I don’t know about y’all but sometimes I have these intrusive, automatic thoughts. These thoughts that come into my head whether I want them to or not, whether they’re true/factual or not and even, whether they make sense or not. These jerks can negatively impact my mood and really get me feeling down in the dumps. I look around sometimes like, “how the hell did I get HERE!?” Then it takes some emotional work (which may or may not include chocolate ice cream/coconut milk/brownie/cookie/etc.) and maybe even alone time to allow the feelings to crest and fall as they need to.
Negative automatic thoughts are really common for a lot of folx. As a society, we’re often more focused on what isn’t going the way we want it to than on what is. It’s easier to turn to why something won’t or isn’t working than on what may be working so automatically, we turn to the negative instead of the positive. It takes you being really active to combat these negative automatic thoughts which is something that really is a basis for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). The whole idea in a nutshell is that your thoughts (cognition’s) influence your behaviors so the work is figuring out how to interrupt negative thought patterns and replace them with patterns that affirm where you want to be.
Below, I’m going to give you 7 common automatic thoughts you likely have as an angel mom and a suggested replacement thought to help get you out of that rut.
Everyone is just going along like nothing happened.
So, truth: the world does continue to move. Your loss isn’t the end of the world for everyone in your life even though it feels like the end of the world to you. There’s a saying that goes something like, “what constitutes an emergency for you don’t constitute an emergency for someone else.” Facts on facts on facts! It sucks but it’s just true. People do have to continue living their lives despite your loss. In some ways, you have to continue doing some of the daily things you did also. It doesn’t mean that nothing happened. It just means that life requires movement. If you get a cut and your body sends white blood cells to the area to prevent infection & platelets to clot, does your body just shut down and only focus on healing the injury? No, it still breathes and thinks and moves and maintains life overall while handling the cut. Think about the response to loss in a similar way. Some functions may have to slow down or be diverted but the overall existence and movement through life doesn’t stop because of your loss. My replacement thought suggestion is something like, “People have to keep living. I have to keep living. My babies would want me to keep living. I can grieve their loss and keep moving forward at the same time.” Also, the above quote, “what constitutes an emergency for me doesn’t constitute an emergency for everyone else” is also super helpful. It’s a reminder to humble myself and respect the space others have to live their lives. It also helps to keep me out of either/or thinking and stay in both/and. It’s not either they’re at my house everyday doting over me OR they don’t act like anything happened. It’s, they have to maintain their lives AND they care enough to check in when they can.
God is Snatching Babies!
I heard someone refer to their loss in this way. “Why is God snatching babies?” was actually the statement. Though everyone doesn’t state this sentiment in the same way, this is a really challenging place to be. Questioning a higher power whether that’s the universe or your god is kind of normal for most people when something difficult happens. We’re always trying to understand the “why” of an event in addition to the “how”. “What am I supposed to learn from this?” “Why am I being challenged/tested like this?” You can start to believe you’re being punished for something. Maybe it’s something you did recently, maybe it’s an old transgression, who knows. The point is, you start thinking that someone “took” your baby, you don’t know why and there’s nothing you can do about it. I personally believe that everything is a lesson. Sometimes the lesson is hard af to learn but it’s still a lesson and an opportunity to grow in some way. That doesn’t make me feel better about the loss of my girls BUT it does help me grow from the experience. So I often tell myself and my partner sometimes, “this is just something that happened. It’s horrible and sad and devastating. What can I learn from this? I won’t let this experience be in vain.” I don’t focus on the “why is this happening?” idea because frankly, I may never know why it happened. I might not even be entirely right about whatever I was supposed to learn from it but I will LEARN SOMETHING and I will DO SOMETHING as a result.
My baby is gone.
Death is hard. Whether it’s the death of an older person or a younger person, it’s still tough. The feeling that someone is no longer around is really the tough part. It’s the emptiness that exists in the space where they could’ve and should’ve been that really gets to folx. When you have the presence of life inside you and you know that you are literally creating life, the loss of it feels so final and shocking. No longer seeing your belly grow, no longer feeling flutters or kicks, no longer feeling the nausea or the fatigue… all of that makes it really feel like your baby is gone. Unfortunately, that is true physically. Depending on your beliefs though, you can believe that your baby isn’t really “gone” per say but rather, just not there physically anymore. I like to tell myself and suggest you try thinking of it like this, “my babies are still all around me. Their little spirits visit me and their life energy remains infused with mine.” This replacement doesn’t always bring me out of my tears but it does sometimes help me feel a bit more comforted. Having that confirmed (IMO) by things happening around my house or in nature, always makes me smile. My mom said to me the other day, “their little footprints are on everything you do.” That was so perfect and it’s a reminder that my girls are all around me all the time. Shouts out to my momma for being the bomb!
