Jane and Simon have been busy planning the arrival of their baby. Their precious baby girl will be making her arrival into the world in just a few short months. The nursery, filled with colors of pink and gray accents, where this sweet baby girl will be sleeping is finally coming together. Simon is still trying to figure out how to set up that elusive crib. One item that they have not checked off their to-do list is to decide on the perfect name. Jane wants something that is strong but still delicate and Simon wants to name her after his grandmother. However, they are not too concerned about picking her name just yet, they still have a few months until they need to decide. At today’s appointment, they are excited to see their precious little girl on the ultrasound machine again. They love hearing the heartbeat of the baby that has been kicking every book placed on her mommy's tummy. Jane has lovingly sacrificed so much through morning sickness, abstaining from foods that may harm her daughter and doing everything she can to ensure a safe pregnancy. She is willing to do all this to invite this special little girl into their lives.
As Jane was lying on the table, she smiled at Simon with delight as they watched the technician search for the heartbeat. After a few moments, the technician excused himself from the room and returned with their doctor. At this point, they knew something was not right. Their doctor gently broke the news to them that their precious little girl's heart had stopped beating and that her growth had stopped a couple weeks back. They were devasted! How could this be happening? She was doing just fine at their last appointment. What do they do now? Where do they go from here? They left the doctor's office with tear-stained cheeks. A day that was supposed to be full of joy had suddenly changed to a day that no parent would ever dream of. They never anticipated that they would now be included into a society of parents that many belong to but wished they were never a part of. To be included in this group, family members must experience one of the most tragic life experiences that no one should have to go through, the loss of a child.
The tragic loss of a child, that never took their first breath, is seldom discussed. The grief and pain of this can sometimes feel unbearable. Judy from whatilivefor.net shares "to any mom going through a miscarriage, I am so very, very sorry! Please know that you are not alone. While I may not know all of your pain, I do know some of it. Each miscarriage and each woman is unique".
Many moms who go through a loss of a pregnancy struggle with the loss of what could have been. Once a mom finds out that she is expecting she starts planning the life of the child; from the decorations of the nursery to the clothes they will buy, to the schools they will go to and the life that they will live. During the grieving process, the grieving parents are not only grieving the life that was lost they are grieving the life that they anticipated their child to have.
Judy from whatilivefor.net further explains that "you will likely go through stages of grief. It may happen quickly, or it could take months. I was shocked when I realized I was going through the anger stage months after my miscarriage. . . You are allowed to grieve this baby no matter how far along you were. You are allowed to grieve each of the hopes and dreams you already had for that baby."
When a family experiences the loss of a pregnancy they can experience a variety of emotions. Some people feel the loss very strongly, while others do not. Some families may feel relieved at the loss but may feel guilty about those feelings. These feelings of grief are common. Grief can be both a physical and emotional experience. Other emotions associated with this include sadness, numbness, anger, denial, relief, and disappointment. Many women feel guilty and wonder if something they did could have caused the miscarriage. Nicole, a mother of 6, shares, “I remember wondering why I didn’t know already. Why my motherly instincts had not clued me in that the baby had died. Then I remember trying to understand what I had done wrong. I knew that after 12 weeks, you were safe. Most women suffered miscarriages before 12 weeks, so what had I done wrong? Twenty-two weeks should have been safe, the baby should have been totally fine. The guilt I felt, the misplaced guilt I felt was like a weight around my neck. It was hard to breathe.” It is important to realize that there is usually nothing that could have been done to prevent the miscarriage and that the cause may never be known.
During this process of healing and understanding find those in your life that are your support system (spouse, parents, siblings, friends, and neighbors). Rely on those people to help you understand the things you are feeling and what you need. Nicole further explained, “I could not have asked for a better partner to go through a loss so profound. His loss was as great as mine, but he was willing to do whatever I asked, whatever I needed. I know his sadness was put aside in order to care for me, and I know that he loved me and (my daughter) with all his heart. The comfort in knowing that, that he felt the loss as much as I did, was a strength I had not expected.” If you are struggling to find the strength yourself, find comfort through them and the support that they offer.
Throughout the grieving process remember that the pain you feel is YOUR pain; do not let anyone take that away from you. You need to grieve the way that is best for you. Since women are different, and every miscarriage is different, the way each woman grieves may be different. Some ways that the grieving process may look, but are not inclusive to, are:
- The need to go back to a life of normalcy
- The need to lock themselves away from the world
- The need to talk about what they are going through
- The need to not talk about it at all
What is important is that you grieve how YOU need to and not let anyone tell you that you are doing it wrong. Do what feels right for you and your family. While others hear of your loss they may want to help in some way. Even though you may feel overwhelmed with so many emotions and hormone changes, it is okay to receive help from others. The March of Dimes website outlines, "When we offer help to someone through this time, they are often in such shock they don't know what they need. The objectives are to encourage the venting of their grief and re-establishing their self-esteem while recognizing their sorrow. Whatever the person is feeling, they deserve to have their feelings supported by the people around them. If you are a friend or family member to someone who has experienced this loss you are there to give support, not to offer advice. Be a listening ear, be a shoulder to cry on, be there for them!!" When a loss in a family occurs, friends and family may want to help but do not know exactly what to say or what to do. If a friend is sincerely offering to help, and ask what they can do to help, don't just say, "nothing, I am fine," be specific in what you need. If you need someone to watch your other kids, that is okay. If you have meals brought in, that is okay. If you need someone to talk to about what you are going through, that is okay too. You are the only one who knows what you need. It takes time and sometimes all you need is just that, time.
The grieving process does take time, and that is okay. Donna, a mother of five, stated, "Pregnancy loss can happen to anyone. It seems taboo to speak of pregnancy loss with a family of seven. I've been pregnant nine times and have only held five of those babies in my arms. Each loss has been difficult. It didn't get any easier the more children I had. It almost made it harder because people assumed that I was fine because I was busy with my other children. Each loss was difficult and required a period of intense grieving. (With) my last loss I was still crying for the baby that I didn't get to hold in my arms, while pregnant with another little one. I wouldn't say I have moved on either. Each loss has become a part of me and who I am as a person and a mother. Through the grace of God, I'm finally at a point of feeling mostly at peace. I still cry from time to time but I suspect I always will.”
One in every four pregnancies will end before the baby can take their first breath. Both miscarriage and stillbirth describe pregnancy loss, but they differ according to when the loss occurs. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), studies reveal that anywhere from 10-25% of all clinically recognized pregnancies will end in early pregnancy loss. Early pregnancy loss is the most common type of loss. When a fetal death occurs after 20 weeks of pregnancy, it is called stillbirth (a stillbirth is the death of a baby before or during delivery.
Senate Joint Resolution 314, designated the month of October 1988 as "Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month." On October 25, 1988, Ronald Reagan stated:
October 15th has been declared as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. One way that it is observed is by the Lights of Love International Wave of Light, a worldwide lighting of candles that encompasses and spans the globe at 7:00 pm (local time). On October 15th at 7:00 pm local time be sure to share a candle on social media with your preferred hashtag. (#pregnancyandinfantlossrememberanceday #internationalwaveoflight #babylossawareness #october15 #grievingmother #mamagrief #pregnanacyloss #miscarriage #Iam1in4)
Together we can support each other in the taboo topic of pregnancy and infant loss by showing comfort, love, a listening ear and the opportunity to talk about that child that was never able to take their first breath. We can help comfort couples like Jane and Simon by helping them to know that they are not alone in their journey of loss. That they have the support of an entire community behind them. Let's come together this day to remember these children and let their families know that they will never be forgotten!
For More Information: