HOW TO SUPPORT A MOM AFTER STILLBIRTH
When Taylor experienced a stillbirth, so much was unexpected and after all of it, her body was still postpartum as if there was a baby. Thank you, Taylor, for sharing your story.
WHAT IS YOUR STORY FROM TTC THROUGH PREGNANCY?
I am Taylor, I am 26 and married to my High School sweetheart. A SAHM and we currently reside in Minnesota. We have three kids: Kane, Macy, and Jagger. I was almost 22 at the time we lost our son Kane, so we’re pretty young.
So A tiny back story- I was engaged to my now-husband at the time, just turned 21, and completed my first semester of nursing school. I was the .0001% of women that got pregnant on the pill. We found out I was pregnant two days before my finals for the fall semester. It was definitely not planned, but we decided to go through with it. I quit nursing school after that semester.
My son who we named Kane, died from a placental abruption that summer. We don’t know why or what caused my placenta to detach from my uterus. I was 36 weeks along when my water broke and blood gushed all over. Who would’ve thought his birth would be the worst AND best day of our lives. He wasn’t planned but we were SO ready to be parents and bring him home. Kane was also our first pregnancy, and first born.
Being a Postpartum Woman After a Term Stillbirth
I have Kane’s whole birth story linked from a blog post I did. It goes into more depth about the exact day and what happened.
I just want to say, these are all of my experiences with postpartum after a term stillbirth. His death gave me PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), PPD (postpartum depression) , PPA (postpartum anxiety) , and certain things you may not think are triggering, are for myself. Nothing I experienced was “normal,” but I don’t know how anything is normal after losing a baby.
RELATED: PPD and PPA stories from Real Moms
WHAT DID YOU KNOW ABOUT POSTPARTUM PRIOR TO YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE?
I truly knew absolutely nothing about postpartum when I was expecting him, and after I had him. All I knew is my vagina will hurt for a while, there will be blood, and my milk will come in a few days later. I didn’t know what was normal and what wasn’t. No one explained anything to me really. And as a naive 22-year-old, I thought I’d be happy all the time. They warned me of baby blues turning into something more. That was it! All I knew was to watch for huge blood clots, no sex, and I’ll be good by the 6 weeks check-up
DID YOUR BODY STILL ACT “POSTPARTUM” AFTER YOUR STILLBIRTH DELIVERY?
I bled, a lot. I know that’s common especially after vaginal birth, but it was so traumatic for me. My mom and aunt went to my apartment before I was released from the hospital to clean up all of the blood in my bathroom. Every time I went to change the pad and pee, I cried. It physically hurt to pee, but mentally and emotionally hurt more when I had to see the blood. My milk came in full force about two days after I was home. I had HUGE boobs before pregnancy, like size H cup- no joke, so I used lots of frozen peas and tight sports bras.
Milk, Hormones, Recovery
My milk went away generally fast, all thanks to my mom. She told me what to do to get rid of it. Otherwise, I would’ve been extremely lost and suffering from swollen boobs for who knows how long. My hormones were jacked, I was a complete mess. I felt like all I did was cry and feel extreme sadness. The first week home was probably the worst. I almost threw up at the funeral home signing papers for his cremation. I barely ate, felt sick, and just didn’t know what to do with myself. Things would be okay one minute and I would be angry the next. Something would make me laugh, then I felt guilty for being happy for a split second and would burst into tears. Half the time I was surprised I still had actual tears running down my cheeks because I wasn’t sure how my body could constantly produce them after crying for a week straight.
HOW DID OTHERS RESPOND TO YOUR LOSS AND POSTPARTUM EXPERIENCE?
We got a lot of sympathy cards in the mail. Many sent us money, which was extremely nice because I didn’t feel like cooking until 2 months postpartum. My husband’s job sent us flowers, a card, and some other things. Everyone was very sympathetic, which is a very common response to death. My mom was my rock, I don’t think I would’ve made it out alive without her. She was strong for me, took care of the hard things so I could grieve.
