We started our journey in the world of pregnancy loss in 2009 when our daughter Naomi died in my nineteenth week. Our hospital was incredible and offered both free bereavement counseling and a support group. I took advantage of both and was especially looking forward to the support group meetings. I had found an online support group in the Hannah’s Prayer ministries and anticipated how helpful it would be to connect with other babyloss moms in real life.
Both the counseling and the support group were great, but the group was not what I anticipated. For the better part of two years, I was the only member. Occasionally there would be someone else, but no one else came consistently. Some days it was me and the group leader, and other days it was me and a bunch of nursing students visiting a support group as part of their course work. It didn’t matter to me because either way, I got to talk about my babies in Heaven, which was an important part of my grief work, but the network of moms on a shared journey never materialized.
Until 2011 when another woman joined who had just lost her baby girl. She came consistently, and we began to develop a friendship. Then, that summer, we both found out we were expecting. We were thrilled and scared, of course. And a bit stymied – could we continue meeting? When we asked our group leader, she wisely suggested that rather than bring our growing bellies to a support group for those dealing with fresh loss, we start our own group, which she knew was a desire of mine anyway. Around the same time, I got an e-mail through my Naomi’s Circle website from a woman new to our area who was also pregnant after loss and looking for support.
We started meeting that August in 2011. It was just the three of us, and occasionally we brought in a “guest speaker” who had been through the PAL journey and could tell us how it was and what it was like to bring home a living baby. I was scared at the beginning that one of us would not make it through all the way, but we did. Three petrified moms, and three healthy rainbow babies.
Looking back, I am so, so glad that I had that local support, in addition to the support I found online. Here is why.
Sometimes you need more than words. Online support was wonderful, and the friendships I developed there are honestly as strong as any I have in “real life”, but sometimes when you are panicking because your appointment is next week and what if there is no heartbeat, you need another woman to give you a hug and tell you that you aren’t going crazy because that is how she felt last week. You need a sister to look you in the eye and listen to you rant about the relative who thinks this new baby will help you get over your loss. You need someone to sit with you and pray for you to have peace-that-passes-understanding, because you don’t have it on your own. You need the in-person touch to carry you through from month to month until you get to the finish line.
We were there for each other. You never know when you go online who is going to be there. Sure, there are regulars in any group, but life happens and the support may or may not be consistent. We were there for each other in our monthly meetings, and we were each there in the hospital after our babies were born. My son was the last, so my picture has all three rainbow babies together. What a picture!
We had built-in support for the new journey of parenting after loss. I wondered what would happen after my son would born. Would we drift away or keep meeting? After a brief hiatus, we kept on with more of a “parenting after loss” approach where we could talk about the fears and anxieties we had, how the births of our babies brought back the grief of our losses. We understood each other in a way others didn’t, and it eased the burden.
And then other people began coming, as word of our group spread by word of mouth. One was another mom of a rainbow baby. One was a mom with a fresh loss. Gradually our group morphed to a regular loss group, until a little over a year ago when, once again, there were enough PAL moms to have a separate support group again. The cycle of loss and life now reflected in the dozens of parents who have graced Naomi’s Circle meetings with their presence over the past four years.
Those two women who started our PAL group with me are still my friends. One was instrumental in bringing many other members to our Naomi’s Circle group, and in beginning our tradition of a yearly family gathering to remember our babies in Heaven. The other helped begin our Mommy to Mommy Outreach, which delivers care packages to newly bereaved moms in our local hospitals and helps lead our current PAL support group. Our friendships were forged on the battle field of loss and fear and then flourished on the other side. And I will be forever grateful for them.
I know that not every community has a support group for Pregnancy after Loss. Mine didn’t either. But all it takes is two moms committed to going through the journey together. If this appeals to you, look around and see if you can find another, and maybe it, too, will grow beyond your expectations to bring encouragement to others. If you would like more input about how to do this, contact me at email@example.com.
Have you experienced a real-life PAL support group? How has it blessed you?