If you would have asked me to describe stillbirth, pregnancy or infant loss before I experienced mine, I would have used keywords such as: heartbreak, emotional trauma, psychological trauma, and so on. Although that’s all accurate, there’s a lot more to it than just the mental, emotional and psychological effects. Physical trauma plays a big role in this kind of loss. Today I want to open up about my personal experience in this area. I thought I was losing my mind more than once, so I think it’s important to emphasize this part of grief and trauma.
Given that I was already halfway through my pregnancy, I had to give birth to Sahar. Labor puts a great physical stress on the human body. Anticipating the birth of your healthy living baby, completely makes up for that. When you know upfront you will be giving back your baby instead of keeping it, giving birth is a very heavy task. My labor was induced, and the induction medication put a tremendous additional stress on my body. I suffered from continuous high fevers, and my blood pressure was constantly dropping below normal levels, which required even more medication and drugs. The induction medication also increases the intensity of the contractions, and in my case also their frequency. That’s just the side-effects. My labor took a total of 36 hours. That’s a lot to take in knowing that you won’t be able to keep your baby.
Once the labor is over and you finally get to hold your baby, the hormone rush follows. We were so lucky to meet our little girl alive. Even though she only lived during one short hour, those moments meant the world to me. I know many mothers don’t even get to say goodbye to their child. I just had a baby, and my body was very aware of that too. It kickstarts a bunch of hormones that every mother feels after giving birth. Your body is ready to feed your baby, which is obviously not going to happen. Thankfully, they gave me something to counter this and I didn’t feel many discomforts in this area. But it doesn’t stop there, that’s nothing but the start.
I remember spending nights holding her little yellow stuffed bunny as if I was holding her. Honestly, I really thought I was going completely crazy. As if a little stuffed bunny could be Sahar right? But it wasn’t about that. That little bunny was almost the same size as her. Sahar was a little bit taller, but for the rest, their size was comparable. Like I said, the body knows it gave birth to a baby, and expects to have one to hold. I felt an incredible necessity of holding my baby, and my arms literally ached of emptiness. I really felt like a lunatic holding a stuffed animal for hours and hours without stop, until I heard from other mothers and read on the internet that most women experience this too.
Another thing that made me question my sanity, is that I could still feel my baby kick inside me. I was very well aware that she was gone, but at times, I swear I could still feel her kick. I tried to ignore it, frightened that I was completely losing it, until I learned about phantom kicks. I wasn’t imagining it. It’s been almost four months since we said goodbye, and I haven’t felt them for a while now. I especially felt them in the early days, just after my child was torn from my womb when she should have stayed there for another four months.
The heartbreak. The words imply a physical thing, but when thinking of the heartbreak following child loss, everyone thinks of the emotional pain you feel. Well, it’s not only emotional. It’s physical. Very physical. It’s a stomach churning, gut-wrenching, bone shattering, knockout punch kind of pain. The mother of all haymakers. And it truly manifests in physical pains too.
I’ve been having headaches since we lost Sahar, but these last few weeks, those headaches are accompanied by an unbearable and worsening pain in my shoulders and lower back. So, I finally decided to go see an osteopath for the first time today. It didn’t take him long to realize that there was an extreme amount of stress in my body. Without telling him anything about my loss, he sensed that I was under heavy emotional stress. After the treatment, I felt immediate relief in my shoulders and back, but he told me it wouldn’t take long before the pain would return if I didn’t treat the underlying cause. The body is like an onion, he said. What we do is peel off the top bruised layer, but if the bruise is on the inside, you have to work from there to keep the pain away permanently. Another physical manifestation of emotional pain.
That’s just a few of the physical effects that can be experienced as a consequence of emotional and psychological trauma. Some people experience insomnia, anxiety attacks, nightmares, exhaustion, numbness and more. It’s important to realize and recognize the symptoms so they can be treated. It’s hard, emotionally but also physically. The physical symptoms may manifest themselves immediately, or even months after loss.
I hope this helps,