Loving My Body After Stillbirth and Miscarriage
Not. At. All.
See, I have two daughters. They both died before birth. And, although I don’t really talk about it much because I’m not 100% sure, I’m pretty sure I had another very early miscarriage between my two daughters.
My body has never successfully brought a living child from my womb to my arms. She has failed all of my children and, it feels, me.
That is something that can really screw up one’s relationship with their body. I have found for myself, and for hundreds of other loss moms like me, our body’s failure to bring our babies safely to birth and life outside the womb feels like a betrayal and a failure. There is often a sense that there is something wrong with us or with our bodies that caused our babies to die.
I’ve felt like my body was punishing me.
Others have told me they felt like their womb was a war-zone or a death trap for their children.
This seems especially true if we don’t have any living babies – when we have no evidence at all that our bodies can successfully grow and birth a child into life outside the womb.
The world likes to tell us that a woman’s body is made to nurture and birth children and that we can trust it because it naturally knows how to do pregnancy and birth. That’s a wonderful idea, but what happens when it can’t or simply doesn’t for unknown reasons? What happens when our children repeatedly die within the womb that is supposed to nurture and protect them?
How does one love and trust their body after that?
It’s been 13 years since my first daughter died and more than 6 since my second daughter died as well. I still struggle with feeling like my body has failed me and betrayed me.
For the last couple years, however, I’ve been working on learning to love and trust my body again. It hasn’t been easy. My coach doesn’t like it when I talk about my body failing me or betraying me. She tries hard to understand, but that’s difficult for her. She has two beautiful, living, breathing and healthy sons, so her experience of her body and her body’s abilities is very different than mine. Her body has done what it was supposed to do – nurtured and birthed her children into life on Earth.
Still, my coach has been a huge support in helping me learn to be more loving and trusting with my body. To be accepting and kind to my body rather than resentful and angry. To take care of my body and nurture her rather than punish and abuse her. To listen to my body rather than ignore and reject her wisdom.
I wish I could say, “Here! I’ve figured it out! Here’s how you make peace with your body again and learn to love her.”
I can’t. I’m getting closer to figuring that out for myself, but I’m not quite there yet.
My default response is still to distrust her. I still struggle to feel completely sure of her ability to house me safely, to be healthy and strong even with my care of her. I have chosen to not try to have any more children because I don’t trust her ability to keep them safe.
I have, however, come a long, long way in the nearly 3 years I’ve been working on creating a better relationship with my body. I am significantly kinder, more compassionate, more nurturing, and more trusting of her than I was 3 years ago.
I listen to her more – she shares a lot of helpful information with me when I take the time to listen.
I nurture her more – feed her healthier foods, give her activity and movement, talk more kindly to her (usually), and am better about making sure she gets what she needs.
I accept her more – I’m not completely happy with her size or shape, but I am more accepting of her as she is. I lovingly refer to my stomach as my Buddha belly (because it makes me laugh and who can be angry with Buddha?) and appreciate the muscles that she so easily builds for me.
Forgiving her is a process. It is a process that has, and continues, to take time and attention. Not unlike forgiving loved ones who have deeply hurt us. Not entirely unlike grieving my children. It comes and goes in waves – some days I feel love and warmth toward my body, other days not so much.
Loving her and forgiving her is a choice I have to make every day. Every moment. Some days and moments I fail that this. Others I do it well. I like to think I’m getting better at it with that time and attention. I have hopes that one day, I’ll simply be able to love and trust this body of mine, easily and unconditionally.
I wish I could say that I’m the only one who struggles with this, because it isn’t a fun or easy thing to live with. Yet I know that I am not and that this is far, far more common than any of us want to imagine. Body love and acceptance after miscarriage and stillbirth is a challenge not often spoken of, even in the world of pregnancy and infant loss.
Talking about it often leads to others, usually folks with little to no experience of pregnancy loss, trying to make me feel better or to reason with me that my body still deserves trust and love and nurturing. It’s well intentioned, but unhelpful.
Believe me, I want to have a loving, trusting, supportive relationship with my body. I am working hard on creating that.
In the meantime, I wish others would just acknowledge that pain I feel of not having that. I only want you to acknowledge the grief and anger I feel toward her for not keeping my babies safe and protected. You don’t have to agree with me.
Let me be where I am and love me through that.
Love me until I can learn to love my body again.
Nurture me until I can learn to nurture my body again.
Accept me where I am until, someday, I’ll be able to say – and fully believe:
“My body did the best she could and I love her for that.”