I don’t want to be writing this post because it’s very painful but I’m getting emails from people who experienced a similar loss, asking for help and advice, and I do want to help. I think it will be good for me to do it.
I have experienced a horrible tragedy. My son Eric died in utero five days before the due date. No medical reason has been found for this. The doctors say it’s just something that happens. I have met several women who have had the same loss, and there is nothing we have in common other than this tragedy. We are all of different ages, different body types, different health histories, different ethnic origins. It just happens.
My doctor tells me that 100 years ago, a woman would get pregnant between 20 and 25 times in her lifetime. 30% of pregnancies would end in miscarriage, 30% would end in stillbirth, and 30% of babies would die in infancy. Somehow, it really helped me to hear this, so I’m sharing it with you.
There were four pre-existing conditions, so to speak, that helped me deal with the loss better than I would have otherwise:
1. As you know, I’m religious, so the question of “Why me? Why did it have to happen?” did not visit me at all.
2. I’d been undergoing psychoanalysis, which makes me very resilient to everything.
3. I’m surrounded by some really brilliant people who know exactly what to say to help.
4. I have the best husband in the world.
Here are some of the things I did to help myself absorb the loss. These are obviously non-prescriptive because everybody is different. I’m simply sharing.
I decided to fill the time that I had been hoping to dedicate to the baby with projects and activities. I learned to drive, started going to the gym, bought a house, got into home decoration, began a new research project. The day after I got out of the hospital, my sister and I sat down and created an Excel file with a detailed plan of everything I was going to do to get better. The process of making this plan was very helpful. Doing something future-oriented helped a lot.
I also chose not to indulge my need for avoidance. I live in a very small town, and if I’d started avoiding every bus driver, secretary, shop assistant, hairdresser, etc. who’d seen me pregnant and was going to ask cheerfully, “So did you give birth to your baby?”, I’d go nuts. So I pretty much forced myself to go to all the places where I’d be recognized and face the situation. Of course, there were always the unexpected instances of people stopping their cars to yell, “So how is the baby?” The unexpected has been the worst, especially since this was a tragedy of the “entirely unexpected” variety, and now every unanticipated moment of pain brings me back into it.
My identity is built on the idea of me being powerful and indomitable and, as I said, I take enormous pride in not turning my tragedy into the bane of everybody else’s existence. I always hated people who crucify others on the cross that is solely theirs to bear, and now I hate them even more.
About depression. I hope everybody here realizes that depression is not caused by the horrible things that happens to us. The horrible things trigger a condition that is already there. If one has a tendency towards depressive episodes, it is crucial to get treated before anything tragic occurs. Because after it occurs (and it’s the nature of the human condition that we experience loss and misery), a person will have a lot less energy to resist the depressive episode. Even if one doesn’t think he or she has depressive tendencies, psychological hygiene is crucial. There are moments in our lives (such as, major change, menopause/andropause, illness, childbirth, etc.) when our energy gets depleted and we need really good psychological health to withstand the trauma.
It’s OK to ask questions.