Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tales from the land of the babylost

My mom is a person that other people confide in. She is sort of a 'soft' person that way. She is someone others just feel comfortable around. So it was of no surprise to me that a woman she works with shared with my mom the fact that she recently lost twins at 14 weeks. My mom doesn't know this woman all that well, and I'm not sure how it came up (I'm not sure if Aidan was brought up first or this woman's loss), but anyway they got to discussing lost babies at the water cooler.

These twins were not this woman's first children. She has a young daughter as well. She told my mom that since the loss of the twins she has been spending much more 'quality' time with her daughter. No need to rush home from work, make dinner, do chores, put the kid to bed...etc. She says now she tries to take her daughter to the park and play with her more. She was so sad for me she said because Aidan was my first child. She said she would be lost without her daughter these days.

Which brings up an interesting point. Is my loss greater because Aidan was my first child? Do other babylost parents agree with this? I hate to categorize one loss as greater than another but maybe losing your first (and therefore only) child is worse?

Ways in which it is worse include:
1. Your 'parenthood' is suddenly ripped away. As I've explained in a previous post, I certainly believe I'm a mother, but I don't really believe I'm a parent. Parenting is an active term and cannot be done with a dead child. So it's this land of parenthood that I was suddenly and firmly excluded from. If Aidan was not my first child, I would still have another child to parent. I would still belong and have something to contribute in conversations where strollers, daycare, play dates and baby food were being discussed. It would not be in relation to my 'newest' (dead) baby, but I would still feel like I belonged. Right now, I feel like I want so badly to walk through that 'parenting' door. I so badly want to have a little person to take care of...and I would if Aidan were not my first.

2. You will never experience pregnancy the same way. I think after you have birthed a dead, or close to being dead, child you will never implicitly trust your body the same way. Now, I personally never had this experience. Due to my heart and my job, I never had a complete faith that my body would just 'do it right'. But, I'll admit...I had hope. Now, however, my entire experience of pregnancy and birth will be clouded by my disastrous first pregnancy. Just like how as a criminal you can never 'erase' your record, mine will be with me for always. If I had even just one 'successful' pregnancy and birth under my belt, one time where I got to take the baby home in a car seat instead of in a box, it would be proof that my body was not a total screw up. That, I can have a healthy was really and truly 'just a fluke' this time. But I don't. I have no idea if my body can do it...or if it just kills my offspring on principle alone.

3. It brings up fears of NEVER having a living child. This is kind of a combo of 1 & 2, but it's horrible enough that it deserves it's own special mention. Because the life of a parent is very, very, different than the life of a non-parent. And if you wanted option A) then it's very hard to imagine having to cope with being option B). It brings up fears of infertility, loss of identity, a life style that you never wanted, but that might be thrust upon you. Parents with at least one living child may lose out on the big(ger) family they dreamed of, but they do not lose out on the 'parent' lifestyle entirely.

But then I can imagine some of the difficulties when living children are already in the picture and you suddenly find yourself in dead baby land.

Ways in which having a living child would be harder:
1. If your child is old enough you have to watch them suffer and feel confused, and miss the dead baby too. I can only imagine how hard this would be. In my son's short life I did not want him to suffer or hurt at all. I would have thrown myself in front of a bullet for him. I can only imagine how hard it is to have to cope with sadness not only for your own loss, but for your child's loss too. It was hard watching my husband feel so helpless and lost and sad and empty after Aidan died, and it would have been much much worse to watch any living child of mine feel sad that way.

2. You have to 'carry on' a lot quicker if you have living children already. Especially if your child is young, and still requires your immediate presence for everything, you cannot just sit and mope and feel sad after the death of your have to hold it together. From things I have read, this can include everything from having to continue driving your kids to soccer practice to having to cry only in the shower so your kids don't see you and get upset. I was lucky? grateful? that I could (can) wail in front of the computer, at dinner, in the car, on the living room floor, if I feel like it. I was glad? appreciative? that my husband and I could (can) just sit and watch TV for hours to get our minds off the horror we have experienced.

Now, I feel the need to end this post with the requisite 'of course one child can never replace another' speech. But you all get what I'm saying. This post wasn't really even about the 'child' so much, neither the living or the dead one, it was about the experience of being babylost. The woman that my mom works with, her experience of being babylost is different than mine because she already has a living child. Her experience is probably easier in some ways, harder in others...but certainly different than mine.

