A former client is expecting again. This is a particular joy for her and for me. I’ve been asked to doula through her pregnancy.
When a bereaved family finds they are expecting again, it is a very different experience than when a family has never had a loss. The illusion of safety is stripped from the family. Because they lost a child during pregnancy before, they know it can happen again.
While most women who experience a pregnancy loss go on to have a successful birth experience, the knowledge that something *could* go wrong remains.
Doulas who companion a bereaved family are more than ‘birth doulas’. We’re Rainbow Doulas- we companion the family throughout pregnancy, assisting mom and her partner to manage whatever special challenges this particular pregnancy may bring including anxiety, special physical challenges, and additional doctor visits along with the normal birth preparation doulas do for their clients.
But, oh, the amazing privilege of companioning a family who receives their first child after loss! Watching the relief flood through the family- no matter how calm and assured the family is throughout the pregnancy, that moment when mom takes her child- her rainbow- into her hands… fills the family with a new kind of serenity.
I am blessed to have this work. I am blessed to walk alongside families as the face the pregnancy after loss journey. I am blessed to companion rainbows.
The word ‘bereaved’ literally means ‘to be torn apart’. Those of us who have lost babies know what this feels like. Losing a child is an experience that can’t adequately be described in words, but I- 8 years off from my last loss- might use words like ‘searing’, ‘suffocating’, ‘impossible’ and ‘obscene’ if pushed.
When a mother loses a baby, she literally is being torn apart- a piece of herself that she nourished, that came from her own body. This piece of her, in a live birth, would have continued to receive sustenance from her own body for months- this little person literally derives its being and its life from its mother’s essence.
And when that baby dies, a part of the mother is forever ripped away. Torn asunder. Bereaved.
Which brings me to remembering. RE-membering.
In the act of acknowledging the reality of our child, the actual experience of our loss and the continual influence of our grief, there is something in us that comes back together. Some new thing is formed from the pieces that were shattered.
It is slow. It hurts. But healing does eventually happen.
Bereaved and remembering are the opposite sides of the child loss coin. This is why we have National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month each October- why we light candles every October 15th for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Remembering brings healing- remembering & revisiting the place of our loss even if it is only in our own hearts is an act of healing. It is necessary.
I encourage you to remember this October.
Write a letter.
Name a baby.
Light a candle.
Tell a story.
Return to visit the places you were torn apart so you can continue coming back together.