I want to be heard. Not just listened to, but really heard and understood. I know I am not alone in this. Every single one of us who has experienced the loss of our babies just wants another mama to look her in the eyes and say, “Yes. I know exactly how you feel.” I found this kind of understanding when I attended my first PALS Meet-Up.
Our Meet-Up took place on a Tuesday night and I don’t think anyone of us knew what to expect. We perched nervously in our chairs, making nervous conversation, and smiling those guarded smiles that all loss mamas wear. The kind of smile that whispers, “I want to trust you, I want to open up, but I’m just not sure I have the strength right now.”
We began our meeting by sharing our stories.
I volunteered to go first and as I stumbled through my story about my daughter’s stillbirth, I made eye contact with one of the other mamas and in her eyes I saw the fear that I was describing. She knew. She didn’t have to say a word, but I knew that she understood. I took a deep, shaky breath and kept going.
Then, it was my turn to listen. This was why I had come. In my 20 months of loss, grief, and pregnancy after loss, I’ve rarely been in a room with anyone who has shared a story like mine. Now, within arm’s reach, were three courageous mamas just like me.
I listened to these women. I wept with them. I hugged my arms tightly to my chest, wishing I could hold them close. I was in awe of what was happening. As each brave mama wove her tale, I felt the connections tying us together. The details of our babies and our losses were different, but there were common threads running through. We were woven together with our stories of love and heartbreak.
After everyone shared, there was a moment where we just sat. No one had anything to say, but we were all searching for something to share so we could stay. I didn’t want to leave these women just yet, and I think they felt the same.
So, we kept sharing.
We shared our stories of hospital staff that we adored and those who were less than friendly. We commiserated over awkward grocery store encounters and dreaded baby shower invitations. There was laughter, knowing smiles, and there were tears. Lots of tears. There were tears for our babies gone too soon, for the moments we had to say goodbye, and for the uncertainty of what lay ahead of us.
There was also hope.
As I looked around at these beautiful, courageous mamas I was touched by the strongest of our common threads. We had all chosen hope. Every single one of us was there because we were parenting, pregnant, or trying to conceive after our losses. Even though we had all been through experiences that felt hopeless, we knew that we deserved to be hopeful.
Eventually, it was time to leave. Reluctantly, we stood up and shuffled towards the exit. As we walked out into the balmy October evening, I was overcome by the surge of affection I felt for my new friends. Keeping friendships through my grief journey had been enough of a challenge, making new friends had felt hopeless. Until now.
It turns out, I just needed to meet up with the right people.