One common experience of women who have lost pregnancies is the frustration that comes from having to go through the pain and struggle of a changing body during pregnancy, only to be left with no baby. Obviously, this pales in comparison to the grief that comes from losing a pregnancy. In today’s blog, we recount the experience of one of our patients, a woman named Mona who lost her pregnancy at 38 weeks.

Mona’s Story of Pregnancy Loss

Mona came into my office and the moment she sat down, she began to cry. “Look at me! I am wearing a fat suit!!! You don’t even know me, and you must think I am the chubby girl-the one who always cannot pass up a dessert!”

Mona made me laugh from the moment I met her—she is one of my most favorite people to see!  One of the many punishments associated with a loss-seems to be the lack of a justification for the weight gain. For women like Mona, who had gone to 38 weeks, delivered a stillborn daughter, and left the hospital empty handed-having endured all that pain for a poor outcome seemed incomprehensible to her. She was right! Her milk had come in, her breasts were tender and painful, she was in pain, and most of all she had been denied the joy and privilege of being a mother to a live baby. Over many heated sessions and debates, Mona came to realize, as many women before her had, that life is not fair, and she deserved better. A lot better.

Coping with Post-Baby Bodies with No Baby

How do I explain to a pregnancy loss patient that having the postpartum body and physical ailments associated with child birth make sense when they don’t get a baby at the end to proudly push in a stroller down the street? The simple answer is that I don’t.

What I do manage to convey is that their body not being the same is only further evidence for the world at large that their baby did exist. It is all too easy for people to sweep a loss under the carpet, overlook it, and out of sheer discomfort pretend that it never happened, continuing on conversations about the weather or the latest sale at a department store. A looser belly, larger breasts, and physical pain are all badges of honor that should be worn without shame. This outcome was heartbreaking, wrong, unfair, devastating, but it did happen, and everyone should, and must acknowledge it.

Moving on From Loss

The body that looked different to her that day is a body that she shared with her treasured baby. Her changing body reminded her of the baby’s kicks, the food the baby loved, and the times of day when she slept most. These differences in her appearance are an extension of her baby, and her connection to the baby’s memory, which will only get stronger as her body shifts back to what it once was.

The loss of a child is unthinkable. The pain associated with the loss of hopes, dreams, plans—all erased in a moment. The weight was not a punishment as Mona thought, it was her beautiful banner. She did not get to bring her baby home in a pink blanket, but she did get to take home the body she shared with her. No matter how much weight she would lose or gain in the coming years, that body would always be the only home her little girl would ever know. That is something she can cherish forever.  Today Mona is the mother of three, and thinner now than when she conceived the daughter she would never get to raise. She laughs now when I point out how small she has become, and she pats her belly several times a session—“just to be close to her,” she says with her gorgeous smile.