I reckon most of the outside world doesn’t truly understand the magnitude of change a person’s body goes through in pregnancy. Rapid changes happen within minutes after conception. Just like that, we’re pregnant, and everything shifts.
And when all of a sudden we’re not pregnant, the body is jolted to rapidly transition out of that pregnant state, hormones wildly fluctuating to readjust the entire body.
When your pregnancy ends and your baby dies even at 4 weeks, you birth your baby and you become postpartum.
You birth your baby and become postpartum also at 10 weeks.
And 32, 40, and 42.
Regardless of if your baby is alive or not, half a centimeter in size or 16 inches, whether you pass a babe out your vagina by your own uterine strength, with the help of medical instruments, or if you have a surgical abdominal birth, you birthed a baby. Period.
Miscarriage, pregnancy loss, and stillbirth are all births and it’s time we start collectively seeing it this way. Maybe then we could get our 6 weeks maternity leave, no questions asked. And we wouldn’t feel weird or guilty for asking our friends to help with meal trains, housecleaning, and massages. And we’d gladly take the time to just stay in bed and rest.
This realization didn’t really “hit home” for me until months after my baby died.
Though my dead daughter was born via D&E at an abortion clinic while I lay on the operating table completely anesthetized, that beautiful perfect child of mine still passed through the sacred portal of my birth canal. My uterus shed our placenta, just as it should, but with the help of a vacuum. And a few days later my milk came in, just as it should, ready to feed this hungry child of mine. But instead, my breasts fed the remnants of her ghost, the horror of my new reality. Bless my husband who helped me gently massage the engorgement to a point of diminished pain, though it took 7 weeks until my nipples stopped leaking completely.
I was weary, physically weak, and my friends fed me venison stew and beef soup to help bring the color back to my pale face. They called me every day for weeks, listened to my birth story, and held me as I wept. And when my hormones and grief created such craze that all I could do was scream and feel completely out of my body and soul, I called my sister. She was my lifeline: she knew the crazy-making ability of postpartum hormones and held me from 1,200 miles away as we cried together.
I have been postpartum before, and I have birthed a child.
Not only have I adjusted to the intense transition of hormones from pregnant to non-pregnant, but I have done that while simultaneously suffering through the intense days of early grief. You have all done this too, mamas! We need to give ourselves credit to how amazingly strong and bad-ass we are, that we made it through birth and death and postpartum all at once, and are still standing and willing to risk it all again with our next pregnancies.
I’m already pondering postpartum plans for my current pregnancy.
I’m praying this time I’ll have a living baby though, of course. I know I’ll need support in food, rest, and garden-upkeep, especially since Andrew will only be able to be with us til mid-June before he ships up north for a couple months. I also know I’ll need emotional support, because the grief and joy of holding a newborn babe may remind me ever-so-more of the babe I never got to hold, never got to kiss and gaze upon adoringly. Grief and joy will hit hard, I’m sure of it, as they already have each week I’ve made it to a new milestone. And, I suppose that is the story of parenting forever more for me. Grief and joy, held together and cherished as a complete unique picture of the story of me and my family.