Takotsubo Syndrome: The Physical Impact of Losing a Child

The emotional stress of losing a child can quickly overcome any parent. But, did you know there’s scientific proof that it can have a profound physical impact on parents as well? Moms not only can experience a broken heart, but their arms can literally ache if they’re not able to hold and comfort their child, regardless of their age when their child passes away. Today, you’ll hear from a mom who experienced this firsthand, and now she’s helping parents all over the country.

View Episode Transcript


Featured Expert




Newbies
Takotsubo Syndrome: The Physical Impact of Losing a Child

Please be advised, this transcription was performed from a company independent of New Mommy Media, LLC. As such, translation was required which may alter the accuracy of the transcription.

[Theme Music]

KRISTEN STRATTON: Experiencing a loss of a baby is an experiencing that no parent wishes to endure. However is far more common that most parents realize yet really talked about. Not only does this intense grief manifest itself emotionally, but there truly are physical pains associated with this loss. You can experience a broken heart. This is Newbies.

[Intro/Theme Music]
KRISTEN STRATTON: Welcome to Newbies! Newbies is your online on to go support group guiding new mothers through their babies first year. I am your host Kristen Stratton, Certified Birth Doula, Postpartum Doula and Owner of In Dues Doula services. If you haven’t already, please be sure to visit our website at www.newmommymedia.com and subscribe to our weekly newsletter. You can also subscribe to our show through iTunes, so that you can automatically get new episodes when they are released. Here is Sunny with details on how you can get involved with Newbies.

SUNNY GAULT: Alright, hi everybody! Thanks so much for being with us today! And we believe that Newbies is your show and we want you to be involved on a regular basis. And there’s a couple ways you can do that. Of course, you can be a parent on our show, that’s super easy to do. The best thing to do is head over to our website at www.newmommymedia.com and we’ve got some banners up on the side that talk about how you can get involved.

If you click on that banner you can fill out an online form so we can to know you a little bit and reach out to you when we are doing topics we think might interest you. We also have a Facebook group you can join where we post all of our topics and times. And if that’s a little too much for you, if you are: ummm, I don’t know if I can get involved with the whole show, we are always asking for input from parents to use on the show via social media.

So that Facebook group I was just telling you about: if you are a part of that group, even if you don’t want to be involved in a whole show, you can still contribute. So we post questions in that group, and it’s basically the same question we are talking about on the episodes. And we still want your input, so that’s what I would do: find our Facebook group on Facebook, of course. And I think it’s under New Mommy Media Experts and Parents, something like that. Maybe it’s NMM, I usually do that abbreviation for New Mommy Media. But check us out, ask to join, I will add you right away. And we’ll get you involved.
[Theme Music]

SUNNY GAULT: Ok, so before we get started today, I wanted to talk about a news headline we found. And the headline is: One-third of new mothers struggle to bond with their baby research shows. So there is a charity in the UK, it’s called The National Childbirth Trust or NCT. And they send out this survey. And they were asking parents, new parents, a bunch of questions. And what they found is a third of new mothers are experiencing difficulties bonding with their baby. And they also found that more than 1 in 10 new mothers said they are embarrassed to speak to healthcare professionals about baby-bonding issues. And I can’t say that I’m really surprised by this article.

I think this is one of these taboo things that, you know, you kind of limp it in with postpartum depression and everything that moms feel very insecure talking about. Because think about the images and everything we see and how happy we are supposed to be after we have a baby. And I think this is just one more on those things to add to the list well, you are supposed to feel this way, you know, why aren’t you bonding with your baby that is your baby? And we put all of this pressure on ourselves. I was really relieved to kind of see this survey come out, so other moms know that this is something that people struggle with.

I like the idea of some sort of anonymous survey. I think moms would probably be a little bit more open. Maybe not fully open, I actually think the numbers might be a little bit higher then what this survey suggests. So I just wanted to toss it to you ladies and get your take on this. Our episode today is about bonding with your baby, even when your baby isn’t there, right? And so sometimes it doesn’t work out, you know, the way we picture it in our heads.

