Honoring Miscarriage

When I had my first miscarriage, I vowed several things in the immediate aftermath. One was that I was going to write a book about it so that other women would not have to experience the same total dearth of resources about the physical process of coping with home miscarriage. While I did publish my miscarriage memoir this year, I am still collecting stories and experiences for a different, more comprehensive book on this theme. However, in the time since I made that vow and since I had my miscarriages, a new resource emerged for women: Stillbirthday. This is the website I NEEDED when I was preparing for the birth of my tiny, nonliving baby. While I received emotional support from a variety of sources, I found a void where the physical information I sought should be. That information is skillfully covered in the birth plans section of the Stillbirthday website. I reprinted information from their “early home birth plan” in my Footprints on My Heart memoir, since it was the information I was desperately seeking during my own home miscarriage-birth. I am grateful the information is now available to those who need it.

My second vow was that, if I knew about it, I would never leave another woman to cope with miscarriage alone on her own. My third vow came a little later after more fully processing and thinking about my own experience and that was to always honor and identify miscarriage as a birth event in a woman’s life.

A friend’s loss

In March of 2010, my good friend, who had doula’ed me very gracefully and respectfully and lovingly through my miscarriage-birth postpartum experience and processing, experienced a miscarriage herself. She didn’t call me while she was experiencing it, so I couldn’t go to her as I had imagined I would if needed, but afterwards I went to her with food and small gifts and hugged her tightly, recognizing all too well that hollow, shattered look in her eyes and the defeated and empty stance of her body. Later, I bought her a memorial bracelet. However, I was still in the midst of coping with my own grief and loss process—my second miscarriage having just finally come to a long-drawn out end only a month before and the experience of which having brought another friendship to an almost unsalvageable point—and my dear friend’s own process, her feelings, got lost along the way. She recently wrote about the experience on her own blog and it was harder for me to read than I would have expected. As she noted, I agree that doesn’t matter how little the baby, or baby-start, or baby-potential that is lost-–there is no quantifying loss and no “prize” for the “worst” miscarriage. It is a permanent experience that becomes a part of you forever. Also permanent for me is the empathy and caring showed to me by my friend/doula during my time of loss and sorrow. I regret that I was not able to be that same source of solace, companionship, and understanding to her. I thank her for having held space for me to grieve “out loud” and I’m really sorry that part of the cost of that was the suffocating of her own sadness or minimization of her own experience. While I do feel like I did what I could to acknowledge her miscarriage at the time that it happened I really wish I would have done more, particularly in terms of acknowledging how very long the feelings of emptiness and grief persist. I made a mistake in taking her, “I’m okay” remarks as really meaning it, rather than being part of the story that babyloss mamas often tell themselves in a desperate effort to “get over it” and be “back to normal.”

That said, I also compassionately acknowledge that it can be hard for people to know what it is that we need if we don’t tell them. So, now I’d like to hear from readers. What are your own thoughts on recognizing and acknowledging miscarriage—how do we best hold the space for women to experience, identify, and honor miscarriage as a birth event in their lives?

Charm & book giveaway (**Giveaway is now closed. Veronica was the winner***)

In harmony with my question and associated thoughts, I am hosting a giveaway of a sterling silver footprints on my heart charm exactly like the one I bought for myself after Noah’s birth and that I gave to my husband and my parents afterward (my husband carries his on his keychain). If you win the charm, perhaps it is something that will help you to honor your own miscarriage experience or that you can give to someone else to acknowledge their loss. This giveaway is in concert with the blog contest on Stillbirthday and will end on March 20. Additionally, everyone who enters will receive a free pdf copy of my miscarriage memoir.

To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment addressing the subject of honoring miscarriage. I am wondering things like:

What did you need after miscarriage?

What did you wish people would do/say to honor your miscarriage experience?

How could people have helped you more?

What do you still wish you could do/say/write/share about your miscarriage experience(s)?

What do you wish you had done for yourself?

What did you want to tell people and what do you wish you had been able to say?

