For the Mama Missing her Baby
For the mama missing her baby. This blog post is written for you. Sometimes with great love comes great loss.
Something happens to us when we see those two little pink lines. A rush of excitement, gratitude, and oftentimes fear coinciding with a fierce, instinctive responsibility to keep our little one safe. Not many things can compare to the depth of a mother’s love for her baby, and yet sometimes, with great love comes great loss.
Six years ago, my greatest fear became a reality when our second born, Harrison, went to Heaven shortly after birth at just 20 weeks 1-day gestation. I was on bed rest with a chronic placental tear, but at the anatomy scan at just over 19 weeks, our baby boy was healthy, growing, and was surely going to be tall like daddy! He was always snuggled so tightly in my tummy, sometimes stretching and often times sucking his thumb. We headed home from the appointment grateful and ready to tackle another half of the pregnancy on bed rest. Then just one week later, I went into labor, and we delivered our perfect little son in the early morning hours of Sunday, January 29, 2017. My husband and I held him, prayed over him, and sang to him.
We were in deep love and simultaneously deep shock, our minds having difficulty comprehending that when we handed our baby boy to the nurse later that afternoon, we were not going to be seeing his sweet body again on this side of Heaven.
Both of us were completely blind-sighted and shocked at our new reality, and we were subsequently tossed into this new life, this new journey with grief and parenting a baby who no one other than my husband, Bryan, and I had ever met. Discharged from the hospital less than 12 hours after meeting our son, with empty arms and shattered hearts, we were sent home to a life that felt like a distant stranger, like a bad dream we so desperately wanted to wake up from.
And now here we are, a six-year cushion in time between the trauma and today, six years of a journey walked and experienced and learned. As I have now entered a place where I can reflect on our road with grief, I have so many thoughts swirling in my mind as I type, deeply hoping that I can shepherd others in a way that helps them to grieve well in their own journeys of loss and pain.
I am not a believer in a tidy, one-way, step-by-step process of how to grieve and heal, yet, I do believe our grief can share so many commonalities, lending it crucial to share and do this together. With the combination of faith, professional therapy, and community, my family and I have arrived at a place of deep gratitude, beauty, and resilience. Not without pain or longing, I assure you. However, our grief has evolved and softened in a way, and we have developed so many resources and tools to help us process and navigate it personally and for our living children at home, and now—for other families navigating pregnancy or infant loss as a part of their own story.
If you and I were seated across from one another, sipping coffee and sharing tears, I would begin first by listening to your story and then offering an invitation to consider facing this pain head-on and going straight through it rather than avoiding it. These words of advice are not to replace medical or professional instruction, as I am not a doctor nor a certified counselor. They are not words of pushing or force but instead gentle nudges and encouragements. I am a fellow mama of loss and have been in a similar place (by no means, however, will I ever say I know exactly how you feel), I truly desire to come alongside you. Like a fitness instructor coaching you through an intense workout, I’m not telling you the things to do that I myself haven’t done—in fact, I’m right there beside you doing it with you still.
I close my eyes and imagine the stories, your story of love and loss. There are so many stories that have been shared with me, and so many more I’ve yet to hear.
You made plans, some of you. Perhaps you had just started to prepare a nursery, and you bought a matching outfit for a sibling at home. Now, the empty cradle echos the emptiness in your heart. Your milk has come in, another postpartum cruel reminder that you held and carried this baby, and now he is nowhere to be seen to snuggle and rock and feed. You are angry with your body and the Lord as you grab the cabbage leaves from the freezer with hot tears running down your face.
Perhaps this was your first baby, a positive pregnancy test after years of infertility and battling and longing and the immense joy you felt over finally carrying a baby was immediately crushed with immense sadness when that precious heartbeat could not be found. Hope has been deferred, and your heart is now so very sick.
Or maybe you brought this miracle baby home, rocked her to sleep, sang to her, played peek-a-boo, and laughed at her toothless grins, living a beautiful few months filled with cherished memories. And now your mind has a white-knuckled grasp on these moments that you are so afraid you might forget and cannot fathom that there will not be anymore.
