Navigating the Waters of Pregnancy Loss

pregnancy-infant-loss-remembrance-dayOctober is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month and today, October 15, is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. From the October 15th website:

In October 1988, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed October as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.  ‘When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan.  When a spouse loses her or his partner, they are called a widow or widower.  When parents lose their child, there isn’t a word to describe them.  This month recognizes the loss so many parents experience across the United States and around the world.  It is also meant to inform and provide resources for parents who have lost children due to miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, stillbirths, birth defects, SIDS, and other causes.’

Robyn Bear, founder of www.october15th.com, and founder of October 15th, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day envisioned a day when all grieving parents could come together and be surrounded by love and support from their friends and families, a day where the community could better understand their pain and learn how to reach out to those grieving. This would be a day to reflect on the loss yet embrace the love. While our babies’ lives where so brief, they were also very meaningful. Yet, there was not a time to talk about them. Our society seemed to forget or perhaps, simply didn’t know how to reach out. Since October had been proclaimed “Awareness Month”, she chose a day, in the middle of the month to become, “Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day”.

I have written a bit about our first loss in 2009 and though I am currently seven months pregnant, many people do not know that this is actually my second pregnancy in 2014.

We suffered our second miscarriage in March of this year.  This time it was a chemical pregnancy.  It’s a topic I hope to explore further as I begin to pick up with writing in this space again.  For now, I’ll be brief and say that it did not matter than I lost the pregnancy the same week I found out about it.  As a Christian and someone who is pro-life, that baby was a person, a human, from the moment of conception.  And from the moment that pregnancy test blurted out POSITIVE, we planned and we shared.  And when a few days later, we left a hospital room with an empty womb, we cried and we grieved.

This time around was a lot different from in 2009.  And I did want to share some thoughts about that.

In 2009, I became very angry about our loss.  Angry at God.  Angry at life in general.  We had planned, we had prayed, and it happened right away.  So when the baby was taken away from us, it did not make sense in my mind.  I did not have a good support system in place and I was not in a place where I felt I could talk to my husband.  This was very selfish because the whole time I was thinking about my grief and not even considering how he felt about his loss in the situation.  I withdrew, not socially, but from reading the Bible and being in prayer with God.  The person I became that following year wasn’t the worst I’ve ever been, but nowhere near who I should have been at that point.  Again, it was a lonely road; one that not many people could observe outwardly, so in their eyes I’m sure they thought everything was alright.  But I was struggling.  I was depressed.  I felt guilt, and shame, and a vast array of emotions that not only were not godly but simply not correct.

2014 was so different.  I credit my growth to God, of course, but the means He used was a church we’ve been attending for over four years now.  I am stronger in my faith.  2013 was, by far, my worst year yet.  Our year started with my cousin dying in a nightclub fire in January.  I became sick again with bronchitis that lasted for weeks and strep throat.  There were personal issues I cannot go into details about. My mother was hospitalized three times over the course of one month. And our year ended with all of us very ill, including our son having a case of pneumonia that we thought was surely going to land him in the hospital. I’m sure there are other happenings I am forgetting to list, but my only point in writing them out is to note that after having a year like that, a miscarriage early in 2014 would have been enough to set the old me over the edge.

It didn’t.

Having come through all those 2013 events with an amazing body of believers and friends, learning how to pray my way through the trials, and never questioning God’s reasoning or love for me in the midst of those trials helped me to deal with our March loss head-on.

It wasn’t that I was callous and did not care.  It’s not even a matter of saying, Oh, God is sovereign, so it is what it is.  No, there was sadness.  There were questions.  There were a lot of “whys?”  But I communicated. I let people in.  I did not shut my husband nor God out.  We persevered.  We were going to come through.

We didn’t have to “come through” for very long because three weeks later, I was pregnant again.  But that’s a story for another day.

I’ll be honest.  It’s weird to type this entry out–about our losses–while I’m feeling our baby kick inside of me. There’s a guilt there.  A guilt of why should I grieve our losses when I have an amazing ten-year-old, healthy child and another, Lord willing, on the way.

But it’s a lie to believe that any point I shouldn’t remember those losses and think back to those pregnancies. They are a part of my story.  I will always remember them.  And not just on October 15.

Sometimes I think about the five-year-old I would have had when this new baby comes.  I’ll always wonder how my March babe would have been regardless of his or her little brother or sister coming to us soon after.

And that’s okay.  And I want to make sure that others who have experienced these losses–in whatever stage of pregnancy–know that it’s okay too.

