So this is for the mommas who are going through infant loss and are worried about the inevitable: Being around babies after losing yours.
(I mean anyone can read it, but my IL mommas will really understand this)
It’s hard enough losing our babies, then having to deal with awkward emotions and hormones that all in a tizzy. Having to face your fears of going out in public again. Not knowing what to say when someone asks if you have kids. Feeling helpless as you lay in bed, crying and not caring if you woke up, and wishing you could have traded places with your child. Then you throw on the added stress of having to be around other babies whether it be friends or family or in public.
I remember thinking that people probably thought I would go crazy holding a baby for the first time. I just knew they all thought I would run off with the baby, or I’d treat the baby poorly out of jealousy. Thinking they would hover over me, making sure I wasn’t harming the baby… all irrational fears but still very much there.
When I was in the hospital still after Emma’s birth, I remember hearing babies crying in the halls, nurses trying to console babies while their mommas slept etc… and all I could think about was “I’m not ready, I can’t go in public and see a baby, and I sure as hell can’t hold one yet”. I was terrified about going out in public and seeing babies of all ages and feeling jealousy and guilt about not being able to have my child with me. The guilt was that I was feeling jealous and hateful (on the inside) when these poor mommas didn’t even do anything.
I went in for my 1 week PP check. I remember being super nervous the whole day. Luckily my mom had taken off work and asked to go to the appointment (she also had to drive me). I got out of the car and in the elevator and did fine. I stand at the counter to check in, and I feel my anxiety creeping up higher and higher. In front of us is a new mom with her 6wk old in a stroller. “No biggie” I thought, I’ll be fine. Then the girls at the front desk wanted to see the baby. I could feel the rock in my throat and the water in my eyes. “I’ll be fine, check in won’t take long” I thought. Then I saw how excited and happy this mom was and how happy the staff was to hold her baby and I lost it. The lady asked for my name and I hardly choked it out. My mom was standing right behind me (probably with that mom intuition that something was wrong) as I hardly choked out “Katie Tucker”, she said “Oh ok, you’re here for your 1 week post partum follow up” I just shook my head yes, and lost it, I started uncontrollably sobbing, like snot bubbles, beat red face, blurry eyes sobbing at the front desk. At this point EVERYONE was looking at me, and the front desk staff asked “What’s wrong honey are you okay” and I just shook my head no and my mom had to tell them that Emma was born and passed away shortly after birth. They all gave their condolences and had me scribble a signature, got me some wat and had me sit down and wait to be seen.
Right then and there I knew I wasn’t ready to be around babies and it would be quite awhile before I was ready. The MA called my name and we stood up to go back. My eyes puffy from crying, my nose snotty making it hard to breathe through. Katie (the MA) knew me from my many many visits (yay for high risk pregnancy…) so she redirected me from the part of the office she knew would trigger me (ultrasound room and NST room) and to my room for the appointment. Still even doing that I was triggered and cried from the scale to the room I was going to be in.
We sat and talked and she comforted me and my mom, got my vitals, and handed me some tissues. Then she sent in my favorite nurse Veronica for the rest of the visit. Veronica (as well as the other staff) was great. But she always made it a point to be personal in my visits getting to know me and Emma’s situation. I was so happy to see her smiling face. She hugged me and did her part of the intake, gave her deepest condolences, and let me know I could message her (through mychart) for anything I may need.
Each time I had to talk to someone new I would start crying, but just for a minute or two then I would compose myself and be fine. The rest of the visit went well. After that day I was so scared for what my next outing with a baby around would be like. I felt so sad for the mom at the front desk, she obviously heard and saw it all, and made sure to hurry up and take her baby back and go to a different part of the office. I felt horrible that she felt like she had to do that.
A few weeks go by, and I’m still at home but alone now because everyone had to go back to work. (Shout out to my SIL Kaitlyn for sitting with me and getting me out of the house to Target during this time) I’m just pumping away to donate, sad that it’s not for Emma’s use but happy that Emma was helping other babies born prematurely etc. I kept thinking about how I should be so exhausted from taking care of a baby. I remember being envious and mad that there were moms (friends of mine) on Facebook complaining about how exhausted they were with their newborns, or how hard it was to take care of their kids and I was just sitting on my couch like an empty hollow shell.
