Pregnancy After Loss: Podcast Episode #148
Gold Coast client Deb Kalsbeek shares her story of pregnancy after loss with Kristin. Deb also gives tips on how to best support grieving families. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.
Welcome. You’re listening to Ask the Doulas, a podcast where we talk to experts from all over the country about topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and early parenting. Let’s chat!
Kristin: Hello, hello! This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I’m joined today by Deb Kalsbeek. And Deb is a multiple entrepreneur, a Gold Coast client, and the founder of AstirFreya. Welcome, Deb!
Deb: Thank you so much for having me!
Kristin: So happy to have you here. So would love for you to share a bit about your story and why you created AstirFreya.
Deb: So a little bit about my story is I have two daughters now, but I have been pregnant five times. I have had a first trimester loss, a second trimester loss, and then my – the stillbirth of my daughter in the third trimester, which is kind of where I started AstirFreya. I realized after all of my losses how those around me, they wanted to help, and they felt helpless. On my side, you know, you kind of want the help, but you don’t really know what that is. You just want to feel okay, even though nothing feels okay. And so AstirFreya was created out of those feelings. So we send care kits to mothers who recently experienced loss, and we also share education on how to help mom through that season and help the loved ones, giving them ideas how they can help through all of that.
Kristin: It’s so needed. As you said, we don’t really know how to help our loved ones, and so – and I know that you did utilize some bereavement doula support through us with your first, with Freya.
Deb: Yes, and that was so helpful. I would suggest for anyone to do that.
Kristin: And can you talk a bit about, for our listeners who don’t know, what a bereavement doula is? A bit about how your guide helped you through that process.
Deb: So I felt totally lost even going into it because I had no idea what a bereavement doula was. I was just kind of – I felt grasping at straws at that point, of I want help, and I don’t know what that looks like. And so I got connected with a bereavement doula, actually from you, and being able to talk to her about my story, and it was someone who – she basically just said, I understand, and was very loving and caring and let me share my story, like, all of it, and she helped go through my health history and my other losses. We talked about things that I can do to help me move forward when it comes to my health, things to talk to my doctor about, things to even talk to my therapist about. Like, she was definitely there to help me kind of create a game plan, and how are we going to be okay. How are we going to come out stronger after this? And then also just gave me that space to really talk about my daughters. Because all five – all five of my pregnancies, I found out, were daughters.
Kristin: Yeah, that’s wild. All girls. So as far as AstirFreya’s mission, you help mothers throughout pregnancy after all types of loss. So miscarriage, for example, stillbirth, and infant loss. And their journeys may be much different with a stillbirth versus an infant loss?
Deb: Yeah. I have personally experienced, you know, that first, second, and third trimester loss, and every single one of them were completely different experiences. Completely different emotions. The one emotion that was always the same is that feeling of loss and sadness. So we try to help you through each of those seasons, and it’s okay if you have all of the emotions. All of the emotions are okay, and we do try to share stories from other mothers who have gone through each of those phases, even into the infant loss. We have them share their stories so that you don’t feel so alone. And then we do give the moms who share their stories the opportunity that if you want to be contacted by someone else who has a loss so that you can help them through that, they are able to do that as well.
Kristin: There are so few loss support groups, especially during the pandemic, so it’s wonderful that not only are these mothers sharing their stories, but they’re also willing to be there for other mothers who are going through loss. So Deb, you recently had a rainbow baby. Would you like to share a bit about your experience having gone through loss and going through pregnancy after loss?
Deb: Yeah. Going on with all the emotions, having my rainbow baby was all the emotions. Just the timing of everything. So I ended up delivering my rainbow baby. Her name is Amelia. And I delivered her within one year and three days of my daughter’s memorial from the one who passed away. Like, it was almost the exact date. Actually, my induction date was the exact date that my daughter – that we did her memorial. So it was like, oh, my goodness. I don’t know how I feel about this, like being her one year – what would have been one-year birthday, to now I’m delivering this new baby. Feels like a total whirlwind because you’re still postpartum, and then, oh, hey, you’re pregnant. So backing up a little bit, I got pregnant two months after my daughter Freya had passed away. She was stillbirth. And at first, I just automatically was like, I cannot get attached to this pregnancy. Like, I don’t get to keep it. That’s what I kept feeling when I got pregnant was, everyone else gets to keep their babies. I don’t get to keep mine. So that was something I had to work through with my therapist and her helping me just celebrate every single day that, you know what, you made it one more day, and I got to be the mother of this baby one more day. And it was just one day at a time, and that’s what we were going to focus on is celebrating that life, that one day. And I also had a really great medical team that listened when I said, you know, if something didn’t feel right or if I even just needed some reassurance. They would let me come in and hear the heartbeat, and it was the most magical sound in the world. I think that I was still scared of losing her up until the point that she was born. Like, I kept thinking, we’re going to get to that 20-week ultrasound, and I’m going to be told everything’s okay, and I’m going to be all right from there. And it was never that moment of, I feel okay. It was always this feeling of, I don’t get to keep her, and I don’t know when that’s going to be. And I think that that’s okay because I think it’s very natural and normal to feel that fear, especially so close after loss and after having, you know, three losses. But I am very thankful that now I have my Ame girl.
