“How many children do you have?”
A simple question many new moms have been asked in a variety of social settings right? For most women the answer is simple, they state the number of children they have, their ages, girls or boys, and it sparks a conversation, maybe even a friendship.
For me, the answer is far more complex. I assess the situation- ‘who am I talking to? How are they going to react? Are they going to judge me? Will they never talk to me again?’ I usually say “I have three living children.” Or “I have three boys at home”.
Why would I say three LIVING children? Because I carried a baby girl who was stillborn at 20wks.
Many people in our society today do not think I should count the baby I lost. The death of a baby is still very taboo in our society. No one wants to talk about it. They would prefer to think that is doesn’t happen, or at least it won’t happen to them or to someone they love. I know this because I used to think that way, until it happened to me.
I have been told that because she never took a breath outside of my womb that she didn’t exist. I carried within me, a tiny precious life. My daughter was her own little person, 10 fingers, 10 toes, a tiny little body with her own cells, and DNA. I have proof that she was alive within me. There was a recent article posted here on this blog that said “In addition to all of the nutrients flowing from the mother to the fetus, some of the developing child’s cells pass back into the mother’s body.” When I read those words it made my heart smile. To me, this means that my daughter is literally a part of me, she changed my physical make up, and she gave me a part of her to live on.
People often have no idea what to say when they hear that a baby died and many choose to say nothing. Nothing could be less comforting than silence. Not talking about it will not make it go away. People are afraid that if they say something, it will make me think about my daughter, or that it will make me sad. My daughter is never far from my thoughts, others speaking her name is music to my ears.
Talking about her will not break me, for I am already broken, her death shattered life as I knew it. I have slowly and carefully put a lot of those pieces back together. Talking about her and remembering her is often the glue that holds some of those pieces in place. Talking about her may bring a tear to my eye, because I love her and miss her. But it would be the same for any family member someone has lost. If someone’s parent dies, do they never speak of them again? No. They fondly remember and pay tribute to them. Why should the death of a baby be any different?
My tribute to my daughter comes in the form of helping other families that have lost a baby. Shortly after my daughter was stillborn, family and friends started asking my husband and I what they could do to help, we requested donations be made in our daughters name to a local non-profit, MomsBloom (They provide free in-home postpartum doula support to families after they have had a baby).
Being a lay postpartum doula, I wanted to find a way to offer that same tender, postpartum support, to bereaved families. After discussing the need for more support for families that have lost a baby, the grief support program started taking shape, this was the beginning of Cameron’s Garden Grief Support Program. I want to be able to give newly bereaved parents somewhere to turn when no one else understands, to offer a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on, someone to help these families get started on a journey towards hope and healing.
When you ask me how many children I have, I will answer you honestly, “I have four beautiful children, three wonderful boys that bring me joy each and every day, and a daughter that I can not hold, but will carry in my heart forever.”
Lesley is a SAHM to 3 boys 6 ½ , 4 ½ , and 14m, four time survivor of PPD, and survivor of stillbirth. She blogs on her work and healing here. She is a lay postpartum doula and works in Grand Rapids, Michigan. MomsBloom is the community organization that she works within. To make a donation to Cameron's Garden, please go to their website and select 'make a donation'. Be sure to put "Cameron's Garden in the memo line.
She recommends the following resources for families experiencing a baby loss:
- Glow in the Woods
- Grief Share
- Compassionate Friends
- Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep
- National Share
- Journey of Hearts - booklet
Thank you, Lesley, from the bottom of my heart, for sharing!