I didn’t enter the “Mom Club” in the normal way. In fact, the first four+ years haven’t been “typical.” The day I officially became a mother, I joined a few clubs: new mom club, mom club of medically fragile babies and the mom club absolutely no one wants to be in – loss mom. My babies were born 15 weeks early and my beautiful daughter passed away two days after she was born. My son spent the next few months in the NICU attached to every machine imaginable. I spent the first months of motherhood in this odd dichotomy of new life and death.
The anxiety that followed my daughter’s death was palpable. I was terrified to go out of the house and risk losing my son; he could catch something and, having such a weak immune system, it would certainly be fatal. Every day I would mentally walk through the countless accidents or tragedies that could happen. I had already lost one child; I couldn’t lose another. The only comfort I found was with other loss mothers – incredible moms who rally around each other in the most understanding and vulnerable way. I met my best friends online who had also lost their babies. These were the only people I could connect with, they were truly the only ones who “got it.” We saw each other through the fears and anxieties of pregnancies after loss, and the joys of welcoming new babies.
It had been over four years, and the extent of my mom friendships had been through texts, phone calls and messaging with my fellow loss mom friends. As uncomfortable as I knew it could be, I was craving something more. At this time, I had three babies at home and I also needed some grown-up faces and conversations. Even as anxious as I was, but with the urging of another mom, I took the plunge and joined MOPS. This was my first time doing “normal” mom things. I had never participated in play dates or mommy groups. This would be the first group of moms that I would sit down with and share stories.
I’ve loved being a part of MOPS these past years and I have felt so welcome and comfortable. It’s pretty normal for loss moms to feel like they will be alienated because others can’t relate. I want moms like me, who are taking the plunge, to feel comfortable in this setting. So, here are some tips to help welcome a new loss mom to the group.
- Please include her child. Don’t shy away from saying her child’s name. Please don’t feel like you can’t ask about her child. In fact, she loves to talk about her child and the opportunity to do so is very limited, so anytime you can, please include her child.
- We all have triggers – words or stories that just hurt. You don’t need to walk on eggshells, but if your new mom friend shuts down/turns away/disengages, just allow her to handle it how she needs. If you feel compelled to ask her about it or want to understand what was her trigger, ask her privately.
- If you can relate, please do. If you have experienced this horrific loss, let her know that. There is an instant comfort when you find another loss sister.
- If you can’t relate, please don’t try to. Losing a pet or a parent or a friend is horrific, but please do not make that comparison or say that you understand what it is like to lose a child.
- Be patient with her regarding her relationship with God. Many of us have dealt with major questions and hardships in our faith. For some, their faith has only gotten stronger but for others, they may be struggling to come to a new understanding of His goodness post-loss.
- It’s not contagious. I have had moms act as if they will catch such a horrible tragedy just by listening to my story. They don’t want to be around and they can’t bear to hear about it. Listening and comforting a mom who has lost her child will not make you lose your child.
Please know that this is likely way more awkward and uncomfortable for her than it is for you. As much as I hope you never have to meet a mother who has lost her child, the likelihood is that you will or that you already have. We are out there and somewhere there will be a loss mama taking her very first step into this normal world. And I have complete faith that you will be a comfort to her.
Elizabeth Schulmeister and her husband were high school sweethearts. After struggling with infertility, they were elated to finally be pregnant with boy/girl twins. The twins made their unexpected arrival at 25 weeks and their daughter, Mary, passed away at 2 days old. Elizabeth has since had 2 rainbow babies and their family of 6 is now complete. MOPS has been a saving grace after her traumatic entry into motherhood. It has given an outlet and a chance to feel “normal” sharing with other moms who have welcomed her with acceptance and empathy.