The following is an excerpt of an interview of Julie Richardson Paige by Catherine Tucker. Read the full interview here.
Catherine: I’ve always felt that people who go through IVF should get a free pass with regards to pregnancy complications. We’ve already been through enough to get pregnant and should just get to enjoy the rest of the journey. But I know that sadly it doesn’t always work out that way and I know far too many people who have suffered baby loss following their hard-earned pregnancies. Today, I’m speaking with Julie Richardson-Paige, who is the Senior Director of Egg Donation at Tiny Treasures, LLC. I’ve been fortunate to get to know Julie through RESOLVE New England where we both serve on the Board of Directors. Julie, what would you like to share with us about your journey to parenthood?
Julie: Hmmm, ok, do you have an hour? It was a very tough, challenging and sad journey but I am proud to say I made it :). Read Julie’s full story here.
Catherine: In the English language, we have a lot of words to describe people who have lost loved ones—orphan, widow, widower, and so forth. But no word for parents who have lost their kids. In your opinion, what are the right words to use to describe these grieving parents?
Julie: There are none! It is the hardest loss by far. It goes against the way life should go. Children should bury their parents when they are old and have lived a wonderful long life. It’s like a piece of your heart is always missing. I know for me, my family will always feel incomplete.
Catherine: So how can the medical folks on the front line—nurses, doctors, and so forth—step in right away to help parents who have just suffered a baby loss?
Julie: Support and empathy are so important. Giving the parents some control over the situation is helpful too. I had a good experience at Beth Isreal where I delivered. They encouraged me to hold my babies, name them, take pictures, etc. but I think it is hard to wrap your head around this if you never experienced a loss which is one of the reasons I decided to become a bereavement doula. I want to help people through this difficult process. It makes my babies lives and legacy more meaningful.
Catherine: I understand you are training to be a bereavement doula. Can you tell us about that?
Julie: A bereavement doula is a support person during delivery when there has been a loss or when a baby will pass shortly after birth. I will help them through the delivery and then help them with what comes next such as holding the baby, taking pictures and also helping them to make final decisions on burials, funerals, etc. To learn more about this amazing program please visit www.stillbirthday.com
Catherine: Speaking of words, I think many of us have a good sense of what not to say to a grieving parent. “It was meant to be” and “you can always have another” do nothing to ease the pain. But finding the right words to use can be harder. What are some things your friends said to you, or that you wish your friends had said to you, that comforted you shortly after the loss?
Julie: I think the best thing that has ever been said to me is “I don’t know what to say”. The best thing was just a hug or when someone asked me directly what I needed. It is certainly hard when someone says the wrong thing but I don’t hold it against them. They just don’t get it and how lucky they are that they don’t. I think people often feel like they have to say something and due to their ignorance in child loss, they say something wrong. I have had people say to me ” it was God’s will, be thankful you get to sleep in on the weekends and also, don’t worry, you can have more kids”.
Catherine: What about friends and family? What can they do to provide their support?
Julie: Just to be there to love and support. Don’t ever pass judgement. It is helpful to have them help with the daily duties of laundry, cooking, cleaning and helping to care for other children. It is important to listen to their feelings and be as supportive as possible. Talk about the baby and use the babies name as they need that validation at that time. Also, to be a watchful eye to make sure the parents are taking care of themselves and contact their doctor if they seem like they may need some help in this area.
Catherine: I know time doesn’t heal the wounds, but how has the passage of time changed your perspective on your loss? Do you cope differently now than you did in the beginning?
Julie: Sure, you never forget but the fog does clear. I will always be a mom who lost her babies but it does get easier. I remember thinking that I will never laugh or smile again. The first year is the toughest. A year of firsts (Christmas, Mother’s Day, etc). I feel through therapy and support, I am in a good place in my grief. I still think of them every morning when I wake up, I still look at their pictures every single day but now I am not sad. I now feel so lucky I was to be their mom as they make me be a better mom.
Catherine: Thank you so much Julie for sharing your story with us.