[Warning; I’m writing about pregnancy loss]
This project has been growing inside me for so long – I don’t even know how long. Perhaps it was from the moment my daughter was born. Perhaps it was in the months that followed. Perhaps it was in the weeks, months, and years (hard to believe it; it feels like just yesterday that my daughter was born) that followed as women gifted me their stories of pregnancy related losses.
Losses that Change Us
There are all manner of losses that can change how we are. Perhaps it’s the loss of an imagined future when a pregnancy and birth aren’t what we had hoped for, perhaps it’s the loss of a physical part of ourselves or a disability that arises from pregnancy, perhaps it’s a traumatic birth, or perhaps it’s the loss of a child.
A lack of language
There are so many losses that we can experience and what I’ve seen is that we do not have the language to validate these experiences and that, too often, women (and men) present later on with issues that are not always traced back to the pregnancy related experience that gave rise to it. I’m thinking, for example of the woman who keeps trying to lose weight who reveals that life changed after a miscarriage when she no longer liked or trusted her body; another woman who has never forgiven herself for undergoing an abortion. A beautiful man tells me about the loss of a child – he has never told anyone else and there are no words for how deeply this loss has changed how he is in the world. People talk to me all the time about the children their mothers lost and I know in how they talk and how they are that even though their mother did not talk about these other pregnancies and children, that the mother’s mothering was affected as were the interactions with her living children.
My daughter’s mission and mine
I feel strongly that my daughter’s mission in this life is to help us voice these pregnancy related losses. To acknowledge these experiences. To celebrate all our children. To understand that pregnancies and births are not always straightforward. To understand that loss in pregnancy can take different forms and profoundly affect the very identity of the pregnant woman as well as those around her. This is my daughter’s mission and I have been entrusted with it.
Last year, I made a recording of meditations for pregnancy related loss. I’ll be releasing this album in late September ahead of Baby Loss October. Please join me in spreading the word that we need to talk about pregnancy related loss with compassion and understanding.
Image courtesy of hpgruesen via Pixabay
Sometimes things are a struggle, sometimes a challenge, and sometimes an adventure.
“How long can a baby continue screaming like this?” I wondered, as I held Ant and tried to get him to sleep. We were both not well and I was eagerly waiting to go to bed. Nothing was working…time seemed treacle-like. I was achy, feverish, and exhausted. My throat was painful.
Unfortunately, tiredness and lack of sleep are two perfect conditions for cultivating overthinking.
I started focussing on getting through each moment, using my “Jedi Stance”, my soles of the feet mindfulness exercise (where I focus attention on my feet and the ground and keep re-directing my attention back there) and deliberating trying to focus on generating gratitude. I was so grateful, for example, that the boys’ father was taking care of Bear so I could focus on Ant.
Two hours later, after trying various things, I was so relieved to get into bed and was initially excited about feeling that sensation that happens as you enter sleep (do you know the one?) happening so fast. I quickly realised though that I was fainting and I immediately worried about what would happen to Ant if he woke and I was still unconscious. I hurled myself out of bed and grabbed my phone. The motion combined with everything else made me vomit repeatedly and I tried to get through to someone who could help. I didn’t feel I knew what to do except that I was worried about fainting and not looking after Ant. I phoned the hospital who put the call through to our national Healthline service. It was very difficult to speak and the person on the other end of the phone kept asking me so many questions. I wanted to drive to the ED but worried that I might faint en route. She wasn’t able to tell me what the cost of an ambulance would be so I ended up bundling up Ant and taking a taxi dressed in my dressing gown. Later, when less delirious, I remembered there were others I could have rung – I just knew I didn’t have much time and needed to get seen as soon as possible.
The hospital staff were utterly amazing, as usual, and kept me and Ant overnight. Ant fed almost continuously from about 9pm to 3am then he slept for 1.5 hours. He then woke and fed again for an hour before sleeping for an hour. Even though I wasn’t sure that I had any milk left the hospital staff were amazing and supportive. They came in and checked on me frequently. It was a busy ED on a friday night and yet one consultant calmly rocked Ant while I went to the bathroom. Another nurse aide took him for a 15 minute walk of the ward so that I could have a nap. No one suggested that Ant was unusual or that I was not capable.
Back home the next day though, Ant continued to feed and feed and I was so exhausted and still feverish. I used the same three strategies I had used before to get through. I deliberated – should I try to give Ant a small amount of formula? Ant’s weight has recently been dropping and I had been hoping to just get to 6 months of exclusively breastfeeding. Friends rallied and were supportive of doing what I needed to do to care for Ant. I was so tired and I could feel myself getting more and more into my head so I stopped and simply held my little boy and felt how hungry he was. How tired he was. How he wanted to rest but wasn’t getting enough milk.
I remembered I had some frozen breast milk! Aha! I hadn’t been able to keep building up my frozen supply with being ill but there was one packet. Ant drank it thirstily and still wanted more. The choice was then easy – I had to look after him and after a small amount of formula and breastfeeding, he finally, exhaustedly, fell asleep, and so did I.
So today, after having had some sleep, the world looks different. I feel better although still feverish and slowed down. Things feel like more of a challenge and even an adventure. I’m over 3.5 hours into trying to help Ant fall asleep and stay asleep. Tonight, however, I’ve had a lot of cups of tea (which I really enjoy), we’ve listened to music from my university days in the background, and Ant has allowed me to type this in my darkened study while feeding, being held, and rocked. He even contributed by waving his hands and deleting a line of text! And today, I’m even more grateful – that I was able to just focus on Ant and I because Bear was taken care of by their father, for medical staff, for friends, for living in a world where there is a something that I can do for my child when I’m struggling to feed him.
Even in winter though, in Dunedin, when there is snow on the mountains, there are jonquils emerging in my backyard. There is a brighter day ahead!