My husband’s coworkers constantly asked how he and I were doing, checking in. Family responses were mixed. They wanted to help us and take away the pain but didn’t know how. They didn’t know what they could say or do, they didn’t want to upset us or make it uncomfortable. Of course, they were devastated too, he was the first grandchild on both sides. Our two really close friends were very supportive and both lived further away and almost flew/drove to be with us the day I delivered him. I went out for drinks and dinner with my best friend 3ish weeks postpartum and it was the first time I went out in public, laughed, cried, and actually enjoyed myself. With strangers, even today I get the sympathy looks and the “I’m so sorry,” then they feel super uncomfortable.
HOW DID YOUR POSTPARTUM EXPERIENCE, AFTER STILLBIRTH, IMPACT YOUR DAY TO DAY LIFE?
It was so hard to feel like I could relate to moms because my baby wasn’t with me physically. I went through all of that and can’t compare anything besides how sore my vagina was. Emotionally, and mentally I was lost. It physically hurt to look at other moms with babies. I was angry and jealous every single time someone on Facebook announced that they’re pregnant. We didn’t have answers as to why he died, so I was pitying myself and was extremely bitter. After I gave birth to him I felt like a piece was missing, I felt like a mom but was baby-less. I never expected to feel that way about motherhood.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS THAT PEOPLE SAID/DID THAT WERE HURTFUL? (EVEN IF WELL-INTENTIONED)?
Share his pictures without our consent. It’s been four years and I still can’t hang his picture up. Talking about him in front of our kids. They’re too young to understand and we want to tell them on our own terms on our own time!
Some things people have said:
He’s in a better place.
God needed another angel.
It’s in God’s hands.
Everything happens for a reason.
The list is so long! It was all with good intentions but the last thing I personally wanted to hear.
WHAT CAN PEOPLE SAY/DO TO BE HELPFUL TO A FAMILY AFTER STILLBIRTH?
Bringing us food was a huge one! I had zero drive to cook for a long time. My aunt donated a brick with his name on it in our town. His name is with a whole bunch of other children that have passed away. It meant more than she’ll ever know. When people would empathize vs sympathize with us. There is no “but” or silver lining when losing a child. Telling us something like “I know you’re hurting, if there is anything I can do to help let me know, I’m here for you.” I don’t want your pity. Bad things happen, things we can’t control and no amount of your pity will change anything.
When you lose a child, there is no normal. Nothing about you and your story will ever be normal.
WHAT WAS YOUR MEDICAL CARE DURING POSTPARTUM?
My 6-week checkup was complete bs. I was cleared for Postpartum Depression (PPD) because I didn’t mark that I wanted to harm myself. Because I checked off every box besides suicidal thoughts, they told me I was just grieving. It wasn’t baby blues, it was PPD. I truly believe if someone stopped to tell me I wasn’t okay and feeling this way wasn’t the normal grieving process, I wouldn’t have had as bad PPD. They never made me go to counseling or therapy, it wasn’t ever brought up. Our postpartum culture (or whatever you want to call it) already needs to change because it’s failing mothers. It’s even worse for those who’ve lost a baby(s). There should be mandated therapy, and even more check-ins. Child loss is still a taboo topic, yet so many babies are dying, and the system is failing mothers after birth.
Experiencing stillbirth and need someone to talk to? Find Taylor here:
Do you know someone who has suffered stillbirth, miscarriage or another tragic birth event? Check out this Psychology Today article from Margaret M. Quinland, Ph.D., and Bethany Johnson MPhil, M.A. on Tips for Supporting Parents and Caregivers in Crisis.
This series, Postpartum Narratives, aims to bring awareness, normalization, and understanding to different postpartum experiences. No two postpartum experiences are the same, and as a society, we cannot have one view of what postpartum is or should be. By sharing stories, we diversify our own understanding and can then advocate for better support and resources for each person and space that affects a postpartum family- the home, the workplace, the medical field, social constructs, etc. if you have a postpartum narrative you would like considered for contribution, please contact me here.
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