KRISTEN STRATTON: Oh my goodness! I hope the moms listening realize that they are not alone! Because I would probably even venture to say that that statistics is even higher. I bet even some of the moms taking that survey didn’t even want to admit to themselves that perhaps that was their reality. Because it is far more common that people realize. It’s like on your first date. Like you go on a date, and you meet somebody, and you are like: oh, I think I like you, I think I like to, you know, maybe go on a second date. But are you in love with them immediately? Well, maybe you find them attractive, but truly love? I don’t think so.

It is kind of the same thing with some women when they meet their babies. And you’ve been working hard. Maybe you had a challenging pregnancy. Maybe you were not expecting the gender that you got. Maybe you had some difficulty with your birth, and your healing, and reeling from that. It is not always this: oh, my baby, and you are just in love. And some women do experience that. But you are not less of a mom if you don’t.

It is just a different journey for you. And I think so often because that’s kind of being portrait in the media, and perhaps that’s what your friends are telling you, even though that might not be the case for them, that’s what they’ve identified what a good mom is. So you are sitting there thinking: I care about this baby, I’m going to feed it and I’m going to take good care of it, but I don’t know if I’m having these overwhelming, fluting emotions about the baby. And that is ok!

So I’m really glad you found this article, Sunny! I think a lot of women needed to hear it. And just know, these feelings do come, they really do. And a lot of the times that also can be a sign of a postpartum mood disorder as feeling disconnected, so for any partners listening, it would be important for you to note that and just really provide the proper support and maybe find some other avenues for support if it’s non preemptive overtime.

SUNNY GAULT: You know, I remember something that happened to me shortly after my second son was born. I was having this conversation with my mom and I said: I feel so bad, because I can’t picture my son in my head. Like I couldn’t picture his facial features, you know, babies a lot of the times when they are young, they all kind of look alike, you hear that statement. But I really, truly could not think of… You know, if I took a kind of a mental snapshot of what my son look like, I could not think of it in my head. And that was not the case with my first child. And somehow made me think that I wasn’t bonding with my baby enough. And I know that really scared me.

And I had some of these same feelings that this article is talking about. Like: what kind of a mom am I? Can’t even picture, you know, the way my son looks? A snapshot of my son? So anyway! Marcella, I would love to get your take on this? You know, what do you think about this article and the whole idea of moms and bonding with their babies?

MARCELLA JOHNSON: Oh, I think it’s really interesting! And can I tell you…As you guys know, I hope this is ok to say this, but I am older than you. And all of this stuff… You guys are talking about this like right out front, right now. You know, twenty years ago, twenty-three years ago, I think there was even less of this. But I want to tell you something. It is kind of a silly story, but it popped up in my head.

So I was ready to give birth to my first child. I was so excited about it. And I had gone to a reunion with my husband. And met one of his best friend’s wives. And we were talking, and she had just given birth to a child. And she turned to me and she said: you know, don’t be surprised if you get these feelings…If you just want to…If your baby starts crying in the middle of the night and you just want to pick it up and throw it out the window. And I thought: what the heck? She must be the worst mother in the World! Who could even ever think these things, right?

And then, fast forward, I have my baby. And, you know, I had a c-section with my fist child, so you know, I had trouble getting up out of bed, and tired, and don’t get enough sleep, you got the hormones going, and I am like: oh, my Gosh! What I wouldn’t give just have that baby not, you know, not making such a fuzz! And I felt terrible! And then I remembered: oh, my Gosh! This friend told me that this could happen!

So if you know, that that’s, you know, a possibility out there and that it could happen, I think when you do feel that way, you don’t feel that there is anything horribly wrong with you. And by the way, that passes! I mean, you might have that feeling, but just the fact that you have it, doesn’t mean that you are not going to bond. And I think it’s really good to know these things ahead of time. And I think that that’s not unusual at all for people to feel like: wow, this is a lot harder than I thought and everything isn’t just roses and rainbows, you know?

SUNNY GAULT: Right, yeah, absolutely! And I’m just so glad that this information is getting out there. Like as a brand new mom, I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t people whispering in my ears saying: listen, this is ok, you know, what you are going through is normal. Like for moms that didn’t have this kind of support, that’s really rough! And I think, you know, we are expected, you know, the baby to pop out, and for us to just be these instant moms. But that doesn’t always happen, right? And I think sometimes we just need to cut ourselves some slag. So anyway, we will go ahead and post the article on our Facebook page, mamas, if you want to check it out.