Maybe you spent weeks in and out of the NICU, a roller coaster of emotions and exhaustion, visiting your tiny baby boy as he wrapped his little fingers around the tip of yours, each little print swirled with God’s design and faithfulness. He was a fighter and so strong. Then, after all that time and struggle and fight, you feel completely robbed and the unfairness of it all for yourself and for him.
Or perhaps your precious little one was born sleeping, with a deafening silence only broken by the cries of mommy and daddy in that hospital room. Little eyes closed that you longed and ached to see, so you shut yours tightly to envision them and pretend that when you open your eyes, this will have been a terrible nightmare.
Did you adopt? A miracle little blessing you opened your hearts and home to, a heart and family grown with unconditional love for this bundle of pure joy, and now this child, your child, has been adopted into their Heavenly home instead.
No matter your story, whether pregnancy loss, stillbirth, premature death, or infant loss —you have lost a child, and that out-of-order, upside-down type of loss is unimaginable and extremely traumatic.
I am never going to tell you that it is okay— because it’s not. Things like this should never ever happen.
Mama, your greatest fear has been realized, and where do you go from here? How can you possibly experience joy again after this impossible pain?
Here are some of the practices that helped me, especially in that first year of missing my baby.
Seek professional counseling
Bryan and I had an amazing grief therapist, Dr. Judy Wolfe, who was a pastoral counselor with extensive education and experience with grief—in particular, child loss. Her expertise was pivotal in guiding us in our grief work and helping us process our pain in a healthy way.
You are now part of a “club” that you never wanted to be in, and yet, you will find that you long to be with someone who understands what you are going through. You can join a local support group or bereavement group (many hospitals can point you to ones in your area), or you can simply share your story, and you will find that so many have gone through something similar or know someone who has. Even if it is just one friend, try to stay connected and avoid isolation at all costs.
Staying involved, or perhaps getting involved for the first time, in your local church will be so helpful. Our hearts, and oftentimes our faith, are shattered after the loss of a baby. Cling to the promises of God in scripture, keep going to church even when you are angry, and take all of your pain to your Heavenly Father, who grieves with you and will be your greatest source of comfort.
Friends, you need to know that divorce rates are staggering when child loss is a part of the story. I do not tell you that to discourage you but instead to encourage you to press on in the work of pouring into your marriage. Your husband has also lost a baby, and he is grieving while also trying to support you in your grief. He is sensitive to the fact that your grief is different, and he may not know how to respond. Be patient. Understand that he will more than likely return to life and normal day-to-day functions before you, and this doesn’t mean he is necessarily ready to do so, but he may simply have to in order to keep the family functioning. Support his personal grief work and cheer him on as he processes the pain alongside you, even if it looks completely different than the way you are processing yours.
To yourself, to your spouse, and to your friends. No day-to-day, no moment-to-moment, will look the same or feel the same on this road of grief. Give grace to yourself when you feel like you should be doing something or feeling something that you aren’t. Also, give grace to your husband if he isn’t meeting you where you need. Give grace to the friend who says the wrong thing or, even worse, doesn’t say anything at all. You will inevitably be disappointed by the humans in your life during this time, but thankfully we have a Savior who collects our tears and meets us right where we are in our pain every single time. Allow Him to soothe your soul, giving thanksgiving to those who beautifully comfort you and granting grace upon grace to those who fall short.
For the mama missing her baby, I ache with you. I hate that this has happened to you, and I long for the day when these tears will be redeemed and wiped away for good. You can and you will survive this, and I would love nothing more than to come alongside you and help shoulder the weight of your pain. To hear your story and to remember your baby.
When Bryan and I were praying about Hugs for Harrison and feeling the stirrings in our hearts to launch this ministry, the Holy Spirit whispered the words of 2 Corinthians 1:4, that the God of all comforts comforted us in our trouble, “So that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
I know you cannot see it now, but one day, another mama, broken and shattered by the loss of a baby, may come to you for support, and in doing so, we, together, will create a wave of comforts in the years ahead, giving all glory and honor to our Heavenly Father who created, loves, and holds our babies until they are handed to us one precious day when all pain is redeemed, and life is eternal.
Sending you love, hugs, and a million whisper prayers of comfort,