It was 3 months already when I began my journey towards motherhood. I was getting adjusted with the changes in my body, in my routine and all the love and attention I received from my friends & family. It did seem like a long journey but holding my baby in arms seemed all worth it. It was my first pregnancy, and I could not stop imagining of how my baby would look like, be like.
I still remember that memory of Raghav quietly coming and sitting beside me as he whispered “Maya, be strong, I am with you”. His words rattle me, I search in his eyes questioning “Is something wrong?”
I look at the Doctor, with a heavy sigh he tells me the news that leaves me shattered “I am sorry Maya, it seems you experienced a “missed miscarriage”, you have lost your baby. I am truly sorry, sometimes it happens, we yet do not know why, I am really sorry for your loss. The good news is you are young and healthy, you can try again after sometime, I am sorry Maya, I understand how hard it is for you to accept, but none of it is your fault, you did nothing wrong. I am sorry.”
I do not say anything, all I can hear is my own heartbeat and one sentence vibrating and echoing in my mind again and again “you have lost your baby”, my baby…I can’t make sense, I am trying to , but there is a crushing pain, everywhere, I feel deep inside me I have lost everything good in my life, I have lost my baby, and it is my fault, it is my fault”……..Crying helplessly in my husband’s embrace in the Doctor’s chamber, was one of the hardest and most painful experience I ever had, I knew that moment, “I do not deserve to breathe or live”.
The drive back home was exhausting as we both realized, in one evening our lives changed. I miss my baby, I miss being a mother and all the little dreams I had of us as a family, such thoughts, well makes me a walking living dead.”
The First Week
Terrible. Waking up from bed was the last thing I wanted to do, parents, friends, relatives, colleagues started calling where am I, after some point I stopped responding. Raghav and I were just baffled and shattered and we did not know how to tell people, even our closest ones that we lost “our baby”?
Somehow, we both felt it was “our fault” I could see his pain and helplessness mirrored in mine, all the time he used to assure me “Maya we will try again, I am with you”, I used to respond “again? We lost our baby and he/she is never coming back to us..no matter how many kids we have…” I was angry, guilt ridden and in a way Raghav became my dumping ground. What I realized later, he was hurting too, blaming him, in some ways there was this huge emotional space, a gap we did not know how to reach out to heal each other….
The Society and the “Hush”
It was hard to cope with loss, what was harder was telling people about it and the response we got. At our weakest, we had no social script to lean on and no ritual to follow, because the rules for pregnancy loss have been different than all other types of death. My boss called to know when I am returning to work, I responded “I do not know, I am not well,” Somehow I did not know how to communicate and expect others to understand my loss. My parents were sympathetic at first for the first month they kept visiting me, my friends were there, but after the first month everyone started drifting away.
I realized everyone was expecting us to “move on” and to keep our loss “hush” or silent, walk away as if it never happened…
Every waking moment was like death; everywhere I looked there was absence. It was at that time when I realized I needed to know where I went wrong, I searched the net, and did my research trying to find things that I did wrong to result in miscarriage…Did I exercise too hard? Did I eat enough, eat right?” “Did I kill my baby?” “I must have done something wrong”. The guilt was overwhelming and it ate me up.
It took me a month to realize that we both needed help; we were both in pain, hurting each other, blaming each other. My work was getting affected most importantly I stopped getting, proper sleep, Raghav used to force me to eat, all the time a sense of worthlessness and helplessness surrounded me. He tried his best to assure me it was neither my fault nor his, I could see he stopped opening up to me, he started spending more time outside, in a way our life became a miserable hell.
It was an evening when one of my friend dropped in she hugged me and said, “For how long will you both do this alone? I know it is not easy, but talk to someone, who can help you through this.”
It was then I took the help and dared to speak about my pain and fears to a Life Coach.
After speaking to my life coach, I felt better, not because she supported me she helped me understand my situation with much more clarity, she helped me accept my loss. So how did she do it?
She guided me in understanding grief and how to deal with it..
The Grief Process: What Should I Expect?
The grieving process involves three steps:
Step 1: Shock/Denial
“This really isn’t happening; I’ve been taking good care of myself”
Step 2: Anger/Guilt/Depression
“Why me? If I would have…” “I’ve always wanted a baby so bad, this isn’t fair. I feel sadness in my life now more than ever.”
Step 3: Acceptance
“I have to deal with it, I’m not the only one who has experienced this. Other women have made it through this, maybe I should get some help.”
Each step takes longer to go through than the previous one. There are unexpected and sometimes anticipated triggers that lead to setbacks. Examples of potential triggers include: baby showers, birth experience stories, new babies, OB/GYN office visits, nursing mothers, thoughtless comments, holidays, and family reunions.
So knowing the process can help to deal with the pain better. Knowing the triggers, gives you way to make preparation from before so that you are not hit by it without knowing what a trigger can make you feel.
