This letter was written by Liz Mannegren as part of the Spill It Mom Letter Collection. Are you interested in writing a letter for this collection? See here for all the details.
Dear Mom in the Midst of Grief
My introduction to motherhood was vastly different than what I had hoped and dreamed for. My twin boys arrived two months early, one stillborn and the other one fighting for his life. I write this letter to myself on that day, two years ago, when I lost my firstborn son. This letter is for a broken mother who had just tasted the bitterness of loss and experienced her darkest day.
Dear Mom in the Midst of Grief,
Taped to your hospital door is a little blue teardrop, a constant reminder that you’re not like the other mothers in this maternity ward. The cry of a newborn baby permeates the thin hospital walls and you place a hand against your deflated belly. You did not expect to end up here so soon, the due date circled on your calendar is still two months away. But it’s clear now that your plans no longer matter; they were stripped away from you along with the babes you so recently carried in your womb.
Who knew grief was so physically painful? It chewed you up and spat back a broken shell of who you used to be. Your heart pains worse than the row of stitches marching across your abdomen and your bloodshot eyes refuse to focus. Life has punched away at you, leaving a bruised and bloodied fragment of who you were yesterday.
You do not know how you will make it through this day let alone the next few hours. But you will. One excruciating second at a time, with shallow breaths and a weary heart - you will survive this. Overnight your life has radically changed.
I see you lying in an uncomfortable hospital bed, counting ceiling tiles and replaying the events of the past twenty-four hours over and over again. You wonder what you could have done differently, how this loss could have been prevented. Your entire pregnancy you were blissfully ignorant of words like “stillbirth” or “preemie.” Now there is no room left to think about anything else.
I’ve stood where you stand. I’ve ran the scenarios and I want you to know that the guilt is not worth it.
There is nothing you could have done differently. For the seven short months that you carried your boys, you loved and cherished them, comforting them in your warm womb, praying and singing over them. You tried your best to protect both of them but God gave you a different tale to tell.
You don’t believe me now but one day your heart will feel lighter and you will laugh again. This is not the end but the beginning of a great love story that you will carry until your dying breath. You will not watch your son grow but he will not fade either, he will always be a part of you.
I wish I could tell you that this would be your only loss, your only heartache, but I can’t. There will be pain ahead but it will not break you. This pain will mould you but it will not define you. You will emerge from the other side victorious.
You are strong even though you don’t yet feel it.
I know there are moments when you worry that you’re slowly unraveling one stitch at a time; that you’ll be unable to get it all back together again. You didn’t sign up to spend weeks in the NICU, living in perpetual fear that another little one will never come home. You worry that you’re not cut out for this type of motherhood: the kind that involves picking out a casket and a gravestone.
You feel robbed of your “motherhood firsts” but what you don’t know is that you are slowly redefining your definition of motherhood.
It will never look like you had dreamed it would. Motherhood is more difficult and frightening than you could have ever imagined. But it’s in these dark, tear-stained moments that you are being shaped and stretched. Your heart can hold more than you ever felt possible and this love is worth the momentary pain.
Don’t hold yourself back. Let yourself grow, sweet mama.
You will eventually figure out how to navigate this new normal. But for today, take time to grieve. Be patient with yourself and with your spouse. Find a network of grieving moms and surround yourself with family and friends who will care for you (and yet give you the space that you need to mourn). Grieve at your own pace and don’t let anyone rush you. This is your story and only you know how to tell it.
Remember that you will not always be in this place; you will one day emerge from the other side of this grief. It will always be a part of you but it won’t always look like this.
Hang in there mama, you’re going to make it.
Liz Mannegren, mother of three precious babes (two in heaven, one in her arms) and blogger at mommymannegren.com