Losing a baby is one of a few instances one can go through in life that truly draws a trench in their timeline. Life is no longer fluid. It is the before and the after. But the after is not at all what you had in mind and were preparing for.
How is it possible to move forward when your new reality has left you in shock? This new reality has taught you many things. Mainly that in life nothing is certain, nothing is guaranteed. Life can change in an instance, an old cliché you have heard millions of times, but now hits home in your deepest core. This new reality has also left you with a new title. One which some understand and some never will. You are a mother/father, you are every bit a parent as the next parent. But in your parenting reality you have no bottles to make or diapers to change. Some are unsure what to say to this reality of yours and some just offer pity.
Rejection of this new, unwanted reality is all you can muster up at first. This is never a place you saw yourself in. Never was this a platform you wanted to champion. But this is your reality. As time goes by you slowly accept what has happened and where life has placed you.
It is okay to accept this new reality. It is normal to one day emerge from the grief and want to smile.
From the moment I found out how wrong everything was with my pregnancy and daughter, the only thing that kept going through my mind was that “We will smile again”. I have no idea why that kept going through my head, but I was convinced that as hard as our experience was going to be and the sorrow that awaited us; we would smile again one day.
I think that day finally came when I gave in and accepted my new reality. I had to stop fighting the fact that our daughter died. That my body fought the good fight but ultimately succumbed to a ferocious infection. I had to accept the fact that going to sleep and wishing I would wake up pregnant with a healthy baby on the way was not going to happen.
Deciding to start to find hope and joy in your new reality is the hardest part of stillbirth. You feel as if you are moving on. And moving on feels so wrong. You are moving forward without your child, and that is a horrible feeling. Moving on means wanting things to just be normal again. But suddenly you can no longer define normal because the grief will never truly leave you. I was not able to fully accept my new reality for a very long time. I was so thankful the day Still Mother’s shared a quote by Lexi Behrndt:
“And though I’ll forever long for him,
I needed to tell myself this:
It’s okay to love him by embracing life.
It’s okay if over time, the love we share looks less like heartache and
more like freedom.
And I also needed to tell myself this:
There is no shame in that.”
There are days that bring excitement, new opportunities, fun adventures, and it is okay to get excited about these things. At first being excited, happy, and joyful may feel weird because they are not the feelings that started your new reality. But the best way to accept your new reality is to accept your story and what has happened, then refuse to let that stop you from celebrating the life that you created and the life you have left to live. Accepting your new reality as a still mother means taking on a perspective of the world that most people do not have; something that is a curse, but a blessing. You now see life as so valuable and also something that is to be cherished and celebrated even when we lose it. Finding our new reality as something to be embraced can be an incredible way to use our life to honor our child.
Mary Katherine Catignani is mom to Devin Reese Catignani, born still in February 2017 due to CMV. Her daughter’s story and the road she and her husband have traveled can be found on her blog Caritas You Me. She has also used her writing as a way to offer information and raise awareness about CMV.