Search Results for: miscarriage

Six years ago (warning: miscarriage/pregnancy loss)

October 2015 017I can’t let November 7th pass unacknowledged, even though our house is very busy right now packing up orders, visiting with out-of-state company, and more. On this day, six years ago, I was plunged into the depths of grief. Today, our house is full with our four energetic, demanding children, but we never forget the one who didn’t get to stay. The kids asked me this morning how old Noah would have been and what he would have looked like and how our house would feel if he was here now too. We talked about whether or not Alaina or Tanner would have been born without him and we thought how sad it would be to have them not exist, so we are grateful to Noah for making them possible for our family. I can hardly believe it has been six years. It is hard to remember sometimes how it felt and what is was like to be brought so low and to feel so sad, broken, and despairing. A lot of beautiful work came out of the death-birth of my little third son.

We remember you, little one. Happy Birthday!

Baby in My Heart (trigger: miscarriage)

“There is no footprint so small that it does not leave an imprint on the world.”

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the death-birth of my third baby, the tiny four-inch boy we named Noah. I will never forget touching his face and seeing his mouth drop open and looking at the translucent skin of his chest and seeing the small organs beneath, marveling at the complexity and intricacy of development that had taken place. I don’t post today because I need condolences or sympathy, this loss is not raw for me, but is instead finely woven into the fabric of my life. I post today simply in acknowledgement and memory. I also post in gratitude because as I look at the long, curly hair and bright blue eyes of Alaina and I snuggle the sweet, warm, perfection of newborn Tanner, I feel like it was Noah who brought them both to me, who opened our family up to welcome them, as well as who cracked me open to understandings, experiences, purposes, and paths I wouldn’t have had without birthing him. I also feel acutely aware that not all women have the “happy ending” to their pregnancy loss journeys that I’ve been lucky enough to have and I post too in awareness, honor, and respect for them.

IMG_9605.JPGOn the morning of November 5th this year, I woke up early and as I laid there nursing Tanner, I kept thinking of the miscarriage drawing I did following my second miscarriage (February of 2010). I thought about the friends I have whose losses are still raw and agonizing as well as the women I know who are longing to conceive. I thought about my image of the bridge and how we have to cross it alone, but that there are sisters waiting on the other side and sometimes new babies too. I also thought about how I felt so separated from other pregnant women and how very difficult that was for me. Here is the drawing, with my original explanation copied from my miscarriage blog:

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[I was taking the Birth Art class at the same time as my second miscarriage]…I felt immediately drawn to creating art about the m/c experience. Birth Art is about “process,” not product, so it is not supposed to be beautiful or even interpretable. The above is what I drew. The dice refer to our feeling of “tossing the dice” one more time—the numbers 3 and 4 show on the dice—and having those tosses end in blood. The question mark is self-explanatory with the squiggles representing all my reading and efforts to understand. The night I realized that I definitely going to have another m/c, I lay in bed and kept picturing a bridge that I was going to have to cross alone—-leaving behind the safe and familiar. A song kept running through my head, “keep walking in the light….keep following the path…” So, the little figure walking across the bridge is that. Tears are running down below her. The little bubble with other stick figures in it is the women who have gone before me—who are close, but I still have to cross alone. The happy pregnant woman behind me represents the “other side”—the one I can’t go back to. The naivety. The certainty that a positive pregnancy test will result in a baby nine months later. She is all the other women who haven’t “been there” and I am forever separated from her by a wall the thick line above her head. Or, she is the former me—falling down, down, down and away. The the right is my uterus, weeping both tears and blood. The ovaries and inside the uterus glow with energy. There are some purple dots inside to represent each of my babies—the largest one is actually a little “baby in my heart” image, like my pendant…

via Miscarriage Art | Footprints on My Heart.

I actually wrote this current post with one finger on my ipad on Nov. 5th and scheduled it for today, but then this morning I woke up and saw an image on Facebook from the new book The Heart of the Labyrinth. It spoke to me of my miscarriage journeys as well as subsequent pregnancy and life-path journeys.

20141107-094214-34934964.jpgThe image also caught my eye because I was honored to write an endorsement for the book itself, which is a lovely, lyrical story about a woman’s spiritual journey (plus, it is a call to action for us all). I read it on our trip to Chicago in September and today is its official launch at a conference in Dubai. (Nice work, Womancraft Publishing!)

After I shared the image on my Facebook page, I saw my doula shared a link on my wall. I went to look at it and…same image! I have actually received postpartum care from Summer after three births–Noah’s was the first, then Alaina, and now Tanner too. Anyway, she wrote this:

Molly, I woke up thinking of you and Noah this morning. When I saw Lucy’s post, I wanted to make sure you saw because it eloquently conveys some of my thoughts. I feel so very humbled and privileged to have seen some of your warrior moments….the triumphant, joyful warrior and the heartbroken but surviving warrior. Always, I hope you are able to remember that the strength is in ALL those moments, often when you feel the weakest.
Sweet Noah will always be remembered. For a tiny person who lived a too-brief life, he had (and continues to have) such a huge impact on so many lives. He lives on in the legacy of love, truth, sharing, and vulnerability that you built after his birth/death…

As is my tradition on my kids’ birthdays, here is the link to Noah’s birth story: Noah’s Birth Story Warning: Miscarriage/Baby Loss | Talk Birth. A couple of years ago, I converted my miscarriage blog into a book, which is available on Kindle here: Footprints on My Heart: A Memoir of Miscarriage & Pregnancy After Loss eBook.

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Tuesday Tidbits: Miscarriage

In the book A Silent Sorrow, the authors quote a responsive reading from the book Bittersweet…hellogoodbye (a book for creating memorial services for miscarried or stillborn babies). The responsive part of the reading from the other people assembled can be unique to your own spiritual path, so “Be with us [divinity name]” or “Hear us, [divinity name]” or ‘[divinity name] grant us healing and strength. Personally, I would simply leave off any divinity name and use plain old “Hear us” or “grant us healing and strength,” because then each person present is able to attach whatever additional meaning to the words they prefer, rather than having it represent any sort of specific belief.

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Some “seconds” of our baby in my heart design were added to our etsy shop this month.

Leader:

For the time of unending tears, pain, and struggle;

times of not being understood by family, friends,

times of longing and emptiness,

times of not being in control,

times of searching within and without.

We pray…

(response)

Leader:

For all the memories of our baby;

for any brief moment of being with our baby,

for those who walked the journey of mourning with us,

for each time of remembering.

We pray…

(response)

Leader:

For the times of letting go.,

for the times of reaching out,

for each new day and each ray of hope,

for the gifts our baby left us:

in giving us new eyes with which to see,

new ears to help us hear others,

a new heart to love more deeply,

and for new values in our lives.

