Surviving My Second Year of Baby Loss

June 26, 2018

By Sanda Rathamone

"A life need not be long to be meaningful."
Elijah's second heavenly birthday was on June 16th, just a little more than a week ago. In heaven, he would be two, but today, he would be a year-and-almost-seven-months old.

Elijah's due date was on October 30, 2016. 

The way time works after baby loss is different and confusing. When I say, "two years," it sounds like yesterday. Two years is not enough time to cover all of those nights I cried myself to sleep or the aches and pains from seeing every baby that isn't ours and every pregnant woman that isn't me.

It feels more like it has been ten years/forever, since Elijah had slipped out of me and died. I still wonder if he was indeed alive, briefly after his traumatic birth.

Elijah's second birthday isn't just his second birthday, death day, and an anniversary of the most terrible day of our lives; it is also two years of surviving this very unexpected journey without him.

For me, two years is a milestone in the baby loss world. 

In some ways, I am proud of myself for the "progress" I have made since the first year, for learning the many tough, but worthwhile lessons, and for gaining the wisdom that I have now. In other ways, I am crestfallen; it has been two years since our baby's death, which means two years have gone by without ever experiencing life as parents to a living child, as well as another two years of unexplained infertility.

The second year of baby loss didn't lead us to my most prayed for rainbow baby...

So, to sum up my second year of baby loss, I decided to make a list of the challenges and most important aspects of my experience (that I want the whole world to know):
  • It doesn’t get any easier, better, or worse. It doesn’t completely disappear or heal. It becomes something to endure every day. Some days it’s easier and some days it’s harder than others. The only thing left to do is to face it and let it pass, whether that means to keep pushing through it, or to do nothing but rest.
  • Some days, I feel like a warrior that can “lift a bus” and defeat every demon. Other days, I feel so dis-empowered that I can’t even lift my head or open my eyes. Confidence and self-esteem can change at any moment. I never know what’s it going to be like tomorrow.
  • Everyone still finds it difficult to say his name or mention him. I don’t think that’s ever going to change. It boils down to finding those who aren’t afraid to dive into the “deep” end.
  • He still doesn’t grieve as painfully, as much, or in the same way as I do. Sometimes, I wished he had carried a baby, given birth, and watched it die, so that he could see how truly traumatizing this really is.
  • The desire for a lost baby is as deep as it is for another baby. The hopes that we could “start over” and have a “second chance” is always on my mind, but also something that feels so far away and may never happen. I don’t want my lost baby to be the only baby I will ever have and never had. The next baby will not replace the baby we lost, but help these aching arms that cry for our baby to hold. 
  • Pregnant women are the worst, especially on bleeding days. They are a cruel reminder of what I have been working, praying, and hoping so hard for.
  • Social media is the worst place to be when someone I know, or don’t know (even a complete stranger) announces a pregnancy. Blocking and deleting becomes the world’s greatest gift or can be something that could be contemplated for days and days. Most of the time, blocking is my best friend. I don’t need to be happy for others right now. I need a safe place to grieve. *If I haven't blocked/deleted you, you must mean a lot to me.
  • The older kids are fine, it’s the youngest and littlest ones that hurt the most. The toughest part is their newborn cries, which was never heard on the day he was born.
  • Children of every age is a transition or milestone that brings memories of what never was. Like every child that passes by, he should/would be doing and saying these things, too. It is like these memories are stolen.
  • Feeling anti-social and not wanting to talk to or see people for a day or two, or even a week, is okay. Being surrounded by people or in a public place could make grief more overwhelming.
  • Sharing the loss in a public or outspoken way isn’t “airing out my dirty laundry.” It is a way to express what is being secretly oppressed, depressed, and unexpressed that no one knows the truth. The death and loss of a loved one isn’t a private matter; it affects a lot of people and their daily lives.
  • “Before” and “after” are two very simple, but important vocabulary words in my present life. The “before” life is gone and dead when my baby died and the “after” life feels like I died and came back to life, but without a piece of my heart (literally and figuratively).
  • I am not as “strong” as people may think I am or even close to being strong. I cry almost every other day and most of the time, I hide my pain. I need hugs like how kids need love.
  • I feel anxious when I know that an anniversary date is coming up. It's not just the big days (birthday and due date) that are significant. The day I found out that I was pregnant and sonogram/ultrasound appointments are memorable dates on my "mental calendar." 
  • Don’t let my happy, smiley face fool you. I’m still hurting. I’m just trying to get through the day and “be positive.
  • The baby aisle is still a forbidden place. It still hurts to walk by and see everything that we couldn't use. The top five things in the baby aisle that hurts the most are cribs, strollers, baby boy clothes, baby girl clothes, and baby blankets. 
  • B.O.B. decals (Baby on Board) are still punches to the stomach. I know that they are there for safety reasons, but it's like they're taunting me. They're so many out there that even driving to places is an emotional trigger. And then, I remember that we have a decal for our lost baby (a better looking one than B.O.B. decals).
  • My voice is valuable. I’m not asking for attention or sympathy. I don’t need to be understood either, since not everyone has experienced this kind of loss. Being heard and giving my story a voice means standing up for myself, so that others could to the same.
  • For every new person I meet, I hope to tell them about my lost baby. Like all parents - especially new parents - I want to show the world my beautiful baby and tell them how much my son means to me. I hate feeling like my lost baby is one huge secret or something about my identity that I keep hidden. When I do tell them about my lost baby, it feels like I am "coming out of the closet." Telling them is like releasing this huge weight off of my shoulders. 
  • Crying in a bath is one of the best ways to grieve. Adding tears to bath water, cleansing the body with it, and then watching it go down the drain is like a detox and a time of release.
  • My favorite medicine for a heavy heart is fresh air. Whether from a deep breath, a breath from the park, garden, beach, or forest, fresh air is a fresh start.
  • I feel sad even when I’m happy. These two emotions are mixed together. A better word to describe my laughter is that I am actually “sappy” or “haddy.” “Sappy” is when I’m sad, but also happy. “Haddy” is when I’m happy, but also sad. I feel “sappy” and “haddy” almost every day. My emotions are never just one emotion.
  • Waking up and going to sleep is exhausting. I wake up every day with the reminder that there is no baby to wake up to and I sleep every night with the reminder that there is no baby to sleep with.
  • I still sleep with his bear. Like a child, it is the one thing I can't sleep without. 
  • I think about him every day. There isn’t a day that I don’t. He’s always in my thoughts and he lives in my heart. It’s like he’s imprinted on my soul and has become a part of me. I can never forget about him and there is no such thing as “taking a break” from thinking about him. It doesn’t matter how long it’s been; it hurts everyday and forever.
I hope that this list gives you a piece of what I and many other grieving parents have to endure everyday. Please share this to further support and spread awareness on baby loss. Thank you.

With love,

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