2023 - April - Gazette - Bereaved Mother's Day

By: Jackie Naginey Hook
Thursday, April 27, 2023

Bereaved Mother’s Day

I used to dread Mother’s Day. Of course I was always very grateful for my mother and wanted to celebrate her. But during the years when my husband and I were dealing with fertility issues, Mother’s Day reminded me of what I wasn’t. As we struggled through six pregnancy losses, Mother’s Day just made all the more clear what I didn’t have to hold in my arms. I felt all kinds of emotions – sadness, fear, anger, and guilt.

Guilt is a common emotion associated with grief, and pregnancy and early infant losses are no exception. Even though there is usually nothing the woman could have done to prevent the loss, she still carries guilt. She may feel like her body betrayed her, and wonder if she had done something differently that she could have created a different outcome. Plus, her maternal instincts of protection may make her feel badly for the baby. Those feelings were definitely true for me.  

After fertility issues and pregnancy losses, I trusted my body less and less and felt like there was something wrong with me. Why couldn’t I get pregnant? And when I did finally get pregnant, why couldn’t I get the pregnancies to the right place in my body? What was I doing wrong?

I have a vivid memory of asking our reproductive endocrinologist whether one of our ectopic pregnancies experienced pain when it was surgically removed from me.  He quickly replied, “We are not going to go there.” I recognized that this was a very paternalistic response. But given time to process it I also realized my question had no knowable answer, and considering it only made me feel worse. In the end, the ectopic pregnancies I had could not survive in my fallopian tubes, and had they grown there they could have killed me. Surgical removal was our only option. I knew that in my head and soul, but it took time for my heart and body to release the guilt. 

Little by little my healing happened. My husband and I joined a support group for pregnancy and early infant loss where we had a safe place to share our stories and know we weren’t alone. Other couples shared their feelings, including those of guilt. All the couples wrote letters to our pregnancies and infants. One of the many things I said in my letter was, “I’m sorry,” and I signed my letter, “Mom.” I will never forget the power that letter had in my healing journey.

Through the years, the guilt and the pain healed for me. Those experiences now feel like another lifetime. But I continue to hear stories of others who suffer under the weight of grief and guilt. People who do not look forward to Mother’s and Father’s Days celebrations. Sadly, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage or stillbirth.

To offer a place of possible solace for those people, Footprints in the Field is hosting its 2nd Annual Gathering in the Garden: Honoring the Parents on Sunday, May 7th -- which is Bereaved Mother’s Day. The gathering is from 3 to 5 p.m. at Footprints in the Field Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Garden, Harvest Fields, 150 Harvest Fields Drive in Boalsburg. It is a time to honor those who experienced one of these losses whenever it occurred, recently or decades ago.

At A Gathering in the Garden, these parents, and those who care about them, will come together and have the opportunity to reflect on their losses, spend time in nature, take part in nurturing activities, and maybe even leave a piece of their grief and guilt behind. They’ll also have the opportunity to visit the beautiful Footprints in the Field Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Garden and order memorial stones for engraving. All are welcome regardless of religious or spiritual beliefs.

Support for this gathering is provided by Harvest Fields and Koch Funeral Home. Please RSVP to https://www.footprintsinthefield.org/rsvp or visit the FB page @FootprintsintheField

In addition to A Gathering in the Garden: Honoring the Parents, other upcoming community outreach programs include:  

For more information, please visit the Bereavement Gatherings and Events page on the Koch Funeral Home website. To reserve your spot and receive the invitation links, email Jackie@JackieHook.com, call 814-237-2712 or visit the Koch Funeral Home Facebook page @kochFH.

Jackie Naginey Hook, MA, is a spiritual director, celebrant and end-of-life doula.  She coordinates the Helping Grieving Hearts Heal program through Koch Funeral Home in State College.  For more information, please call 814-237-2712 or visit www.kochfuneralhome.com.


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