When you lose a pregnancy or an infant, you experience a horrible sort of grief. It’s a grief that often brings up a lot of thoughts that perpetuate self-hate and relentless guilt. I know, because that's what I thought after I lost my own daughter five years ago. I know that in the depths of my grief, in the months just after her passing, I had a number of thoughts that were incredibly problematic. I placed the blame on my shoulders, when I shouldn't have. I’m not alone, either. In fact, many of the thoughts moms have after pregnancy and infant loss tend to focus on what the mom did or didn't do, in an attempt to make sense of a senseless situation. I think it's important to recognize that while these thoughts reflective of our emotions and our pain, it doesn’t mean they’re necessarily true.
After my daughter passed away due to prematurity, I frequently felt as though the entire world knew I was to blame for her death. I felt like I was undeserving of having been her mother. I believed that, should I ever try for another baby, I would inevitably kill them, too. I felt embarrassment as well, as though losing a baby is something to feel shame over. But these thoughts did not help me in any way. They only served to make me feel worse. Moreover, they simply weren’t true. Years later, I know I am not to blame. I know my daughter's death had nothing to do with whether or not I “deserved” to be a mother. I now know that no one in the world was blaming me for anything, and that there was no reason to feel shame. I wasn’t a “failure” as a mom. Loss is just something that happens, so much so that one in four pregnancies will end in a miscarriage or loss. I have worked hard to push those thoughts aside and far from my psyche, because I know all they did was keep me in the thick of my grief longer. And while my pain will always be there, there is no real reason for me to suffer endlessly for the rest of my life.
I spoke with a few other moms who also lost babies, and they shared with me the difficult thoughts they had when they were deep in their pain. They shared it because, like me, they want others out there to know that they are not alone, and that those thoughts, awful as they may be, are fairly common. More than that, we want other to know that it’s OK to push those thoughts away. It’s OK to grieve, but we must also learn to slowly heal and stop blaming ourselves.
“I seriously believed I killed my babies. I thought I had to have done something wrong. I still struggle with thinking it was my fault. My ex reinforced those thoughts by telling me it was my fault because the doctors had no answers.”
“I seriously believed that not only was my body fighting against me, but that I was being punished. Compounded by the fact that I had to make the decision to kill (sic) the baby I'd tried five years to conceive. Logically, I know none of this is true, and that I would have died had I not had my ectopic pregnancy removed and that [the pregnancy] was not viable. But it [didn't stop] the thought from going through my brain.”
“As many others felt, I thought I did something wrong. Should I have not gone swimming the weekend prior to my loss? What about the foods I ate? Was everything cooked properly? Did I drink enough water? Every laugh, cough, sneeze made me think I was going to accidentally push my baby out.
The worst one was the day I delivered. After laying upside-down in a hospital bed for four days on very strict bed rest, I had to go number two. I thought me going to the restroom caused me to deliver too early. I know this isn't the case. It's completely ridiculous. I hadn't gone in four days because I was too scared to, thinking something might come out that wasn't supposed to if I pushed even a little bit. Four different nurses and two doctors told me there was no way I pushed hard enough to push my baby out.
I know that sounds insane, but the grief and guilt I felt made me actually believe it was my fault for a long, long time.”
“I finally accepted that the world and life is nothing but sh*t with tiny moments of pure absolute joy that you hang on to for as long as you can. Also, that if I said something, it's bound to happen — just not how I think. And that nearly everything bad that's happened in my life happens in regular time frames and date cycles. I can nearly tell you exactly when something sh*t will happen. My sister calls it synchronicity.
I wish I hadn't told them about the contractions. I wish I'd gone home and went back later when it was too late to stop birth from happening. If I hadn't stopped the contractions, yeah she would have been early, but she was healthy and could have lived through it, like her brother did. If I hadn't stopped the contractions, she could be here. Less than a week later, she was gone.”
“That my life has been filled with so much misery, why would I ever expect something good to happen? I felt I was destined for pain always, and that for some reason I deserved it. I deserved for [my son] to die because my body couldn't even do what it is biologically supposed to do. Things were just going too well and I was actually genuinely happy for once, and that I should never expect happiness again.”
“I thought about every single thing I did trying to pinpoint what I could've done differently that would've kept her in longer or what I could have asked the doctors to do differently to save her. The guilt was overwhelming.”
“I felt that I gave up on him. I asked them to pull out the extra tubes. They told me it was just a waiting game for him to pass and in my head, I thought that if we pulled out the catheter and the extra monitors he would feel just a little bit better. Maybe more comfortable. But as soon as they pulled the first one out, his heart started to fail, and the machines started screaming, and he died. And I know it was happening either way at that point. But I felt (and still feel) that if I hadn’t listened to them, if only I had left him alone, than maybe I would’ve had an extra minute, or hour, or even a day with my baby. I felt that it was my fault because I gave up on him. I listened to everyone else and I should’ve listened to myself.”
“It was the universe telling me I would be a mother like mine. It was my worst fear growing up. At that time, I prayed to not be able to have kids if I’d turn out like her. With time, I've seen I'd be an amazing mother. Not perfect by any stretch, but amazing nonetheless. From not being loved and wanted, I know how to love and want. My niece tells me all of the time. I got answers two years later from a hysterectomy.”
If you’re a parent currently going through the pain of a loss, and need someone to talk to, please reach out to the National Share Hotline at 1-800-821-6819 or the Compassionate Friends at 1-877-969-0010. If you are having suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.