There are some life lessons that are easy to learn, like more than three shots of any particular alcohol and you'll hate yourself the next day, and when someone texts "K," nothing is really OK at all. And then there are the other life lessons, the ones that are devastating and horrific and unbelievably unwanted, like the ones you learn when you lose a baby. ("Well, this just took a turn." – everyone reading this.) You'll learn lessons about your partner when you lose a baby, lessons that make you a stronger mother, and lessons that can strengthen your relationship. But without a doubt, the most important lessons you learn when you lose a baby are about yourself.
I lost one of my twin sons when I was 19 weeks pregnant, and when my surviving son was born, I was forced to learn what it was like to birth one baby who was alive, and one who wasn't. When I could bring myself to be around people after I was told my son's heart was no longer beating, I learned what I wanted (and needed) to hear from people; helpful words that brought me comfort in a time of darkness. Everything I learned during that time (and continue to learn, even now) helped me through my grieving period, but it was the lessons I learned about myself that have stuck with me, changed me, and made me the mother I am today.
People can tell you things after you lose a baby — helpful, well-intentioned things that can be beneficial — but it's the lessons you learn about yourself that will help you navigate through a loss as horrific as losing a baby. You'll make it through your mourning because of these lessons, and the evolution you're forced to endure when you lose a baby will be a silver lining in an otherwise dire situation. It might take time, it might look differently than you would have hoped, but these 10 things you learn about yourself when you lose a baby will be your lifeboat in a sea of grief.
You Can't Handle Everything On Your Own
Nothing is more humbling than an unexpected, inconceivable loss. Before I lost one of my sons, I ran around beautifully oblivious of my very real inabilities. We all like to think we're capable of handling anything, but the truth is: We need help. Everyone. We're not built to handle things on our own, especially the loss of a child. Whether it's your partner, your friends, your family members, a professional counselor or a support group... You learn they all exist to help you, because you actually can't handle everything on your own, and that's fine.
You Need To Be Vulnerable Sometimes
It's uncomfortable and terrifying and painful, but being vulnerable is necessary. As human beings, we're not meant to build walls around our emotions to keep people out. In fact, being vulnerable is good for your health, and can help ease anxiety, tension, and teach you how to successfully deal with emotions, instead of suppressing them with drugs and/or alcohol. When you lose a baby, you're painfully aware that the overwhelming vulnerability you feel, while stifling, is a necessary purge. It's cleansing and healing and everything you need, even when you don't want to need it.
You're Stronger Than You Think
You're stronger than you think you are, and losing a baby will remind you of that. It's not a reminder you'll appreciate, but when you start putting one foot in front of the other — laughing after times when you didn't think you'd ever smile again — you realize that there's an entire reservoir of strength you didn't know you had. You can handle things you couldn't possibly imagine, and while it's not comforting enough to take the pain of losing a baby away, it is beneficial to know that you can make it through, to the other side of mourning, where the pain is manageable.
You're A Little F*cked Up — And That's OK
Losing a baby messes you up. There's really no other way to say it, and it's better to admit that you're kinda fucked up, than to hide your issues and pretend they don't exist. The truth is, we're all fucked up in our own unique, slightly-disturbing-but-oddly-normal way. The sooner we admit that, the sooner we can work on loving those messed up parts of ourselves, and using them to our advantage.
It's OK To Be Alone...
Sometimes, even if you have the most supportive network of individuals, you just need to be alone. There's sanctity in solitude; a kind that can help you in a way that no one else can. Society continually attempts to assure us that being alone is bad or dangerous or unhealthy, but as someone who has experienced what it's like to lose a baby, I can tell you that being alone is vital in the healing process.
...But You're Not Alone
However, it's important to remember that even when you're spending time alone, you're not alone. There are countless women who have experienced pregnancy and/or infant loss, and while everyone's experiences are unique, there's a commonality that can be cultivated and, in turn, helpful. Grief can be an isolating feeling, but it can also bring people together.
You Can Recreate Your Plans
When you lose a baby, your plans are shattered. Everything you had envisioned for your family shifts in this loud, disruptive, aching way, and you're left utterly confused, unsure of what you're even looking at or what you'll see in the future. But as time moves you forward and through your grief, you'll start to realize that you can recreate your plans. You can make new ones, that are just as beautiful as the ones you were forced to leave behind.
You Can Advocate For Yourself
Even if you haven't slept and your eyes are puffy from crying and you can't bring yourself to shower (all things I personally experienced after a loss), you can find the strength to speak up for yourself. Hidden under the pain and the sadness and the unbelievable anger, is the ability to advocate for yourself and you'll dig until you find it, if it's necessary. Whether it's you telling someone you need space or calling a grief counselor for a session, you'll do what you need to do for yourself.
Every Emotion You Feel Is Valid And Valuable
When you lose a baby, you'll most likely experience a wide variety of extremely unforgiving emotions: emotions you didn't know existed, and ones you won't have words for. While you're sorting them, categorizing them, and trying to navigate through them, you'll realize that your emotions are all valid and vital. Even the worst kind — the kind that will leave you lashing out at someone, or the kind that keep you in bed for a week — are all necessary. They'll eventually push you through the stages of grief, until your emotions are manageable again. Our feelings help us survive, and that's never more obvious than when you're feeling the loss of a baby.
You're OK, Even When You're Not OK
Being OK doesn't mean that everything is perfect and all is going according to plan and you're deliriously happy. No — being OK sometimes just means that you're simply dealing with feeling every devastating part of a loss you couldn't have possibly imagined. Even if you're not OK with the situation or the pain associated with it, you're OK. Trust me, you are, and will be, OK.