But I think I know which of our shoes I would rather be in.

What do you think?


  1. This is actually something that I have been thinking alot about.

    When I was first admitted to the hospital, my Mom was talking to my nurse and said that it is probably harder since Jacob is my first child. The nurse disagreed and said that she thinks it is equally as hard whether or not it is your first child or if you already have some.

    I know that everyone is devastated when they lose their baby, first child or not, but I think it is worse if it is your first child. I would have loved it if I had a child to come home to, who could have wrapped their arms around my neck and given me a reason to look forward to the future. I don't think I would be as worried about getting pregnant again because at least I already have a child. It would also have given me some comfort that I would have known that I could carry a baby full term. And I would have liked to have at least one nice, realitively worry-free pregnancy. I will never have that now. I wasn't even completely worry free (as much as any woman can be during pregnancy) with Jacob because some possible issues showed up.

    Now I don't know if I will ever have a living baby, much less a healthy one. I don't know if my body can do it and like you said, I just don't trust my body anymore. I know my body was made to be able to carry a baby, but it has let me down in the past. Now I'm just waiting for it to let me down again and again.

    Also, I consider myself to be a mother, but who else does? Do they consider you a mother when your baby was stillborn and I never got to take care of him outside of my womb? I think alot of people wouldn't. I do, because I know just how hard I tried to take care of him when he was with me, I worry about him like a mother does, I love him like a mother loves her child, and I'll certainly always miss and think about him.

    I've imagined giving birth to my second and I know the first question I'll ask is "Is the baby alive?" That just depresses me. I won't believe that I will leave with a living baby until I am in the car on the way home.

  2. WOW. emily, this is SUCH a good question, and i have so much to say about it that i'm going to write my answer as a post on my own blog!


  3. I've had people tell me it must be awful because Charlotte was my first and I don't have another child to distract me and love on. I think it's true. I second everything Dana said. It is so hard when it is your first because you worry you may never be a parent to a living child. I live with the constant fear that Charlotte was my one chance and if I cannot get pregnant again or deliver a healthy baby I will have to forge an entirely new path for myself, which is terrifying.

  4. I just recently found your blog. Aiden is so precious. I am so sorry that he passed away. Your post really caused me to reflect on my own perceptions of loss. I sometimes have a hard time reading other people’s stories if they have living children. I know that any loss is heartbreaking and awful, and I imagine that I would feel extraordinarily angry, sad, and confused if it was my second child that had passed away. I imagine I might be like the woman in your post...extraordinarily grateful for the child that was alive...not wanting to take a single moment for granted. That other child would NEED me. I would still be a parent and would have to be strong for his or her sake. But for those without living children, we are childless mothers...Grasping ONLY onto memories of our lost angel(s). Like you said, while I might be a mother…am I a parent? What am I, really? I have an intense desire to mother, to parent…but my only baby is gone. I don’t think others who haven’t experienced loss view me as a mother, and that upsets me so much. It ignores the fact that Drew existed and diminishes the incredible pain my husband and I are experiencing. After Drew passed away, I was diagnosed with 2 blood clotting disorders. So, I also have the intense fear that I might not be able to have any children here on Earth.

  5. I will respond as a babyloss mom who has an living child. Emily your list is a good start but there are a few other ways that having a living child has affected my loss experience.

    - I don't just worry about my living child's (LC) of her brother, I worry that I am messing her up. When I cry in front of her, when I can't explain what happened to her brother, when I can't remember things that are important to her I worry that I am adding her future suffering. The guilt gets multiplied when you have a LC because my LC hasn't just lost her brother she has lost a part of her parents too (Although like the woman who confided in your mom, it may make me a better parent in the end)

    - The fear of never having a living child also gets extended to the LC. If my perfectly formed healthy baby boy can just die, then what's to stop my fearless LC from falling on her head or being hit by a car or developing cancer or catching H1N1 or something else.

