It took me 406 days after Nelle was stillborn and 255 days after losing Iris to attend my first SHARE meeting. The first meeting is always the hardest, even more than a year after my losses. Being in the room with so many other parents, all of whom knew that pain, brought much of the hurt to the surface again. I cried for days after. I didn’t go back. It wasn’t until I was pregnant with Autumn that I started to attend Sharing HOPE (Having Optimistic Pregnancy Expectations) and that monthly meeting became a necessary part of surviving the months until she was born.
Last night, I attended the inaugural meeting of SHARE at another hospital, a hospital affiliated with the one where I attended meetings, but without its own SHARE program. The facilitators asked if some of the veteran members could attend and help to welcome the new members of that location to the club that no one wants to be in. That first meeting is always the hardest; we know.
I do not remember what any veteran members said to me in my first meeting. Likely I could hardly stand to see what it was like on the “other side” – never imagining that I could arrive at the other side of my grief. I do not remember anything said, but I remember the women that I met, and with whom I have since formed strong bonds. What I said last night, the new parents will likely not remember, but maybe someday they will find to be true.
- There is no timetable for grief. You will find that after a few weeks, people will wonder why you are still grieving, why you haven’t moved on. They will have moved on and you will feel alone. There is no start and end to grieving the loss of your child.
- People say stupid shit (I may have said this more eloquently last night). You will constantly be reminded and triggered by what people say, like “How many children do you have?” Learn how to respond in a way that works for you. It will take time, and some people will never get it.
- For everyone in that room: our innocence around pregnancy has been lost. Many of us have no idea what caused our losses. We are no longer naive in thinking that pregnancy is easy. Fear surrounds the idea of future pregnancies.
- I say this at almost every meeting, quoting Megan Devine: “Some things in life cannot be fixed. They can only be carried.” We cannot fix the fact that our babies died, we can only learn to carry them with us in our everyday lives.
At the end of the meeting, the facilitator asked us to each say one happy memory about our pregnancies or babies: that first positive test, the first heartbeat, kicking, etc. I have been through this exercise before and found that I could not say anything positive. Remembering those pregnancies only brings me pain; I am unable to articulate anything that brought me joy.
So I cheated a little and said that I have turned to writing after losing my babies and have found a lot of happiness in that. I was a bit taken aback after the words left my mouth: did I really mean that I found happiness in losing my babies? No, of course that’s not what I meant. But honoring my daughters and letting them not be forgotten through writing has been the absolute best I can do with the worst of what I have ever experienced as a parent.