"...our loss felt incredibly depleting, especially when the grief was so fresh. Living with grief has been a journey..."
- Joelleen Winduss Paye
Would you please share about your loss?
Our first pregnancy ended at 16 weeks and one day last June 2022. After around 3 weeks of bleeding on and off, from a subchorionic hematoma, our baby girl was born at home quite unexpectedly in the early hours of a Sunday morning. I chose to labour and birth at home, as this was our original birth plan, and the place I felt safest.
Holding our girl for the briefest moment was all we needed to feel the unconditional love and beauty one sees in their own child, we named her Saba Paye.
What has been the most difficult aspect of your loss?
It has been such a heart breaking experience in so many ways. Thinking about what could or should have been is really painful. Also the hard reality that in life we have no control.
Interactions with people who cannot hold space for Saba and our loss felt incredibly depleting, especially when the grief was so fresh. Living with grief has been a journey, for quite some time after Saba was born there was a lot of sadness.
How is life after loss?
Initially it was a really sad time. It took a long time to feel social again, and to be robust around people I wasn’t as close to. The lessons keep unfolding, and we are grateful for all that she has taught us, losing someone you love and those big life moments give you clarity like nothing else.
I feel in my work supporting pregnant and breastfeeding women, that I have a deeper understanding for their experiences, and particularly for those who have experienced loss. It has made my heart so much more open, and given me a depth of compassion I couldn’t have previously comprehended.
Talking about loss is tricky. People frequently ask if I have children, or if this current pregnancy is my first baby. It feels difficult to not honour her in every conversation, but unfortunately it doesn’t always feel right to share the story in certain moments. I am always so grateful for people who can hold space for our loss, whether it's sharing their experience too or just letting us share ours.
Life is never the same after loss. You have to live with the experience, the sadness, the memories and the lessons.
What tools did you lean on to support your grief?
I had a short amount of time off to honour my very unexpected early postpartum, in which I did daily at home pilates. I also practiced Gua Sha daily as a way to connect and ground myself.
I threw myself into my work when I had more energy, I created a lot of digital content to improve people’s breastfeeding education and experiences.
The mantra that life could not go on the same after such an experience of love and loss helped me make steps towards a life that honours her, in all that I do.
What do you want other people to know about loss?
Let the person who is going through the experience share if they wish to. I always found it difficult when people would try to add a silver lining, or finish my sentences, when it was obvious they couldn’t go there emotionally with me it was difficult to connect.
I found talking and articulating my thoughts so helpful to my healing, and those who gave me space to do so were the biggest help in my healing journey. Everyone is unique in how they will deal with the loss, I think just giving space, and honouring the enormity of grief, however that looks is really supportive.
In a practical sense, our community participated in a meal train which was so welcome initially. The thought of going to the supermarket was just too overwhelming initially, and even having the energy to cook or think of what to cook was too tiring when the grief was so intense.
How has navigating another pregnancy been after loss?
Getting towards the 16 week mark was really challenging, particularly the 13th week where we first experienced complications during Saba’s pregnancy. It was such a vivid reminder of all that happened each week that ticked over.
Getting to our 20 week scan things started to shift a bit, but the thing is, once you are in the loss community, you cannot unhear all of the stories of loss you are inevitably exposed to, and these happen at all gestations.
I continue to be grateful, but cannot help to think that our loss has impacted how we are bonding with this baby. I think there is always some part of your heart you are holding back until you see them with open eyes in your arms. I just know those moments after birth will be so emotional for us.
Author – Joelleen Winduss Paye, founder of JWP.
IBCLC Lactation Consultant, Naturopath, Midwife & Educator