We pray…

(response)

[p. 233]

I’m also letting go of the book Avoiding Miscarriage by Susan Rousselot (see previous post for bookshelf reduction currently in progress). In it, she acknowledges the depth of the experience of miscarriage:

A miscarriage is, by its nature, a life-changing event. From the moment a woman knows she is pregnant, she wonders how that pregnancy with change her life—she imagine the future with that child. How will this impact my work? What changes will need to be made to the house? And what sort of mother will I be?… That unborn child can turn out to be anything, and because of that it is a dream of the future. When that dream is shattered, we don’t just lose a few weeks or months of pregnancy; we don’t even just lose a ‘fetus’ or a ‘baby.’ It is as though we lose a whole lifetime—the lifetime we were going to share with that child. We didn’t mean for the idea to take on such huge proportions, but it did because we are human, and as humans we think about the future, and we wonder.

Like any traumatic event, there is no ‘right way’ to deal with a pregnancy loss. Some women will grieve as intensely as they would the loss of a full-term birth. Others will feel they are doing okay. Some women will react by resolving to take life less for granted. Others may harbor a lingering distrust of their own bodies. Some women may want to take a long time to grieve. Others may want to put the experience behind them by redoubling the pace of their lives…

…Many women who experience a miscarriage feel a powerlessness stemming from the fact that they couldn’t control what was happening inside their own bodies. This feeling is often exacerbated by the good, but often misplaced, intentions, of doctors or others who take charge of the miscarriage—or dismiss it—in an attempt to spare the woman further distress. (p. 67-68)

Regarding the use of the word “worse” in categorizing grief and loss, I shared with a friend recently that one of the things I learned from my own losses and working with other mothers through the organization I co-founded (The Amethyst Network), is that there is no hierarchy of loss and grief. They are all real. They are all valid. There is no prize for the worst experience. And, we can hold the experiences and feelings of each as valid without needing to categorize by who had it worse. Each is hard and “worst” in its own way. It is okay to let the pain hurt and to take as long as you need.

Last week I read this very raw and real miscarriage story and shared the link on TAN’s Facebook page:

“As glad as you were to tell who you told about the pregnancy, you are exactly a hundred thousand times as unglad to bear this news. You call your boss first, because the primary impact on your immediate life is that you will need to be off work for at least a couple of weeks. This is what they call a “missed miscarriage,” where the fetus lived to perhaps eight or nine weeks of gestation, but your body stayed pregnant all the same, put you through that nightmare of sickness and stress for nothing. Less than nothing. That anger comes a little later, not just yet. In any event, you won’t be back at your desk until the material of the pregnancy is gone, one way or another…”

How to Have a Miscarriage | The Hairpin

And, I received an announcement of a new book from a woman who previously emailed me to talk about my own miscarriage memoir. I look forward to reviewing her book soon.

At 33 weeks pregnant, Amy is certain something bad will soon happen, it had too many times before. Deep down she fears it’s only a matter of time before the baby she’s carrying will die. Despite the fact that Amy had been repeatedly slapped in the face with multiple miscarriages, she still can’t seem to quiet that tiny voice in the back of her head that’s screaming at her to not give up hope. Follow Amy’s true story as she stumbles through her journey with humor and warmth, all while dealing with the neuroses that came along with getting her hopes shattered time and time again. All she has to do is close her eyes and she’s lurched back to the memories of her losses; on the floor in her bathroom, in the hospital, and even at her place of work. No one knows what the internal mind of a woman who’d lost five babies and suffered so many let downs goes through. Can Hope ever truly survive memories such as these?

Chasing Hope: A Mother’s Story of Loss, Heartbreak and the Miracle of Hope

Last week, we decided to design some new European charm bracelets to honor the experience of babyloss, whether through miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death. Half of the profits from these bracelets will be donated towards a scholarship to help a local bereaved mother attend Stillbirthday’s Love Wildly event in Kansas City in December.

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“Miscarriage is a death in the heart of life, a death that happens inside the body of a woman. Sometimes a child just brushes the earth lightly, and is gone before the embryo is anything more than a few cells. Even so, there may already have been a strong connection, love, the beginning of hopes and dreams for the child. Later in a pregnancy, when the being has made itself known through kicks and a visible bump, a whole community may have already begun to make a place for it. Whenever a miscarriage happens, it is a loss that cuts deeply, and needs to be grieved…” –Jackie Singer (Birthrites)

via Birthrites: Miscarriage | Talk Birth.

Tuesday Tidbits: Miscarriage and Story-Sharing

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As birth professionals, we are often cautioned against sharing our personal stories. We must remember that it is her birth and her story, not ours. In doula and childbirth educator trainings, trainees are taught to keep their own stories to themselves and to present evidence-based information so that women can make their own informed choices. As a breastfeeding counselor too, I must remind myself to keep my own personal experiences out of the helping relationship. My formal education is in clinical social work and in that field as well we are indoctrinated to guard against inappropriate self-disclosure in a client-helper setting. In each environment, we are taught how to be good listeners without clouding the exchange with our own “baggage.” The messages are powerful—keep your own stories out of it. Recently, I have been wondering how this caution might impact our real-life connections with women?

via The Value of Sharing Story | Talk Birth.

This week I’ve been reminded several times about the power of sharing stories in a variety of contexts. I’ve also been thinking about miscarriage and miscarriage stories and how they need to be told.

I read a touching and heart-wrenching unexpected birth story of a baby at 19 weeks while the author was traveling in Mongolia:

But the truth is, the ten or twenty minutes I was somebody’s mother were black magic. There is no adventure I would trade them for; there is no place I would rather have seen. Sometimes, when I think about it, I still feel a dark hurt from some primal part of myself, and if I’m alone in my apartment when this happens I will hear myself making sounds that I never made before I went to Mongolia. I realize that I have turned back into a wounded witch, wailing in the forest, undone.

via Ariel Levy: “Thanksgiving in Mongolia” : The New Yorker.

A couple of weeks ago, one of my friends entered the miscarriage “club” that I so wish would gain no further members and wrote her Miscarriage Memories Footprints on Heart Charm, Pendant, Babylossvulnerable, visceral, story with raw intensity about the blood and grief of miscarriage:

Blood. As women we have a complex relationship with blood. The sight of our red-stained underwear can elate us, relieve us, annoy us, embarrass us, disappoint us, or devastate us depending on our life stage and intentions. The arrival of our period can bring the sweetest relief when we dread becoming pregnant. Conversely, it can lower the cruelest blow when our efforts to conceive have not been successful and we deeply long for a child. And somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, is the unfortunate experience of finding yourself ill-prepared for Aunt Flow in a public location…thank goodness for kind friends (or total strangers) who provide emergency tampons in such situations.

I have been thinking about blood a lot because I just had a terrifying, violent, and heartbreaking experience with my own blood. That sounds so hokey to say, that I “had an experience with my blood.” But I did. It was me and my blood. Doing battle. So much blood. There was no one else.

My baby died.

Three words. It only took me three words to tell you, friend, acquaintance, or stranger, what happened to me. I wonder how many more words it will take to tell myself — the MAMA, the bearer of lost life — what happened.

via Losing Susannah | Peace, Love, & Spit Up.

Miscarriage stories often bring up the question of “when to tell” about pregnancies, with mothers lamenting that they told “too soon,” OR wishing that they had told, so they wouldn’t have to bear the loss with such aloneness. I retain enough scars from pregnancy loss, despite my successful pregnancy-after-loss experience too, that my initial reaction to anyone’s new pregnancy announcement is always fear, not joy. I worry every time I see a Facebook announcement that I will then see a sad follow-up a couple of weeks later—my main thought being, “what if she has to look back on this and be so sad?” However, that does not mean I think she shouldn’t tell, I just hold such hope in my heart for her that she doesn’t end up entering the club too.

I love this article about why it is okay to tell:

I’m angry that we live in a world where talking about miscarriage and first trimester pregnancy is still taboo. Where a woman must go to great lengths to hide her fatigue, nausea, sudden diet changes and pain, both emotional and physical, just to be polite.

Staying quiet for 12 weeks while you grow a human being inside of you is nothing short of completely insane.

Thanks in large part to social media, people have no problem opening up about personal details to those they might not have shared with in the past. The curtain of privacy has been pulled back, yet this one life-changing event remains shrouded until you reach a certain threshold.

I respect any woman’s decision to keep her pregnancy or miscarriage a secret, but I don’t think we should feel ashamed if we decide to share the news with whomever we choose, whenever we choose.

Take a look around you. Chances are, if you’re sitting in a room with five women of childbearing age, one of them has had (or will have) a miscarriage. And if you’re one of them, don’t be afraid to open up. You just might find comfort in the arms of a nurse, in the knowing nod of a trusted friend, or in kind words of an Internet stranger — the war stories of unlikely heroes.

via Why We Shouldn’t Have to Keep Pregnancy A Secret For the First Trimester | xoJane.

I was also deeply touched by this heartbreaking and very honest exploration of a mother’s experience in spending time with the body of her baby Thor who was stillborn:

This was when I understood: Thor was our baby. He did not belong to the hospital. He did not belong to the funeral home. He was ours.

So began my life with Thor. Thor pulled me to him like a magnet. I craved him. I never thought he was real, if by real you mean alive or in some way sentient after death. I just wanted to be with him. Not with him in spirit. With him in body.

I’d carried his body inside me for nine months; I’d felt it kicking for the last five or six of them. That body had forced its way out of me early in the morning of Nov. 12, 2008, and along the way it had turned from a living body to a dead body, but it was still Thor. Why should the body that was Thor transmogrify from a beloved member of the family, from a familiar part of my own body, into a repellent object just because it had died? This was my child.

via My stillborn child’s life after death – Salon.com.

And, this very honest, detailed, thorough miscarriage story:

I have a folder on my computer called “1st Pregnancy” and it is full of things that still make me sad. Pictures of my growing belly, a video of us telling our family the news that we were pregnant, this story, and the pictures we took from the miscarriage that happened one year ago today. I am a student of traditional midwifery, so my take on the experience, and the details I share may be different than most miscarriage stories. It is really long, really honest, and really raw, but I wanted to share it in its entirety, both to honor my experience, to share it with others that are going through similar stories themselves, and for those that support women (friends or clients) that are experiencing a pregnancy loss. This story was written in the days after the miscarriage, and I am thankful that I took the time and energy to put it all down. I hope that this story can serve as a resource for women going through pregnancy and baby losses, and that we at Indie Birth can provide support for these experiences as well.

via A Miscarriage Story.

These stories reminded me of my own past post:

“…When you miscarry, the body has already broken its ties with the baby, but I’d already put this child into my family in my imagination. That was what was hard to break…”

via Birthrites: Miscarriage | Talk Birth.

And, of a healing experience with story and sand tray therapy at the ICAN conference in St. Louis:IMG_8501

While it might be hard to see everything, I chose the bridge to symbolize my feeling of having crossed the bridge to the “other side”—meaning first the fact that after Noah and my second miscarriage, I felt separated from women who had not experienced loss by a bridge and as if I’d crossed over into new territory and left my old, happy, naive pregnant self behind (along with the other non-loss mamas. A little more about this bridge here). AND, that I also felt like with Alaina’s birth that I crossed a bridge into the unknown and to the end of the pregnancy-after-loss journey. Her birth represented the “other side” of PAL. So, at the end of the bridge I drew a question mark in the sand, representing all the questions I had to get past and over in order to get to my new baby.

via Sand Tray Therapy | Talk Birth.

We also need to remember how many women have stories they are holding close to their hearts and that our casual inquiries or thoughtless remarks about family size may leave further scars. This essay is about miscarriage at ten weeks and is a reminder why biting your tongue before casually remarking on someone else’s family size or fertility is a good idea:

During a recent girls’ night at a friend’s house, I sat cross-legged on the living room floor sipping coffee and catching up with four other women. One friend had just finished sharing the antics of her toddler who gave himself a haircut during quiet time when another friend announced the pending arrival of her third child—”a complete accident” as she described it. Then she turned her attention to me and assured me in front of the other women in the room, “It’s okay if you hate me. I understand.” I was stunned and mortified. I knew this was not her intent, but her statement minimized my loss in such a way that I felt small and petty for struggling with infertility.

via Bite Your Tongue | Brain, Child Magazine.

So, is there anything to say, or to do for those who are grieving? For people I know, I mail little gifts—usually jewelry—so that they know that their loss is real to me too and that they are not alone. I recently found this little handout on “how to help” (not miscarriage-specific, but for anyone going through a hard time):

Here’s the big thing I’ve learned: no two people need help in the same way. I’ve gotten to the point where I have very little pride and I’ll just take what goodness comes my way. But for other people, well intentioned but actually unhelpful help is just one more thing they have to deal with.

This is especially true when people express sympathy and then say, “Let me know if you need anything.”

via How to help – Reese Dixon.

I was also touched by this article by a bereaved mother about what she wishes people would say after the death of her daughter:

…Nothing at all when I start crying. I do it every day. It’s my normal and if you give me a minute or two, I’ll probably be able to put on my social mask again.

Some kind words to accompany those pictures of a new family member that you’re sharing with me. To bereaved parents, seeing a newborn can be a cruel shove back to the time when our world was safe, when our late child was an infant, like the one in the pictures you’re showing me, destined for a future full of love and full of light. An infant that blossomed into a gorgeous girl. A girl that left this world about 70 years too early…

via A Bereaved Mom’s Plea to the Nonbereaved: ‘I Wish You’d Say …’ – Mothering Community.

My own family is coming up on the anniversary of my grandmother’s death. I’m teaching three classes again this session and it is a lot to manage at once. I felt pretty stressed in advance about my Fort Leonard Wood class, Working with Families, because last time I was teaching it one year ago was during my grandma’s sudden and brutal illness and it was unbelievably hard to be teaching about families while my own family was experiencing so much stress and sadness (and then also planning a trip to CA and helping with a memorial service, etc. while trying to grade papers and finish class.) Three weeks ago, on the first night of class, I found myself acknowledging the upcoming anniversary to my class and sharing a story about my mom texting me while singing to my grandma at her bedside, which prompted a brief tears-in-front of class episode which caught both my students and me by surprise. I feel like there is “work” to do here in my own family during this anniversary month and yet the hustle and bustle of kids and responsibilities is making it hard to settle down and sit with it. 😦

Birthrites: Miscarriage

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Miscarriage is a death in the heart of life, a death that happens inside the body of a woman. Sometimes a child just brushes the earth lightly, and is gone before the embryo is anything more than a few cells. Even so, there may already have been a strong connection, love, the beginning of hopes and dreams for the child. Later in a pregnancy, when the being has made itself known through kicks and a visible bump, a whole community may have already begun to make a place for it. Whenever a miscarriage happens, it is a loss that cuts deeply, and needs to be grieved…

–Jackie Singer

This quote from Birthrites touched me and made me think of the many women I’ve known who have walked the long, long path of grief. Singer then goes on to share some words from a mother of miscarriage:

“…When you miscarry, the body has already broken its ties with the baby, but I’d already put this child into my family in my imagination. That was what was hard to break…”

It my own experience, my body letting go of the baby was profoundly meaningful. My body’s later reluctance to let go of the placenta—to finally finish breaking the physical tie to the baby—was pretty traumatic. Acknowledging my own miscarriages through ritual, writing, ceremony, and memorial jewelry was very important to me and while these experiences are now past and do not hold the same fresh, raw, intensity as they once did, they are still inextricably a part of me and have shaped my identity and outlook today. I am always on the lookout for miscarriage resources for others and always, always take note when the experience of miscarriage is honored and included in a book.

As previously shared from Wild Feminine

The red of my blood confirmed what my body already knew; miscarriage is birth and death simultaneously. Miscarriage is ecstatic connection and unquenchable loss. The uterus dilates and contracts, as in the process of birth. In its wake follows something ancient, something from the hearts and lives of the grandmothers and women who have walked before, pouring forth from the uterus…

via Wild Feminine: Miscarriage Wisdom | Talk Birth.

Some other past posts about honoring the experience of miscarriage:

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Footprints symbol that held such healing for me and that I make sure to keep available affordably in my etsy shop.

Honoring Miscarriage

Tuesday Tidbits: Miscarriage Care

Miscarriage and Birth

Blog Circle: Tender Mercies, Unexpected Gifts

The Amethyst Network February Blog Circle ~ Sharing Our Stories: A Confusing Early Miscarriage Story

This post is part of a short series of posts from the book Birthrites by Jackie Singer. The first was about ritual and the second about birth as a rite of passage and the third about cesareans.

Tuesday Tidbits: Miscarriage Care

66112_618725968151055_156983473_nFor ages, I’ve had the following quote about miscarriage and doctors saved in my drafts folder:

“The only person who can really tell you what is happening to you is your own doctor, who peers into you with a light and a speculum, who samples your blood or urine, or who presses a sonogram paddle into your belly. If you are in trouble, bleeding, scared, or more depressed than you think you can handle on your own, you must find help. Read and research all you can, but remember that the one-on-one assistance of a real doctor is the only thing that will give you answers that count. If you don’t like or trust your doctor, then find one you can…”

I Will Carry You

I saved it because it bothered me so much to read. One-on-one assistance of a real doctor is the ONLY thing that will give you answers that count?! I disagree so much with this and it saddens me to know that women turn to doctors for support that they are unlikely to be able to provide, particularly if women are looking for compassion. My own ER doctor experience was horrendous and involved quotes like: “this is very common, it is just natural selection” and, “this wouldn’t hurt so much if you would just stay still,” as well as leaving bloody handprints streaked across the bed and blood on the floor (specifically after being told how very disturbed I was by all the blood). In contrast, I was treated with beautiful compassion (and actual, genuine, useful help) by every midwife I talked to. In defense of doctors though, I also went to my own family practice doctor for a follow-up visit and she said one of the best things I heard from anyone, doctor or not: “some women find comfort in knowing that love was all their babies ever knew.” And, before I left, she asked if she could give me a hug. That mattered more and lasted longer than any “advice” that she gave me about possible causes, trying, again, etc.

So, this week, related miscarriage articles and stories started catching my eye, such as this one that touches on the various dehumanizing ways many women are treated in medical care environments:

Rush of blood to my brain. Pounding in my ears. Breathing comes in short bursts. And I’m ushered out into the waiting area where I’m told to go home to wait for it to ‘come away’. And there I find myself, blinking in the sun, shaking like a leaf. So I waited. And waited. One week later the tiny form within still clung on. I saw it in my minds eye, not wanting to let go of me, its mother. Perish the thought. Instead I spent the week overly busy whilst somehow trying to recalibrate a defeated dream and birth date that would never occur. Finally, I just booked in for the D&C, and signed for an “excavation of contents.”

I am a psychotherapist and counsellor. I focus mainly on fertility in all its guises. From pre pregnancy to birth and beyond I am struck as women and their partners endure dehumanising experience after dehumanising experience, just like this one…

via The heartbreak of miscarriage

And, that reminds me of what Ina May said in her Birth Story documentary that the number one rule of maternity care should be Be Nice and she asks us to consider how just those two words could change maternity wards. While not miscarriage-specific, of course The Neighborhood Doula’s status on Facebook tonight jumped out at me:

“We need to treat women tenderly in labor. This may be the first time she has ever been treated that way. She will pass that on to her baby. If mom has a traumatic birth, filled with interventions she may be afraid of her baby. Fear of baby = disempowerment. A new mother should never feel that way. We need to treat dad with tenderness during labor too. If we treat him well, he will treat mom and baby well.”

Wise words from Ina May Gaskin at the 2012 Joyful Birth and Breastfeeding expo, Asheville, NC

Over the weekend, I was touched to see a photo from Stillbirthday on Facebook with a caption that almost made me cry because I think this perspective is SO important:

Supporting Birth Diversity means…

…Honoring that birth can occur, at any point in pregnancy.

The word “birth” is not reserved for full term, neither is it exclusively for live babies.

(Share your photo and what Supporting Birth Diversity means to you.)

And, of course I’ve already shared my thoughts on miscarriage as a birth event: 421806_605009189522733_1988490402_n

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

via Miscarriage and Birth | Talk Birth.

