[Trigger warning: This essay discusses one woman's journey with pregnancy loss.]
This is the postpartum no one talks about.
Rapid weight loss because literally nothing sounds good and you have no appetite. But your breasts are full — full of milk — milk that isn't going to your babe, but to another one. A sore, tender, fourth C-section scar that aches now more than ever before, almost like it knows its occupant was vacated 17 weeks earlier than he should have been.
Meds to help the pain, but merely only dull it, because nothing can ever fully take away the lingering ache in your belly. Dark circles under your eyes from not sleeping, longing to have just one sleepless night due to a hungry, screaming babe but instead you're restlessly awake, mind racing and yearning for what could have been. Tears that flow like endless waterfalls, triggered by the littlest of things that set you into an emotional tailspin.
It's been four weeks since our son passed away at 22 weeks. Four weeks. Twenty-eight days. Six hundred and seventy-two hours. Forty thousand and three hundred twenty minutes. And every single one of them I've spent thinking about our baby in some capacity.
Missing him tremendously. Missing carrying him. Missing hearing his heartbeat on my doppler. Missing seeing him on the ultrasound screen. Missing the dog snuggled up nestled sleeping on my growing belly.
Missing making plans for his late February arrival. Missing his big brother and sisters talk about their new little brother coming soon. Missing everything about him.
Why do we tend to only share the happy when it comes to having babies? Sometimes the happy is shattered and devastation happens and that can't be ignored or glossed over—it needs to be shared too.
And that fourth trimester—that postpartum period for mom—is seldom talked about because everyone's focus is on the new baby.
But what about when there is no baby?
You're still dealing with all of the hormonal shifts, the night sweats, the leaky boobs, the excessive bleeding, the extreme fatigue and soreness yet there's no baby there to take care of, to have your energies focused on. Instead, you have a tremendous hole in your heart, and every possible postpartum feeling is exacerbated times a thousand because that's all you can focus on.
Postpartum recovery after loss is quite possibly the most devastating event a woman can go through.
But it's something that a staggering amount of women endure and yet, so many of them experience wordlessly; they grieve in silence for what they'll never get back all while in the depths of postpartum.
Sharing this part of life is something I felt like I needed to get out. People need to see it, need to hear my words, need to perhaps feel uncomfortable to the raw and real postpartum that is rarely shared. This is why I share my postpartum after loss story.
I want them to know they are not alone. That it's okay to talk about, share, cry, be angry, be sad, feel whatever they need to feel, and do it out loud if that's what they want.
In breaking that silence and talking about my experience, I have found that support pours in from places and people I never would have expected. Long-lost high school friends dropping off cookies and a warm meal, Facebook mom groups rallying together to pool money to send flowers, a breast pump company reaching out to send a free pump, cards pouring in in droves from people I haven't heard from in 20 years, and so much more.
Opening myself up to this support network has been a glimmer of hope in a dark and shadowy time. I have reconnected with old friends, made new ones, and most importantly, felt that I have not been alone in this loss journey.
Navigating the unknowns of the every day and what is to come has been made so much easier with the community of support behind me. Behind us. And all because I broke the silence and vulnerably opened myself up to talk about something that is far too much kept as a hidden secret for many.
So, grieving mama, speak up, share your story, and know that you are not suffering alone. It might just bring you some light in a very dark time.