Dear Family and Friends,
I know you love and care for me, and these past several months may not have been easy for you to show me love. I am a new person and walking a difficult journey. Since losing my baby, I am broken. I am still navigating how to live in this world. I know this means showing me support is not easy for you. There are times I need to be alone, and there are times I need a friend, and I am not good at understanding my own needs–let alone expressing them to you.
Now that I am expecting another baby, my mind, emotions, and journey have grown even more complicated. Because you love my family and me, I know you want to be there for us. So this letter is my attempt to show you how to best support me in this pregnancy after loss.
I am still grieving. Another baby on the way does not replace or wipe out the baby I had to say goodbye to. I am still very much grieving and trying to process my grief. I miss my baby. I will always miss my baby. I could have a hundred more babies, and I will still always miss my baby who lives in heaven. A new baby does not take that pain away. A new baby does not wipe away my grief. Blake and I recently began a grief class with some of our fellow missionaries. This has been good for us. This has made us examine a lot of our habits, emotions, and responses. While this has been good, it has also been hard. I have learned a lot. I have learned that many times the second year of grief is harder than the first. I also learned that it is helpful to write family and friends a grief letter to explain how they can support me in my grief. That is what this is. This is my homework from grief class.
My emotions are complicated. I am excited to have another baby, but I am also terrified. I never experience one emotion at a time. They are usually all tangled together. So when I feel the joy of my new baby kicking, I also feel heartache. When I look at my growing belly, it makes me smile, but I want to hide it all in the same moment. It is so complicated inside my head I don’t even know how to explain the why of it. When there is eager anticipation, there is also fear. Nothing is simple inside my head. So when you ask how I am doing, you are likely to get an unclear answer. Truth is, I usually don’t even know myself. It is simply complicated.
Trust is gone. I have lost trust in the process of pregnancy. I have lost trust in my body to successfully carry a baby to term. I have lost trust in my ability to interpret how I am feeling. Every little aspect of this pregnancy causes me to doubt and to question. Every twinge, every moment of calm, every slight discomfort brings fear. My most recent experience with pregnancy ended in loss. That is what I know. That is what I know I can expect. I don’t know how I am doing. All I know is that today I am pregnant, and tomorrow is not promised.
There will always be an IF. Life on earth with this baby is a maybe. Pregnancy does not always lead to a living baby. So when I talk about the future, I will often use the word “if.” That is my reality. Maybe it is morbid or negative, but it is reality. I need the freedom to be able to acknowledge the IF in my conversations. There is a saying in Spanish: “si Dios quiere,” basically translating to “if God wants.” That is how I feel about pretty much all plans in my life right now. The simple “can the girls come over to play” or the bigger “what day do you return to the states?” I can give you an answer or a plan, but I will add “si Dios quiere.”
Plans. On my bad days making plans sends me over the deep end, and on my good days making plans gives me an increased anxiety. This could be because our life changes so drastically with a delivery and a baby. We fly back to the states to have the baby, IF we make it that far. Any plans back in the states then are a maybe. This may be because the day we learned Ella’s heart stopped beating we were supposed to board an airplane. Buying plane tickets, booking reservations, even just making plans for dinner in the future gives me anxiety, and sometimes I just can’t. Even if I want to make plans with you, it may just be too hard. So if you want to make plans in the future, it would really help me out if your proposed plans started with “if you are able,” or “if you are up to it…”
Appointments. Doctors’ appointments and ultrasounds are no longer exciting. They are life-changing. They are where you go to hear bad news. Days leading up to these appointments are difficult. The days of these appointments are often unbearable. I need extra patience and grace on these days because I am usually anxious and irritable. I can’t help it–I am anticipating the worst. ALWAYS. Sometimes I would like someone to go with me. Sometimes I would like to be alone. Please don’t get upset if I do not want you there. This needs to be about me. I need to take care of myself on these days. I need to do what I think will make that day easiest for me.
