Written by: Melissa Desveaux, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
“I’m sorry there’s no heartbeat”. A simple statement that can change the entire life of a mother and father who were on their exciting journey to becoming parents. “I’m sorry for your loss” comes shortly after. It’s called a miscarriage—a pregnancy loss before the gestation age of 20 weeks or stillbirth after 20 weeks. I’ve heard these two statements four times on my journey to become a mother. I didn’t believe I was a mother when I fell pregnant the first time because I hadn’t given birth to a baby. So how could I be?
I remember painting our baby’s bedroom during my second pregnancy, ready to add new furniture for her. I was around 20 weeks pregnant. It was Mother’s Day and I received a text from a relative wishing me a happy Mother’s Day.
I wondered why. I wasn’t a mother yet. Or so I thought.
That pregnancy ended at 28 twenty-eight weeks. I gave birth to my stillborn daughter. I labored just like any mother giving birth to their baby. I was a mother all along, but I just didn't believe it. I guess many mothers who endure pregnancy loss feel the same. How can you feel that you're a mother if you've never breastfed, cuddled, felt joy, or hear your baby laugh or cry? It's ok to feel this way, but know that you became a Mother the day you conceived.
Pregnancy loss is a damn hard experience to go through. No one will ever understand unless they’ve been through it themselves. No one will ever feel so lonely or sad during this time, but you. No one. Even the closest person. Maybe even your partner. Life goes on, and we are stuck with this empty feeling and guilt that it’s our fault we’ve done something wrong or that something is wrong with us.
I know because I’ve felt every emotion that was written about grief after loss. And even though it’s normal to grieve, I want to share some actions other women I know and I have taken to get through these difficult times. It could save you from developing mental health issues, anxiety and even feeling alone;
Ask for help
If you have a supportive family or friend, ask them for help. Do not feel ashamed, embarrassed or burdened. They could do some of your housework or cook for you. They can be with you to talk to when you need to vent your emotions.
A supportive person won’t give you unwanted advice. They will acknowledge your feelings. They are not judgmental. They won’t tell you how you should feel or what you should do. They will speak about your baby. They may give you a thoughtful gift. They will not get offended by anything you say or do. They won’t forget about you. If anyone in your life seems unsupportive, even with the best intentions at heart, be honest with them and kindly tell them that their advice or what they are or not doing is not ok.
See a counselor if you need to
You don’t want to suppress any negative feelings inside that will cause an illness, even if it’s overtime. Your hospital may offer counseling services. After your hospital stay, however, check with your doctor to arrange to see one. Again, don’t feel ashamed to seek this help. You might want to ask someone to contact on your behalf. There are many organizations that help with grief counseling, specifically for pregnancy loss.
Listen to uplifting music, or try meditating.
There are many guides and meditation apps online that you can download that will help you restore those unhealthy feelings. Or listening to music you love will lift your mood and change your state of mind. Biannual beats can help you change your subconscious mind, help you feel at peace and relaxed. Download an app on your phone, put on some headphones and listen throughout your day.
Writing is one of the most effective ways to release trauma from your body. It helps you to understand your grief, even if you don’t know it yet and puts you on a path of healing. Purchase a journal or album and write down any of your feelings, a story of your baby, the process you went through and are still going through. You can add photos if you have them. Keep dates and ultrasound pictures. Even if you are struggling to fall pregnant, you may want to write or find some positive affirmations or quotes to help you through the day.
Read relatable stories
Reading other stories like yours also helps in healing. Find those stories through books or articles. Comfort for the Tears is the book of memoirs I compiled and published. There are twenty stories all written by mothers and their families that have experienced pregnancy and infant loss, premature births and have been through years of IVF. I also wrote my own memoir My Life of Loss, which tells my story of all my pregnancies.
Create a memory album or sacred space in your home where you can share memories of your baby. Things like a photo, some candles, soft toys and keepsakes. If you're good at sewing or art or have a special talent, try making something in your baby's memory. Many people I know have made candles, toys, baby gowns and clothing for hospitals. Others have written books, created online fundraisers and started their own charity organizations.
Exercise and eat well. While I was on maternity leave after my stillborn baby was born, I practiced yoga every day. I didn’t eat a lot of unhealthy foods either, and I actually lost 10 Kilos. Exercise increases endorphins that make you feel happy. Go out for walks in nature and give yourself time to breathe in fresh air.
Find a support group
Either in person or online to be able to talk about your loss. There are many organizations that support pregnancy loss. In September 2019, I became a support ambassador for the Pink Elephants Support Network. We support mothers who have experienced miscarriage over the phone or online in Australia.
Become part of a community and do something for others
Make something for your baby or other people going through the same as you. For me, it was writing a blog, creating a fundraiser, compiling and publishing a book of memoirs. Helping other people and giving is both rewarding and healing. Here are some things you could do:
Write and publish a book and donate them or sell and donate to other people or charities. Or write a blog and share it with everyone you know.
Create a fundraiser to donate to your specific cause in honor of your baby.
Give talks in groups or in events. This can be a very emotional but an extremely rewarding experience. You may meet many people in the event and it opens doors of opportunities.
Join an organization that makes clothing for babies that have passed or that support pregnancy-related issues to help families on a large scale.
Make sure, before anything else, you look after YOU. Go for walks with or without your partner. Take a break and treat yourself to a massage. Go away for a weekend, just you and your partner. Do whatever you feel will lift your spirits. I know it won’t be easy, but looking after yourself is doing everything above and more so you don’t create an illness that can otherwise be prevented.
And remember, you are a mother.
Melissa Desveaux, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Melissa Desveaux lives in Sydney, Australia, with her husband and two boys. She struggled through three miscarriages and had a stillborn baby from 2007 and after her sons were born, she published her memoir My Life Of Loss. Melissa has compiled and published two books written by women who have experienced pregnancy struggles and has also contributed to three anthologies. Melissa was nominated and awarded an Australia Day Award in 2017 for her dedication and contribution in helping families through pregnancy loss. In 2019 Melissa became an ambassador for the Pink Elephants Support Network, supporting mothers who have experienced miscarriage. She has also started a business helping influencers write and publish their own personal stories so they can change the world.