I imagine your an expecting mother stumbling upon this article around 3 a.m. at from your phone screen and typing the words “incompatible with life” into google. Chances are you’re scared, mad, lonely, and sick to your stomach at the news you received from your doctor that the baby you carry inside you will not survive outside of you.
If this is you, I am deeply sorry. This isn’t going to be an easy season to walk through, but please know you aren’t alone. I want to say that “everything will be okay”, but that still doesn’t dust off the pain you are feeling.
Unfortunately, I have been in your shoes. I still remember the pain of the words “incompatible with life” cutting me to the core. I had already delivered my first baby as a stillborn and then learned the new baby I was carrying wasn’t going to make it either. My faith had been violated and I was devastated.
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I remember laying down and not being able to get comfortable. Not because my body was actually in discomfort—my heart was. I wanted to wake up from this nightmare; it seemed too painful to fathom.Joy In Suffering
What does “Incompatible with Life” mean?
Incompatible with life is a term used when an unborn baby is diagnosed with abnormalities that physically keep them from living life outside the womb.
I have heard stories of babies proving the label wrong and thriving, but parents are usually prepared for a different outcome.
I just want to be a Mom
When the term “incompatible with life” is thrown a mother’s way they may be given the option to terminate their pregnancy. For whatever the reason may be, they may decide to go through with it or continue carrying their baby despite the diagnoses.
If we are being honest- there is no easy option. Both paths are hard.
I am here to share about when a mother chooses to carry her baby knowing the probable outcome is grim and how she can care for her unborn child.
I’m Hurting but I want to give my best to my baby who is deemed “Incompatible with life”
It’s not fair to be given the news that this sweet little bundle inside of you will never get to experience the fullness of life outside your tummy. That doesn’t mean you can’t give them the best for the short amount of time they’re here though.
Before I get started on the practical or tangible ways to parent your baby I want to tell you that the absolute #1 way to be there for them is to always be aware of your emotional well-being and strive to be in a good state of mind. I’m speaking from experience: these words are much easier to type than they are to live, but they are still valid. I don’t want you to think I’m saying this is supposed to be easy because it’s not.
Think of that scene in The Notebook where Noah gives one last fighting plea or confession to Allie:
So it’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be really hard; we’re going to have to work at this everyday, but I want to do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever, everyday.Noah Calhoun, The Notebook
Please, I beg you, don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t having a good day sometimes; that you aren’t living up to that “good state of mind.” Those days are going to happen and are necessary. Actually, I’d be concerned if you didn’t have emotionally rough days.
How Do I Actually Care For My Unborn Baby?
Read children’s books to your baby. For real- Do it.
Science says babies start to hear sounds around 18 weeks and can even start responding to them around 25-26 weeks! They may not understand what you are saying, but they will recognize your voice in a soft tone- I believe they find comfort in this.
She hiccupped, and she would press back if Bobby and I pressed on my belly to feel her. If someone wanted to lean in close and talk to her, she would respond by kicking. The beat of music would get her moving as well. Bobby and I would fall asleep with our hands on my stomach, feeling her move around.Joy In Suffering
Buy your baby a special outfit.
Or make one if you like to sew. Even getting them their own special blanket to snuggle them in when they are born. Though you’ve been given news your baby may not live, there is something about this piece of normalcy. This special outfit doesn’t need to be fancy. Even if it’s a regular sleeper, it will feel so good to be able to do something that a mother would do if her baby were healthy.
Will you cry doing this? It’s likely- just let the tears fall.
It was a keepsake box. Inside was a preemie-size, footed, one-piece outfit with little lions, crocodiles, tigers, and rhinos. She washed it a couple times to shrink it, she told us, though she had a feeling it might still be too big. Kelly explained that we may want to clothe our baby in something other than hospital attire…. When I pulled out the outfit in Kelly’s box, my heart was warmed. My child was to wear this precious piece of clothing. Perfect for snuggling. Kelly knew just what my mommy-heart needed.Joy In Suffering
Find a song for your baby and play it on repeat.
Same as reading the children’s books, playing music has benefits too. Finding a song for your baby will most-likely comfort you more than your baby, but it’s another way for them to feel loved despite the circumstance their life is in.
When I was carrying my daughter, the song Beautiful by MercyMe was popular. It’s not a song I would have normally gravitated to, but the words captured me and it became a song for my baby girl.
The doctors had told us over and over that Mary Alice was “incompatible with life.” Medically, there was nothing they could do, so it was as if we were told she was “not worth anything.” This news made me struggle for a few weeks regarding our decision to carry her, and then we were frightened about what she would look like when she was born. If her unborn self could comprehend the thoughts we expressed during that time, I can only imagine her “wondering if she ever could be loved.”Joy In Suffering
Take care of yourself.
A popular term these days is “self-care.” Usually, this refers to physical ways of taking care of yourself. i.e. bubble bath, salon, self-indulgences. What I mean is to take care of your heart- emotional wellbeing a.k.a. Soul-Care.
Your body is your baby’s life-line right now and you need to take care of it. That also means emotionally too. You’ve got to focus on keeping the stress level down as much as possible. Some ways I’ve found to do this are:
- Make a playlist of songs that move you
- Read your Bible… you may enjoy Bible journaling
- Find a Devotional or do a Bible Study that is geared towards a specific area in life you are wanting to know more about
- Keep a diary or spiral notebook and journal your thoughts
- Find a way to get creative. Whether it be crocheting a little hat, drawing, or watercolor, find something that sparks your creativity.
The last thing you need to know is that it’s okay to cry
Let the tears fall. Sure, there will be instances you really don’t want to but still allow yourself moments to let your guard down. Cast all your worries and fears on God. He can handle them and actually wants you to.
. . . I gave my deepest hurt to the Father, who wanted nothing less than every bit of it. . . . I thought about what it must feel like not only to know that one of your children is hurting, but what it would mean to you if she told you herself—if she came to you because she wanted it to be a shared grief.Angie Smith, I Will Carry You
These are a few ways I found to be the best mom I could be to my own baby that was incompatible with life. Have you thought or done other things to mother your unborn baby? I’d love it if you shared it in the comments below.
P.s. I’m an open book. Literally. If you haven’t noticed, I’m the author of the book, Joy In Suffering. It’s a memoir of my pregnancy losses and finding joy. Sure, you can read the book, but I want to help in any way I can. If you have any questions or topics pertaining to pregnancy and loss that you’d like to know more about I’d love to hear from you. You can comment below or email me: rosemary @ rosemarypope (dot) com