It was difficult for me to ask for help after our newborn son died. The struggle partially stemmed from my pride and my desire to continue to be the friend who provided support to others, not the other way around. Even more so, I barely had the ability to articulate or even identify what I needed in the first place. At times, it seemed easier to go it alone. Surely I could do this.
Deep down I knew I couldn’t. I couldn’t do any of this on my own. My heart, mind, and body were weary from months of high risk doctor appointments, processing bad news on bad news, saying goodbye to our firstborn child, and trying to recover from the physical and emotional impacts of childbirth mixed with grief. My husband and I needed community. Sure, we did our very best to support one another–yet it was difficult to fully support the other when each of us felt so weak. As daunting as it sounded, we both knew we needed support.
We took the initially terrifying step of tearing down our walls and saying yes to others–yes to support in the form of warm meals, yard work, funeral assistance, and company. Day by day, we began to see that we were never meant to do life alone. We were never meant to have it all together. We were meant to enter into each other’s messes and support one another. This beautifully messy community is one of the greatest gifts we’ve been given.
We found support within the pregnancy and infant loss community. I immediately found myself connected with a support group, where I met women who have now become some of my closest friends. That first October, just two months after our son died, my husband and I were invited to attend Forever Footprint’s Annual Walk to Remember. As we stood beside hundreds of parents who had walked similar journeys as us, we felt surrounded by love and support. We didn’t have to explain. We didn’t have to pretend. Within the pregnancy and infant loss community I found my people–ones that simply knew what I needed, always remembered important milestone dates, and I could always count on to talk me through the multiple baby aisle meltdowns I had at Target.
We also found support outside of the pregnancy and infant loss community. At first, it was difficult for me to tear down the walls around my heart to people that I assumed wouldn’t understand. With time, I realized that I was missing out by shutting others out. Within our families, our friend groups, our jobs, and our church were many people who simply wanted to support us. They didn’t fully understand (and we would never want them to), yet they were willing to step into the mess of deep grief and simply be there for us. Within this community I found gentle-hearted people who did their best to understand and meet me wherever I was at, while offering a fresh perspective.
In my experience, the hardest thing about finding and accepting support after baby loss was the initial step. It can be scary to bare your heart to someone, knowing they may not understand or unintentionally say the wrong thing. Vulnerability may have felt terrifying at first, but once I took that first step I quickly realized that it was the road that led to community and true support. I am incredibly grateful to the people who have loved me at my weakest and have encouraged me when I felt so alone. I am thankful for the deeper friendships, comfort, and family that have come from two-way support and community. Needing one another doesn’t make us weak–it’s a natural part of who we are as people. We were never meant to do this life alone. We were always meant to lift one another up in our times of need. If we must walk down this difficult road, let’s do it together.
If you are feeling alone right now, please accept this virtual hug and know that we are in this together. I encourage you to find and connect with someone who “gets it”. I encourage you to speak your child’s name to a friend. I encourage you to join one of Forever Footprints’ support groups and/or attend a Forever Footprints event, such as the Walk to Remember. It’s okay to not be okay, and it’s okay reach out. You are not alone.
*Photo by Lexi Behrndt
Kristin Hernandez lives in Southern California with her husband Chris and their Queensland Heeler mix, Dakota. After struggling with unexplained infertility for several years, Kristin was thrilled when she became pregnant with Ethan. The celebration quickly turned to concern when doctors discovered Ethan had a serious heart defect and was missing a piece of his brain–likely indicative of a chromosome abnormality. Ethan was born on August 16, 2015 and spent his 93-minute life in his parents’ arms. Kristin is now a mother to five babies in heaven, including four of Ethan’s younger siblings who she has never met. Despite these struggles, Kristin has resolved to embrace the life she has been given and to leave a legacy for her family. Kristin works in communications by day, but can also be found running, camping, writing or having a conversation over a cup of coffee. She writes at www.sunlightindecember.com and is the cohost of the Through the Lens Podcast.