I had the privilege
of meeting Dr. Amy Wenzel while she was presenting a training session I
attended in Lexington, Kentucky. The focus of the training was
treating maternal depression and anxiety. During a break, I asked Dr.
Wenzel about research relevant to the lasting impact of poor social
and professional support on a mother's mental health following
pregnancy and infant loss, as it is a topic I have plans to research
through our non-profit, The Carys Rainn Foundation, Inc.
(www.carysrainn.org). This prompted further discussion regarding my
experience with infant loss, Dr. Wenzel's own pregnancy loss and the
contents of this book, which was in the process of being written at
the time. I was so excited to learn this book would be an available
resource in the near future!
experience, I have spoken with so many people who have faced
pregnancy and infant loss with limited or no support. What I have
found to be most unsettling about the many stories that have been
shared with me are the stories from those who seem to have never
really given themselves permission to grieve and work through their
loss because it seemed to be so easily dismissed by others.
Infant loss, as well as struggles with infertility, can be very
difficult topics to approach. They can be uncomfortable to discuss
and difficult to understand for those who have not experienced the
impact. Even for those who have experienced reproductive struggles,
no two experiences are exactly the same, but all have the potential
to be devastating. I am very thankful this book is being made
available to help validate that infertility and pregnancy and infant
loss are significant, life-changing events, and to help its readers
find effective ways to cope with the struggles that may result.
I was personally
introduced to the world of pregnancy and infant loss when one of our
twins was given a fatal diagnosis in December of 2010, at about 16
weeks gestation. We learned at that time that our daughter had a
Neural Tube Defect called Anencephaly, in which the head portion of
the neural tube does not close. As a result, the baby's skull is left
open and the remaining brain tissue is left exposed. It is always
fatal, though some infants with this condition live longer than
others. Most are stillborn or die shortly after birth if the
pregnancy is carried to term. Our daughter lived about 7 hours after
birth. Unlike many experiences with pregnancy and infant loss, our
grief journey began several months before the birth of our babies and
death of our daughter.
In a way, I was
forced into behavioral activation because of the nature of our loss.
Due to work demands and the extended period of time leading up to my
maternity leave, I had little choice but to resume my daily
activities, though I was also able to find other outlets on which to
focus. As a method of keeping friends and family updated, I began a
web journal at caringbridge.com. After the babies were born, this
turned into an ongoing blog (www.aftertherainn.com), as I enjoy
writing and looking for ways to offer encouragement to others. I also
turned attention to another favorite hobby and started a photography
club through my church. Obviously, I could not avoid the pain of our
loss, but somehow managed to keep moving forward through the
remainder of the pregnancy, the births of our babies, and loss of our
daughter by using the same valuable concepts and practical advice you
will discover in this book.
As a therapist, I
was teaching parenting classes for clients referred by Social
Services in addition to my regular caseload. I quickly realized the
value of finding "balanced" thoughts to counter the
unhelpful automatic thoughts that naturally came to visit.
Specifically, I found myself relying heavily on my spiritual belief
system and concepts I believe to be true from scripture, such as that
scripture says that God is Love, He has plans for us, and that love
is not selfish. From these passages, I frequently reminded myself,
"God loves me and He isn't selfish, so I know He's not toying
with me for His own amusement. He has a plan- even if I don't
understand it yet." This belief helped me through many difficult
days and continues to do so.
Above all, I found
myself seeking to find some kind of purpose through our loss, as
finding meaning in loss seems to be a key to finding peace. Relying
heavily on my own spiritual beliefs, I looked for ways to reach out
to others experiencing reproductive trauma, which has led to the
establishment of our nonprofit. Granted, our specific response will
not be the appropriate response for all experiencing loss, but I
encourage you to consider the advice given in this book with the
confidence that it can help you find peace with your reproductive
experience in time. Even for those who "cope well" with a
loss, it is not realistic to think you will quickly "get over
it," even though well meaning loved ones may make
unintentionally hurtful comments about their expectations of your
recovery. In my experience, even though I believe I was coping well
with all we were going through, it was a little more than a year
after our daughter's death before I felt like the "grief fog"
seemed to lift. I share that merely to encourage others to give
themselves time to recover. The process will vary from person to
person, but it is important to recognize that emotional healing does
take time, and like physical healing, scars will likely remain.
honestly say I have peace with our loss. I am thankful to have found
what I consider to be purpose in both her life and death. As strange
as it may sound, I can think of many ways the brief life of my baby
girl has had a positive impact on others, and I am comforted by
focusing on ways to ensure that continues to happen. The Carys Rainn
Foundation, Inc. is still very new and in the beginning stages of our
mission, but I am confident in believing that through the foundation,
we can minister to others suffering similar losses, in an attempt to
help them find hope and healing as well. Resources such as this book
are sure to help!
As I read through
Dr. Wenzel's manuscript, I found myself applying her words to
experiences my clients have shared with me, and also to my own
experience. I am so sorry if you have a
reason to be reading this book, but I highly recommend it! I hope you are able to find the hope and healing you need most!
*yes, it is an affiliate link, but I will only recommend books or products if I believe them to be good/helpful!