[Theme Music]

KRISTEN STRATTON: Today we are discussing the phenomenon of Takotsubo Syndrome and the physical impact of losing a baby. Our expert today is Marcella Johnson who is the inventor and owner of The Comfort Cub. Thank you for joining us Marcella, and welcome to the show!

MARCELLA JOHNSON: Thank you so much for having me! I am really glad to be here!

KRISTEN STRATTON: Marcella, can you explain what Takotsubo Syndrome is and why it is referred to as broken heart syndrome?

MARCELLA JOHNSON: Yeah, absolutely! So Takotsubo Syndrome, the medical term for it is stress-induced cardiomyopathy or broken heart syndrome. And they call it broken heart syndrome because there’s actually a physical manifestation where your left ventricle will enlarge. And this is brought on by acute grief. The reason that it is called broken heart syndrome is that you actually are feeling the physical manifestations of your grief coming to life with the pain that you feel in your heart. And that’s what happened to me.

I always thought that was an expression, you know, that you have a broken heart. But that comes from many, many years of women feeling physical pain in their heart. In fact, sometimes it is so painful that women feel like they are having a heart-attack. And would you like me to tell you where the name Takotsubo comes from and how it got that name?

KRISTEN STRATTON: Yes, please!

MARCELLA JOHNSON: Ok, so Takotsubo Syndrome, it sounds like it is a foreign language, and in fact it is. It is from Japan. And Takotsubo actually means, Tako means octopus, and Tsubo means trap. And what happened was back in the 90s there was bunch of women that were coming into this hospital, older women, and there were complaining of having heart-attacks. And when they ran the MRIs on them, or the c-scans, they saw that each one of these women had a shape in her heart that to them was the outline of a very common tool that they used to catch octopus. And so the one side of their…the left side of their heart was enlarged, and the right side was not. And it kind of looks like a gourd, kind of smaller on side and larger on the other. And so they have these pots with a small opening and a big inside.

What happens is they put a little piece of fish into the bottom of the ball, and the octopus smells that fish, it goes into the hole, eats the fish, opens up a tentacle and it can’t get out of the smell opening. So to them, when they saw the shape, they were like: oh, that looks like the shape of a tako tsubo, an octopus trap. Then they called it Takotsubo Syndrome, Octopus Trap Syndrome. And what they found with all these women was what they all had in common was it that they all recently lost their spouses. And they were all suffering from severe sadness, and broken hearts.

That’s how they dogged it Broken Heart Syndrome. Because it was being brought on by their sadness of this lost love that they had. And the interesting thing is that Takotsubo Syndrome actually mimics a heart-attack and on EKG and a blood-work, if you just ran that, it would show that in fact you have had a heart-attack.
The difference is that these women didn’t actually have heart disease. They didn’t have hardening of the arteries, they didn’t have the plaque. So what happens is you have this stress that happens to your heart, but unlike somebody who has the disease, they will go into…You know, they couldn’t breathe and they may die from that. But somebody who doesn’t have the disease, you heart continues to beat, but you are left with a physical pain, a physical aching. And that’s what I got.
KRISTEN STRATTON: And how common is this in parents who have experienced a loss of a baby?

MARCELLA JOHNSON: Well, actually you know, there isn’t a lot of data on this. And it’s only been given a clinical diagnosis in the last six years. So that, you know, 20%/30%, that remains to be seen. We are still trying to study that. However whenever I go and speak to groups about loss, it is half of the women in the room are shaking their heads, they understand what I am talking about. And if you talk to anyone who has experienced a loss in their life, and it doesn’t have to be the loss of a baby, it could be the loss of a parent, of a sibling, a dear friend, even a pet. And that is very significant. And I would say it happens to half of the people.
KRISTEN STRATTON: So Marcella, would you mind sharing your personal experience with Takotsubo Syndrome?

