Forever My Baby You'll Be: A Mother's Loss
From the heart of Sheryl Cooksley
On the morning of February 15, 2016, I found my lifeless baby in his bedroom. After hours of my body shutting down from shock, the grief hit fast and hard. I could not be comforted as my body rocked back and forth on my bed wailing, “My baby is gone. My baby is gone.”
My baby was 27 years old the day he died.
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month and it has been remarkably triggering. Certifying as a Postpartum Doula has also been triggering. These events have caused me to take pause and think about losing a baby. Losing my baby.
Notice I’m not putting the word baby in quotation marks. He was my baby not my “baby”. When is your baby no longer a baby? Never. At least in my motherhood experience this is true. My baby may not have been an infant or still in my womb, but he was such an integral part of my being that losing him felt like losing a physical piece of my soul and spirit. Really it felt like a huge chunk of my heart was ripped out of my body that day. And almost 3 years later, that physical feeling of loss is still present.
My intent is not to diminish the awareness we are raising about pregnancy and infant loss, but to provide a perspective on losing your baby at any stage of parenthood. It. Is. The. Most. Painful. Experience. Imaginable. Ever.
As part of my certification process to become a Postpartum Doula, I read the book “Three Minus One: Stories of Parents’ Love and Loss”. I chose this book because I wasn’t certain that my story and perspective of losing my baby would be relevant while working with parents experiencing stillbirth, miscarriage or infant loss. As I read each story, the words that these grieving parents had so beautifully written resonated with my own grief experience. In that moment, I recognized that loss of a child at any age and stage of parenthood ultimately feels the same. We are all in the same horrible “club”. We are all, often silently, walking around missing a big, giant piece of ourselves.
Why don’t we talk more about these losses? Because it’s uncomfortable? Because no one knows what to say? For some reason it’s acceptable for me to talk ad nauseum about the loss of my baby of 27 years, but not for a parent to talk about miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss. What is wrong with this picture?
Be the friend, sister, or co-worker that LISTENS…..just listens. Let that grieving person talk until they can’t talk anymore. Although you cannot fix this type of pain, support their healing bodies in whatever way you know how. Feed them. Nourish them. Remind them to breathe. Guide them to seek professional care if they can not handle the overwhelming emotions with just your support. Walk alongside them no matter how long their journey may be.
Forever I will sing the lyrics “how wonderful life is while you’re in the world” in memory of my baby. It was the song I sang to him while pregnant and for 27 sweet years.
Sheryl Cooksley is the owner and founder of Family Tree Doula Services. She is a Postpartum Doula providing antepartum, postpartum and first year infant support to families in and around Portland, Oregon.