I leave you now with some Do’s and Don’ts as you navigate the waters of pregnancy loss.  (I am intentionally not referencing infant loss, as I cannot speak to that pain.)  This is not an all-inclusive list, but just some from the top of my head at this moment.  Again, as I hope to write more on this subject, I plan to write out more detailed posts on my journey.  I’m also sure there are plenty of other blogs or websites that you can search for that have already done a fine job of outlining ways to help you cope with your loss.

Do…talk through your grief.  Ideally, this should be your spouse.  But there may be a need for a more trained professional.  Just talk; please talk.  Share your story.  Don’t bottle it in.  It will destroy you if you do.  There are support groups, both in person and online that can help.  And this is a BIG do: DO LET YOUR SPOUSE IN.  DO CONSIDER THEIR FEELINGS AS WELL.  Don’t think that just because you are the one who physically experienced the loss, that their pain is not great too.  Allow your spouse to be the one to crumble from time to time.  Allow them to grieve and cry and ask questions.  Allow them to feel the depth of the pain.  ASK THEM.  MAKE THEM SHARE.  Don’t ever, EVER assume they do not care the way you do or that their pain is not there because they are quiet when, more than likely, it is because they are trying to be strong for you.

Don’t…feel guilty about talking about it.  One of the biggest lies I gave into the first time around was believing that because I had a child already, I should not be upset over the loss.  That I was blessed because there were women who could not even have one.  While there are times to prefer others above yourself and to be sensitive to the plights of others, do not feel shame in sharing about your sadness and grief whether you have one child or ten.  A loss is a loss because a life is a life.

Do…accept help from others.  This is something I myself need to be better about.  It’s amazing how you can go through something and be passionate about a topic, and, yet, when it happens to someone else you forget to follow-up.  In our loss this year, people came over.  They texted. Continuously.  They sent cards, brought flowers, and made meals.  They offered to watch Chris during appointments or if I needed a break.  If people are offering this help, take it.  Again, this death–though, of course, not as intense as the loss of an infant/older child/adult–is still a loss and one you need time to grieve over and heal from.  Allow others the opportunity to encourage you in this time.

Don’t…feel the pressure to just “get over it.”  Don’t move on before you are ready to.  Your grief will look different from others.  Some will bounce back quicker and it’s not because they do not care.  It’s their personality.  Take time with your grief.  Take time with deciding if you are emotionally ready to try to have another child.  Do not rush your grief.  Do not despair in it, but do not wish it gone.

Do…remember.  This is going to look different for everyone.  For some, it means naming their baby. For others, it’s releasing balloons on a certain day or continuing to acknowledge that life with a keepsake (Christmas tree ornament, jewelry, etc.).  For us, we did not do anything like that.  Only because I did not feel I had to.  I’m content and at peace by allowing those lives to pop into my mind here and there. On their “due dates” I pray they are in heaven and that I will get to meet them one day.  Don’t bury your baby’s memory. Acknowledge them for the time you had them.

Don’t…be upset if you do not get the follow-up calls/texts or when people say the wrong things.  People will forget. And they will say things you just do not want to hear at the time.  That’s the benefit to remembrance days and awareness months.  It’s a time for us those who have experienced the “cause” to teach others about our pain and what is–and is not–appropriate.  Our losses are not in vain.  Though sad to write, I cannot begin to tell you the amount of women I have been able to help because of my experience whether with advice, knowledge on research I’ve done, or simply lending an understanding ear.

And finally,

Do…share your story.  Acknowledge your baby periodically to your family, friends, and on social media.  Don’t think it’s weird.  If they pop into mind, share it.  This is the only way people will know to reach out to you and a great way to demonstrate to them how to walk this often overlooked road of pregnancy loss grief.  When we don’t talk, people think there’s nothing to talk about.  Or that we don’t want to.  Share your story so that when a woman in your life–and the likelihood of this is statistically great–experiences this loss, they will know who to turn to.

In a future post, I hope to gather and list some resources that I have found to be beneficial.  In the meantime, if you need any information or someone to speak to please do not hesitate to contact me. For now, feel free to peruse the October 15th official site linked at the top of this entry.

I leave you with these words that comforted me greatly earlier this year:

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.
Psalm 139:16 ESV

God knew the number of your baby’s days even before He formed him or her.  It would seem odd to find comfort in a verse that proves God knew when my babies would leave me.  But I do because it is a reminder that He alone is in control.  And while there are many things on earth that do not make sense to me, He is all-knowing.  And I have to be okay with that.  I have to trust Him.

Be blessed friends.  If I am aware that you have experienced a loss, know that I am praying for you today.

Let’s walk this road together.

With love always,

Lis.

*Picture via

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