MARCELLA JOHNSON: Oh yeah, I would be happy to tell you what happened. And how I even found out about Takotsubo Syndrome. This terminology didn’t even exist twenty-three years ago when I had my first child. I lost my son George seventeen years ago. But what happened was when I was six months pregnant I found out that the baby that I was carrying had a life-limiting disease called Osteogenesis Imperfecta and that’s a very rare bone dysplasia. And it means that the child cannot live beyond birth because their ribcage has not been growing at a normal rate.

There is nothing wrong with their brain or their internal organs, but because the ribcage is not as large as it should be, that means that the internal organs, the heart and the lungs, do not get the change to fully develop. So when my child was born and he went to sustain life on his own, his lungs weren’t fully developed and therefore he couldn’t sustain life.

So along with the obvious emotional pain of losing a child, when my son passed, I got some surprising physical symptoms. And first of all my arms hurt. And I had no idea why. And my heart ached, I mean I literally had pain in my chest and it felt like I had an opened wound that went in from my front and when to the back. And you know, when I went to my doctors and said: hey, I am having these pains in my chest and my arms…They really didn’t understand. And they were great doctors by the way. But they just didn’t understand a lot of what was happening and they pretty much said to me: well, you know, you’ve been through a lot, your body has gone through a lot, you are going to have a lot of weird aches and pains, and they will go away. And so I just trusted that.

But what happened was I had this aching in my arms and in my heart, and when I had gone down to my son’s graveyard, I wanted to go see where he was, and I was very, very sad, and I asked my dad to meet me there, because I didn’t want to be by myself, and my dad had gone to the graveside before me. And when he got there someone had sent a beautiful terracotta pot that was filled with these lovely flowers. And my dad was an artist, and he thought this bouquet of flowers in this pot was just absolutely beautiful, and I needed to bring it home. And really I just wanted to stand there and be in my thoughts, and didn’t care about this bouquet of flowers, or the terracotta pot, or anything.

But I realized that he wasn’t going to be quiet until I took that pot out of his arms, so I was like: ok, dad, give me that pot. The moment that I got that terracotta pot in my arms, immediately that aching in my heart and in my arms went away. I didn’t say anything to my dad. I think I didn’t realize what was happening myself. But I knew right away something has changed and I feel better. Holding on to this weight is giving me comfort. And this is very strange. And when I got home I found myself not wanting to put the pot down.

I found myself getting comforting just holding it. And I thought for sure, maybe I’ve gone crazy now, because you know, your hormones are going crazy, you’ve got all kind of things happening, I was clearly depressed, had three other children, and I thought: you know what, I can’t stay here where I am, I need to get through this grieving process, I need to fast-forward through this.

What I’ve learned since is that, you know, you cannot fast-forward through the grieving process by the way, it is something that only you can go through and it will wait there for you. So I believe that it is best to experience what you are experiencing, feel the feelings that you are having, and you know, get support if you can. And the only support that was available back then was very few, and there was very few resources by the way, with books and pamphlets. And I read…every book that I did read, or pamphlet that I did read, I read about women, various women who had lost children, who were also seeking objects to hold and that they find comfort in that.

I read about a woman who had found a five-pounds sack of flower, and she was carrying that to give her comfort. I read about a woman who had taken a pillow and she wraps robe around it to give it more heft. And then the last thing that I read that just broke my heart and made me feel like something needs to be done, was I read about a woman who had had a premature baby, and she went to the grocery store, and she found a pineapple the exact length and weight of her baby, and she brought it home, wrapped it in a baby blanket and she would rock that pineapple in her rocking chair, to give her comfort.

I thought if anyone, including me, walked into that woman, before had this experience for me, I would say: oh, oh, that woman has gone crazy and she might need to be certified, you know, she might need to be hospitalized for what’s going on with her. But having lost my child myself I thought: she is not crazy, I know exactly what she is doing, she is just in an incredible amount of pain, and she is trying desperately to figure out a way to get herself through this. She found and I found that having a weighted object relieves that pain.

SUNNY GAULT: Oh my Gosh, chills! Literally! As you were telling this story I got chills up and down my body!