I also read several articles about other women’s experiences with miscarriage as a birth event such as this moving exploration of “missing” when your expectation was of carrying:

Instead I was overwhelmed by pain that felt like the worst wrenching of labor, contractions that came so fast I could barely breathe, shaking and numbness in my limbs that finally made me crawl to the phone and call the nurse who told me to get to the ER as fast as we could. I’d never heard stories of the real, raw truth of what it means to miscarry, so I had no idea what to expect.

But just because a death comes early does not mean it is lighter to bear or let go…

on carrying and missing | mothering spirit.

And this article that touches on the birth event concept, as well as issues of guilt and blame, as well as the idea of miscarriage as a rite of passage:

That is why there is no doubt in my mind that any woman – and indeed any family – who goes through a miscarriage should see it as a rite of passage. The more that miscarriage is seen as horrific, as something which somehow could have been preventable, and is therefore blamed on the woman’s health, fitness or diet, the more we are denying ourselves as fallible animals. We are making women responsible somehow for these acts of nature. We are instilling guilt and fear, layer upon layer. The result is a woman, and by extension her family, who no longer trusts her body to do what is right. It must be faulty – it miscarried. Her body was not healthy enough, not experienced enough or somehow not adequately formed to be able to carry the pregnancy to full term.

This is not a healthy attitude to have, and can only result in more negative birth outcomes. One of the reasons I do not have a black tinge around my memories of my son’s birth is that, through it all, I trusted in my body. I did what I could, and although I couldn’t understand WHY it had happened, I came to accept that this time was just not meant to be. I am an animal, and I am fallible. This time I fell into the statistics of 1 in 7 pregnancies failing. There’s really no more to it – no guilt, no shame, no fear for future pregnancies; it’s just not appropriate.

Having gone through this whole process I now feel more of a woman. Yes, really. Not only have I experienced the horror myself, but I have had countless other women suddenly willing to share their own story with me. In a sad way I feel as if I have entered a secret club, something taboo and a bit shameful. I’m not really sure why nobody wants to discuss miscarriage, when it affects so many of us. If it were accepted as a rite of passage for any woman, as much as childbirth itself, I feel we’d all have a more positive outlook on all births, whatever the outcome.

via Guest Post: Miscarriage as a Rite of Passage | The Happy Womb.

I also finished reading a quick book that was offered free on Kindle last week (now back to a regular, reasonable price) and saved these two quotes:

In the days that followed, the bleeding continued. Every time I would see the blood, I couldn’t help but think I was losing my child slowly bit by bit. It wasn’t just ordinary bleeding; it was the end of my baby’s life. It was the end of my dream to become a mom. I was devastated. I felt so lost and alone. Unfortunately, my husband didn’t seem to understand or be able to comfort me. To him, the baby was not even real yet. And since he was actually afraid of becoming a dad, I think in some ways he was relieved that it didn’t work out. In my mind, I had lost a child. Someone important to me had died, and I was grieving. The hard part is that I was grieving alone with no one to share my sorrow. This is often a problem for women who miscarry. You feel so sad and devastated, but many times your friends and family don’t get it. They don’t realize how much love you can feel for a baby you never saw, met or held. You try to turn to those you love for comfort and support, but they have little to offer you during the time when you need someone to lean on the most. It’s not that they don’t want to help or that they don’t care. No one wants to see you sad or hurting. They just don’t understand what you are feeling and the intensity of your emotions. Even the words they say to you can come across as insensitive or hurtful. They often dismiss your grief and trivialize your pain, all the while thinking they are being encouraging and supportive.

(Amazon.com: From Pain to Parenthood: A Journey Through Miscarriage to Adoption eBook: Deanna Kahler: Kindle Store)

The author also touches on the depth of the grief following miscarriage and how very, very real it is (I’ve written before that one of the things I kept saying to my parents when they came to my house following Noah’s miscarriage-birth was, “this was real. I want you to know it was real.” (I honestly think I didn’t think miscarriages were “real” before, in the sense that I categorized them as something other than birth or death.)

According to The Women’s Encyclopedia of Health and Emotional Healing, “the length of the pregnancy is not as significant as how emotionally linked a woman feels to her baby.” The book goes on to say that if you felt your child was real very early in the pregnancy, then you may experience as much grief as someone who has lost a newborn. If the love for your unborn child was already there, you will be heart-broken and devastated. Your loss can affect you in many different ways, some emotional and some physical. You may notice muscle tension, have trouble sleeping, have difficulty concentrating, suffer from frequent headaches, cry a lot or even notice unusual sensations in your body.

(Amazon.com: From Pain to Parenthood: A Journey Through Miscarriage to Adoption eBook: Deanna Kahler: Kindle Store)

And, these quotes made me remember a brief post from The Amethyst Network regarding early losses and the validity of feelings:

I felt very conflicted over this. I HAD grieved before, but if I was grieving over not-an-actual-miscarriage then did it count? If my loss wasn’t actually a loss, then was my grief valid?

I was talking with a friend (who happens to also be involved with TAN) and explained to her how I was feeling confused and upset over this. She taught me something important.
“You grieved” she said. “It doesn’t matter whether the physical experience was a miscarriage or not, because the grief was real, you experienced the emotional process, and that is valid.”

And so I would say to all mothers who have had an early loss, or a loss that they felt in their gut even though there was no proof. Your feelings–no matter what they are–are valid feelings. We each have different experiences, and we each have different feelings. But what you feel is legitimate, regardless of the circumstances.

Did It Count?

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(and, really, there is no “shame” in not acknowledging how it changes us either, the shame rests in the lack of acknowledgment from so many around us)

This last photo (for some reason it refuses to let me caption it?!) is of some “hope” baubles created by members of the Rainbow Group (local loss support group) at our recent MamaFest event (more about this soon, I hope!).

August 2013 028

Wild Feminine: Miscarriage Wisdom

When I spoke about miscarriage at the LLL of Missouri conference last weekend, I emphasized the recognition of miscarriage as a birth event:

I think it is crucial to remember that miscarriage is a birth event—sometimes a very, very, very early birth event, but reproductively speaking that is what it is! Since we don’t have a better vocabulary for pregnancy loss in our culture, socioculturally speaking we tend to class it as “something else,” but in most ways it isn’t. A soul (or fertilized egg) touches down in a woman’s womb. Her hormones and all other physiological systems are impacted and feel its presence. The embryo/fetus/baby stays for a time and when it leaves her body, the uterus must contract and the cervix must open and the woman’s body must open to allow its passage. Her body, mind, emotions, and spirit are all affected (to varying degrees). In this way, miscarriage and full-term birth simply exist on a continuum of possible birth outcomes and are all birth events whether the pregnancy lasts five weeks or forty-two weeks.

via Miscarriage and Birth | Talk Birth.

Following my own miscarriage experiences, I read like crazy, wanting to discover answers, hear experiences, and process pain. One of the Wild Femininebooks that helped me the most was the unexpected treasure, Wild Feminine, by Tami Lynn Kent. This book is really about pelvic health in general and what I appreciated most was that acknowledgment of miscarriage and the author’s own miscarriage experience was woven throughout the book, not relegated for some “bad outcomes” section. Also, miscarriage was acknowledged as a transformative and powerful experience, rather than solely in relationship to grief.

