When my husband and I were newly married, we were broke and dead-set on waiting two to three years to start planning our family. Two months after our wedding, I missed my period. After about a week, I decided to take a pregnancy test. The faint line looked like it surely had to be a mistake. My husband and I went to Barnes and Noble and read all of the pregnancy books we could get our hands on. All of them said that if there is a line, there is a pregnancy. A blood test at the lab confirmed that suddenly, the baby that wasn’t supposed to be…was.
After the initial shock and worry about how we were going to manage this change in our plans, we started to get very excited! I started dreaming about baby clothes and nurseries, marveling at all of the options in baby blankets! My tummy already felt “full” even though I wasn’t far enough along to need maternity clothes.
At work, it was hard for me to keep it a secret, but I had heard that you aren’t supposed to tell anyone except family until after 12 weeks when the risk of miscarriage supposedly decreased. Everything in my life seemed more hopeful.
I started having some spotting, which the books said could be completely normal. I hadn’t been to my doctor yet for an ultrasound, so they put me on pelvic rest and told me to keep my feet up as much as possible until our appointment. The spotting was on and off for several torturous days. I felt so helpless.
April 4, 2010 – Easter Sunday – I woke up in excruciating pain. I went to the bathroom. The toilet filled with blood. I called for my husband. I was in labor. My husband drove me to the hospital while I cried on the phone to my mom. “It hurts, Mom!”
My mom choked back tears as she said, “I know it does.”
I hardly remember the hospital visit except that they made my husband wait outside while they took my information. I was giving birth to my baby, and the only other person in the room was a stranger to me, asking me mundane questions about my medical history.
After the miscarriage was confirmed, my husband called texted his mom. “We lost the baby. We’ll still come over for lunch. Amy bought a special dress.”
Not every story of loss is like mine. It seems cruel and unfair that there are so many different ways to lose a baby. However, it’s important that we NOT play the comparison game, insinuating that certain kinds of losses are more or less worthy of grieving. Our society doesn’t like to think about – or even recognize – the fact that many pregnancies come with complications that can be difficult for parents to face. It happens more often than we like to think that pregnancies end in miscarriage, pre-term birth, or stillbirth. Chances are, each person reading these words has either faced a situation like this themselves or loves someone who has.
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month, where our attention is drawn to those who are enduring or have endured a loss such as this. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t equipped to support someone through a pregnancy or infant loss. We don’t know the right words to say. We don’t know how often to check in with the parents, or whether to leave them alone and let them grieve privately. We don’t know how to help them find the resources they need to help them memorialize and honor their baby. I remember many very well-intentioned but insensitive things that were said to me during the days and weeks following my miscarriage. Words that either minimized our sense of loss (“You didn’t want to get pregnant anyway, right?”) or placed blame on me (“Weren’t you on birth control? I bet that’s what did it.”
As a doula, I have noticed this disparity and am honored to be able to offer my support to parents who are enduring pregnancy or infant loss. Bereavement doula services for parents facing a birth with any outcome and in any trimester – including miscarriages, difficult diagnoses, and stillbirth – can make a world of difference for parents facing loss. My bereavement services and support includes helping parents to know and understand their options, getting them connected to resources that specialize in pregnancy and infant loss, and walking with them step by step through their journey.
Please reach out if you or someone you know is in need of a bereavement doula.