A few more weeks go by and Ryan’s cousin has a beautiful baby boy. I knew right then, there was no way I could be around him for awhile. Him and Emma were too close in age. It was too hard for me, the loss was still too fresh, and painful. I was scared of upsetting his cousin or his family by not wanting to go see him, or really see pictures right away. I just couldn’t allow myself to be that vulnerable and helpless. I was scared about holding and meeting him for the first time. I wanted to be so happy for her and her family, and I was; but it was so hard, so hard to accept that she had a healthy baby and I had just had my memorial service for my daughter a few weeks prior. It was so hard to think about all the things she was getting to do with him, the hospital pictures, all the holidays coming up, all the love she was able to give both her children and I had nothing.
I ha gotten through Halloween but I actually skipped Thanksgiving with my husbands family, and instead I went instead to my families get together. I knew that being the first big holiday without her, I just couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to be miserable all day, I didn’t want to sit around and cry. I didn’t want to make people uncomfortable with the way I was feeling and acting so I just removed myself from the situation. Do I wish I would have been there? Kind of, I missed out on the last Thanksgiving with Ryan’s grandma Helen and that really sucks to think about now. Do I regret my decision to not go? Absolutely not. I knew then and now that to keep myself mentally sane I had to miss out on it. I had to give myself time to heal.
I got through Thanksgiving with my family without even shedding a tear. I probably drank a little more than I should have and definitely way over ate, but I was enjoying myself, laughing with my family and had a genuine smile on my face. Then about 2ish weeks later I get a call from my husband at work (which he never does so I knew it was serious) saying that his grandma Helen had fallen again and it was bad this time. She wasn’t expected to make it through the night. If this year hadn’t already been bad enough (I lost my grandma 2 weeks after our wedding and Ryan lost his grandpa Harry two weeks after that, then Emma and now Helen), I couldn’t bear the thought of going through this again…..
I also realized that this meant, Ryan’s cousin and her children would be up there as well (as they should be). I got panicky as I thought about her son being there. Emma would have been 5 months by then, almost 6 months old. It was right before Christmas, and in was facing my first Christmas without her as well. I was still not over Thanksgiving without her and so incredibly sad she didn’t get to meet her great grandma Helen. I heard Ryan’s cousins daughter in the hallway and went right to her to say hi and gave her a hug and we went to the big family waiting room.
We played a bit with the kids toys, shared some tickles and laughs, then I heard her brother getting fussy. I knew I had to meet him, so I walked over to his stroller and started talking to him. It was calming to see him, his beautiful eyes and cute little cheeks. Before I even knew what I was saying, the words “Can I hold him?” came flying out. She said “Yea sure that’s fine” and I picked him up. I don’t know if it was the stress of going through yet another death, or being in the hospital again for a 4th time that year with someone, or what really. But I just felt so at peace holding him, he was the first baby I met in person and held since we lost Emma. It was like a weight had been lifted. I felt like, yes you can do this, don’t be afraid of being around babies because you will miss out on so much. I held him for quite some time. And over the next 3 or 4 days while we were in the hospital I continued to hold him. It was like my happiness in the day. I looked forward to going to the hospital and being able to hold him (even though the circumstances were NOT what anyone had wanted). I had conquered my fear of holding and being around babies after losing Emma.
And since then, I’ve been a little bit happier. I’ve been a little more hopeful. I’m not scared of being out in public around babies. Granted this happened fairly quickly for me. And it may not happen this quickly for others. Don’t feel like you need to see others babies and hold them right away. Don’t be scared to put yourself first and heal yourself. If you’re not ready, don’t force it. You will know when you are ready for this big step. And please please please do not think you have to live your life hiding inside your house. Reach out to friends and family. You can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need someone to listen, someone who isn’t family or friends. I am here and you are not alone.