    - I don't know how to explain this without sounding patronizing to those who lost their first child, but here goes. Because I have an LC, I have really clear ideas of what it would have been like to raise my son. I know this sounds clich├ęd but I didn't really know what day to day life with a baby would be like until I had one. Annette posted that she didn't know what a 3 month old does
    ( Well I do know, so with every milestone, I can imagine what my son would have been like based on my LC (I know they wouldn't have been the exactly the same, but they should have been similar)

    Really no matter what your family situation is, losing a baby is up there with the crappiest things that can happen to you.

  6. I don't know. I don't really look at it in terms of what type of loss is worse - they all seem to be worse in different ways. Teddy was my first, and that was incredibly hard, but I am so, so glad that I didn't have to pull myself together for a confused and grieving sibling, to try to maintain a normal routine, or to approach conversations about death long before I was ready. Women who have done that have my absolute admiration and respect. But I can only imagine the pain of trying to cope with secondary infertility on top of grief.

    Then there is this, I love my daughter with the same crazy and deep love that I had for my son, and I can't imagine it being easier if he were here and she weren't. The situation changes and the situation can make things harder or easier to some extent, but the grief for the much-loved, particular individual and the grief for all you never get to know about that individual, that just sucks no matter what.

  7. After 3 losses and no living children, I feel like I have a pretty good grasp over what shoes I would rather be in.

    The fear of never having a living child at this point is pretty much unbearable. Even though I am pregnant now - those previous losses prevent me from having much hope, and I have a hard time finding joy in this pregnancy, even though I know I should be happy at another chance of a living child.

    I try not to compare my losses to others. I'll be honest and say I'm not very good about that. For awhile, I didn't feel like I could handle reading blogs about people who lost a baby and had other living children. I'm honestly OK with it now.

    No getting around it, babyloss sucks. Big time.

  8. I have thought this as well, I think it is worse when it's your first. For my husband & I we were dealing with infertility before & went through IVF to conceive so when we lost Lily it was even more devastating knowing we can't just go try & get pregnancy again like most couples for us it absolutely does not work that way. Honestly we really don't know that we'll ever be pregnant again which makes it all so finale & sad. Also we feel we have so little control with it all. It's either pay thousands more to try and conceive via IVF again & risk another chance at premature birth or pay thousands of dollars to adopt a child. Either way it is not at all the normal way of life that most people experience. It makes me incredibly sad to think we may never have a child of our own.

  9. Its so difficult. I 100% feel every word of your post. I have NO faith in my body to do this right next time, if there even IS a next time.. I do not feel like a parent, only a womb (and a defective one at that). :\ Who knows which is harder. It all sucks.

  10. every single way is worse.
    it's shitty and unfair whatever happens.
    it shouldn't happen to anyone. it just shouldn't.

  11. This is such a great post and good question. I often thought this after losing my second child. I agree with a lot of what Cara said, as Oliver was my second and I have a 1 year old daughter. I was so lucky to have my daughter to come home to, but like you mentioned quickly had to go back into caring for a 1 year old. I'm lucky I didn't have to deal with explaining things to her, as she is too young. I think that helped in some aspects though, I had to get up for her.

    One thing that is a little easier, is that I'm already a mother and I don't have to deal with people not seeing me as a mother. I think that is one of the most heart wrenching things for those mothers who lost their first. At the same time, I got, "well at least you have Natalie" and sometimes that seemed like Oliver didn't matter.

    Yes, I know that I can produce a living child, but it still terrifies me that my daughter was my one shot. What if she is the rarity? I'm happy I at least had one blissful worry free pregnancy though.

    Regardless of each person's situation, losing a baby no matter where the rank in the child's birth order, is unfair. There is no easy way.

  12. I've actually had bereaved parents from our support group who have other living children tell me they felt sorry for me. :p

    But I do think it sucks, no matter which side of the coin you're on.

  13. I have a living child. my angel was my second. I am thankful that I got to have one blissfully ignorant pregnancy... I think losing your first is probably worse but having to tell your 5 year old daughter that her brother is dead and hearing her say "you mean I'm still going to be a lonely child?" hurts more than words can express. It's not easy to go through a loss but watching a child go through it too and having to care for another human being while trying to pick yourself up off the floor is no piece of cake either.
    The thing is that nobody's loss should be considered easier or harder than anyone else's? Is mine harder than yours because my baby was full-term and yours wasn't? I don't think it's fair to say!