MARCELLA JOHNSON: Can you believe it? Can you relate to that? Does that make any sense or is that just for somebody who has lost a child themselves?
KRISTEN STRATTON: Oh, well, I mean if you think about, if anyone who has held a baby and been able to bring their baby home, it just feels so natural a lot of the times, that you know, you want to suit your baby. It just feels natural and comforting to both baby and mom to just be near each other. So to not have that, to go home having had this baby inside you for however long you did, and not have that, that’s just…It is hard!

MARCELLA JOHNSON: And you know what, you just said about wanting to near your baby, I felt a call to go down to his graveside.

KRISTEN STRATTON: Yeah…

MARCELLA JOHNSON: Even though he has passed, I just wanted to be close to him, you know. I mean, it is…So that’s very interesting that you said that. And yeah, and so if you can imagine that bond is so unbelievably strong. So when it is gone, that void is enormous. It is a huge casm. And one of the things too, guys, that was so difficult for me, was leaving the hospital empty handed. And unfortunately the hospital that I delivered in, they…The hospitals are much more aware now than they used be about how to handle a mother who has lost a child. And they just didn’t have the awareness.

But what happened was I got put in an elevator with a mother who had just delivered a beautiful new baby. And she had her lovely child in her arms. She had flowers. She had balloons. And both of us were being pushed by an orderly. You know how your husband goes and get the car, and then you go down with the orderly and they meet you on the sidewalk. So there it was: I lost my child, I get in the elevator with her, this beautiful baby, it’s just the two of us, we are going down all these, you know, flights. And you know, it is just natural to say: oh my Gosh, congratulations, what a beautiful baby! And I mean, those feelings were genuine for her, but just the contrast of me being empty-armed, her with this beautiful baby and all the joy that surrounded that…I mean, I died a thousand deaths just being on the elevator with her.

Then, when these two orderlies pulled us out right next to each other, her husband pulls in with his car right in front of me, and then my husband pulls right behind her. Her husband gets out of the car, takes the baby seat and I see her put the baby into the car, and all of that. And you know, my husband pulls up, there is no car seat, there is no baby-seat, and there is no baby to put in. And the contrast was just heartbreaking! And I thought you know what, I want to make sure that no woman would ever leave the hospital empty-handed after that loss.

KRISTEN STRATTON: Well, thank you so much for sharing this! That really touched my heart and I know a lot of our listening are probably going to feel very comforted hearing that they are not alone. So when we come back we will continue our discussion about Takotsubo Syndrome and resources for parents who are grieving and how you came up with the idea for The Comfort Cub. We will be right back.

[Theme Music]

KRISTEN STRATTON: Welcome back to the show! We are continuing our discussion with Marcella Johnson. Marcella, can you please share with us about The Comfort Cub and how you came up with the idea?

MARCELLA JOHNSON: Alright, so after I lost my son, I was in my living room and people had sent, or when they came to the service, they all brought a stuffed animal to donate to a children hospital in my son’s name. So I was sitting there thinking: ok, if this is happening to, and this is happening to all these other women, and we are finding that holding something weighted gives you relief, well then someone out there should create something that is weighted that is given to these women. And you certainly can't give them a terracotta pot, I mean that’s cookie! And a pineapple would be even crazier!

So what could we give these women, that also, I was also thinking, that nobody else would really know it’s therapeutic value. A woman could have this at her home, and someone could walk right passed it. But for that woman, when she is alone, and she needs something to hold on to, that she would be able to pick it up and it would give her comfort in the privacy of her own home. And I looked over, and I saw that big pile of stuffed animals. And there were all kinds, you know: there were teddy bears, and piggies, and giraffes, and puppy doges. I mean you know, there are a variety of plushy animals out there. And I thought: oh my Gosh, that’s it!
Someone should create a therapeutic teddy bear! And then at that moment I felt inspired to do that. I just almost felt a calling to try to help other women. And this was back in the height of the beanie-babies. Do you guys remember the beanie-babies and how that was such a big craze?

KRISTEN STRATTON: Well, yeah, of course!

SUNNY GAULT: Yeah, definitely!