I re-read several passages from the book several times and I would like to share them here:

Some of a woman’s most profound transformations involve the changes in her womb: menarche, pregnancy, miscarriage, childbirth, and menopause. Every womb desires to give birth by receiving and gestating a particular energy; yet the way a woman specifically utilizes her creative energy is a matter of personal intention. One woman may use the energetic capacity for creation in her work as an artist or other creative endeavor. Another woman relies on her creative energy to nurture her children or reinvent her mothering. A spiritual teacher may receive a divine energy, gestating rituals for celebrating the sacred. A healer uses her intuitive capacity to aid others in physical, energetic, and emotional transformation.

See how miscarriage is just included? “Normal,” almost, rather than defective or secret or needing to be fixed or hidden or forgotten.

And, acknowledging miscarriage as a birth event:

Miscarriage is not, as I had always imagined, like an unexpected menstrual period. On the day of my miscarriage, I awoke from a dream that I was bleeding, but my sense of dread did not dissipate upon awakening. The red of my blood confirmed what my body already knew; miscarriage is birth and death simultaneously. Miscarriage is ecstatic connection and unquenchable loss. The uterus dilates and contracts, as in the process of birth. In its wake follows something ancient, something from the hearts and lives of the  grandmothers and women who have walked before, pouring forth from the uterus…

The event of a soul passing on within her body touches each woman in a different way. Yet it also links her to a broader community of women who share in the transformative effects of such experiences. When a spirit touches down in a woman’s womb and leaves from this place as well, a woman experiences the entry and exit of a soul within her body. When a whole life is contained within the womb without coming to term, a powerful invitation is given to the mother—to connect with the spiritual realm in the core of her body, to sit with her feelings and come to know the spirit of her child. But no matter how long a woman carries a baby, this life asks to be acknowledged and remembered, witnessed and loved. The energy that comes in with each life still must be moved. Without the natural movement of energy that occurs with a typical birth, a woman may have to be more conscious about working with the energy in her core. But if she receives the energy of this soul into her womb and then gives it an expression in her outer life, then she also receives a powerful blessing.

And, regarding miscarriage as a transformative life event: MR_048

My own pregnancy loss by miscarriage was a profound event in my body and my life. The spirit who came to be with me brought tremendous healing and creative energy to my womb that continues to inspire me today. If you have experienced a womb loss, you can still celebrate this soul’s life. For example, you can plant a tree to acknowledge what you experienced or learned as a witness. Ask your body how else you might remember the essence of this spirit.

Enhanced receptivity is also normal after a miscarriage, and in my own life felt like a sacred time—when I received many blessings and lessons into my life.

On my original miscarriage blog, I described this feeling an openness to change and I’ve written several times before about my miscarriage as a pivotal life event and a “religious experience” of a sort:

My first loss was, in fact, a new beginning for me in many ways. That miscarriage-birth changed my life forever. It changed my worldview, it changed how I work with women, it changed my understanding of the world, it prompted a spiritual awakening, it changed the trajectory of my work and my focus, and it broadened and deepened the scope of what I’d like to offer in service to others. It was BIG. It was important. It was hard, it was scary, it was emotionally and physically painful, and it lasted a long, long time…

via Blog Circle: New Beginnings and Most Significant Events | Talk Birth.

Related past post:

Honoring Miscarriage

The Amethyst Network February Blog Circle ~ Sharing Our Stories: A Confusing Early Miscarriage Story

We have chosen the theme for the month of February to be Sharing our Stories as we all have a story to share. By sharing our stories we have the opportunity to heal ourselves, heal each other, and break the taboo surrounding miscarriage and pregnancy loss. Story telling is a powerful tool of healing.

Every year I try to come up with a word to focus on. One year it was JOY. One year it was HOPE. This year I was contemplating what word I needed to focus on. Simplify? Prioritize? Gratitude? Service? But the recurring word that has come up for me over and over is STORY TELLING. I admit, I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut. I always have a story to share about whatever is being talked about. Clearly I need to work on keeping my mouth closed! Maybe my word needs to be listening? Listening is an art as well and a valuable tool of healing. Maybe I need to work on listening to others stories? I digress here. The theme of story telling has come up over and over. And we would love to hear your stories.

Please share your stories on miscarriage, pregnancy loss, hope, healing, the journey to your baby, the journey to a rainbow (garnet) baby, the journey to decide to be done. Whatever story is in your heart needing to be shared, that is the one we want to hear.

February Blog Circle ~ Sharing Our Stories » The Amethyst Network.

As soon as I learned the theme for this month’s Blog Circle with The Amethyst Network, especially since it coincides with the month of my second miscarriage experience, I knew it was time for me to finally try to share my story of my second miscarriage.

In January 2010, I experienced a sort of “mysterious surprise” conception. We’d been planning to try again after having lost Noah, I kept waiting and waiting to ovulate and “never” did. I had a dream that I was pregnant and decided to take a pregnancy test just in case. It was positive. I still have confusion about how it happened and how long I was pregnant. I did eventually find the embryo from the pregnancy, which seemed consistent with a 5-6 week embryo, so that I how I define the loss. On February 1 of 2010, I began to bleed red and I knew that my slender hope of a viable pregnancy-after-loss was bleeding away. This miscarriage was a crushing blow, one of the lowest and darkest experiences of my life. While I’d found courage, strength, and even joy and purpose in Noah’s miscarriage-birth, the second miscarriage brought me to floor in despair and confusion. Because there wasn’t a clear-cut “birth event” and there was no baby to hold, name, and cry over, it seemed ambiguous, amorphous, and just so confusing. This miscarriage actually dragged on for almost the entire month of February, with positive pregnancy tests up until a week before I started another period. For some time I even held out hope that I was somehow still pregnant, despite the bleeding and the tiny embryo. In my journal I wrote the story of my feelings:

…I feel dissolved. I am disconnected from this experience and feel unreal and unmoored….I feel so foolish—WHY did I think I could do this again. Why did I open myself up to this again so soon? Why did I let Noah’s birth get run over by this new loss that I fear will eclipse the lessons, gifts, strength, and wisdom he brought to me….I do not want people to have to feel sorry for me again so soon. I don’t want sympathy. I don’t want people to forget Noah and what he meant. I don’t want him to be lost in a string of recurrent losses…I told Mark I am done after this, at least for a good long while. We now have been trying to have another baby for over a year. AND, I have been pregnant during at least part of every month since July 2009…

As it turns out, I did decide I was willing to open myself up to pain one more time and after the February loss, conceived Alaina in early May, meaning I had technically only one “non-pregnant” month between July 2009 and January 2011. Whoa. No wonder I felt so confused and unmoored.