People are being assholes.
This feels SO true! People say so many things that just feel jerk-like and it’s hard to see past that especially when you’re super sensitive after a loss. Comments like, “you’ll have another baby”, “at least it was early”, “at least you didn’t have to give birth”, “you’ve gotta get over this”, and “come to this party, it’ll make you feel better” are the worst of the worst and it can feel like people are just THE WORST. Honestly, some people really are assholes. Having said that, some aren’t and even though they make some of the statements mentioned above, they likely don’t know how to deal w/ this type of grief and they really are just trying to make to feel better. So to combat this thought so you’re not giving someone a two-piece to the throat, try “they don’t know how to respond to my grief. I will communicate my needs about what’s helpful and what’s not.”
Nobody cares what happened.
Related to the first item, sometimes it feels like no one else really cares that you lost a baby or babies. Either people aren’t sad enough, they aren’t checking on you enough, they are saying insensitive things or they expect you to move on faster than you feel you can. Despite these rationales for why you automatically think nobody cares, you have to remember it’s usually not true. People don’t know how to respond to this kind of loss. Check out my post titled the “Silent Sadness” to go deeper there. Sure, some people do a phenomenal job but others just don’t and it is not necessarily indicative of whether they care or not. Sometimes people care so much that it’s uncomfortable for them too and to avoid bursting into tears, they just don’t say anything or they try to make light of things. That’s about them, not about you. Suggestion to replace this automatic thought: “there are plenty of people who care about me and what happened. *name at least one person here* cares about what happened. Some people just don’t know how to respond.” This is a good reminder for yourself and helps you take stock of who in your life is supporting you. That could be a parent, a partner, a good friend, a co-worker, a support group member, your doctors/midwives/nurses, etc. If you can’t easily name someone (and even if you can), I strongly recommend linking up with a support group (in person or virtual). They can be life-savers for real, for real.
Idk if I’ll ever have another baby.
It’s kind of odd that we automatically go to this place but this fear and though is SO REAL! For some reason we immediately start to question whether this one or two time occurrence will happen again if we continue to try to conceive. I think it’s the reality that getting pregnant and staying pregnant is actually really hard biological work. There are so many factors at play and losing a baby during pregnancy or shortly after if a reminder that nothing is really guaranteed. We can often take for granted just how tough pregnancy is and one of the factors that contributes to that is that perinatal loss isn’t discussed as much as it should be. Angel parents often don’t hear too much about other people’s challenges or losses unless they are very close to the person or after they have a loss of their own. From that perspective, it seems like it’s super rare but 1 in 4 is a really HIGH statistic! Other factors like age, physical ability (e.g. tubal function, PCOS, low ovarian reserve, fibroids, etc.), partner or donor status, financials, etc. all bring into question whether parenthood in the way you originally thought about it, will be a probability for you. My suggestion to combat this, “this was just one situation and it doesn’t necessarily define anything about the future.” You may have to follow this up with talk about other people around your age/with a similar condition or the “we only need one to work” argument in regards to egg reserve or sperm count. Until you know for sure that having another child is not a complete physical impossibility and/or that you cannot, for other reasons, venture down this path again, then don’t rule out the replacement thought of, “I will have another child.”
What kind of woman am I?
So this is a tough one and also cis-privileged so I’m acknowledging that up front. *I realize that not everyone who gets pregnant and has or loses that pregnancy identifies as a woman. I also realize that everyone who identifies as a woman, regardless of gender identity, does not desire to carry babies.* As a cis-gender person speaking from my personal experience, I have definitely had this thought and from my conversations with other angel parents who identify as cis-gender, this is a common thought. There is often the idea that carrying babies is THE main function of the female body. It’s usually designed to do just that so when something happens that makes it appear that you are unable to carry or bring life into the world in that way, it’s a HUGE blow. When it’s not easy to get pregnant or stay pregnant, it can really do damage to your sense of self as a woman. What I would say & have said to myself to combat this automatic thought is, “my womynhood is not only tied to to my ability to carry & birth babies.” There are many other things that I feel proud of as a womyn and I don’t have living children yet. That identity is held with or without children I birth from my body even though being a mother to living children is an ultimate goal of mine. To be honest, this is an automatic thought that I combat often. It’s work y’all so remember that and if you have to fake it til you make it, do that. Just know that it’ll happen and changing your thought process about this will ultimately change your beliefs and behaviors in the long run.