Babies Die And No One Told Me.

Have children, they said.
It will fulfill your purpose as a woman, they said.
You are meant to be a mother, it is what you are made to do, they said.
You will never live a meaningful life without children, they said.

But what happens when your baby dies?

You pick up the pieces, you find the parts of you that still fit into this new life, and you attempt to move forward. Whenever you can find the small shreds of hope and courage left barely burning at the bottom of your heart and soul, you try again to have a living baby. You now find yourself adding the word “living” before “baby” indefinitely. You try and try to get pregnant. Hopefully, you do.

But then that baby dies, too.

What happens when you are told that your chances of having your own biological child is less than slim to quite possibly none?

What if you are told your best chance is IVF and Surrogacy? But none of that feels right for your family because your true desire is to be able to carry and birth your own living, biological child? A desire that is true, heartfelt, and divine. A desire you are worthy of.

What happens when you are faced with yet another reality no one ever discussed or could have possibly prepared you for?

What happens when you find yourself at a crossroads you did not even know existed?

Childless (well, living child) by choice is one thing. That implies independent and autonomous decision-making. Quite possibly planning and fulfilling desires that were not in alignment of those with Motherhood. Which is completely acceptable and a beautiful way to live if it is what you desire.

But no [living] children not by choice? Let’s just say it hits differently. And in the most blatant and simplest of terms, it f**king sucks.

How Did I Get Here?

How did I get here, you may be wondering? And why on earth is this article being published during National Rainbow Baby Day and Week when CLEARLY this does not seem to end with what the awareness week suggests? I have never been a fan of awareness days or weeks; but I understand why they exist. When PALS reached out to me to share this perspective, I was both humbled, honored, and taken aback. But I will share this authentically, and I hope that my story can be met with compassion, empathy, and love.

I did not grow up as the woman who desperately wanted to be a Mother.

It was not that I found anything wrong or right with it, but I never had that innate desire burning through me to do so. I became a Bonus Mom ten years ago to my stepson, and I know many assumed that would make me “change my mind” because “women are meant to have children of their own” but even his sweet soul did not do that for me. He was simply another soul in my life that opened my heart in a way I did not expect.

It was not until after I turned thirty and COVID burned a lot of my life to ash, that my husband and I decided we would have a baby of our own. I say it that way to truly drive home the innocence I know so many of us had when deciding to become parents. It was as simple as we shall get pregnant, and we shall have a baby and all will be well. That is what we were taught after all.

Spoiler alert: all was not well. By what seems to be sheer luck and privilege, we got pregnant relatively quickly, and found out I was pregnant with our daughter, whose name is Hayden Jae. Our story, like so many couples out there, ends in tragedy, when my first born and our baby girl was born still on July 17, 2021. I do not need to elaborate on the impact her death has had on our life, as I know the readers of this article know this immense pain all too well. Many of you know me through Hey Loss Mama, a gift from Hayden Jae.

 

It has now been two years since Hayden died, and we have spent those two years in survival mode.

It was not until Hayden’s first birthday in the stars that we wanted to actively try again, so we started taking what logically felt like the next steps to best equip ourselves with a medical team we trusted and as much knowledge as possible.

During that time, we have spent tens of thousands of dollars at fertility centers, specialty practices, naturopathic doctors, on supplements and different therapeutic avenues and we still do not have a living baby. In October 2022, we found out we were pregnant with Hayden’s sibling, but unfortunately, my body did not want to see that pregnancy through and at nine weeks, I gave birth to Baby Love on Christmas 2022 in my bathroom.

I was now left with double the emptiness, a negative amount of hope, and what felt like a lifetime full of rage and anger coursing through me.

How was this my life?

When Is Enough “Enough?”

The end of 2022 brought a dark cloud into the beginning of 2023. The hope and light that had accompanied the intense fear of being pregnant again quickly was diminished when Baby Love left us. Recurrent Loss became another statistic I was on the wrong side of, and it was getting harder and harder to convince myself that this was possible for me. That I was capable of having my own living, biological baby.

In addition to trying again in 2022, we had also began aggressively going down the rabbit hole of adoption, both domestic and international, surrogacy etc.

You name it, we researched it. I know that many Loss Mamas and Infertility Warriors find themselves in the depths of parts of the internet they did not necessarily want to know anything about, the Baby Loss Community included. Researching all of the different avenues was a double-edged sword. On one hand, it was inspirational that there were so many ways to become parents to a living child, but at the same time, it was heart wrenching. Trying to figure out what was right for our family when “what is supposed to be meant for you to accomplish as a woman” just made me feel more like a failure. I felt so incredibly defeated, again. Loss had already turned me into a “Before Hails” and “After Hails,” and I was struggling to recognize the woman I was in the present moment. She felt as foreign as the life I was living. My mind, heart, body, and soul felt so overly consumed with all things “having a baby” that I felt like I was losing a grip on reality.

