I'd like to start this post with prayers and positive thoughts for a friend who had an early pregnancy loss very recently. I am posting this because from where I stand, it is more useful to stand in the truth (in this case, that pregnancy loss does happen), than to ignore the pain of a family in sad times. Love and light to this family.
When I was young, I was told my mother had had several "miscarriages," a term that always made me picture a broken baby carriage as a kid -- something that was still in use in my neighborhood when I was little.
It isn't a nice term. There's no comfort in it for anyone involved. Early Pregnancy Loss sounds so much more insightful to me -- it was a pregnancy, and there is a loss involved, indicating the right to mourn.
But I myself have never had a pregnancy loss (that I am aware of anyway, and it is possible for such occurrences to blend into more typical body functions), and I'm not trying to speak out of turn here. There is no nice way to say anything about babies and death in the same sentence.
I suspect that is why there is still the tendency in many subcultures to avoid talking about the pregnancy before the first trimester is up -- why there are taboos around early pregnancy and around talking about death, and hard, sad things around pregnant women and so forth.
For my own mother, she was told to “put it behind her,” to “move on,” and possibly even told to pretend it didn't happen. She was told similar things after the death of my older brother at four days old. She wasn't even told she could hold him as he died.
All of this is so sad, and my own parents never really wanted to talk about it for more than a few moments at a time. It seemed like they just didn't know how to put any of it into words. How could they? Words so often elude us in times like these, where there is so much we would like to express, but somehow... it can be difficult to put words to these feelings. Even when we are there to witness, to listen, to be a friend to someone who is in pain, we often can't express ourselves clearly.
As a Childbirth Educator and Doula, I have long known that this "shadow side of pregnancy" is a reality, and not an easy one. Nobody wants to hear words like “death” and “baby” in the same sentence.
From where I stand, it is better to tell the people you are close to as soon as you know you're pregnant so they can share your journey with you, no matter how it progresses. And I am grateful for this friend calling me, sharing her story with me. As I told her, “there are no words, but I'm here to listen, here to bumble my way through trying to say something useful, when there are no useful words.” At least, I hope that is what I said. I suspect it didn't come out quite so well in reality.
This friend who just suffered this loss is one of several women I've had conversations with about how majorly a pregnancy loss can impact the lives of the parents. I've worked with a handful of clients now who have used some form of fertility assistance to conceive, and each one of them has taken their pregnancies so seriously, so joyfully, and been so aware that anything is possible, that it will be life changing, no matter what the outcome.
Having a child (or children) is worth all the struggle, hardships, challenges, worth the possibility of suffering a loss, a hole in the fabric of one's reality. Another woman, who I met at a recent conference, told me that the baby held close to her in a soft carrier was not her first, but her second child. Her first daughter had died unexpectedly during labor. Walking through a home filled with baby things, having people ask how the birth went, or how the baby is, must be terrible. So sad. I couldn't hold back my own tears very well talking to her.
This mother's bravery, sharing such a painful story with me, a stranger, was an honor to witness. When parents in these situations tell the rest of us what they are going through, they give us a great gift. They give us the opportunity to *try* to be compassionate. To acknowledge that this is a sad and horrible thing to experience. To show we care about them and their family, and to ask if there is there anything we can do to help. There is no way to measure or compare sadness, and there is no point in doing so. Every one of these parents deserves dignity and respect as they walk their paths. And hopefully those that work with parents have resources to offer them.
When you think of it, it is pretty amazing any of us are here and relatively whole. I'll be saying a few words of thanks and giving my kids extra kisses today, because, as hard as parenting is for me sometimes, I cannot imagine the hole in my life if either of my children was not here. And I ask for the gift of Grace from the Divine that I find the few words, “there are no words, but I'm here” when I need them. And that I own up to being a true friend, that I am here, when needed.
For those of you who may have suffered a recent loss, or who have a friend who has, here are a few resources that might be of use, there are additional support groups online and if you have had positive experiences with any of them or those listed below, please post in the comments. Thank you!
SHARE - For Early Pregnancy Loss, Stillbirth and Neonatal Deaths
Compassionate Friends - For Loss of a Child (This group is *not* specifically for early pregnancy loss situations, rather for childhood deaths, worth contacting them for details prior to attending meetings):
Books and other publications
Rememberance Photographers for Stillborn (etc.) Babies: Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Photographer Network
(a note on the above -- the website has beautiful photos of infants who are deceased. It isn't exactly a happy page, but having a photo of a beloved child can be a comfort for these families)