Last night, J and I went to a support group for parents who’ve lost babies during pregnancy, or soon after birth. We weren’t quite sure what to expect, but I think we both found the space to be of comfort. Here are a few things I noticed/learned:
- Child loss – whether your child was full term or only fourteen weeks – is crushing; we’re not just dwelling or overreacting.
- We will be grieving this for the rest of our lives. There were women there who, five years out, came to meeting because they were having a particularly difficult time this month. It seems that this will come and go in terms of its prominence in our daily consciousness, but it will never stop hurting us.
- This kind of loss changes you. Lots of women talked about how they’re whole different people now. It made me wonder what it might have felt like to sit among them before.
- Though the other people there were (apparently) heterosexual, only one father came. I don’t think this is because fathers aren’t devastated. Their absence (no doubt largely culturally produced) made me sad. The one father in attendance seemed to relate to most of what the women shared. I felt an immense amount of love for him (as I did for each and every mother in the room).
- Lots of women get bad news about their own health concomitant to pregnancy loss. As I’m finding to be true, it takes many of them a long time to even begin to look at scary diagnoses because they must first grieve their child.
- Grief is an equalizing experience. I don’t think anyone cared that we’re gay, and I didn’t care what other demographics might set us apart.
- I am beyond blessed that J and I have processed this together, that neither of us pulled away.
- Lots of women lose friends, or feel like their friends judge them for being so heartbroken (for not just getting over it). This made me newly grateful for our friends. And it made me want to hug everyone who shared that they felt this way. To ask the questions their friends never ask. To listen for hours.
- Most of the women who attend this particular group have college educations, but I don’t think that most women who lose children necessarily do. That indicates to me that there are lots of grieving parents who lack access to support. This is no less terrible because it is obviously true.
- Losing E will likely change our relationship with our future children even more than I had anticipated. (And it will certainly impact our feelings throughout J’s future pregnancy/ies.) There’s little to do beyond accepting this.
- My theory about the upside of grief being the degree to which it can increase compassion seems to hold. These people were loving and generous in the face of much sorrow.
- I will probably never carry another child, but carrying (and losing) Emmett put me into a club of strong women who have nurtured, and labored, and loved. I’m fiercely proud to be among such women, and as I consider their varied experiences (those who have never spoken of the pain, those who’ve suffered loss again and again), I am in awe. Not for nothing: women are tough.