October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month. Our theme of the month is receiving support. If you have suffered the loss of a pregnancy or an infant, or if you ever do, we want to make sure that you feel supported by your community and know how to get help.
One of the hardest parts of losing a baby, outside of the loss itself, is grieving in isolation and without support. When I recall my own loss, the feeling of being alone stands out. I had never heard a close friend or family member talk about pregnancy loss. I had no idea how common pregnancy loss is. I wondered if I had done something wrong.
I questioned every choice I’d made in that short period of time: should I have not consumed that cheap coffee? Should I have not gone on that run? Should I have not yelled at my husband that day? One of these things that I had done might have caused it. I should have been more careful. These were the messages my vulnerable and isolated mind created.
Then there were the bigger questions. Because it was my first pregnancy I constantly wondered if I would ever be able to carry a child. What would we do if I couldn’t? Also there was the waiting.
The waiting to see if the bleeding was normal or if I was experiencing a loss. Then the waiting for the bleeding to stop. Then the waiting for my period to come back. Then the waiting to try again. Then the waiting to ovulate.
It felt like an Olympic event where my mind fought my body and vice versa. All in almost complete silence…aside from the people telling me to “relax, it will happen when you aren’t stressed.” Thanks. The Mother-In-Law who knew about my struggle and grief and asked in an open public setting “when am I going to have a grandchild?!” Thanks.
I chose during this time of grieving to talk about it. The more I talked, the more I heard. I wasn't alone. Everywhere I looked, women had experienced this. Why hadn’t anyone told me before this?
After what felt like forever, I did get pregnant again. A friend asked me “ok but is this baby real?”
My last baby was real, this baby is real.
It didn’t quite click emotionally. I had a bad cold a few weeks in and the kindest, most wonderful midwife said something that helped me. She said “this is a strong baby!” I don’t know why but I believed her. I don’t know why, but I was able, in that moment, to decide that I wanted to live this pregnancy without any more fear. I tried to trust my body. I kept running. I got out into nature. I felt safe somehow.
The messages around us during an intense life transition or event become monumental. These are the memories that come to mind for me after my loss. In addition to grief, I took on other people’s longing, other people’s disappointment, other people’s invalidation - and I also harnessed the strength and positivity of some wonderful women. I hear from mothers of newborns all the time about the power of messages in these vulnerable times. A message here or a comment there can create an entire set of anxieties that is hard to shake...but on the other hand, an empathetic nod or gift of wisdom lovingly bestowed can empower.
We must, as a society, hold close and create space for the grief and tragedy of others. We must be careful with them. We must listen to them and honor their process. We must do this for ourselves as well.
What I want for people who suffer any loss is to feel an abundance of support, of understanding, space to be heard and seen, and open-ended affirming love. This is what we do when a person loses a loved one and it’s time we create a more open dialogue around pregnancy and infant loss.
I have found, over the last 6 years since my loss, that there is a silence in our culture around issues deemed to be “women’s issues” (although they are anything but women's issues). Menstruation, miscarriage, infertility, trauma, infant loss, childbirth, menopause. These are topics that impact all of our lives. Yet, we find them shushed into the corner. Meanwhile, we, our friends, and our colleagues are suffering in silence. I am committed to bringing them out of the shadows and I hope you will join me!
Here are a few resources:
Information about Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day and the "Wave of Light" at 7pm: https://www.october15th.com/
DC PLIDS: https://dc-plids.org/resources
Virtual Support Groups at MIS/SHARE (Virginia): http://misshare.org/
The Star Legacy Foundation Support Groups: https://starlegacyfoundation.org/support-groups/
Additional loss support resources: http://nationalshare.org/support-resources/additional-resources/ and https://www.mombaby.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/perinatal-loss-resources-for-families-1.pdf
Pregnancy after Loss Support Articles (https://pregnancyafterlosssupport.org/author/rachelfreedman/)
Thoughts on pregnancy, birth and motherhood.