Hey, Alyssa here. I’m just popping in to tell you about our course called Becoming. Becoming A Mother is your guide to a confident pregnancy and birth all in a convenient six-week online program, from birth plans to sleep training and everything in between. You’ll gain the confidence and skills you need for a smooth transition to motherhood. You’ll get live coaching calls with Kristin and myself, a bunch of expert videos, including chiropractic care, pelvic floor physical therapy, mental health experts, breastfeeding, and much more. You’ll also get a private Facebook community with other mothers going through this at the same time as you to offer support and encouragement when you need it most. And then of course you’ll also have direct email access to me and Kristin, in addition to the live coaching calls. If you’d like to learn more about the course, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or check it out at www.thebecomingcourse.com. We’d love to see you there.
Kristin: And you had a birth doula to support you, and part of our role is to support emotionally. So you also had that connection to be able to go to if you’re feeling down or if you’re not sure how to, you know, celebrate during your grieving process. So there’s so many mixed emotions, and we hold that space without judgment.
Deb: Having a doula was a huge game changer. I knew that when I was pregnant with Freya that I wanted to have a doula, but then we started getting abnormal results back from her pregnancy, and so I just kind of held off because I didn’t know what was going to happen at that point. So going into my pregnancy with Amelia, I knew for sure. I’m like, I’m getting a doula this time. Like, they were so helpful through my pregnancy with Freya and then also losing her, so a bereavement doula, and now going into a new pregnancy, I was like, I need that support. Because there is something different about doulas. Like, y’all’s heart – you understand pregnancy. You are in it. The most compassionate people ever. So I loved having my doula through the whole pregnancy, especially to help talk about some of those fears, talk about some things that, is this normal in pregnancy? Is this feeling normal? Talking about a game plan, and also being able to get excited about her birth. So my doula sat down with me, and we talked about my daughter’s birth and what are some of the things that I want to happen around that. What type of support do I want? And it helped to kind of dream it after losses. It made it feel more real. And then on the day of, I somehow – I am all for epidurals, personally. I somehow was able to make it to a 7 without getting an epidural yet because of my doula support. She kept reminding me, she was like, okay, shoulders down, just breathe. And it was the hardest, because even now, I still as I’m nursing, I have to remind myself, okay, relax the shoulders, and then I think of my doula telling me through labor, relax the shoulders.
Kristin: Yes. Wherever our clients hold their tension – some people it’s their jaw or forehead, but we’re there again to support and coach them through this big transition and the feelings that rise up. So I’m so thankful that you shared that experience. So Deb, as our listeners who may be, you know, expecting a rainbow baby are hearing your story, do you have any tips for them on managing this pregnancy and celebrating the wins?
Deb: So my daughter, who is now seven, she has been through two of my losses with me, and the way that she helped me celebrate each day of our rainbow pregnancy was different every single day. So I let her help me pick out what we were going to do that day to celebrate. One day, we literally had balloons around the house, and that’s how we were going to celebrate. Other times, it was something relaxing, so, like, I went in and got a massage. You know, something to nourish my body because I knew that I needed to take care of myself, mentally, body, all of it. So definitely be gentle with yourself. Let yourself feel all the emotions. Talk to a therapist. Have a good doctor team, like medical team, and that included for me my doula. Really, it’s allowing yourself to celebrate day after day after day and asking for what you need. Personally, I needed a lot of reassurance, more than I would like to admit, but having the reassurance really helped through this rainbow pregnancy. And even after. Like, after she was here, it was more emotions; different emotions than what I expected, because then I also felt guilt, which is a whole other thing. I felt guilt for having a new baby, where it’s like, it hasn’t even been a year, and I’m already holding this new life, and it doesn’t mean that she replaces my Freya that I lost. So there was – you know, being sleep-deprived, just giving birth, and now I’m feeling guilt. So I did talk to my doula through that, too, like, all the new emotions of bringing baby home after a loss.