I need to dream. I know that. I need to picture the happy. I need to dream of a delivery room with a crying baby. I do this privately and usually look up birth pictures on Pinterest. Know that I do allow myself in the safety behind closed doors to dream of a different, happy ending. An ending that does not bring heartache and funerals and grieving. This is a different baby and a different pregnancy and has the potential for a different ending. I know that, and I remind myself of that. But please know that it is too hard to acknowledge this out loud.
Safe zone. There is no safe zone for me. Statistics are not comforting. Only one percent of babies are lost in the second trimester. When you are part of the one percent, no odds feel very comforting. No time feels safe. I will battle fear (and I battle fear hard, on my knees many, many times a day) at all stages of this pregnancy. Statistics and milestones are not comforting. No time feels safe. EVER.
Shopping. I love shopping. In many ways shopping is my therapy. But not now. I do not want to buy maternity clothes. I do not want to buy baby items. Please do not give me anything. If you would like to buy baby items please give them to me after there is a crying baby in my arms. I know the pain of staring at them in my closet months after I had said goodbye to my baby. I know the agony of packing up unused baby items and maternity clothes that were never worn. So if you see me in clothes that are way too small because I can’t bear to buy anything that will actually fit, just smile and pretend like I am not embarrassing you. I am just trying to survive. Please don’t try to convince me I need anything before the delivery. I have worked it out, and I don’t. We have a plan once the baby is here, and we will be fine if we do not purchase anything ahead of time.
Plan A and Plan B. There are always two roads in my head. From this moment on, I will always have a plan if all is ok and a plan if all is not. Maybe this is because either way life will change drastically for us, and then flights may be canceled. We are living with one foot in one country and one foot in another. Whatever the reason, having two plans is comforting. Less than two years ago, my life changed in an instant, and I had to readjust all my plans when I could barely breathe. The only way I know how to survive going forward is to have two plans in place—plans that are ever-changing and evolving as the weeks go by.
Delivery. IF we make it to a delivery and we are expecting a healthy baby, that experience is still scary. There are no guarantees. I am not sure what I will need on that day. This road of grief has been difficult for the four of us. A hospital room where a baby is not crying is what we know. We need to heal. We need to heal together. That might mean we ask you for space after our new baby is born. We may need time, just the five of us, to welcome our new baby and grieve the fact we didn’t get that same joyous experience with Ella. I don’t know what that day will look like, but I appreciate your understanding and patience as we navigate our emotions to come during the delivery. Thank you ahead of time for the space and time we will need from you before we can celebrate with you.
Ella. Please don’t forget her in the excitement of a new baby. We are a family of six. I have four children. This is important to me. Ella was a life created by God and given to our family. She is, forever and always, a part of our family even if she is not here with us. When you mention her by name, or tell me you miss her, or ask me about her, my heart is warmed more than I will ever be able to say. I want you to know that. I know it is often awkward for you to bring her up, and I appreciate it even more that you still do. I have never ever wished someone didn’t bring up Ella in a conversation. I have only ever been thankful to hear you speak about her. So even with the excitement of this new baby, please still say her name.
What can you do? Check on me. Send me notes, emails, texts, and let me know you are thinking of me. I may not reply. Please don’t hold that against me. Sometimes I just can’t, but keep checking in. I appreciate it so much even if I don’t reply. If you want to give me support, send me a Bible verse or Starbucks card. Letting me know you love me and are there for me without words is sometimes easiest for me. Check on Blake. This journey is difficult for him, too, and he spends too much energy worrying about me. This causes me to worry about him. It is a vicious cycle. So I ask you, for my comfort, support him while he is supporting me. Take the girls. Play with them. Let them have fun. Some days all my energy goes toward taking care of their needs, and I don’t have a lot left over for fun. They need fun. They need carefree. Their hearts are scared, too. Death is a reality in all our minds. They need moments to escape the worry and just be children. Lastly, pray for us. Pray for all the needs we have that we can’t even begin to tell you about.
Thank you for your love and support of my family during this journey. Thank you for understanding how complicated our emotions are as we wait for this baby to arrive while still grieving the baby we will never get to hold again. We love you all so much even when we don’t know how to tell you.