Understanding Your Healing Rights:
My life coach helped me to realize I have certain rights, that I can exercise to deal with my pain better, my coach told me Healing doesn’t mean forgetting or making the memories insignificant. Healing means refocusing. And yes I did that I refocused through realizing and accepting my rights one by one.
You have the right to:
- Know the facts about what happened and potential implications for the future. Seek answers to your questions, look at the medical records, and take notes.
- Make decisions about what you would like to do with your maternity clothes and baby items. Others might try to make quick choices for you; instead use others to help you figure out what option is best for you.
- Protect yourself by avoiding situations that you know will be difficult. Set realistic goals for yourself. For example, focus on coping through the day rather than the entire week.
- Take time to grieve and heal. There is no set time allotment for healing nor is it something that can be rushed.
- Receive support even though this may not be easy for you. If you feel out of control or overwhelmed, consider seeking help from a counsellor, therapist or support group to help guide you through the grieving process.
- Be sad and joyful. It is okay to feel sad at times but the key is to not let it control you. Others have survived their grief, and in time you will too. Do enjoyable things because laughter and joy are healers. Remember that celebrating bits of joy doesn’t dishonour your loss.
- Remember your baby. Healing doesn’t mean forgetting or making the memories insignificant. You may want to name your baby. Some women find comfort by doing something tangible like planting a tree, selecting a special piece of jewellery with a birthstone, or donating to a charity. On the anniversary you may want to share a special time with your partner.
One of the hardest challenges I faced during this journey was the impact our loss had on our relationship. Raghav and I did become distant; it became difficult to communicate with each other. We discovered various levels of silence, in a way I blamed him for not expressing his emotions to me, he withdrew and started getting more engaged with work, at home also in the office. Fights became natural for me, but it was always used to end up in me crying in his arms, and he holding me tight, but the resentment against him was stoically present.
This happened till my life coach explained to me:
How Women And Men Grieve Differently:
Generally women are more expressive about their loss, and more likely to seek support from others. Men may be more action-oriented, tend to gather facts and problem solve, and therefore often do not choose to participate in support networks that consist of sharing feelings. This does not mean he is not grieving. Often men bury themselves in work when they are grieving.
This provided me clarity that I was judging him wrongly, he was in as much pain, I was in probably more cause I did cry and avoided my chores, but he did not, He kept doing household chores without complaints, and even though he spoke less I could sense his helplessness as well. This realization helped me to change my attitude to my partner.
Finally I sat with him and thanked him for his support that was the turning point, because that day he also opened up his feelings to me.
Our relationship is stronger now, we do communicate better. I understood he was as hurt as I was, maybe I took time to understand that, but now we have promised that we will talk about this rather than drifting apart from each other. It is working out, and bit by bit I have started doing house chores and helping him out….and he now spends more time with me rather than staying back in the office. Now we are able to grieve together.
The guilt was overwhelming, it ate me up. I always felt responsible for the loss of my child, and even when someone told me to think about our future as a family that made me feel guilty too.
These thoughts never went away, maybe I should have done something more, taken care of my health better, these thoughts used to keep floating in my mind “I am not fit to be a mother”, “how can I have another baby?” …so on it went.
Another factor that made me more guilty “should I try again?” My life coach asked me two things what is causing me more guilt
- Losing my baby
- Afraid to move forward
I realized both was preventing me to heal my wounds or even help me remember how it felt like when I had my unborn baby inside me.. this guilt stopped me from being me.
In this regard, my life coach helped me in the way I never could have helped myself on my own. My Life Coach asked me to write a letter.
Letter to Yourself
The purpose of the letter is to heal from the pain and to address the guilt that one suffers after a miscarriage. My life coach told me that it is important to address my feelings and especially my guilt. By writing a letter to myself, I would be able to get my feelings out of my immediate consciousness, she also asked me to write everything down that makes me feel guilty.
Guilt is there to make us aware what we can do in a situation and what we cannot, after evaluating my situation, I realized losing my baby was not in my control, even though I felt it was my fault, but it happened naturally, a force that went beyond anyone’s control or the influence of medicine. After writing the letter, self-acceptance was easier. I realized I am not responsible for the loss of my unborn child, but I am responsible how I am going to remember my child. This helped me cope with my guilt.
Naming Our Little One
This helps, so we named our baby, we gave our baby the identity she deserved, it was hard, but we did it anyway, because it made her more real to us, and we could refer to her as our own, and not just “our baby”, she was “Rai” and she was our first daughter. It helped us to keep her memory alive, and no we did not follow the dictum of “hushing” the loss, it definitely was a loss, but we have a name and an identity and our love to prove she was a part of our existence.
In some ways I came in terms with my loss, the emptiness or the memory of the pain never leaves you but you cope and you start planning and then living your present by being in the present. It does not mean I have forgotten or replaced my baby, I did not replace, because that void cannot be replaced, but I did learn to adapt to my present and allowed myself to be happy and strong enough to start again. I never stopped being a mother.
“If you have held a child in your womb you are a mother, and I can think of no one deserves that accolade more than the ones who had to give their child back”- Zoe Clark