Kristin: And having a therapist to support, as well, is key. So I’m so glad that you invested in therapy during this time. As you had mentioned early in our conversation, Deb, you talked about people wanting to help and not knowing the best thing to do to support a friend or family member who’s grieving from loss. What are your tips? As you said, some of that emotional support, affirmations, or some acts of service, physical support – how would you best recommend that our listeners offer the support that’s needed in that moment?
Deb: So I have experienced now the other side of being the friend that wants to help after a loss, whereas before this close person had their loss, I was like, I’m the one who always has this. Like, I’m never on the other side. So I can now say also from experience how helpless you do feel because you want to help your loved one. You just want to help in some way. And sometimes you say and do things that you mean to be helpful, and they’re not exactly as helpful as what you mean them to be. So I have talked to a lot of moms who have experienced loss and kind of pooled their answers of, well, what do you feel like you needed in that time, and we kind of came up with a few things that we now have on the front page of AstirFreya to help the loved ones through this with their loved one who just experienced a loss. So some of the things are sending a gift card. Don’t just show up. Like, just send it through email. If you do make them a meal, don’t ask them a lot of questions. If you don’t already know what they like to eat, just do the gift card. A lot of the parents of loss have said don’t send flowers because it’s just something to take care of and a reminder that things die. The biggest one is talk to me about my baby. Don’t act like it just didn’t happen because it’s very real for us. And don’t just, like, you know, three months in, like, oh, everything is fine now. You’ve had time to grieve. Everything is fine now. No, actually, I am one year and five months out, and I still have random days where it is a completely normal day, and something will remind me of my daughter who passed, and it just, like, kicks you in the gut. And you grieve for a while. Like, that grief, I think you carry it with you. It becomes part of your new normal, and you learn how to cope with it. But still, talk to me about my baby.
Kristin: So how can our listeners get involved in AstirFreya? Tell us more about the important work that you’re doing, not only with resources, but some of the physical items that they can order and then of course your care gifts to mom.
Deb: So we specially curated these care kits for mothers who recently experienced loss. These care kits have – they vary based on the month, but they have, like, a bath bomb in there, a bracelet that has a rainbow on it, because rainbows signify that hope after loss. And that doesn’t mean another baby for everyone. The rainbow is to signify being able to find that joy again after your loss. So there’s a rainbow bracelet in there, some different care items for mom, and like I said, it changes every single month, and we try to make sure that they’re all small businesses that we are purchasing these items from. We do have some businesses that will occasionally donate items so that we’re able to use those at our discretion to kind of suit it to whatever the mom needs. We have a shop that has, like, a newborn blanket for your rainbow baby and some t‑shirts. We have those bracelets for purchase, as well. We have lots of rainbow-related items that you’re able to purchase, and whatever is made off of those goes into a fund to be able to fund those care kits so that we can send those out to moms. And so that is how we’re able to afford these care kits is through the shop.
Kristin: You can also, like, sponsor kits and give donations, so there are other ways besides buying items from the shop, correct?
Deb: Yes, so we do have a donation spot as well, so you’re able to donate a kit to a mom. With that one, you just click the donate page, and you put in your address, and then we know not to send that to you, but to send that out to a mom who is in need.
Kristin: So what resources do you suggest that moms who are struggling with, again, just having had a miscarriage or stillbirth or infant loss – where do they go in their own community? I know that AstirFreya, of course, you can serve anyone in the US and mail kits out all over, but what other resources have you found in your research that would be very helpful to moms?
Deb: I haven’t found any local groups yet. There is one online. It’s called Push for Pregnancy, and they specifically work with moms who have experienced stillbirth. I highly suggest finding a therapist that you can connect with. Talk to a bereavement doula. That was huge. And then also find a medical team that is willing to listen to you, one that is a good fit.
Kristin: Yeah, and that may mean switching from your previous physician if it wasn’t a good fit the first time and interviewing them and making sure that they’re on board, again, with your plan and whatever it takes to reassure you. As you mentioned, having additional appointments if needed.
Deb: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.
Kristin: Well, thank you so much for sharing your story, Deb, and all of the work that you’re doing to make such a big impact for moms everywhere. We really appreciate it.
Deb: Thank you so much for having me and allowing me to kind of share my story a little and hopefully be able to help other moms who have experienced similar or are going through this season.
Kristin: Would you fill us in on all of the different social media channels that AstirFreya is found on? I know you mentioned your website.
Deb: Yep, and then Instagram and Facebook are the same, AstirFreya.
Kristin: Wonderful. Thank you, Deb!
Deb: Thank you so much!
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