A Letter To Myself
Today is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Looking back over the last few years, I can see that I have indeed been on life’s roller coaster. If I could write a letter to myself three years ago, it might sound something like this:
You don’t know it yet, but things are going to get difficult. You’re going to go through a time of secondary infertility. It won’t last as long as it does for most, but it will be hard on you. Be patient. God is teaching you that His plan is not the same as yours. It’s okay to be sad about letting go of the dreams you had for your family, but know that God has something so much better for you. Trust Him.
You’ll want to find answers. Find them. Knowing what is going on with your body and your reproductive system is powerful. Understanding what obstacles you are facing is important. It also makes the miracle at the end that much sweeter. A few doctors will tell you to give up. They will tell you that it’s foolish and risky to keep trying. Knowing that will only make you more amazed when God allows you to beat the odds.
You will have to say goodbye. You have done it before, but this will be different. You will finally mourn the baby you lost before you gave birth to your daughter. You will mourn that baby as you mourn the loss of three others. It will seem unbearable. It will crush you. At times you will feel alone as you face devastation you have never known before. But you must carry on. Here is how…
- Don’t be afraid to grieve. Sometimes you might feel as though people expect you to act “fine” and get on with your life. Some people might even tell you to. Ignore them. You have lost a child and you have every right to mourn that loss. In fact, it is healthy to do so. Usually, people who don’t understand why you are so sad have never been through something like this. Try not to become angry with them. Thank God that they don’t have to know this pain, then deal with yours.
- It’s okay to be sad for a long time. Everyone’s grieving time table is different. You will have days of deep depression when you feel like you’re barely holding it together. That’s normal. Most women do. Don’t be worried about “getting over it,” focus on “getting through it.”
- Know that God created your children for a purpose. Yes, going through this will make you a stronger person, but that’s not what I mean. He created your children for a heavenly purpose. Maybe they didn’t live to do great things here on earth, but know that they are worshiping a great God in heaven. Isn’t that purpose enough? This is something you will never fully understand, but knowing it makes things so much easier.
- Don’t blame yourself or play “what if.” This was the result of our imperfect world. It was allowed by God. You couldn’t have done anything differently to change the outcome. You weren’t supposed to. As terrible as it is to say goodbye to a baby you never even got to hold, it happened. It’s not your fault. Bad things happen all the time and this time it was your turn. Don’t waste it; use it.
- Tell your husband what you need. He has no idea how to be there for you when you’re going through this. He feels lost and helpless. He knows that it’s his job to be strong for you. Tell him when you need him to be soft and weak. Tell him when you need to talk or when you need him to hold you while you cry. Don’t be angry with him for not understanding. There is no way he could, not really. He may have been happy or excited at the prospect of another baby, but to him it was just a far-off idea, something to think about in the future. He had not yet learned to love those babies they way you had, and that’s okay. That’s just the way it is for most men. Don’t hold that against him. Let him help you. Help him help you.
- Find someone you can really talk to about this and talk to them. And don’t be upset with your friends and family members who at times don’t really seem to provide you any support. Most people are afraid that if they ask how you’re doing or bring up your loss in any way that it will hurt you and make you upset. They don’t realize that you are constantly thinking of your babies and that you love to talk about them. So be sure that you find at least one person, someone who has been through it and understands, that you can call or meet when you are having a particularly rough time and need to talk.
- Find a support group. I know, the idea of a “support group” makes you cringe a little bit. But trust me, meeting with a group of women who know exactly how you feel will do more for your healing than most other things. You don’t have to commit to going all the time or going forever, but at first, you’ll need this group to validate your feelings, to encourage you, to grieve with you, and to show you that you will make it through this and it will get better. M.E.N.D. is a great support group for Christian women who have been through pregnancy or infant loss.
- Read books. There are a lot of resources out there for women like you. But be careful that you are reading Christian books for the most part. Your focus needs to be on trusting and glorifying God through this. Here are some great ones:
- I Never Held You by Ellen DuBois and Linda Blackman
- Empty Arms by Pam Vredevelt
- I’ll Hold You In Heaven by Jack W. Hayford
- Hannah’s Hope by Jennifer Saake
- Naming The Child by Jenny Schroedel
- I Will Carry You by Angie Smith
- Listen to music. There will be many songs that will speak deeply to your heart in a way that only music can. You won’t need to listen to these songs all the time, but on hard days and due dates and birthdays, they will help you as you grieve and process your losses. Here is a list:
- With Hope - Steven Curtis Chapman
- Baby Take Your Bow - Chris Rice
- Glory Baby - Watermark
- I Will Carry You (Audrey’s Song) - Selah
- You Were There - Avalon
- Lay It Down - Jaci Velasquez
- Out Of My Hands - Matthew West
- Closer To You - Mark Schultz
- You Are Good - Point Of Grace
- Held - Natalie Grant
- Untitled Hymn (Come To Jesus) - Chris Rice
- Smile (Just Want To Be With You) - Chris Rice
- Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) - Chris Tomlin
- Footprints In The Sand - Leona Lewis
- Save A Place For Me - Matthew West
- The Reason For The World - Matthew West
- Heal The Wound - Point Of Grace
- Blessings - Laura Story
- You Wouldn’t Cry - Mandisa
- Find a memento, something special that you can display or keep with you to remember the children you have lost. You’ll decide on a necklace with a birthstone for each of your children, whether living or in heaven. It will be sad each time you add another birthstone, but you’ll be glad to have a representation of them with you all the time.
