A Letter to Infant Loss Mothers

By: Jordan Tate

Mothers

Just like you, before a healthy baby happened, my heart, mind, and physical body were already transformed fully to those of a mother. My body is scarred by pregnancy, cesarean section, and natural birth. My “mother’s heart” was forever awakened the moment I held my first little girl. She did not go from womb to some mystical place in the atmosphere… her physical body came into the world and I held her when she died and I carried her sister and held her as she died and they were taken from me, but my badge of a mother was not. I would argue that it was more fully earned.

Further, I would argue without a doubt in my mind that carrying those incredible girls to term and delivering them and watching them die will always always always be harder than doing this thing I’m doing now- it’s harder than these fleeting sleepless nights that I get to wake up and feed my sweet child who breathes and cries and wants to be held. Wait- so you mean I get to wake up and hold a snuggly baby!? Still blows my mind. This term “mother,” that you and I are just now being stamped with (or have yet to be stamped with if you’re still waiting) by most of society is being used in a way that doesn’t do justice to the word mother.

One of the meanings behind the word “grief,” is “the heart of a mother.” Why? Because mothers feel so deeply and love so deeply and the meaning of that hits my heart way more intensely in regards to Ellie and Elsie than it does with Shepherd. Our children who are gone are still very much a part of daily life..but that doesn’t always make sense if you haven’t felt it.

Waking up to care for Shepherd, my very alive son, is literally a piece of cake in comparison to the cumulative months of sleepless nights I cried through with a heart that ached, both during my pregnancies and, of course, after they died. Does that mean parenting my son is easy? No. It means the other stuff was so very hard. The hardest.

Does it mean I’m not a sleepy mom? No, I could nap at any point of time…anywhere. But sleepy is not equivalent to bad. It’s equivalent to blessing. It is equivalent to redemption.

So, my friends. I see you. I feel your heart when people ask how many children you have. You have permission (not that you needed it from me) to include your sweet babies that died much too early. I see the tears and the nights of heartache that nobody really knows about. I understand that you can’t turn off the mama part of your heart even though your babies aren’t with you and that is simply not fair, and wouldn’t it be easier if we could? You are a mom, because you did the hardest thing a mom could ever do, and that is saying goodbye to her sweet baby.

If you haven’t yet had your “rainbow baby,” I’m here to tell you this: it’s a joy. It’s all a gift. Few will have the privilege of seeing parenthood the way you will…some do get it – you know who I mean. But loss makes the gift of your healthy baby inconceivable to most who have never had to say goodbye. I would never wish our loss on anyone..but don’t you wish your heart and feelings could be felt for just a moment by anyone who wished it? It’s a devastating experienced that now gets to be your greatest weapon as you parent your alive baby with a deep understanding of purpose and a deep gratitude for health. It will forever make you a different brand of mom. The best kind.

You’ve seen the very worst side of motherhood and none of the best sides. You don’t get to pull up to baby play dates with a baby in your arms and you can’t talk about how often your kid dirties diapers or his latching abilities or his nightly routine, but you can talk about planning baby funerals and how much your heart aches and how you hate baby aisles in stores right now and so it’s not fair, my friend, that you’ve seen only the worst and none of the best and yet you may not be labeled a mother until you see the good.

So, if your heart allows, when people ask you how many kids you have: tell them. We say we have three and two aren’t here with us. It may be alarming to the average person, but it opens the doors, if they want, for tough conversations about life but great conversations about healing and hope.

Are moms who haven’t experienced loss a lesser kind of mom? No way. Never. But you are a different breed. Your journey to motherhood was not the kind you asked for–but if you let it, it will be the source of the greatest moments of gratitude and amazingly miraculous perspective on the very beautiful gift of life.

How to Help a Grieving Parent

By: Jordan Tate

As an infant loss mother who has lost two littles ones far too soon, I’ve learned a whole lot about the process of grief and the way this process relates specifically to those parents who have lost a child. It is an incredibly difficult road to walk, but I have found that having comfort-grieving-parentsothers walk alongside of us can be more helpful than anything else.

That being said, there is a reason that parents who have lost children tend to look for other parents who have also lost children as a means of support and encouragement. The reason is that there are some popular habits of well-meaning individuals that can actually trigger great pain for a grieving parents and, because of this, many end up choosing to retreat to a community of people (even across the internet) who they know will be a “safer” option to process with.

I fully believe that knowledge is power in these situations, and I have seen first hand the encouragement and comfort that can come from a group of people who are determined to be courageous in walking this road together, whether they have experienced child loss or not! I wanted to take some time to talk about some of the most popular mistakes individuals can make in trying to comfort a grieving parent and instead offer alternatives that could be much more healing. It is my hope that nobody reading this would ever have to put these four tips into practice, but I know that if the time ever came this advice would be useful.

Tip #1: When in doubt, ask questions.

