‘Tis the season for many diverse and often bittersweet emotions, especially when pregnant and/or parenting after loss. It feels like a constant dance between joy and despair as we sit in the spaces of what could have been, what is, and what it will be. These polarizing feelings are important and healthy in any rainbow experience, but are certainly magnified during the holidays. In supporting pregnant and parenting families, I’ve found it important to acknowledge the individual and diverse ranges of normal. Today is the winter solstice and it seems appropriate to take a moment to pause in order to reflect on the darkness so to better welcome the light.
The darkness is the feelings that are associated with pain, sadness and despair. The darkness can be stimulated by our babies gone too soon, but they themselves are NOT the darkness. It is missing them. Over time and with enough practice honoring the pain of the darkness, the light and joy of remembering our babies transforms to become a bigger portion of our emotions. We cannot ignore the feelings of sadness, because then we can’t truly feel the greatness of joy. Each individual emotion is an important part of your story. The same phrase or song or place that once brought on the intense depths of grief can shift and become a loving sign.
In this time of togetherness with family and friends, it is often difficult to do this dance alone. Others want to help or support but often don’t know how. It’s common for folks to tend to ignore the darkness, saying things like “don’t worry” or “you should be so happy” when referring to your growing belly or baby in arms. These are phrases that don’t acknowledge important parts of your day-to-day journey and are not helpful; it is okay to let those around you know that. Your new baby will never be a replacement and will never completely remove the sorrow. Humans are capable of complex emotion and it is normal to feel happiness and sadness at the same time.
It’s okay to give yourselves the permission to feel a range of emotion. It’s okay to feel sad. It’s okay to feel happy. It’s okay to want to participate in some traditions for the first time in a while just like it is okay to feel like you’re not ready again this year. The light is feeling love and kindness and joy. It can come from the baby cooing in your arms and growing in your belly and soaring somewhere over the rainbow. They all represent love and light.
The dance between dark and light is important for pregnancy, for labor, for birth, for the postpartum, and for long-term parenting. It’s important to acknowledge as a part of the journey for mom, partner, friends, family, co-workers and all the other members of your support system.
As each of you move through the next few weeks I hope that when you feel the darkness you can also see the light shine through. Celebrate and honor it all this holiday season.