To be completely transparent and honest, it is because I was losing a grip on my reality.

Everything and anything revolved around having a baby. Every day was a “what if” or “can’t do this to be in optimal fertility” or “don’t feel this” or “don’t eat that.” My life was so incredibly restricted based on the confines of what we were told we “had to do” for even a small chance of having our desire fulfilled. I could not take it anymore; it was weighing too heavily on every aspect and relationship in my life. So, after some very challenging, transparent, and deep conversations, my husband and I decided to shelve it. To stop trying. To not engage in another avenue to have a living baby. Not because we did not agree with different methods, but because none of those felt right for our family. But there was also something else that was haunting me, and I was struggling to say it out loud to even myself. Luckily, I found the courage in February 2023.

I never want to be pregnant again.

I know that for so many, that is an intrusive thought. But it was not an intrusive thought for me. It was and is a real thing. A real thing I was finally able to say to my husband. I know that it can feel very definitive, final, and inflexible to say that I never want to be pregnant again. But I also am aware that feelings can change, emotions can evolve, people can grow, circumstances can shift, and opinions can be altered. But I never felt more supported by my own heart until I was able to share that sentiment. I had to honor that shift within me. I had to honor the weight that was lifted when I said what I am not “supposed to say.” I had to honor that the feeling of never wanting to be pregnant again felt in alignment with where I was.

We live in a world that is hyper-focused on doing anything and everything you possibly can to get what you want. The hustle culture. The “sacrifice it all to get what you want” mentality. You do not stop until you achieve it. You do not stop until you reach your goal. You never give up because if you do, you just do not want it bad enough. This was the narrative that subconsciously was pushing back against me being honest with myself and my husband. It is why I can now see why I struggled to speak the sentence aloud.

It can be hard to acknowledge that you have your own limitations, thresholds, beliefs, perspectives, and circumstances that contribute to what your “enough is enough” is.

I cannot tell you the number of times, both from women in- and out- of the Loss Community, who have told me that I just need to find a different way because if I really wanted to have my own living baby, I would not give up until I did. I find that narrative toxic, dismissive, and minimizing, even more so when it comes from a fellow Loss Mama or Infertility Warrior. Intention versus impact is always at play when it comes to toxic positivity. People can mean well, but that does not mean it will land well. A punch in the face still hurts whether or not someone meant to punch you. But we play the game, don’t we? We want there to be a happy ending.

I believe that all of us can relate to the fact people think the answer to our problem of grief and dead babies is having another one.

We live in a solution-oriented society with an obsessive need to fix. Babies don’t replace babies, whether they are alive or dead. Loss families know this. They just truly believe another baby that lives would be the answer to our “problem.” Oh, you want a baby? Great, just try again! Or just adopt! Or just do IVF! I wish it was that easy. I wish my brain, heart and mind could ignore all other aspects and just do everything possible to have another baby. I wish that I was able to sacrifice my mental, emotional, physical, spiritual, and financial well-being, say “f**k it” indefinitely and plow ahead. But I’m not. I have to outweigh it all.

Have you ever taken the time to really sit with it all and ask yourself where you draw the line of deciding to stop trying? I hope that you know there is no right answer. I hope that you know it can change or evolve. I hope that you know that it can also happen overnight or slowly build up to a breaking point. But if you take anything away from this, I hope you know that only you get to decide what is best for your family.

The world does not get to decide when “enough is enough” for you.

Just like the world and those around you do not get a say in your family planning discussions. It is not a town hall forum; the opinions of others are wildly irrelevant. It is between you and your partner. If I were to “give it all” for an outcome that is not guaranteed, what happens when I myself have nothing left to give? What happens to me? To my relationships with myself, or my husband? If I deplete all I have, where does it leave me?

It all just felt so heavy that I had to allow myself a moment to let it go and see how that felt. What I found to be the most surprising of it all was that it felt freeing to be face the fact that maybe, just maybe, I had reached the point for me that felt best to stop. That I missed living for something other than trying to have a baby, and I desperately needed to find joy again in something unrelated.

Can You Live A Joyful And Fulfilled Life Without A Living Child?