- Keep a journal or a blog. You’ll decide on a blog because you will want to reach out to others who experience similar loss. But either way, writing down how you feel and what you are going through will be an invaluable part of your healing. There is power in the words you say and write. You should write about how you feel and how difficult your path is, but you should also write about how you are using your grief to become better and stronger. Let your words predict the direction that you will go. Sometimes, writing something down gives you the strength to actually do it.
- Know that you will have good days and bad days. You will have bad days for a long time. Of course, as time goes on and you learn to live with that aching feeling in your heart, your bad days will be fewer and farther between. But they will still come. When you’re a year out, two years out, five years out, those days will still creep up on you. That is completely normal. Don’t let anyone convince you that you should expect to eventually “get over” your loss. It would be strange for any parent to get over losing a child, no matter how old that child was. You are no exception.
- Give your children names if you want to. At first you’ll wish so badly that you had known them better or longer. You’ll mourn the fact that you never even knew if they were boys or girls. You’ll cry over the fact that you do not even have sonogram pictures of your children. You literally have nothing to hold on to. You’ll want to name them, but you’ll struggle with feeling silly about doing something like that. Don’t feel silly or self-conscious about this. Do what you need to do! In the end, you’ll choose names based on the genders that you thought they were when you first discovered you were expecting. You’ll choose names with special meanings. Being able to call your children by name will do so much for your healing.
- Celebrate your children. I’m not saying that you need to have a party or anything, but find special ways to remember them. Buy Christmas ornaments to represent each one. It will be very special to you as you place each child’s initial on the Christmas tree each year. Do something special on their birthdays, whether it’s buying or making a special treat to eat or releasing a balloon in their memory.
- Don’t get caught up in “the pain olympics.” Don’t compare your hurt to anyone else’s. This will never do you any good. You’ll either feel that you’ve overreacted because someone else’s pain is probably much worse than yours or you’ll feel resentful at someone whose pain you think is much less than yours yet acts as though it is greater. Everyone’s experiences are different and everyone deals with pain and loss differently. There is no point in comparing. And no good will ever come from discussing whether or not your pain is greater or lesser than someone else’s. Simply focus on the healing you need to do and encourage those around you who are also travelling a hard journey in healing.
- Don’t become bitter. Become stronger, better. It is so easy to get mad when you lose a child. It’s natural to ask God why He allowed something like this to happen. But don’t stop there. Self-pity will never help you get through this. Instead, it will make you spiral downward into more despair. You need to find a way to grow through this and become a better person. If you do, you will find that you will like yourself more after your losses than you did before.
- Find someone you can encourage. Once you are several months or years past your losses, seek out someone who is in the early stages of this grief and be a blessing to them. Have lunch together, write notes of encouragement, and most importantly, pray for them. Pray for others who are going through these trials every single day. You know more than many how vital that prayer is.
- Talk to God - a lot. It’s okay to tell Him how you feel, even when you’re not feeling “great.” He wants you to tell Him those things. Honestly, if you can’t go to God for comfort, who can you go to? You don’t have to get out your “prayer voice” and speak in a dignified way. You can say, “God, this is hard. I need help! I feel so sad and confused.” Then let Him minister to you. He will.
- Trust God. It will take you a while to figure out just what this means. You’ll come to this conclusion: Trusting God is knowing that He can even when you don’t know if He will. And trusting God means knowing that if he doesn’t answer your prayers in the way you had desired, it’s because His plan is better.
- Finally, know that if and when you do get pregnant again, it will not necessarily be all rainbows and butterflies. You’ll be scared. You can’t unsee what you’ve seen and you can’t go back to the time when you were “naive.” Worries will creep in over and over again and you’ll simply have to lay them at Jesus feet over and over again. You’ll have to give your pregnancy and your unborn child to God every single morning, trusting Him to take care of your child as only He can. You’ll have strange guilt-like feelings at the joy you feel when you pass pregnancy milestones and have good doctor’s appointments. You’ll still feel terrible that you couldn’t do anything to save the children you lost. Don’t beat yourself up about the weird emotions you experience. Navigate them the best way you can and ask God to help you with them. You know that worrying won’t help you to have a healthy pregnancy - only God can do that. Trust Him to do that.
Losing a baby is difficult for anyone. Losing four is going to rock your world. But trust me, you’re going to be okay. God has blessed you with an amazing family, both immediate and extended, an amazing church, and some amazing friends who will support you through it all. You won’t be afraid to talk about it, to blog about it, and you will be surprised at how God will use your journey to encourage others. You will even come to the place in life where you no longer wish it had not happened but will learn to be grateful for each loss because of the way it has changed your life for the better. Until then, just hold on.