I continue in my journal…

I started to bash myself today about how I have felt so trapped by motherhood on so many different occasions and have yearned for “freedom.” Well, now I’ve got it. My kids steadily need me less and less and I am more mobile and free than I’ve been in six years and so now what?! I can’t believe Zander was the last—last to nurse, to sleep in our bed, to be carried in the Ergo, to watch crawl and learn to walk, to hold in scrunchy newbornness. I’m NOT DONE YET. Or am I? My body is saying yes [I’m done] and my fear is that my subconscious somehow made it so—perhaps the unconscious message I’ve been sending about having another baby is a NO instead of yes.

I do not want to end our family’s childbearing experience on this note of heartache. I do not want my boys to associate pregnancy with dead babies and a crying mama.

I feel like my career ends here too. And, my joy for other women.

I’m also embarrassed to have tried again “too soon” and “failed” again. I really wanted to be pregnant again to fix myself. To right the “wrongness” of being non-pregnant. To show myself (and my kids and the world) that I could still do it. But, I couldn’t after all. What a hideous realization. I think I feel more shame than sadness…I am back to not knowing who I am and not feeling like a good enough or worthy person. I felt a fundamental sense of worth after Noah and I lost it—it has evaporated.

In the night as I laid awake for two hours thinking, I had a lot of memories of how deconstructed I felt after L & Z were born. How NON and how captive and bound. It was HARD for me to transition to motherhood and to give up so many pieces of my identity and sense of myself. And now, I’m on the other side (??) of my childbearing years and suddenly it seems like a FLASH. Like those captive, denied, blocked, not allowed moments have evaporated into nothingness, leaving me both with new clarity and yet nothing tangible.

I just want to say two things again:

  1. I do NOT want people to feel sorry again for me so soon.
  2. I feel DUMB
Burying the embryo and planting a memorial tulip tree during a mizuko-kuyo ceremony planned by my mom and friends.

Burying the embryo and planting a memorial tulip tree during a mizuko-kuyo ceremony planned by my mom and friends.

I do not feel like I am handling this well or with strength. I just feel numb and dumb and done and done for. I am bottoming out right now. Bottom. Pit. Despair.

It is hard for me to read this again, to type it out, and to remember these feelings. It still feels strange or confusing to me about how Noah’s birth was “easier” for me to cope with emotionally—even as it was the most fundamental and profound grief I’ve ever experienced, it was clean. It felt meaningful. It also had a distinct physical, embodied connection via having given birth to him. The second miscarriage felt like being kicked while I was down and being erased.

On my old miscarriage blog I explained my feelings about this miscarriage like this:

…this miscarriage experience was very different from my experience with Noah. It was extremely confusing and not clear-cut and was very personally undermining. My sense of body failure and almost “shame” was much, much higher. It was confusing as to when I got pregnant, how pregnant I was, and when I stopped being pregnant—I kept having positive tests for almost a month after I started bleeding, etc., etc. Very confusing and hard to come to terms with—because there is so much I don’t understand. It was a terribly painful blow right on the heels of Noah’s loss and I just couldn’t DEAL with it. I had thought I was ready to handle a new pregnancy, but I definitely was not ready (emotionally or psychologically) to handle another loss. The physical experience was, in its way, “no big deal”—it was the semi-mythological “heavy period” type of m/c, though even less crampy than a normal period—though I was stunned when about six days after the first bleeding, I found the tiny embryo (smaller than a grain of rice—maybe 5 weeks?). I really expected to see nothing and it was terribly shocking to suddenly see it. Since Noah’s birth was so much a birth, in a way this experience was harder to deal with, because it was very prolonged and had no clear-cut beginning or end. Very strange experience overall. I hesitate to even talk about it. I was surprised by how very DUMB I felt about having tried again. For having opened myself up to loss again so soon. For “cheapening” his memory by dumping another loss right on top of it. For thinking I could just pick back up where I left off and be “fixed” by a new pregnancy, etc., etc., etc. It was a very isolating experience and I also felt like it “undid” some of the good and positive things that came from Noah’s birth.

I was taking an online class in how to lead Birth Art sessions when I experienced my second miscarriage and I decided to create some birth art about miscarriage. This was my drawing:

miscarriagedrawing

Birth Art is about “process,” not product, so it is not supposed to be beautiful or even interpretable. The dice refer to our feeling of “tossing the dice” one more time—the numbers 3 and 4 show on the dice—and having those tosses end in blood. The question mark is self-explanatory with the squiggles representing all my reading and efforts to understand. The night I realized that I definitely going to have another m/c, I lay in bed and kept picturing a bridge that I was going to have to cross alone—-leaving behind the safe and familiar. A song kept running through my head, “keep walking in the light….keep following the path…” So, the little figure walking across the bridge is that. Tears are running down below her. The little bubble with other stick figures in it is the women who have gone before me—who are close to me, but I still have to cross alone. The happy pregnant woman behind me represents the “other side”—the one I can’t go back to. The naïvety. The certainty that a positive pregnancy test will result in a baby nine months later. She is all the other women who haven’t “been there” and I am forever separated from her by a wall (the thick line above her head). Or, she is the former me—falling down, down, down and away. The the right is my uterus, weeping both tears and blood. The ovaries and inside the uterus glow with energy. There are some purple dots inside to represent each of my babies—the largest one is actually a little “baby in my heart” image, like my pendant. It is larger because of my feeling post-Noah that I would always be a “little bit pregnant with him.”

So, there it is. My second miscarriage story in all its confusion, sadness, and nearly crippling despair. Thanks for listening.

Anthropology & Miscarriage

I recently finished reading a book called Mothers of Thyme: Customs and Rituals of Infertility and Miscarriage and my attention was caught by the explanation of how miscarried babies were viewed by some non-Western cultures:

Anthropologists’ writings reveal that non-Western cultures cultivated a more tender attitude toward miscarriage than Western culture has known. Native American cultures considered unborn children to be human beings…these cultures treated the remains of miscarried babies in the same manner as for adults, by burning or burying them…

Manus women of the Admiralities of New Guinea had similar feelings toward children lost during pregnancy. These women named each baby lost to miscarriage and treated its memory as if it had been a full individual.  Years afterward, when reminiscing about their children, these mothers would not distinguish between a miscarriage at three months, a stillborn infant, and a child who died several days after birth. The Ndranirol people of New Guinea also treated miscarried babies as though they had been born full term, naming each child and holding a ceremony to recognize its existence… (p. 72-73)

Noah’s angel bear and necklace

I identified with this section because of how I always want to mention Noah when people ask how many children I have. I usually leave him out and I never fail to feel a pang of regret for ignoring or erasing him in that way. Prior to Alaina’s birth, I used to include him, but now…somehow…it feels easier or simpler to just refer to the children I actually have with me. His birth counted to me. His life counted. And, while he may not have been a fully grown baby, he counted to me. He was/is one of my babies. His heart beat in my body. I felt his tiny kicks. He had fingers and toes and a little jaw that opened. He had closed eyelids with blue eyes beneath them and I saw his little ribcage through his translucently delicate skin. It is this experience that makes me struggle to reconcile my deep belief in women’s reproductive rights, with my deep knowing that this was my baby and he was real. He counted.