MARCELLA JOHNSON: Yeah, ok, good! So I thought in my head I was like: well, how about like an oversized beanie-baby? So I went back down to the precursor of build a bear workshop, which was a place called The Basic Brown Bear Factory. And I went in there, and I got this wonderful manager, this young man, who I told my story to, and he was touched by that, and he said: Marcella, I’d really like to help you; why don’t you come after hours, I want you to go to the store and I want you to get like ten to fifteen pounds of split peas. That’s what we will use to give the teddy bear heft.

I was like: split peas…well, ok! So I went to the sore and I cleaned out the shelf of all their split peas, I went back after hours, and we made four/five different versions of teddy bears with all different weights. We made them with a little bit of weight, a lot of weight, middle weight. So we started off by the way with the weight of my son, George, which was 6 pounds 4 ounces. And we filled the teddy bear with 6 pounds 4 ounces of split peas and stuffing.

But when I had that in my arms, it felt like twelve or thirteen pounds. It was just very awkward. And so we filled around with all these different weights and we came up with a weight that we felt that felt like it was about 5 or 6 pounds, the weight of an infant. And we put the weight towards the bottom of the teddy bear, so that when you held it, it would feel like holding a baby. Because you know how when you hold a baby the weight of the baby falls into the bottom and kind of that’s how you create a little, you put your hand on their bottom and you hold their back, right? So the teddy bear is meant to feel like weights 5 or 6 pounds.

KRISTEN STRATTON: And what was the feedback you got when you first started rolling out these teddy bears and you know, giving them to parents that really needed that? What was the feedback that you received?

MARCELLA JOHNSON: Well, at first nothing like this had ever existed in the World prior to this. And so I really thought that I was going to be met with: ok, that’s a really crazy, weird idea; why would you ever want to give anyone a teddy bear after they lost a child? Do you this that this…And my fear was that criticism would be that: do you really think a teddy bear can replace a child? And luckily, that wasn’t the feedback that I got.

The professionals I went to and the hospitals I spoke to doctors and nurses, and they all thought it was a really great idea. And so they asked me to make more. And so at first I was making these teddy bears by hand, I was stuffing them myself. And then the demand just got greater and greater, so I had to bring in on my girlfriends. And we all had to, you know, do an assembly line, and we all stuffed it with the battings for the stuffed animal, and then you put in the weighted split peas, and then we saw it up, and we put a bow on it, and I hand-wrote every note that went along with that.

So when they were being given to these women, who lost a child, they loved them. I think the fact that it was coming from one mother to the next is what made it so special, that it was from someone who had walked in the shoes that they had walked in. And it wasn’t coming from a professional or an expert per se. It was coming from a real-life person, who had suffered these themselves, and that this was something that found them, they found to be comforting. And so I think that was the greatest thing. It was that it was coming from somebody who had lived through this. And also it gave them hope that there is hope at the end of this tunnel.
There is somebody on the other side who has gone through this, is still alive, is still here, is still capable of reaching back and helping the next who is going to come along the trial behind her. And so it was very well-received. And the number one feedback that we get from people is that it helps some to sleep at night. When you are going to a very difficult time, and especially, I don’t know if you guys have experienced this, but… One of the things I loved was I always had that little cradle right by my bed and when the baby would wake up in the middle of the night, I would just pick the baby up and put the baby in bed with me, and nurse the baby in bed.

There’s something that is so incredibly special about having that little one right next to you, right against your chest, and is just so comforting, and is such a loving experience. Well, when that baby is gone, that need to bond is still there. And there is something about having that weight in your arms that helps you rest at night and to feel comforted. And I can you the science about that too, if you’d like?

KRISTEN STRATTON: Yes! Please!

MARCELLA JOHNSON: Ok, so it is not that is just cute and cuddly, there is actually science behind why the comfort cub helps. And actually I work with San Diego hospice and we actually did a preliminary clinical study that showed that the comfort cub was proving to help reduce the manifestations of grief for mother who lose an infant. And why that is, is that…Actually something happens in your brain whenever you hold something that’s weighted. And so that’s why for me the terracotta pot was comforting. That’s why the pineapple is comforting for that woman. And for me I think there is something about the circumference too. It is something…It mimics the way of a baby.