I recently posed this question to the Hey Loss Mama Community on Instagram. I chose to not put anything in the caption, wanting people to be able share openly without any inclination of how I felt. I chose the words “joyful” and “fulfilled” for a reason; knowing how broad, vague, and open to interpretation they can be. That is the point, is it not? To allow all things to open to interpretation. All of us know what it is like to some extent to struggle with baby loss and infertility, but our paths are unique just like our experiences. Our foundation of relationship with one another begins with our tragedies, but they all evolve differently. That can be a hard pill to swallow.

My take on this has been forming itself over this year since we made the decision to stop trying for a living baby altogether. I have some key takeaways that I would love to share if you find yourself in a similar position, asking yourself this same question, or even if you don’t. We all have opportunities to see things from the perspective of another, with the hope it brings more compassion into our hearts.

In a short response- yes, you can find joy and fulfillment in your life without a living child.

I have to believe you can. If I did not believe that, how could I continue moving forward after Hayden dying and recurrent loss? Am I not worthy of joy and fulfillment because a living child is not in my life? I refuse to subscribe to a narrative that tells me otherwise, because I know I am worthy of both joy and fulfillment. Prior to wanting to try for Hayden, I did not want children. I never questioned that my life felt fulfilled. I never even imagined that I would need a child to fulfill my life or to bring joy. I had both of those things, joy and fulfillment, in so many aspects of my life. I know it is possible because I lived it.

Baby Loss and Infertility has a way of adding a lens on your life that can dim color, light and forces you to see things differently. Even with this lens, I have found ways to find joy. It seems impossible during the immediate aftermath, and it can feel unattainable. I remember people telling me that grief and joy could coexist, and I wanted to scream at them. I found it to be so incredibly dismissive of the current state I was in, and I still believe that. You, as the griever, as the Loss Mama, have to come to a place of grief and joy coexisting on your own terms, in your own way. No one else can do that for you, and there is no timeline. Contrary to the popular and inaccurate belief of our collective world that grief has stages and a timeline, I know better, and I know that you also know better. Grief is a lifelong journey where we learn to adapt to its presence, and if we slow down and accept grief into our life, she has a way of showing us just how painstakingly beautiful love is. We have to find ways to bring joy into our lives because we are deeply worthy of joy and living a life we enjoy after loss, even with grief’s presence in it.

Fulfillment is deeper for me. I think that there is a difference between being fulfilled as a human being, as a woman, and having your desires fulfilled. Fulfillment in life is my responsibility, no one else or anything else is responsible for that. Especially not my children, whether they are alive or dead.

It is important to note how influential generational belief systems can be on our ideas of fulfillment.

We are currently living in a world that is beginning to question very openly what fulfillment means. We have constructed over generations belief systems that could now be identified as toxic- and for me, the idea that fulfillment as a woman can only be attained by motherhood is one of them. It puts unrealistic expectations on women, because in the event they do get the opportunity to mother a living child, which is a privilege not all are granted, does that mean her child is then responsible for her fulfillment? No, it does not. But that is what the collective narratives outlines. Your children’s role is to fulfill you, as Motherhood is what your purpose is. Motherhood comes in many forms, just like parenting a toddler versus a teenager versus an adult child all look vastly different. All of us are now adult children, and I would hope that none of us believe it is our responsibility to fulfill our parent’s lives. In case you needed a reminder, it is not your responsibility.

There are many people in this world who are childless by choice and would describe their lives as incredibly fulfilled. I can see that, I was that person prior to ever making the decision to want to be a parent. It is also imperative that we acknowledge that many people are childless NOT by choice. Is it fair to have them believe that they will never be able to live a fulfilled life because of circumstances outside of their control? Most people who are childless not by choice never wanted to be in this situation, but here they are. Are they not able to find ways to move forward to reach what they deem fulfillment in a chapter of their lives they did not ask for? I want more for those women; I want more for me.

Desires can shift, evolve, and change. We struggle as a society, and I know I do as an individual, of accepting that fact. It can be brutal to look at myself in the mirror and acknowledge that maybe my desires have shifted from what they used to be, and confidently know that I am allowed to change my mind and I owe no one else an explanation. It is a struggle to be able to fully love and accept yourself for the woman you are and to meet yourself where you are, as opposed to where you think you should be.

When you start to realize that your desires, wants and needs can shift, it provides an opportunity to really get clarity on what you want.

It also invites in a lot of new grief, as sometimes our desires shift due to unforeseen circumstances, and it can feel forced; like the choice was not our own. I feel that deeply. I know that for me, making the decision to stop trying for a living baby had felt a little bit forced. Every day I have to acknowledge that so I can release some of the anger and resentment I have towards how my life has panned out and make room for new desires to enter.