What did you want to do that you didn’t feel as if you had “permission” to do? (personal, social, medical, cultural, whatever type of permission…)

I will share my answers to these questions in a later post, but I do want to mention that one of the things that was most important to me to have acknowledged was that this was REAL. That was one of the first things I said to my parents about it when they came over to help me immediately after Noah was born—this is real.

Water babies

I continue to honor the experience of miscarriage and babyloss in my own life in various ways. Recently, I found a buddhist monk garden statue from Overstock.com that reminded me of the “jizo” sculptures that honor and protect “water babies” in Japan (mizuko is a Japanese word meaning “water baby” and specifically refers to babies lost during pregnancy—the only specialized word that exists). I have a small jizo inside on my living room windowsill, but I’ve wanted one that could weather the outdoors by Noah’s tree.

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I took this one for size perspective, but you can barely see the sculpture in the shadow to Alaina's right.

I believe I may be partially responsible for the widespread usage of the following quote on the internet now with regard to babyloss mamas:

Miscarriages are labor, miscarriages are birth. To consider them less dishonors the woman whose womb has held life, however briefly.” –Kathryn Miller Ridiman

I found it in an issue of Midwifery Today from 1995 and shared it multiple times on Facebook and on my blog. I have since seen it in many locations around the web and I feel happy that I was able to be a conduit for the sentiment and the increased recognition of miscarriage as a birth event.

To participate in the Stillbirthday blog contest/carnival go here. And, make sure to check them out on Facebook too.

14 thoughts on “Honoring Miscarriage

  1. What did you wish people would do/say to honor your miscarriage experience? -I am not sure what people could have said to make my loss any easier, but I do know what I wish people wouldn’t have said. Things like, “It wasn’t meant to be”, “Your baby wasn’t healthy”, “It’s probably for the best”. A hug would have definitely helped more than their words.

    How could people have helped you more? -Said less and hugged more, not think doesn’t affect me just because I seem “okay”, and not mentioned someone else’s pregnant or insist we visit the baby section in stores.

    What do you still wish you could do/say/write/share about your miscarriage experience(s)? -I want to find a way to memorialize my miscarriage.

    What did you want to do that you didn’t feel as if you had “permission” to do? (personal, social, medical, cultural, whatever type of permission…) -I never felt as if I could share my miscarriage with anyone outside of my husband and immediate family. I feel that miscarriage is viewed as the mother’s fault, or that she is less of a woman if she miscarries, and I didn’t want to be viewed as such.

    I love that you are bringing awareness to the grief we typically suffer through silently. In our society there should be less stigma attached to miscarriage.

    PS- I love the footprint charm. So sweet.

  2. I want to take a bit of time to think about these questions and offer a well thought out response but I want to take a moment right now to acknowledge that my first response was a resounding, “I don’t know!” It is so uncommon for us to acknowledge miscarriage as a significant event that it’s difficult for me to even imagine what I would have wanted from people.

  3. Well, since you used my birth plan in your book, I sure would like a copy! I didn’t know you did that. I think you are on the right track with helping other mothers and I’m thankful for your heart to seek some real good out of your own loss. ❤ Thanks for participating in the stillbirthday contest, and I hope that this helps spread the word about both of our work! PS – my comment won't count, though; that could show favortism and I don't want that. (:

    • I actually sent you a couple of emails asking for permission to reprint the birth plan and didn’t get a reply, so I decided to just go ahead and use it (with attribution and link, of course!). I will send a copy soon for sure!

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  5. What I wanted/needed most was for someone to understand and offer support and love without trying to minimize the situation or blow it up to crazy proportions. I also needed concrete information on what was physically happening. I had a doctor who seemingly did not want to deal with me when I said we wanted to try to stay as natural as possible. We experienced a blighted ovum and she sent us home with no more information than that “it” would pass eventually, maybe days, maybe weeks. I suffered immense anxiety from March to May waiting for “it” to pass. When the physical act finally occured I didn’t know what to expect or how to emotionally process it. For everyone else, they had written the experience off at the time we shared that our baby start had failed, so for them I shouldn’t still be upset or get upset again at the time of the physical loss. Then when I finally sought medical attention it resulted in a D&C the next day. It was a very scary and hard time. I feel for all the momma’s who experience loss whether it was a failed baby start or late term loss.