So in way in your mind there is a void and this is something can comes in and feats that peace that’s missing. But what happens when you hold something in your arms, it causes neurotransmitters in your brains to fire off serotonin and dopamine which are your happy hormones. And what these hormones do actually is they create a feeling of wellness though out your system. And it causes your heart rate to slow down, and it causes your breathing to slow down, and it just gives you an overall feeling of peace and calm. And that is why it brings you comfort.

KRISTEN STRATTON: That makes so much sense because the physical act of having gone through birth, whether you had a c-section or a vaginal birth, you still chemically are a mom. You are hormonally a mom. You are biologically a mom. And so I can understand how having that longing that feeling of I would almost guess would be emptiness.

MARCELLA JOHNSON: Right, that’s interesting, Kristen, because…Remember I told you about what the broken heart was, that that’s called Takotsubo Syndrome. And there’s just been a clinical diagnosis as I said in the last six years. But there is another phenomenon that happens to woman who loses a child. Now, this doesn’t happen to everyone, but it happens to enough that has been given a name. It’s called Empty Arms Syndrome. And that was why my arms were aching.
That is your body literally aching to hold your child. And the interesting thing about this is that I have heard women who lose a child at any age, not just at birth, that they will get that aching in their arms. Isn’t that interesting? I just thought that that was so incredible! And I have to tell you that when this happened to me, seventeen years ago, and I had that heart pain and aching in my arms, I literally thought I was going crazy. I really thought like: what is up with me?

You know, the doctors are saying: you know, it is kind of in your head. And I was like: wow, if this in my head, it is really very powerful, because…And I actually called them phantom pains because I thought: this must be in my head, you know, but a phantom pain in my heart and a phantom pain in my arms. But they weren’t phantom, they were really there and they were really happening. And it is so validating, it is validating that has been proven by science now, that there is something happening.

But I think sometimes that there is unfortunately in the medical world: if there hasn’t been enough studies, or there hasn’t been a clinical, you know, name that is given to it, that maybe it doesn’t exist. But a lot of us know that just because they don’t understand it, or science doesn’t understand it, or medicine doesn’t understand it, it doesn’t mean it is not happening. And sometimes it takes science…For me, it was like wow, it was seventeen years later, you know, that they came up with this term. But it does happen to women. And a lot of people out there don’t understand what’s happening. But that connection between your mind and your body, and your physical being, is so much stronger than I think anyone ever realized.

SUNNY GAULT:Right! And you know, Marcella, I’ve never lost a child, so I can’t fully comprehend, but I keep thinking about the things that we do as moms when our kids are not even there. Like for standing in line, and we are rocking back and forward. Or the other thing I was thinking about is when you know, sometimes I hold my belly even when I am not even pregnant, you know? And I think sometimes it’s incredible bond that we have with our children, that they don’t even need to be there. And we still have this incredible need to bond with them.

MARCELLA JOHNSON: And you know what else, speaking of bodies and how perfectly designed these bodies are? I was told that actually the woman’s anatomy in her arms are different that a man’s. Her arms actually bow, so that when she brings her arms in, she is more capable of carrying her baby, or her child. So I mean, our arms are designed to hold a child.

KRISTEN STRATTON: That’s amazing!

MARCELLA JOHNSON: Isn’t that interesting? And so when you don’t have that child to hold, your body is saying: time to hold the baby, time to hold the baby. And there’s no baby to hold. So, you know, that’s why people put something in their arms. Or you know, just like what you are saying, when you walk back and forward, or, you know, you find yourself maybe holding your purse close to your chest, or something like that when your baby is not there. It is, it is very, very instinctual.

SUNNY GAULT: So Marcella, we probably have a lot of moms listening right now that are going: wow, I know someone that could really benefit for having the comfort cub! Or perhaps it is a healthcare worker that says: I’d really like to have this in my hospital. What is the best way for people to get involved? Where they can get the comfort cub? And what is the process?

MARCELLA JOHNSON: Great! The best to go about getting a comfort cub is to go to our website and that’s simply www.thecomfortcub.com and you will go on there. And you can order a comfort cub right off of the website. If you are a firm or a medical facility, you can also order in bulk. And there is reduced pricing for medical hospitals.

