Several months ago, I went to a baby shower. It was the first baby shower I’d been to since my daughter was born still seven months earlier. It was the first baby shower I’d been to since my baby shower nine months earlier. I survived. It was actually much better than I thought it would be. I thought the most difficult part of the day would be seeing the happy mom and dad open their gifts. It turns out, that was the easy part. They didn’t get any of the same pink and purple outfits. None of the same toys or stuffed animals came out of the gift bags. For the most part, it was okay. I felt happy for them, knowing how exciting and wonderful it is to be on that side of it, living in the before.
The hard part was realizing my place is now in the back of the room, still within sight, but also tucked away. I wanted to be there to support the new parents, who are also very dear friends mine. I wanted to be close enough for them to know I was present, but I wanted to be far enough away so they couldn’t see the pain in my eyes as I struggled to keep the tears in.
Breathe. You will get through this. Just breathe.
As they opened their gifts, the other moms chimed in –
“Oh, that huge pack of diapers will get you through the first day.”
“You’ll want to bring those to the hospital with you.”
“You won’t need that until after you bring her home from the hospital.”
I couldn’t help but roll my eyes as I felt my entire body fill with jealousy.
Well, aren’t they know-it-alls?
And then I realized they were just doing what I’m unable do and what I so badly want to do – offer support and advice based on personal experience.
I don’t know what it’s like to give birth to a living baby. So I can’t really offer any advice or insight on labor and delivery, at least not to parents expecting a happy outcome. I didn’t experience the gradual build-up and release of contractions. Instead, I felt one extremely painful surge that left me in tears, screaming as I gripped the support bar in the hospital shower and begged for physical and emotional relief. I didn’t get the rush of endorphins during labor and birth. I was full of adrenaline, which caused a long and painful labor. I didn’t know how to relax knowing my baby had already died. I forgot how to focus on my breathing. I was terrified the entire time. I didn’t get the birth experience or outcome I had hoped for.
I didn’t put a diaper on my daughter, something I will always regret. All her diapers still sit in her dresser drawer, untouched.
I don’t know what you really need to bring to the hospital for a live birth. I packed my bags with a live birth in mind, but most of the things I packed were left behind when we learned our baby would not be coming home with us. When I hadn’t felt my daughter move over night, my husband and I made our way to the hospital, bags in hand just in case we had to stay. I actually believed everything was fine and we were just being cautious. I even hoped the doctor would want to keep me and induce labor that morning. We were only a few days away from being induced. I wondered if they’d start it early to be on the safe side.
Turns out, we did get to plan an induction for that day, just not the one I imagined hours earlier. We went home later that morning and unpacked and repacked our bags. The diapers, boppy, and breast pads were left on the floor as we walked out of house with our newly packed hospital bag – our bereavement bag.
How do you speak up in a room full of mothers with living children? You don’t. Well, I didn’t. I don’t have a living baby so does anyone really want advice from me? I don’t think so. At least, I didn’t think so at the time of the shower.
Now, a year later, I realize that I do have a lot to offer to the conversation. I know what it’s like to welcome a baby into myarms. I know what it’s like to see that beautiful face for the first time. I know what it’s like to feel the immense sense of pride and joy that comes with meeting your baby for the first time. I know what it’s like to want to hold on to that moment forever. I know what the maternal bond feels like. I am a mother and I love my child, too.
Still, I can’t help but feel jealous of those other moms. I desperately wish I were still living in the before. It’s such a beautiful place. I miss it there, when death hadn’t yet knocked on my door. I wish I had advice new, happy moms wanted to hear.
I wish I could be a know-it-all mom living in the before. Instead, I’m the mom sitting in the back, living in the after, and caring for a baby I cannot see or hold.
Shared on April 18, 2016