A new study has been published recently that essentially says that if a pregnant women falls asleep on her back in the third trimester, the risk of delivering a stillborn baby doubles. The study also says "What we don’t want is for moms to wake up and see their on their back and think, 'I’ve done something terrible to my baby.'" But I don't think the researchers that published this study understand the implications of their "outcome."
It's a very nice thought that the researcher doesn't want pregnant moms to feel guilty when they wake up on their back, but what about those of us who have already lost the baby? I guarantee that the last thing on a naive 32 week pregnant mother's mind is "oh crap, my joyful experience is ruined because I slept on my back." Most pregnant women don't even think about the possibility of stillbirth. I know I didn't.
I've learned, by my unfortunate deep dive into the loss community, that stillbirths are far more common than they should be. And while I am not one to shun science, I hate this study. There are so many different things that could lead to stillbirth. The worst part is that many of us will never actually know why we lost our sweet babies, but who is to say it is due to the way we slept?
At some point or another during our pregnancies, most of us have heard that it is better for the baby to sleep on your left side. I got lucky and could only get comfortable on my left side, so I wasn't too stressed about my sleeping position. But this stupid study is causing me, and I'm sure so many other loss parents, to try and think back to every single night of sleep I got during my blissful 39 weeks of pregnancy. Did I fall asleep on my back even once during the third trimester? Is it my fault my baby died?
If, by some miracle, this study reduces the number of stillbirths, then good for it. I know that during our first pregnancies, we were all taking any and all advice we could get about how to care for our bodies and, in turn, our babies. But now, being a mother that has lost a baby before birth, this study (quite frankly) pisses me off. I love that it could potentially save others from our pain, but how dare they tell us that it is our fault our sweet babies didn't make it? How dare they imply that we could have saved our babies if only we had tried a little harder? Do they not think we would have given up sleep altogether if it meant having our babies? I am honestly enraged. Everyone always says "this was not your fault" and after a while, you start to believe them. Then some scientist goes and publishes this study and it ends up all over my feed on every social media outlet. And when I read the headline, I don't read "sleeping on your back sharply increases risk of stillbirth." I read YOU ARE THE REASON YOUR BABY IS NOT ALIVE. And that sucks. It hurts worse than any physical pain I've ever known.
I wish I could better convey just how furious I am at this article for placing the blame on those of us who are already suffering. If I wasn't in my position, I probably would welcome the advice. But being where I am now, the whole thing just makes me angry. There are so many of us whole would sleep upside down or not at all if we could go back and save our babies. And now, there are many of us that probably will do just that, in order to save future pregnancies. And we will be neurotic and crazy and we will be those people that wake up on our backs thinking "not again."
Don't let this article tell you something you know isn't true. You could not have done anything different to save your baby. All the mothering love in your heart makes that so obvious. I know, and we all know, that you would do absolutely anything to go back and change the outcome. I know this stupid study, with its dumb headlines everywhere lately, are going to break your grieving heart even more, and I am so, so sorry. But those of us in the same position as you would never, ever cast the blame. We know how much it hurts to think about what you could have done differently. We know how hard it is already to think about how maybe it was your fault. But it wasn't. Please know that. With all my heart, I hope you know that we know your deepest pain and deepest love. The blame is not to be laid upon you, and you should carry no guilt.