Sharing Your Story
By: Alison Ferrera; Mira's mommy
When someone brings a healthy new baby home, everyone wants to hear the story. There are so many questions: Did you have an epidural? What hospital did you use? Who was there? How bad was the pain? How much did she weigh? How did you feel? Did he cry right away? Tell me everything!
We see questionnaires go around Facebook: tell us everything about your first born! There are books are the market to document every aspect of the pregnancy, delivery, and first year of baby’s life. You run into a friend at the grocery store and they ask for all the details. Such an outpouring of love and wanting to know your story!
When you come home from the hospital with empty arms, no one really asks for your story. They do not ask how much your stillborn baby weighed. They do not want to know the details of your birth story, when your infant died within hours. You do not get asked about the pain you felt, or who was there holding your hand when you miscarried at home, through tears. When you run into a friend in the store, it is more likely they avoid eye contact and say a quick “Sorry about what happened…” and rush off.
These messages from the world can tell us our babies’ lives are not important. They can give us the false idea that all that matters about them, is their death. These responses from others can give us the message that our stories do not need to be told.
I would like to tell you those messages are wrong. In fact, most people sending these messages do not even intend to. They are uncomfortable. They are worried about hurting us, so they find an escape. It is an inherently human thing to do. I do not completely excuse hurtful actions of others. However, understanding their intentions can help ease the pain of their actions.
I am here to tell you today, that your story is important, and there is much value in telling it! Your baby matters. Both their life, and their death, matters. Your experiences related to their life and death matter. You matter.
Of course, sharing your story might not be right for you. That is okay too. Something can have great value, and still, be known only by one or two people. You can choose to keep your story in your heart if that is your choice. I would love for you to make that choice, if it is what YOU want, rather than what you feel you are supposed to do.
How do you decide if sharing your story is right for you? I would start by thinking about, do you like to talk about your baby/pregnancy? Does it bring healing? Does your heart feel a little lighter when you say something about them out loud? Does saying your baby’s name or calling yourself a mother to them bring a smile to your lips? If yes, then you may find sharing your story healing and affirming. If you feel unsure if you are ready, or if sharing is right for you at all, I suggest starting by talking to someone you trust greatly. Maybe someone who already knows most of your story, even just your partner. Tell them a part of the story from your own perspective. Then, see how your heart and mind respond to that. Next, take bigger steps as it feels right.
Most loss parents find sharing to be an important step in healing, but we only want you to do what is best for you. If even thinking about sharing part of your story to someone close to you feels very overwhelming, it is okay to say you are not ready yet. Working with a therapist can be great way to gently start the sharing process and get some help with healing too!
If you are ready to share your story, you may be worried about how to go about starting to share. It is easier than it seems! We can often just indicate to others that we would like to share and some of the wall that their discomfort put up will start to come down. Women and men are often asked, “Do you have children?” or “How many children do you have?” This question can be very triggering for a loss parent, but you could choose to turn it into a sharing opportunity if you feel the time is right! For example, I often answer (when talking with people I will be forming lasting relationships with, like new coworkers), “I do have one child, a daughter, but she passed away. I love talking about Mira though, so feel free to ask about her!” This is a great way to open the door to sharing and let others know you comfortable with questions. It also lets the person you are talking to decide if they are in a place to hear your story.
Being more direct can be helpful when you would like to share with people who already know you well who will not be asking those types questions. Just reaching out and saying, “I would really like to talk about my baby more, I miss her and talking about her is healing,” maybe all that is needed. Of course, you will find some people will not be open to this. They may change the subject, they may tell you they do not think that is a good idea for you to focus on that, or even flat out say they do not want to talk about your child.
Some people in your life may not be emotionally able to support you by hearing about your child. That is okay. That is not about you, it is about their ability handle this. Remind yourself of that. I know it hurts. I know it is not fair. But both parties have to be ready to be able to share. Unfortunately, others may simply be selfish and not want to be there for you or hear about your baby. Let me be the first to tell you that is not okay. It is not right. I am sorry if this happens to you. Your story is a treasure, and they are missing out by not hearing it. Protect your heart by not chasing their validation. There are better places to find the compassion you need.
I hope you find many in your support circle who want to hear every detail of your story. People who ask questions and listen with earnest love. Who want to hear the story of this sweet life again and again. Who never tire of hearing that you miss your baby and wonder what if. I hope you find these people. I found many of my tribe in places I did not expect. Some that I thought would be holding my hand, walked away. Some that I never expected to show up became my biggest supporters. Some I found by sharing my own story and then hearing theirs. Some I did not even know before my loss. Some were the ones I always knew would be there.
Another beautiful way to share your story is through writing it down. Personally, I find writing healing. Share it with organizations that publish loss parents’ stories online or in social media. Start your own blog and share it with those you love. Let us at Three Little Birds know you want to tell the world about your story, and we can help you share it through our blog. You have many options!
When deciding what to share with others, that is totally in your control. Maybe all you want to say is “I have a son, he died.” Or, “I have had 3 miscarriages. It has been hard.” Maybe all you want to say is, “I AM a father, and I miss my daughter.” This is good to say. Maybe you want to share the happy memories of your pregnancy, or the joy at seeing your child the first time, even if they were already gone. Maybe you want to share about the pain of their last breath or that moment the ultrasound showed no heartbeat. Maybe you want to share the details of giving birth or the pain of leaving the hospital with empty arms. Maybe you want to talk about the dreams you had and the ‘what ifs’ that keep you up at night. Share it all. Share a piece of it. It is up to you. This, you have control of.
Maybe you are thinking, “But I don’t have a birth story to share, I was only a few weeks along.” I want you to know, every miscarriage, D/C, surgery for ectopic pregnancy, termination, stillbirth, and live birth IS a birth. The official definition of birth is, “the emergence of a baby from its mother.” Everything I just listed fits that definition. You (or your partner) gave birth. You have every right to share that birth story, if you chose.
Sharing your story can be so healing. It can bring validation. Sharing often brings healing and validation not only to the one sharing, but for many who will hear your story. When I began sharing about my journey with my daughter, I had so many people come to me and share their own story of pregnancy or infant loss, some of them sharing for the first time. They often thanked me for being the reason they decided to finally talk about it. You should not decide to share for someone else, it should be for you and your baby, but helping others is a great side effect.
Maya Angelou said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” I have found this to be so true. Sharing has eased my agony in many ways and given me the ability to find even more joy in my daughter’s short life. I hope it does the same for you.
Author: Alison Ferrara