see life changes.
6. Time really does heal. But please don’t say that to a momma whose in the early months (or maybe years) after losing her baby.
Six years later, and I still deal with very real post traumatic reactions to having a baby die in my womb. I have flashbacks of being wheeled out of the hospital with a box instead of my baby. I remember Chris and my mom holding me in the fetal position when my milk came in and praying to God to make the pain stop.
I share this not for pity, but to raise awareness. I share this because when someone loses a baby, it’s so much more than what you think. So much is not talked about. So much is not ever thought about. And people, quite frankly, expect that after a certain amount of time “you get over it” It simply doesn’t work like that, one simply doesn’t get ever get “over” losing a baby (okay off my soapbox )
I was shattered and broken and for many days I did not know how to put one foot in front of another. But slowly and surely time moves on (because that is life) and whether we like it or not, we pick up the pieces because we simply HAVE to. You may go from being the shell of the person you once were into someone you might not recognize into eventually someone you’re proud of.