October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, recognizing the staggering 1 in 4 pregnancies, births and infant lives that end too soon. Our own Community Coordinator, Megan Cadenhead, shares her story of loss from a few years ago below. If you are going through or have been through something similar, the experience may feel isolating and even insurmountable. We want you to know that you are not alone, and there is a community here pausing to honor your baby.
I think it finally hit me that I was postpartum when I buckled my seat belt in the car, and there was no car seat with a baby in the back. I was sore, tired, obviously bleeding, and very emotional. There were two things I was very thankful for when we got home: a clean house and meals in the freezer to last us a while. We didn’t have to worry about anything except processing what had just transpired.
I requested no visitors, calls, or texts for a couple of days. All I needed was my husband’s arms around me. I needed to know I was loved despite the fact that my body failed us and our child. I somehow found the energy to go to the store to get the essentials like pads, ice packs, loose fitting clothing, things you still very much need while your body is healing even though you are not taking care of a baby. Of course, we went at some obscure hour because I didn’t want anyone to see me and ask questions.
Over the course of a couple of days we realized we needed some groceries and household items. The best thing I did at the time was allow my mother-in-law to help us. I didn’t have to leave the house and see people, and she got to do something to help with our recovery, which is what most of your loved ones want during that time. They can’t fix what happened to you, but they want to help you get through any way they can, even if it’s something as small as picking up milk and laundry detergent.
The next best thing my husband and I did was take a small trip. We went somewhere that allowed us to be out of the house without the awkwardness of seeing people we knew. We cried, we laughed, and we just enjoyed the presence of one another. We were truly experiencing our wedding vows we said not seven months earlier: “in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, ‘til death do we part.”
When we returned we had the love and faith to get through the next few months of healing. After our daughter’s burial, we knew we needed to pay attention at all of my postpartum appointments. What was charting going to look like during this time? What were our test results? Did we need to seek counseling? (I did.) What other concerns should we have? We also sought spiritual guidance from our priest. We were determined to heal physically, mentally, emotionally, AND spiritually. We knew we needed answers and complete healing before we tried to conceive again, which, by the way, is on your mind a lot when you are postpartum after loss. Your empty arms are aching, and while you need to be patient with the healing process, you are also so eager to fill those aching arms with joy instead of sorrow.
After about three months, our doctor felt that we had made great strides. We were clear to try to conceive again. It was a greater emotional experience this time because we knew being open to life also meant that we were opening ourselves up for potential heartbreak again. Two months after being given the green light we found out we were pregnant again, and it brought on so many new emotions: joy, fear, excitement, sadness. I am eighteen weeks along now, and these feelings affect me all at once it seems. I hit a new stage of grief when I realized that I should only be a few weeks postpartum with my daughter if she made it to her due date, not sitting here close to halfway through a second pregnancy.
I must be gentle with myself because I really didn’t allow much time to lose my previous pregnancy weight, and that has been a struggle for me. Now, I know it was our choice to try again so soon, and I am elated to meet my son, but it is hard to manage postpartum depression and grief while you have a blessing on the way. It is during this time that I am COMPLETELY leaning on my faith, husband, family, and close friends. You need your support system just as much during this time as you would taking care of a newborn while healing.
Megan is now a mom of two children on earth, one on the way, and one who lives on in her heart.