The Grandchild I Never Held:
A Heartbreaking Loss
My second grandchild was supposed to be born this week. We were eagerly anticipating the arrival of my daughter’s second child, thrilled to be adding another family member. But sadly, that isn’t what happened. Instead of welcoming home a new bundle of love, we’re grieving. The trauma of late pregnancy loss is all too real for the entire family, a heartbreaking loss for us all.
She made it through her first trimester, the time known to be the most at-risk for loss, and posted her exciting news on Facebook. We had begun the fun anticipatory activities of brainstorming possible names, sorting through Callister’s impossibly tiny hand-me-downs, and envisioning who the new baby would be. We were already falling in love with our new child and grandchild.
Because she had a child die in utero at 12 weeks in June, the doctor was doing more frequent ultrasounds this time around, mostly to reassure my daughter and her husband. When my daughter went for a 19-week ultrasound to hopefully ascertain the sex of the baby, a problem was suspected. When she went for a follow-up a few days later, there was no heartbeat. The baby had died. We were all devastated.
Because it was later in the pregnancy, she was induced and went through 28 long hours of labor. Think about that; she endured 28 long, grueling hours of labor, knowing she was giving birth to a child who had already died. My son-in-law kept me informed with texts throughout their hospital stay. Knowing he was there for her eased my mind, but knowing my daughter was in pain was emotional agony for me. If you’re a parent, you know I mean it when I say I wish I could have switched places to spare her the pain.
Meanwhile, I was at home taking care of her two-year-old child and going back and forth to her house to take care of her dogs. I felt helpless and wished I could at least be there to comfort her, but I also knew taking care of her child was the best function I could provide for her. Taking care of Callister for three days helped me deal with the immediate grief I was experiencing. I knew I needed to keep him busy and keep the upbeat attitude going. Fortunately, he is used to spending lots of time with us and has his own room and toys at our house, so it was a smooth transition for him. He may have sensed something was going on, but I knew it was not my job to tell him.
It’s my daughter’s grief, and I don’t mean to steal it, but believe me when I say there is plenty to go around. My primary emotion has been sadness for my daughter and her husband. Seeing your child in deep sorrow and knowing there is little to do to help them is difficult. My daughter’s body has been through a lot, and her heart has been through even more trauma.
I’m going through my own grief as well. Being a grandparent is a wonderful part of my life, and I was eagerly anticipating the joy of beginning again with a tiny newborn grandchild. Someday there may be another grandchild, but it won’t be this child. My second grandchild never got to take a breath in this world, but he has a permanent spot in our hearts.
I’ve gone through all of Callister’s outgrown clothes that I was saving for his little brother. I cried some tears as I placed most of them in the donation bag, keeping only a few of my favorites. I’m confident there will be another baby, but when the time comes, I’ll buy new clothes. It makes me feel a little better to know our baby’s things will go to other children who might need these clothes more right now. I also stored all the infant equipment away in the attic, wanting to get the baby bath, the swing, and all the other infant paraphernalia out of my sight. Who knew a changing table could make your heart feel like it’s shattering into little pieces?
As the grandparent, not the parent, I almost don’t feel entitled to feel the intense grief I’m experiencing. Tears spring to my eyes unexpectedly when I see a new baby. I find myself wanting to reach out and hold them while at the same time, averting my eyes so I can avoid the thoughts of loss constantly lurking. I’m genuinely happy when I see friends post their new grandbaby’s pictures on Facebook, yet there is a selfish twinge in my heart, wishing I was doing the same. My arms feel an aching emptiness, longing for the grandchild I’ll never hold. Although I never got to cradle my precious grandchild in my arms, he will forever be in my heart.
New studies show a large percentage of women who have a miscarriage experience post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s imperative to seek help to deal with this loss. Speak to your doctor, find a counselor, talk to your partner and friends. For so long, the topic of miscarriage has been taboo, but silence doesn’t help. There should be no shame mixed in with grief.