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Losing a Baby is Universally Painful

Updated on June 4, 2009

 I recently had a visit by a distant family member. She was admiring my home and looked at my family photos displayed on the wall. The first is a photo of Ruth, my first daughter, born 13 weeks premature in 1991.  She is hooked up to a ventilator and her dad's hand is in the picture, dwarfing my beautiful daughter. 

My family member casually commented, "We had a premature baby who died, also." I was surprised, because I had never heard about this child. She started telling me about the son they lost, her eyes full of joy and pain at his memory. It happend so long ago, but she was happy to tell someone about his short life.

Ruth was only one of three children I've lost.  I recently had a miscarriage, 20 years after my first miscarriage.  This pregnancy wasn't planned and the miscarriage was very different from the first.  But the physical pain was nothing compared to the paralyzing grief that followed. I gave a ride home from school for our neighbor's son. He was in a Family class and was required to take a "baby" home for 24 hours. The baby was an expensive, computer that cried every so often, had to be fed, "changed" and held.  I laughed at this 16 year old boy ernestly caring for a doll so that it wouldn't cry.  He started telling me facts about babies he had learned and as I listened, a picture flashed into my head. A tiny red-haired boy, wrapped up tight and smelling like a baby, tucked under my chin, snuggled and safe. It was the baby I had just lost and the image was so intense and real, I just started crying. I managed to get home okay, but then went to my room and bawled. I cried for 6 hours without stopping.  My children were concerned, but I told them, "I have to grieve for this baby I lost, otherwise I'll never get over it."  They all gave me hugs and let me cry. Once that crying spell was over, I was fine. I am fine.

Grief is a subject that has interested me for years. The media will tell you that sex is a taboo subject.  Not as much as grief, death, loss.  My neighbor experienced a miscarriage two years ago and I told her how sorry I was and that I had lost one too (this was before my recent loss). Her eyes welled up with tears and she said, "Thank you for saying that. Most people pretend like it never happened.  They are too uncomfortable to talk about it."   I told her that my first miscarriage was exactly the same way.  She was there for me when I called her in a panic with a positive pregancy test and cramping and bleeding.

When I am in a public place, I often wonder how many people I'm looking at have lost a child and nobody knows. How many silently remember on an uncelebrated birthday, year after year. If you are out there, and you have suffered the loss of a child, a niece, a nephew, a husband or wife, and you feel that you are grieving alone, please know you are not alone.  There are many others who carry the memory of a loved one they will never be able to hold and love again.

My faith is what has gotten me through the many losses in my life. And family and friends. I have attended grief seminars and read many books. If you are suffering and feeling like you will never smile again, please reach out for help. There is joy after loss.  And, I may not know you, but I know exactly what you are going through.


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    • carriegoff profile image

      carriegoff 8 years ago from Michigan

      Well, it's such an intensely personal subject. If it's so painful for you, keep the information to yourself. It's like when a person has a chronic illness and someone asks, "How are you doing?" Nine times out of ten, they really don't want to know how you are doing. They are just being polite and if you go into how you are actually doing, their eyes glaze over and they wish they'd never asked.

      I would suggest perhaps finding a grief support group. There are some that are specifically geared towards parents who have lost children.

      But please don't feel you need to share such an emotional tragedy with anyone if you don't want to. In some cultures, personal questions are taboo. We have gotten to the point in the US that we want the intimate details of people's lives, and I think it's just plain rude sometimes.

      Thank you for your comments about the article. It was a personal thing and the validation is appreciated.

    • wyanjen profile image

      Jen King 8 years ago from Wyandotte Michigan

      I'm stuck in a loop: as I start to cope with it, I start to feel selfish. Then I crash back again.

      What are you gonna do lol.

      I was really struck by what you wrote.

      I usually just lie straight out because of the "how did she die" follow-up. Most people really do respond in the "she didn't really matter" category, just not with their words. Only in their eyes. It is crushing. And the more I try to justify her, the more I look bad myself.

      This is the one and only issue I will ever run away from.

      Thank you for putting something so painful out there. It had an impact.

    • carriegoff profile image

      carriegoff 8 years ago from Michigan


      I think if Ruth was the only child I had ever had and someone asked me if I had children, I would say, "I had a daughter, but she died" and leave it at that. I have a friend whose only child, a son, died of heart failure at his 6th birthday party. She will very simply tell you that and I think it's important to her to say she is a parent.

      People will always say bonehead things. They just don't understand how much it hurts.

      I understand that that tiny child who never came home is permanently tied to your heartstrings. We never heard Ruth cry because of the ventilators. I never nursed her or changed her diapers. Yet, she was my first. She would have been 18 this Sept 7.

    • wyanjen profile image

      Jen King 8 years ago from Wyandotte Michigan

      I'm stunned by how quickly this hub had me crying. It's not something I do very easily.

      I was told by someone I thought of as a friend that my daughter "didn't count" because she did not survive long enough to go home and sleep in her own crib.

      While I can realize that particular comment was out of line, I do have a lot of trouble understanding where the line is.

      I sometimes don't know whether to lie when somebody asks me if I have had children.