*Hope and Healing after Pregnancy and Childbirth Loss.* Here at Debra Pascali-Bonaro.com and on Pain to Power online childbirth education, we have shared our stories of loss with you before – loved ones lost, expectations lost, dreams lost… Today we share with one story of a mother and father’s loss as well as the empathetic voice of Angelique Chelton to guide us thru this tough subject. We hope to provide you some resources and hope for your own healing and/or for your helping those who have experienced loss. We want to honor the mothers, fathers, parents, grandparents, siblings who have suffered a loss, holding them and their baby in our heart and prayers. We send our nurturing love to you as we invite you to read and find insights and healing in this blog and story.
by Angelique Chelton
We liken normal pregnancy to a voyage by boat. We don’t know what the weather will be like when we embark on our journey, but the mother/captain’s body is a seaworthy vessel and she brings her midwife/navigator to sea. We expect an easy passage to a long-anticipated port.
But not all voyages are easy and not all ships reach their expected landing. Sometimes, a child is lost during the journey. When we first lose our precious baby, there is a rending of our bodies and our spirits. That which once was relished in lush, round fruitfulness ends in pain and longing and fear. The sweet visions of morning cuddles, bath times, story-reading, science projects, ice-cream cones, family vacations, holiday celebrations and eventually, graduations, weddings and grandchildren all come to a sudden end with a grunting push and a gush of blood.
Our baby is gone. The one we waited for and loved with our whole heart is no more. Our ship crashes upon an unseen reef, everyone aboard thrown into an angry sea of grief and pain and loss, no one more so than the mother whose very body was the voyaging vessel.
We stumble through the ensuing months, pain washing over us as we cling to our sanity as a shipwrecked sailor clings to driftwood. Always expecting to be pushed over the side, to lose our grip with the next wave, we instead find ourselves eventually in calmer waters. Somehow the storm of grief and longing begins to abate. We wash up on an island’s sandy beach, emotionally spent, the raging sea of sorrow and fear of drowning in the past.
There is no going back to what once was; we slowly begin to rebuild. We renew old connections and make new ones. We realize that our grief won’t bring our baby back to us, so we give ourselves permission to feel ok today. Sometimes we find that the tide has come in unexpectedly and our grief washes over us once more.
Eventually, we get good at predicting when the tide will come. We expect it around anniversaries like the day our babies died or the unrealized ‘due date’ or when we visit a place that was important during our pregnancy. Sometimes the tied washes in and overwhelms us, but not as often as when we first came to this island.
One day, we are sitting on the beach, a warm morning sun falling on us, and we remember our pregnancy and our baby and the flood doesn’t come. For the first time, maybe, we are remembering without being overwhelmed. We smile when we think of the precious moments we shared with our baby- making the pregnancy announcement, hearing our baby’s heartbeat, feeling fluttering movements. We love still, the love stronger than the pain for the first time since the storm.
One day, we realize that we have reached a place of balance. The shipwreck will never be undone- it can never be taken back and it will forever have an impact on our lives. The shipwreck changed us, became an important delineation point in our histories. It was powerful enough that the flow of our life is marked as before and after the shipwreck.
Now, in this time, we see the tide that flows in as an old friend; a life’s companion that returns to remind us of the weight of love for our baby. We make peace with this tide and see our future as one that will be lived in its presence.
Today, we are strong. We have integrated the loss- our shipwreck- into our lives. We recognize that the people we are today have been shaped by the experiences related to the loss of our precious child and the loss of a future with them. We can even celebrate the new person who came up out of that shipwreck, who found ways to bring healing and life and goodness to the world after such a catastrophic rending. The work we do is good. The life we are living is good. And without our baby and our shipwreck, this beautiful life never would have been.
There is peace and even joy in realizing the storm doesn’t end the journey, that love for our baby redeems the shipwreck in the end.
Angelique Chelton of Hearthside Perinatal Bereavement Care is a birth doula (certified via Madriella and Hypnobabies certified) and postpartum doula, CLC, BEBE CBE. She has started her journey towards midwifery via Mamatoto Village Midwifery Assistant training and is an active midwifery apprentice in Lancaster County, PA. Angelique is also a perinatal bereavement specialist and has trained hundreds of birth workers via her ICEA accredited perinatal bereavement online training program and in-person workshops. She will be launching The Hearthside Perinatal Bereavement Specialist Certification Program this August in honor of her son Anduril’s tenth birthday. Learn more a Hearthside Maternity Services (families) or Hearthside Care (birthworkers).