The reality of parenting after pregnancy loss

The reality of parenting after pregnancy loss

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You may see me dragging our new puppy behind my toddler son's cozy coupe en route to school. And I may be laughing as my older kids sing some silly song as they cross the street. I probably look like every other mom in lots of ways. Yet I'm different than I used to be.

Once upon a time, I didn't think twice about things like the whole family simultaneously succumbing to a stomach bug, or calling the kids inside for dinner and not seeing them come right away. Now my throat closes up in panic as I imagine my kids dying from an illness or in the hands of kidnappers, and that I'll never see them again.

My life went from perfectly fine – great even – to utterly not fine all in a matter of moments. After you're told the most heartbreaking news about a baby you so yearned for and loved, you don't think about anything the same way, especially a health crisis. Because what if things spin out of control again? What if, just like last time, it's not okay?

Sure, my rational side tells me that we'll get through this puking bug, and that my kids are safe playing outside, but the traumatized part of me continuously worries. It warns me that something I think is going to be all right won't be. It's the part that still remembers, vividly, getting the bad news in the ultrasound room. The solemn face of the tech. The doctor coming in. The conversations I never imagined having.

I learned, rather cruelly, that the life you love (or tolerate, then later realize you loved) can vanish at any time.

Bad stuff doesn't just happen to other people. It sounds trite, but I used to read horrible stories – such as a baby who died in a hot car – and think, "Well, that is so, so sad. But it could never happen to us." I'd hear about women who miscarried, or about a stillbirth, or about a child drowning – horrible, unspeakable stuff – and never, not once, did I imagine I'd be on the receiving end of the bad news. Not about my pregnancy, not at 6 months along, not when we'd already picked out a name and bought toys.

Now, if I read about or hear anything bad, I immediately become convinced it could happen to me. When I got pregnant a few months after our loss, I was 100 percent certain something would go wrong. In the delivery room, I told my husband that I didn't think it was going to work out. Until I held my son, I did not believe I'd get to that moment.

Here's the flip side of all that messed-up thinking: I am so much more grateful for the health and very existence of my living children. I hold my kids tighter. I read bedtime stories a few minutes longer. Because it's in those amazing, cuddle-filled moments that the magnitude of what we lost comes violently crashing in. I'll never celebrate birthdays with Cara or see her on the beach trying to outrun the waves. That realization can be too much to bear. And depression can set in, heavy.

My children see me sad a lot more than they ever did before. That's our new normal. I don't apologize for it. It's okay to be sad. Loss is sad. It's so sad that it can mute a sunset and dim the light.

I'll never be as happy as I used to be on holidays or anytime, really. Life for me, post-loss, is about learning to live in that less-sunshiney place. It's about accepting that bad things happen and that my anxiety isn't going to just disappear, although it may fade with time.

Grief is a beast that lies dormant at times, but it always returns. A lot of parents carry some form of grief, but we rarely talk about it. I wish more of us would. I can't be the only mom suffering silently at school concerts, musing about why I'll never see her do this and other mundane and magical things.

If you have suffered loss, if you finish school drop-off, then go home and cry, you aren't alone. If you panic at the mere mention of the flu going around because you once read about a child who passed away from influenza, I'm there with you, worrying, wondering if another tragedy is around the corner. I don't have any answers, just the offer of compassion and solidarity.

Do yoga if it helps you parent with more presence. Talk to a therapist. Call your significant other at work and they will know by the sound of your voice that you need to talk. Now. Find a friend who understands, or doesn't, and just listens. Be grateful. Be angry. It's all part of the journey. Just know that I know how you feel.

Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.

Watch the video: What Actually Happens When You Have An Abortion? (June 2022).

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