On Tuesday night, Justin and I attended our first meeting of a support group for pregnancy and infant loss.
Our grief counselor, who runs the group, talked about how difficult it is to even walk in the door. I didn't feel that way. I felt like I looked forward to this meeting for weeks now. It's held the first Tuesday of every month. We found out Lydie's heart stopped beating on the first Wednesday of the month. Just missed the support group. I've been waiting for it. I've been waiting to find my people.
You know you're in a pretty shitty place when the infant loss support group is the highlight of your week.
Initially, I felt like our loss was the worst. Because our baby was the closest to being here. 34 weeks was the furthest along. Our daughter was a sure-fire thing. She was perfect. Just dead.
And then I tried to stop. Stop comparing grief. As my counselor keeps asking me to do. And I tried to listen.
Everyone's stories are heartbreaking.
There's the couple who have had 5 miscarriages. 5! With the last one being at 16 weeks.
There's the woman who lost her son at 20 weeks. After years of infertility. And who has been told she can never carry a baby to term and she shouldn't try to get pregnant again.
There's the couple who have been trying for years to have a baby. Unexplained infertility. Finally get pregnant with twins. Lose one twin. Continue carrying the other. Eventually, in the second trimester, with her named and loved, lose her too.
There's the couple who lost their daughter at 30 weeks. Cord accident. Constricted cord.
That woman I went up to each other directly after the session and without a word, hugged.
We all talked and hugged and laughed and cried after the session ended. Our people.
And on the way home, Justin and I said all the things you should never say to bereaved parents to ourselves. "At least we have Ben... thank God we have Ben." (I've said this to our counselor and she said, "There are no 'at leasts' in child loss. You have your son but you lost your daughter.") And "At least we've never struggled to get pregnant.... at least we should be able to try again, if that's what we want." And I felt like in some ways, we have more hope than other people. How horrific to struggle for so long to get pregnant just to lose your baby. I didn't explain that Lydia was on the way before we even started trying, but I'm pretty sure some of these people would have been jealous of us if I did. Jealous. Of us. Ha!
I'm beginning to see what our counselor is when she says you can't compare grief.
And I'm realizing that we have had much more community and family support than many others. We lost our daughter when I was 34 weeks pregnant. I was very visibly pregnant. Everyone expected us to bring home a healthy baby soon. So our loss is very visible. Our friends, our family, our co-workers, our neighbors all seem to understand the magnitude of our loss. No one has tried to diminish our loss. To the extent that every night for the past month, someone has provided dinner. We have received countless flowers, edible arrangements, gift baskets, and gift cards. I'm getting paid time off from work. We are being taken care of, supported, held in others' prayers and thoughts. I'm not sure that the others in the group feel so supported. Some of them had to return to work right away. Many of them were told to get over it, to move on. I don't think many of them have received gift cards in the mail from people they don't even know. Thinking about this made me feel fortunate. Fortunate!
I'm learning that grieving - missing what you don't have - makes you eternally grateful for what you do have. We know what we have. Because we know what we don't have.