I wanted to tell you that…First of all I wish that we could just give these comfort cubs away for free, but we do…We are a non-profit organization and so for every comfort cub that we sell, we put money aside to make sure that there is a fund for women who want the comfort cub, they’ve lost a child, but they can’t afford one.
So we want you to know that if this is something that would be helpful for you, but you cannot afford a comfort cub, we don’t want you to be turned away, we want to know about you and what we’d like to do is to put you on a waiting list. And then as we sell comfort cubs, with the money that we make, we just walk through the waiting list and we send people a bear for free. So we are hoping that people will, if they know of someone who has lost a child…And you know, this show is for mothers who lose an infant, but we’ve also found that is very helpful for anyone who has lost a child at any age.

I wanted to share with you, you asked me earlier how often this happens to people. I don’t have a lot of statistics, but I do have a statistic that I think it is pretty telling. It is that 20% of the US population will at some time in their life loose a child. And that is a pretty large amount of people. Now, that doesn’t mean at birth, but that’s any time between birth and presiding the parent in death. And I think that we can all think about someone that has maybe been killed in a car accident, or had a drug overdose, or there was some way that a child died before the parent passes away.

We have found out that the comfort cub is always very, very helpful in those situations too. So, I just wanted to make sure that your listeners are aware that’s not just for infant, but for anyone who has experienced a loss. So if you reach out and you get a comfort cub for these people, not only you are helping them, but you will helping a mother who has lost a child, to help get her off our waiting list.

SUNNY GAULT:Oh, Marcella, thank you so much for doing this! It warms my heart to know there’s out there in the World like you!
MARCELLA JOHNSON: Thank you so much for having me! It is a pleasure to be here!

KRISTEN STRATTON: For Newbies club-members, this conversation will continue after the end of the show as Marcella will share other resources she found helpful following the loss of her son. Thanks for listening to newbies: your go to source for new moms and new babies.

[Theme Music]

SUNNY GAULT:Alright, it is time for an iTunes review! We love hearing from our listeners! And a great way you can tell other people about Newbies, is by rating and reviewing our show in iTunes! Or really wherever you listen to our show! But iTunes, we know a lot of you are listening through iTunes. So I want to start reading some of these reviews, because they are fantastic! And hopefully it will encourage more of you to leave a review!

So this first review is from, I love this name, therapisttomoms, and he or she, I am going to say it is a she, have us five stars, and this is what she wrote:
New Mammy Media and Newbies in particular is such a fantastic resource for new moms and dads! They think about the topics and questions that all parents have on their mind, and they actually have a conversation about it! It is so helpful when I can send my clients to listen in on an episode that addressees a theme we are working on in sessions.

That is so cool! I love to hear how different people are using the show! That’s amazing! So if you are listening and you really want to leave us a review, it is real easy to do! If you are on your computer, just find our show, find Newbies, in iTunes and click on the rating and reviews section, you can leave a review that way. The process is very similar if you are right on your app, you can do it either way. And again, it is really helpful, so thanks so much for doing it!

KRISTEN STRATTON: That wraps up our show for today. We appreciate you listening to Newbies.

Don’t forget to check out our sister shows:
• Preggie Pals for expecting parents
• The Boob Group for moms who breastfeed their babies
• Parent Savers for moms and dads with toddlers and
• Twin Talks for parents with multiples.

Thank for listening to Newbies. Your go to source for new moms and new babies.

[Disclaimer]
This has been a New Mommy Media production. The information and material contained in this episode are presented for educational purposes only. Statements and opinions expressed in this episode are not necessarily those of New Mommy Media and should not be considered facts. While such information and materials are believed to be accurate, it is not intended to replace or substitute for professional, medical advice or care and should not be used for diagnosing or treating health care problem or disease or prescribing any medications. If you have questions or concerns regarding your physical or mental health or the health of your baby, please seek assistance from a qualified health care provider.

SUNNY GAULT:How would you like to have your own show on the New Mommy Media network? We are expanding our line-up and looking for great content. If you are a business or an organization interested in learning more about our co-branded podcasts, visit our website at www.newmommymedia.com.

[00:34:57]
[End of Audio]