I have not been pregnant in over 19 years and I have 8 amazing children. I just went to the bathroom and after wiping, I automatically looked at the toilet paper. It suddenly dawned on me that I do this every time I go to the bathroom, to look for blood. This is what having a miscarriage does to you. All these years later I am still looking; the fear of seeing blood when I shouldn’t is still there.
I have had two miscarriages and I think having a miscarriage forever changes you. The bubble that pregnancy is a carefree and joyous time is marked by this underlying feeling of dread that something is going to go wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed being pregnant. I loved the feeling of the baby moving inside and of the almost secret bond I felt as the baby grew inside of me. But underneath all of that joy was a red hot fear. The fear would lessen as the pregnancy went on, but never entirely left.
October is pregnancy loss awareness month. October is when one of our babies should have been born but was not. October is also a joyous month when 2 of our babies were born, but there is always the thought in the background of the one that was not born 28 years ago. July is when we should celebrate another birthday, but do not, from one who was not born 35 years ago. For women, the loss and remembering of these babies is often such a secret grief and like most griefs, it doesn’t go away with the passage of time. However, unlike other griefs, it is often just the mother that remembers and not something that was really talked about years ago. Those around us often give us the feeling that we should just move on
I walked someone close to me through their loss a few years ago. Interestingly, her loss was in the same month as one of ours and the baby was due the same month – October. She miscarried in the middle of the night at home. What is often not known about miscarriage is if a D&C (surgical procedure to remove fetus, sac and placenta) is not done, labor and birth still happen. There has to be some contractions to open up the cervix and some pushing to birth even the tiniest of babies.
At the time, the mother did not want to see her baby, but I knew she probably would at some point so I wrapped it up and put it in a container in the refrigerator. I clearly remember looking at the baby and thinking how desperately I had wanted to see our baby and could not since I had to have a D&C due to excessive bleeding. I had contractions throughout the night, felt a pop at one point but instead of passing of the fetus as I expected, I was gushing blood and so we rushed to the ER. The way I was treated was not the best and is a trauma that I have re-lived for many years after. Looking back, I think the placenta released but did not pass so the uterus could not contract down, caused the hemorrhaging I suffered. This all came flooding back to me as I cradled her very tiny baby. They did ask later to see their baby and were able to grieve as they held her.
We discussed what to do. At their request, I called a local funeral home to see what the options were and was told cremation was offered. Within an hour, someone came to the house to discuss wishes and processes. The cremated remains were returned a week later in a lovely carrier. This was all handled with such kindness and professionalism, it gave amazing closure and comfort to the parents. In some ways their closure was my closure and I found I was able to let go of the trauma that I had been left with for so many years.
My experiences have allowed me as a doula to provide information and support to others. I find that often the medical community does not handle these early losses well and are often very dismissive towards grieving families. When I share with families that cremation and burial are possible and does provide a closure, it is so valuable. Even if a D&C is performed, parents can request and have a right to receive the remains to be dealt with privately or through a funeral home.
Having something to commemorate the loss helps families to grieve, which is very important. Research and experience show us that when a loss is not grieved when it happens, the grief will surface at some point later and is often much harder to cope with. For some, finding and connecting with others who have suffered a similar loss is incredibly helpful and healing. Being able to talk about it with others can really help. As a society we tend to push early losses off as a non event which leads those who suffer such losses to feel they should do the same; this can lead to trauma and healing is hindered.
I am honored to offer my services, at no charge, to anyone who has suffered or will suffer a loss at any point in pregnancy. Having support and guidance during these times can lead to healing and closure instead of trauma and long term suffering. The grief never completely leaves us, but it is better when we are treated with respect and care.
As October and pregnancy loss awareness comes to a close, understand that it is ok if your grief does not. Please know that if you have suffered a pregnancy loss, I am available to hear your story and sit with you while you grieve. Even if the loss was many years ago as mine are, there is still that small hole in your heart that is lessened when we are able to share our loss.