This month during Infant Loss Awareness month, we wish to show love and compassion for the women and families who have had the heart-wrenching experience of infant loss. We send our love and light to all of you who have experienced this – in all of its forms. We see you, we love you. With the personal stories that are shared today, we hope you feel some solidarity and support in your experience.
Miscarriage is hard. For me, miscarrying the first time vs the fourth time was just as hard. I question over and over again if I did something wrong that caused it, or if there was something I could go back and change to keep it from happening. To help me cope with miscarrying, I found myself reading blog posts and forums about other women’s experiences with miscarriage. I also found that journaling about my experience and feelings was really therapeutic and it also helped for when someone wanted to talk about it, I had already tried to make sense of my over-abundance of emotions on paper.
After I miscarried my first, a family friend who was an OBGYN said to me, “Oh don’t worry about it, 1 in 4 women miscarry.” His words were far from helpful and they brought me to tears as I stood in front of him. What I’ve learned from what he said is that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Seek out others who have had similar experiences and connect over this very raw and fragile event. There is strength in numbers and I have made many beautiful friendships as I’ve been willing to open up and reach out to others who have miscarried. ~Emily Manning
Last year I gave birth to a baby boy named Roman with a very rare and terminal lung disease. For the first 2 weeks of his life he was so fragile the doctors wouldn’t let us hold him. Even too much physical touch could send him into distress. So for two weeks we sat and watched and waited and prayed for a miracle. And I pumped. I pumped and I pumped and I pumped. I pumped so much the nurses nicknamed me “Bessy”. Almost every other motherly duty had been taken from me, and the one thing I could still do for my child was to provide him with the nourishment of my breastmilk, even if the only way he could receive it was through a feeding tube. Roman eventually did grow stronger and soon we were able to hold and snuggle with him, even though he could never tolerate nursing. At 3 months of age Roman took a turn for the worse. The stress of seeing him decline definitely affected my milk supply. I was only pumping 1/10 of what I used to. There were days the doctor would have “the talk” with us and I didn’t want to pump at all. Soon my milk was almost completely dried up, but by this time Roman’s disease had progressed enough that we knew it would soon be time to let him go. The best advice I received while in the NICU was, “If you want to be there for your child, then you first must take care of yourself.” As mothers we often put everyone else’s needs before our own and we simply forget how important our own physical, emotional, and mental well- being is. During the last few days of Roman’s life I was so grateful that I could spend that precious time with him without the stress of pumping and feeling engorged. Roman passed away in my arms just 1 day shy of turning 4 months old. Losing a child is awful, but trials do make you stronger and I’m proud to be able to look back at the strength I’ve gained through this experience. ~Kelley Airapetov
My Nathan was 3 days shy of six months and exclusively breastfed when we lost him to SIDS. His big appetite had created an abundant milk supply so it was only a matter of hours when aching breasts joined my aching heart over the sudden loss of my sweet baby. So what do you do when your milk is suddenly not necessary? The frequent feeling of breast fullness is a constant reminder of your loss. I did become uncomfortably engorged pretty quickly, but my milk supply dwindled with time. I did hand express in the shower just enough to make the pressure bearable and avoid mastitis. Within 10 days my milk was pretty much gone. If you are dealing with an established milk supply, I suggest to not bind your chest, because it will be painful and can trap milk and cause mastitis. Just wearing a supportive bra and leaving your breasts alone as much as possibly might be all you need.
A few weeks into my grief and healing I looked for something to do with the 400 ounces of liquid gold in my freezer. At that point the only mother’s milk bank I found that was taking donations was in Colorado. I did talk to them, but the screening process and procedure were more than my broken heart could handle at the time, so all my hard work and sacrifice to feed my baby got old in my freezer and went down the drain. Fortunately, Mother’s Milk banks are on the rise, and it has become easier to donate milk since then. ~Amy Mitton
Thank you all for sharing your stories and your heart with us. We wish any parent with loss, seen and unseen, true peace. You can view more stories and connect with other parents that have experienced loss at Still Standing Magazine and The Compassionate Friends. You can also join support groups about infant loss at Share Pregnancy and Infant Loss. If you would like more information on donating expressed milk visit Human Milk Banking Association of North America.
Thanks for stopping by,
Lindsey Shipley, RN, IBCLC