This is not easy. It has been difficult to work through all of my emotions around this. Our chances of being able to have a living, biological baby where I get to carry that baby and give birth are very low for a myriad of medical reasons, as well as mental, emotional, and financial. My limitations and thresholds are my own, and we have had to make the best decision for our family. For me, for my family, and for our present reality, any other option, as beautiful and hopeful as an option it may be, does not feel in alignment with our wants, needs and desires. I know that I would and could love any child that came into my life; being a Bonus Mom to my stepson for ten years has showed me that. But if what I truly desire is my own living and biological child, that I carry and birth out of my own body, but that is not an option for me- anything else feels like I am settling. I do not want to settle.

So sometimes you have to pivot.
Change course again and again and again.
Accept a trajectory you did not think you should have to entertain.
Open your heart to a life that you should not have to live, but it is your life, nonetheless, so we have to try.

The Loss Community & Rainbow Babies

The Hey Loss Mama Community has been a lifeline for me since I found myself a member of this club that no one wanted to join, but like anything in our world, there are multiple sides, and one that deserves more light on it is the shadow side. There are not many Loss Mamas openly discussing that not everyone gets to have and parent a living Rainbow Baby after loss. Whenever I openly discuss it within the Hey Loss Mama Community, I get a lot of push back for doing so. I wish I could say I was used to it, but it still always stings a bit.

This reality is contradictory to the one of hope that we are silently promised within the community. I understand the frustration and the push back. But even within our own dislike of toxic positivity that comes from outside the community when people tell us to “just try this” or “your time will come” it exists within our community as well. We also hold these beliefs when it pertains to Rainbow Babies. We all hope and wish that it is everyone’s future, but it is not. Not even close. I plan on normalizing this point because the reality is so great, so REAL, and so incredibly heartbreaking.

It is no secret that what all Loss Mamas desperately want is their own living child.

I think that is one thing we can all agree one. But that is not everyone’s reality. Even the Loss Community does not want to acknowledge that fact, but many of us are faced with this being our current trajectory. A massive part of me has never been able to find hope for myself seeing it happens for others, simply because I acknowledge that one Loss Mama’s journey is not mine, and they are never directly correlated. Another Loss Mama having a living baby does not mean that I will. Hope for me has only been able to come from me, my own life, and my own experience. I do not want to play the comparison game, even if it is for something “positive” because I have learned that comparison is the thief of joy. Baby Loss has taken enough joy from my life, I am not looking to add to it.

I know that Pregnancy After Loss and Parenting After Loss are two very complex realities, and I would never take that away from anyone. I am a stepparent, so I see this play out in my own life. Your baby dying DOES change how you operate in the world and as a parent. Pregnancy After Loss, even though it was my experience for a nine-week period, blew up my world. My anxiety was through the roof, my grief was heightened, and it felt impossible. I am in such awe and admiration of the women who make it through PAL and who get to take home a living baby, my heart is with them, and I am honored to witness their journeys in all of their vulnerability. And for those Loss Mamas, my heart is full. It is a an ending and a beginning of a new chapter I wish was in all of our stories.

Whenever I do get push back from women who have been able to have children after loss (because I do, every day) I usually only have one thing to say in response. As much as I empathize with the reality that is parenting after loss, the complexity it holds, the joy and grief that do coexist, I *personally* would still rather choose that layered complexity over the complexity of never having a living sibling. When the only thing I am holding when I grieve my daughter Hayden her Teddy Bear or an Urn, I would much prefer holding her little living sibling. I would much rather that be my reality while I navigate my reality of loss being interwoven into my life than not being able to have that opportunity. I think that deep down, a majority of us feel that way as well.

I would encourage everyone that during Rainbow Baby Awareness Week, and every other day of the year, whether you have a living rainbow baby or not, to turn your lens inward and acknowledge that it is all hard.

Life is hard, for every single one of us, and our journeys will not always be in alignment with our desires or with one another’s. We will forever get to decide where we place our love, empathy, and compassion- that is something we can control. If you find yourself in a situation where a living Rainbow Baby is not your path, know that you are not alone, and you can feel however you want to feel. If you are one of the Loss Mamas who do get to have your own living Rainbow Baby, know that you are also not alone, and there will be women standing alongside you to support your new chapters in life.

All that I ask, as someone who will not be the latter, is that you also acknowledge that it is not everyone’s reality, and refrain from toxic positivity and push-back to the Loss Mamas who will never get what we all want. It is a saying as old as time itself, to treat others how you want to be treated. We all have the right to share our stories, our realities, and take up space. We are worthy of doing so.

You are worthy of doing so, Loss Mama.

Xox, Hails

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