It is a natural instinct for individuals in our culture to meet traumatic events with logical conclusions. We are a society of problem solvers. I can’t count the number of times people have started infant loss conversations with me by saying, “Everything happens for a reason.” It is immensely difficult to process, as a grieving parent, that your child must have died for a reason. Regardless of your religious beliefs or lack thereof, this is a comment that many grieving parents talk about as being very difficult to swallow. There is no question that anyone who says this is well-meaning. You’d be hard pressed to find an individual who would maliciously speak to a grieving parent about their loss in hopes of causing further pain. My advice, though, is to ask questions rather than offer conclusions or comments about the loss of life. Try opening the conversation by asking, “How are you feeling today?” or “Is there anything I can do to help?” This will put the ball into the court of the parent and allow them to share (or not share) what’s going on inside and any specific needs they might have.

Tip #2: Don’t make assumptions about practical ways to help.

This is similar to the advice above, but relates more to the “do something” friends who feel like they are helping most when they are actively serving their grieving friends. These friends are the friends that make the world go round. They are absolutely necessary and they have hearts of gold. If you want to do something to help ease the pain, ask your friend the best way to go about doing that. When we lost our first daughter, our friends started a meal campaign for us where people signed up to bring us food almost every night for a few weeks. The gesture itself was so heartwarming, but I started to realize that I had a hard time getting the meals down, knowing they were brought to me because my child died. On a second note, not everyone feels this way, but cooking is very therapeutic for both me and my husband. I missed working with my hands and I missed how my mind could take a break from the reality of grief as I would delve into a new recipe or experiment with ingredients in the kitchen. When we lost our second child we actually requested that people not bring us meals. We had a few meals show up, but only for the first week or so, and from people who didn’t know we felt this way. Again, the gesture was comforting, but in the end we decided to be vocal and admit that we would rather cook together than be brought a ready made meal. What’s great, though, is that there are so many out there who might love this gesture and everything about it. That’s why my best advice is to ask!

Tip #3: Whatever you do, don’t bring up the conversation about future children.

It’s a natural inclination to wonder what’s next for the grieving parent. This may come as a surprise to you, but we had countless individuals ask us within the first few months of our losses what our thoughts were about moving forward (i.e. with expanding our family). Throughout my experience in processing with other infant loss parents, it seems to be split pretty much down the middle regarding how people feel about timing future children after loss. Some want to get pregnant or adopt right away because it feels right to them to do so, knowing their other child can never be replaced, yet longing to bring another child home. Others want to take their time in the grieving and healing process and wait years and years before even thinking about having another child. Both of these are okay, but this is an extra sensitive topic for the grieving parent. Post-loss, many parents feel a lot of guilt regarding this topic. If they want to get pregnant right away they fear people will judge them for “moving on” too soon, and those that want to wait fear people will judge them for not processing fast enough. Either way, allow the conversation to unfold naturally from the parents’ side, and if it doesn’t, don’t push the topic.

Tip #4: Don’t disappear for fear of doing the wrong thing.

I know these tips can make you feel like you’re walking on eggshells around a friend or family member who has recently (or not so recently) lost an infant or child. It’s okay to feel uncomfortable in these situations. Everyone processes loss so differently, and it’s okay to feel like you have no idea how to help. The worst thing you could do is to disconnect from them for fear of hurting them further. When in doubt, tell them how YOU are feeling! Tell them you want to help but you don’t know what to say. Simply tell them you are so sorry and that you wish you had the words to say to make it better. Sharing YOUR heart with them will help them to feel more comfortable sharing these hard moments back with you. My family is far better off because of our friends and family and their willingness to be vulnerable with us as we were vulnerable with them.

There is much more advice I’d love to give, but we’ll wrap it up with these four tips for helping a grieving parent. Whatever you do, just remember that it takes an entire village of people to support an individual or a family going through infant loss or child loss. It might be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do, but it will be worth it. Your friend or family member will always remember those who did everything in their power to make an ounce of positive difference.

Endurance

By: Jordan Tateenduring pain

I honestly remember the day I became sick of hearing the word “endure.” I had been reading so many articles about motherhood and grief that the word itself became a frustrating concept that nagged me for days on end. Hearing it made me cringe and I could never pinpoint why. I finally figured it out, but let me rewind a little bit first.

My husband and I have the type of classic love story like the kind people write sitcoms about. We were next-door neighbors, and then we fell in love. We ran into each other in the hallways, shared flirty banter, and slowly but surely transitioned from a purely platonic friendship to spending every ounce of our free time together. Soon after that we got engaged, and then we got married. Our desires and dreams were like those of most of our peers; we hoped to fill our home with little feet and live to serve the people around us as we built our family.

I was on my way to motherhood a year and a half into marriage when we found out we were pregnant with our first baby. It was a girl and her name would be Ellie and she would have been our sassy one, I just know it. The problem is that she never got to live past her birth day because she was given a fatal diagnosis at our twenty week ultrasound. She would live until I delivered her and then she would take her first and last breaths within moments of each other.

