An Open Letter to Anyone Who Has Experienced Pregnancy Loss
I suffered a devastating pregnancy loss at 20 weeks. Here's what I want others experiencing the same thing to know.
Dear Hilaria Baldwin (and anyone who has recently experienced a pregnancy loss),
When I read the sad news you so bravely shared about losing your pregnancy at 20 weeks along, I wish I could say I just felt sad for you. But the truth is I've been there, exactly where you are. I also received devastating news at my 20-week scan, on a day I anticipated feeling nothing but joy when the ultrasound tech announced our baby's gender. She got oddly quiet instead and called the doctor into the room. I knew then something was very, very wrong. This was only the beginning of my world being turned upside down—like yours was. This was the moment, lying completely vulnerable on that table, that my life also changed forever.
If you are reading this letter early on, you might want to put it down and come back to it. That's what I would've done. In the days, weeks, and even months following my loss, I wasn't ready to hear any advice or words of consolation from anyone. Not from my husband or friends. Not from a therapist (I'll come back to that later). And certainly not from a stranger online. That being said, when a family member opened up that she too had suffered a pregnancy loss—and lived to tell about it—well, that was my first lifeline. It's in that spirit I write this letter. Because back then, I sure would have liked not to feel as though I was the only person in the world suffering such unimaginable pain. Sure, statistics say 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage. But if you're like me, you don't know a soul who talks openly about the grief that follows losing a pregnancy.
Two years ago, I numbly put one foot in front of the other, endured a procedure that took my baby from me, and then came home empty. I felt lost, scared, completely alone. I didn't see a path forward. And as you already know, I had to feel those things. You can't skip any steps. To get to a place where you recognize yourself in the mirror again takes time and effort.
Speaking of effort, back to the idea of talking to a therapist. The first thing my doctor said post-loss was, "get help." I'm so glad I listened. Being in therapy was awkward at first, but my psychologist is one of the reasons I'm functioning today. She suggested ways to cope with the crushing depression and anxiety I grappled with day in, day out. I still rely on her to deal with ongoing feelings of grief. I would also recommend having your children talk to a therapist. Mine did. I needed assistance walking them down their own painful paths of disappointment, confusion, and grief. We met with our pastor, too. Ultimately, anyone who can support you and your family, let them. I'll say it again: Let them. You all need support, including your partner. My husband was so busy picking me up off the floor (literally and figuratively), he felt he had to suppress his grief. It's still a struggle to get him to open up, but we're working on it.
Meanwhile, I want to warn you people will say things about your loss that are hurtful. It took me some time to realize they were just doing the best that they could. You'll learn most people don't know what to say. You'll find out that after the shock of your loss wears off for them, they go on living their lives, and they stop asking if you are OK. This hurts. It helps to remind those closest to you that you still need support. That you always will, because losing a baby isn't something you "get over" as an acquaintance once suggested.
There's no perfect way to wrap up this letter other than to say how sorry I am you are going through this. It's not fair. It's not what you envisioned. It's so, so sad. Two years after our loss, I still think about those things each and every day. But I have also found some solace in knowing my baby and our story positively impacted so many others. She was here. And she left her mark. I love her, her siblings love her, her father loves her, and for that, we are all better, more compassionate souls. So many family members and friends, as well folks I only know through the internet, are also touched by her life. The same will be true for your little angel.
I'll end by saying I wish you so much support, a little peace, and a lot of love. Know you aren't alone. Know there's help out there if you ask. Know you are brave beyond words. That there is no timeline for your grief. That you can darn right feel any way you want about what happened, no matter what anyone says! Those triggers will always be there, and the pain can come rushing back, even if you were doing OK, and that's normal. Be patient with yourself. Be kind to yourself. Know this above all: You have an angel watching out for you from now on.