When I was in school, we had paper permission slips. If your parent signed it, boom- you had permission to attend the field trip, watch the cheesy sex-ed video, or get a Red Cross First Aid Card. Without that permission slip signed, no dice. And if you forgot to have your parents sign it. Well, some of us may have forged our parents’ signatures in a pinch.
Sometimes, we need to sign our own permission slips. We find ourselves in positions in life that require us to care for ourselves. That means we’re going to have to sign our own slips here, ladies. Below are five permission slips we’re going to have to sign for ourselves, and for each other regarding pregnancy loss.
Permission to Validate Life
One misnomer about miscarriage is that since that baby wasn’t fully developed and didn’t breathe outside the womb, it’s not really a loss. As miscarriage survivors, we know that minimizing or invalidating a loss is not only hurtful to the sufferer, but it’s actively choosing to pretend like it didn’t happen. But it did. That baby existed, and in most cases, us moms need that baby to be acknowledged.
Permission to Mourn
Many cultures and religions give special and sacred time to the grievers. This period of time is an allowance for the space needed by a sufferer. It doesn’t mean that the mourner will be instantly cured of their sadness, but it is permission to get a jumpstart on the healing process. Glossing over the pain of a loss is not going to make it magically vanish. In many cases, it will however, help alleviate the intensity of the pain. It surely doesn’t happen overnight, and it may never heal completely, but to give us permission to be sad and to take the time we need is possibly the greatest way others can show kindness and gentleness to anyone who has recently lost a pregnancy.
Permission to Identify Needs
Pregnancy loss is when we call out all the stops. We ask our friends, our spouse or our loved ones to support us in practical ways. We ask this trusted group to just handle things. If you have other kids, you have permission to let others stand in the gap for you and help out with the nuts and bolts of life while we grieve. Some of us need talk therapy. Some need alone time, most of us need both. Be willing to try both if you don’t have a clue. Have some folks around and see how you respond. Then try being alone and see if it helps you process. Maybe you need a routine. Maybe you need to be OFF your routine. Maybe you need a cheeseburger. Maybe it’s Mother’s Day and you decide you want to stay in and watch scary movies all day. If you don’t know, what you need, it’s ok. Try a few different things, and just make it through the day. That’s your goal at this acute place of pain. Just get through the day. Just take it easy and take in whatever comes up as it comes up and decide if you have the strength to deal with it or not.
Permission to Try Again
Getting pregnant again essentially equals signing up for nine months of fear on various levels. This is the old relay race where dashing across the field with a raw egg on a spoon. Terrified that you might drop the egg, but trying to have fun at the same time. It’s not black and white, we must be willing to know that both stopping to grieve and then moving on after a time, are valuable. So, we get to have permission to grieve, but we don’t want to stay stuck either, both are important for healing. It’s like having a bruise: you don’t want to touch it because it hurts, it’s an injury. But after you’ve given it some time, it’s important to get the circulation going because the movement of the blood will help the healing process. So, if you want to try again, by all means try again. It’s probably going to be scary, but we need to remember it’s OK to be scared when trying again- that’s normal. That fear may or may not dissipate, but it’s a normal human emotion to be afraid of a reoccurrence. It’s just not healthy for us to stay in that place. It’s important to talk through it, move through it. Our bodies require both rest AND movement to heal.
Permission to Cancel Shame
For some obscure reason, women from the beginning of time have experienced some level of shame around miscarriage. Some self-imposed shame, others have been shamed by someone else- whether it be by their culture, misinformation, their religion, or family. Shaming ourselves does absolutely nothing productive to promote the emotional healing process. Shame simply ties us to an anchor, and we cannot make any progress.
Emotion is a word that signifies movement as the word indicates “e-motion.” Like yoga, emotion is sometimes active, like crow pose, and sometimes passive like child’s pose. In the same way, surgical recuperation often requires a period of rest, followed by physical therapy as we re-train our bodies how to function. Shaming will only keep us still when we need to move, restless and agitated when our bodies need rest. Permission to cancel shame is a way of demonstrating love and care for ourselves.
We can find empowerment by taking the initiative to sign our own permission slips. Women find our strength when we collectively grab our pens and sign for each other, united in a shared experience. Permission to grieve=granted.
Amy Liz Harrison is one of recoveries newest voices and author of Eternally Expecting: A Mom of Eight Gets Sober and Gives Birth to a New Life…Her Own. Get your copy today!