This was not how it was supposed to be. The last half of my pregnancy was filled with a will to endure. I would endure and press on and try to nod and smile when strangers verbally noticed my belly in public, never knowing she was unwell. Never knowing I was unwell. If I could just endure through the pregnancy, if I could just make it to the next step… these were the thoughts that filled my mind those last four months. But the next step was just as challenging, as I knew deep down it would. Saying hello and goodbye to your first child all at the same time requires more than endurance. It requires mercy and grace and the steadfast love of the Lord to keep your mind from falling away. But we did survive. We survived and we endured and we cried gallons of tears. All of the sudden, the reality of my life was different than the one I grew up imagining. It was now tainted with death and a life’s worth of robbed memories with my little girl.

 

We are not promised a life void of pain, but what I do know from experience is that if we let it, every unexpected trial can be used to tell the story of a life made stronger.

 

My marriage now had a layer of grief and sorrow that was never present before all of this. But people continued to encourage us to endure and to hope and to seek joy. And we did. Slowly but surely we lived through each day without our Ellie. Always missing her but always looking to the good ahead. We took great solace in the fact that all of our doctors knew Ellie’s condition to be an anomaly, at least based on all of the evidence at hand. Nine months later, we got to the point where we could dream about another baby, a healthy baby, and we conceived during our first month of trying. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified after my first experience with pregnancy, but I pressed on and I dreamt of the blessing our second child would be after such great loss, knowing I would never take this little life for granted.

All of the sudden, we found ourselves at our twenty week appointment with baby number two, and we stared forward with blurred vision and shattered hearts as the doctors repeated the exact words we had heard the first time around, “Your baby cannot live outside of the womb. Her diagnosis is fatal.” I will spare you the details of the next four months and what it was like to say hello and goodbye to baby number two after thirty-six challenging hours of labor. What I will say about it, was that it was full of inexplicable pain.

So back to the word “endure.” Can you see why I was sick of reading it, hearing it, and thinking about it? What was life even like before I was enduring this kind of hardship? I honestly couldn’t remember. So one day, in my frustration, I looked up the definition of endure. It’s almost humorous. We think sometimes that to endure means to stay strong and to pray and to put our best face forward as we trudge through the mess. But the definition is actually much more simple:

(1) to suffer patiently

(2) to tolerate.

That’s it.

It may sound pitiful, but that definition brought me so much comfort. Because you could not have paid me enough money to muster up any amount of “strength” in this. People kept telling me I was strong, but I felt the opposite. What does it mean to be strong in the midst of loss and heartache? I mean, I didn’t opt out of living, so there’s that, but I wouldn’t consider that fact to be a marker of personal strength and great endurance. What I could do is just be. I could tolerate. People would tell me I was strong and courageous for walking through this, and that they could never be strong enough to face such loss, but that never made sense to me because there wasn’t a way I could snap my fingers and turn off the suffering or change the outcome. I was merely surrendering because I had no other choice. I didn’t ask for this. I had no way out. We don’t get to decide we aren’t strong enough to handle something and then have that situation not happen to us. The pre-infant-loss version of myself could never have fathomed I would watch my children die, but what that really means is that I didn’t ever want to imagine a life where that would or could be my reality. But now that I have experienced it, I know that we, as human beings, are capable of staring fear and loss and heartache and devastation in the face and not having it wreck us. Nobody welcomes hardship or pain to take over their lives. We live in a broken world where all is not as it should be. But what if we were more aware of how capable we are of walking through the valley and still being alive on the other side to talk of our battle? I don’t mean that we should invite danger and reckless behavior into our lives to test our ability to survive, but rather that we live bravely and boldly, unafraid of what lies ahead, and unafraid that our reality may look different than the one we grew up imagining. We are not promised a life void of pain, but what I do know from experience is that if we let it, every unexpected trial can be used to tell the story of a life made stronger.

Introducing Our New Every Woman Bloggers: Meet Jordan Tate

Jordan Tate

Hi, there! I am so thrilled to join forces with the incredible women of the Every Woman Blog and I wanted to kick start my involvement with a little introduction! My name is Jordan Tate and I live in the Midlands with my husband and my adopted son, Shepherd.

My husband and I met as next door neighbors in an on-campus apartment at Clemson. We were friends that entire year, started dating the following year, and it was 9 months later that he proposed, and 8 months after that that we got married. Chris is a nurse at Lexington Medical Center and he is so perfect for the job. He’s compassion and caring and he chose this career for the highest amount of hands-on patient care.

We never could have imagined that our vows of “in sickness and in health” would be tested so quickly into our marriage as we walked through two full term, traumatic pregnancies, resulting in the death of our two sweet daughters shortly after birth. We have a family blog in which we chronicled the details of both pregnancies and I am passionate about speaking out about infant loss, grief, and healing, in hopes that other women who have experienced it themselves or know someone who has can be encouraged and empowered through extremely difficult circumstances.

We never expected our journey to domestic adoption to happen the way it did after the loss of our first two children, although it was always a desire of ours to adopt children. We could never have imagined that our first adopted child would enter our family just four months after the loss of our second daughter, but his story is one of redemption and hope and he is absolutely perfect. I can’t wait to share more with you about all three of our children and our experiences through infant loss, grief, transracial adoption and private adoption in general! I look forward to sharing with you and hope that you will leave here encouraged, challenged, and inspired.