  6. Thanks for this post, Molly. I’m still undecided about my very early miscarriage several years ago, during the most stressful period of my life. It is in a box on a high shelf in the back closet of my heart. I do wish, though, that I had noted the date, because I don’t remember at all and that makes it a bit worse.

  7. What did you need after miscarriage? I needed information. I was desperate for it. I searched the internet looking for answers to questions ranging from, “How am I supposed to feel?” to “What is really considered miscarriage?. As my loss was so early, I felt/feel the medical community didn’t bat an eyelash and so I never sought medical help, physically or mentally. I probably did need to see someone for depression after.

    What did you wish people would do/say to honor your miscarriage experience? I, like “C” above, had people telling me things like, “It wasn’t meant to be.” and “Don’t worry, something must have been wrong with the fetus.” Someone even said that there might have been something wrong with my body at the time which may have been true but wasn’t necessarily helpful. I think the worst was when someone said, “Don’t worry, it’s spirit will go to another baby.” That hurt me the worst because in my faith I believe our children choose us and I didn’t want to imagine MY baby going to someone else. I think people need to learn to just keep the well-wishes to themselves and just offer a shoulder to cry on. Saying anything aside from “I’m sorry.” or “What can I do to help?” is likely to bring up hurt feelings. I wish my family had offered to put the baby/pregnancy/my feelings to rest. A ritual of some sort would have finalized it for me, helping me move on.

    How could people have helped you more? I retreated into myself for a long time, not even knowing I had. I wish people who knew me well had seen it and offered to help somehow, though I’m still not even sure if they could have or exactly how.

    What do you still wish you could do/say/write/share about your miscarriage experience(s)? I never let myself believe that what I lost was a baby, always referring to ‘it” as a “jumble of cells”, which it was at 6 weeks. But I still feel as though that life needs to be considered and given the attention it deserves. I may eventually name it something unisex that speaks to me as closure and give him/her a special place or tree or something once we settle somewhere. I haven’t decided, though. I know I am still dealing with it since this is the first time I have referred to “it” as a him/her.

    What do you wish you had done for yourself? I wish I had allowed myself to grieve the baby instead of grieving the “idea of a baby”. I couldn’t let myself think it had been a baby at the time.

    What did you want to tell people and what do you wish you had been able to say? I wanted to scream that it wasn’t fair! And I did as I was greiving wtih my husband, but I wanted to tell the world. I wanted to tell everyone how sad I was. I felt like I couldn’t though. I felt like, because I had lost “just a jumble of cells” I didn’t have a right to feel sad for long and that I had to get over it quickly – mind, I was convincing myself of this.

    What did you want to do that you didn’t feel as if you had “permission” to do? (personal, social, medical, cultural, whatever type of permission…)
    I wanted to talk about it, to anyone and everyone, but it’s so taboo. And personally, I wanted to grieve the baby I lost, but I haven’t let myself, still, a year and one healthy baby later. I wanted to be able to go to the doctor, but at the time with no insurance I couldn’t.

    Molly, I’ve benefitted a lot from your blog and your words and friendship. I knew that you had been there and had come out ok and that I could too. I have given your blog out a few times now to women asking me what I experienced; women who were trying to find their own answers like we have. I’m so looking forward to reading your book and I’m really thankful for your presence in cyberspace for women like me who need your words. Answering these questions has made me look at things differently again and realize that I still have very far to go on this journey. Having a healthy baby after loss has helped me heal some, but there is so much more for me to do to find my closure. And I may never find it, and that’s ok. I hope that we can all heal these wounds, even if the scars are still there to remind us. ❤

    • I drew numbers today and you were the winner, Veronica! I will message you for your mailing address. Thanks for sharing your heartfelt thoughts and feelings. I’m honored to read your perspectives.

      • Thank you! It felt good to express my feelings and I’m really going to enjoy having the charm as another little bit of closure and as an homage to my baby.

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