I (Rachel) read a great article this week in Still Standing Magazine on body image and self-love after pregnancy loss. It’s (another) topic that is rarely discussed after loss, but it is something that some women struggle with. The first few weeks and months after Aaron’s death were difficult because I was emotionally and physically recovering. The physical reminders of what should have been were there every day. My milk came in the day of his memorial service. This was a painful reminder that my body was ready to nourish the life that it had carried for eight months. Two weeks after Aaron’s birth, a baby cried at the grocery store and my milk came down. I struggled into clothes that were too small because I couldn’t stand wearing my maternity clothes. At three weeks post-partum, I had someone look at my (empty) belly and ask when our baby was due. A few weeks later at a wedding, we were asked when we were going to have another baby by someone who didn’t know our story. I stood there with empty arms, my heart crushed by grief and my eyes overflowing with tears. I mumbled something and quickly ran away.
Our bodies are amazing – they can carry life, and sometimes life thrives against all odds. Over a year later, sometimes it is hard to remember what being pregnant felt like. Other times, I find that Aaron’s loss is still so fresh. While I was pregnant with Aaron, I received a care kit from a charity called String of Pearls which is based in the United States. String of Pearls was created to provide a nurturing and safe place for families as they navigate the path following a fatal prenatal diagnosis that will result in the death of their baby prior to, or shortly after birth. The keepsake box that they sent was lovingly packed with materials to make handprints and footprints, a beautiful storybook and memory making suggestions. It also included book called “A Gift of Time: Continuting Your Pregnancy When Your Baby's Life is Expected to Be Brief” by Amy Kuebelbeck and Deborah L. Davis that discusses perinatal palliative care. The kit also included (among other items) a cream with cabbage leaves in it to help ease the physical discomfort associated with milk coming in after birth. In Ottawa, Mom Friends have created a post-partum care package for new moms that would also be helpful for the physical recovery of childbirth for moms who have experienced a late term pregnancy loss.
It’s hard living with the grief of pregnancy and infant loss. I still find living in my post-partum body difficult. From the outside, you likely wouldn't guess that I have body image issues. It doesn't help that as a society, it is expected that women will have flat tummies immediately after giving birth and no stretch marks. I have been trying to be kind to myself, but it doesn't always happen. Three pregnancies in three years has changed me both physically and emotionally. The scars are there both inside and outside. I have been going to counselling which has helped immensely. I have one beautiful living child and for that I am so grateful. However, I still wish that my other two butterfly babies could be here with us. Until that time, “I'll find you in the morning sun, and when the night is new, I'll be looking at the moon, but I'll be seeing you.” Sammy Fain