Earlier in the book, the author explains that in other cultures women were blamed or viewed with suspicion for having miscarried or for being infertile:

…blamed the problem on poor social graces. Women with this problem were assured that if they tried harder to get along with their female relatives, their chances of conceiving would improve. But sometimes the problem was more serious, such as when the medium determined that an infertile woman was a witch… (p. 31).

This doesn’t seem altogether dissimilar from being told she needs to “just relax” and then she’ll get pregnant, or from legislative attempts to make women prove they had a miscarriage (or, likewise, to withhold abortion from women who are in grave medical condition).

In general this book wasn’t what I expected or hoped for at all. It was basically a compendium of obscure historical and cultural “rituals” of the eat-three-raw-eggs-mixed-with-bat-dung-while-standing-under-the-banana-tree-on-the-new-moon, variety. It contained some things that were really interesting to read about from a historical perspective, particularly with regard to the way out there and funky misinformed beliefs of the health-care-professionals of the day (will we see continuous electronic fetal monitoring in the anthropology books of the future?!), but there was nothing of relevance to creating ceremony/acknowledgement for mothers today. It is definitely a history/anthropology book more than a miscarriage resource.

Miscarriage and Birth

Last month a fellow birth professional asked a question about whether it was possible to have postpartum depression after miscarriage. My response was as follows:

I think it is crucial to remember that miscarriage is a birth event—sometimes a very, very, very early birth event, but reproductively speaking that is what it is! Since we don’t have a better vocabulary for pregnancy loss in our culture, socioculturally speaking we tend to class it as “something else,” but in most ways it isn’t. A soul (or fertilized egg) touches down in a woman’s womb. Her hormones and all other physiological systems are impacted and feel its presence. The embryo/fetus/baby stays for a time and when it leaves her body, the uterus must contract and the cervix must open and the woman’s body must open to allow its passage. Her body, mind, emotions, and spirit are all affected (to varying degrees). In this way, miscarriage and full-term birth simply exist on a continuum of possible birth outcomes and are all birth events whether the pregnancy lasts five weeks or forty-two weeks.

Miscarriage as a birth event is one of my “pet” subtopics within the wide range of reading about miscarriage and quotes that respect the birth-miscarriage relationship always catch my attention. After the birth-miscarriage of my own third baby three years ago today, I found the following quote in a back issue of Midwifery Today:

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

It meant so much to me and I returned to it again and again. I believe I was also responsible for introducing the quote to the internet, because since I first typed it up, I’ve now seen it floating around on many other websites and blog posts. And, in a full circle moment, my own miscarriage-birth story was published in Midwifery Today in 2011. I also latched on to a quote from the book Wild Feminine saying, “though it is not always recognized as such, miscarriage is a birth event.”

20121107-013453.jpgChristine Moulder in the book Miscarriage: Women’s Experiences and Needs quoted another mother: “Although I had a miscarriage technically, I don’t feel this. I went through labour. It was incredibly painful but my husband was with me and it was almost a happy occasion.” I agree, with my own birth experience feeling just as “legitimate” as either of my prior labors or my subsequent birth. I And, actually even more so in that Noah’s birth became possibly the most defining moment of my womanhood. I would also describe it as a spiritual experience or “awakening” of sorts in a way that has profoundly influenced me, shaping my future work with women and my life goals. I return to this experience again and again and continue to draw both strength and insight from it.

Returning to Moulder’s book, later in that section, the author says:

With the exception of women who have a late missed [miscarriage] there will be a baby that has to be born. The baby may or may not have died prior to the miscarriage. As with full-term birth, the waters must break, there will be pains and contractions and the cervix must dilate for the baby to leave the womb. Of course the baby will be smaller, in some cases much smaller, but it is essentially the same process and this comes as a great shock to many women.”

And this is absolutely true, but also not something that is mentioned in very many miscarriage books. This shock of experiencing miscarriage so clearly as a labor and birth rather than as “something else” is what led me to describe my wish for miscarriage doulas on my now-complete miscarriage blog:

On a pregnancy loss message board that I read, a mother posted asking if she was the only one who experience her miscarriage as painful (because no one mentioned it being painful in the stories she had read and she was very shocked by the pain involved). I had a couple of thoughts in response to this question. I also shared my “favorite” miscarriage-birth quote: “Miscarriages are labor, miscarriages are birth. To consider them less dishonors the woman whose womb has held life, however briefly.” (Kathryn Miller Ridiman).

I do think the amount of physical pain probably depends in part on where you are in the pregnancy. Since a lot of women experience very early miscarriages (less than 6 weeks), I think that is perhaps why you don’t hear them talk as much about pain because the baby is still so small. OR, because a lot of women end up having D & C’s and thus do not go through the “natural miscarriage” experience, perhaps that is why pain doesn’t figure heavily into narrative. Or, maybe because there is so much emotional pain involved as well, the physical pain gets overshadowed? That said, my 6-week miscarriage was not physically painful at all (not that it couldn’t be for some women, of course). However, my miscarriage at nearly 15 weeks was indistinguishable from a full-term labor. It was just the same, except with the addition of MASSIVE blood clots following the baby. I value his birth as another birth experience in my life, but at the same time I am SHOCKED that miscarriage is so often overlooked as a birth event that requires tenderness and support (where are the miscarriage doulas and midwives?! While in a way, I feel proud of myself for have an “unassisted” birth-miscarriage, I could have used the care of a knowledgeable, caring woman rather than to just be left on my own trying to gauge how much blood loss is normal, etc.)

So, what about “miscarriage doulas” as an idea? I have seriously thought about becoming one. I am trained as a birth doula, but have no interest in actually working as one, but being a m/c doula does interest me a lot. I feel like adding a section to my business website (I’m a childbirth educator) that says, “having a miscarriage? Call me and I’ll come over and rub your back and bring you things to drink…”

I decided two things shortly after my first miscarriage: one, that I was going to write a book specifically about how to deal (i.e. “what to expect when you’re having a miscarriage”), because I felt very betrayed by having this huge wealth of pregnancy, birth, and midwifery books all around me and NONE of them had the information I was looking; And, two, that if anyone was ever to tell me she was in the process of miscarrying I would go to her right away (unfortunately, it seems like people feel like they have to tough it out alone or don’t want to “bother” anyone and so only tell after the fact). Well, if she wanted me to go, obviously, not against her will. And, that would include going to the hospital with her if she needed a m/c doula there, not just for “home miscarriage.” –Originally posted as Miscarriage Doulas…on June 29, 2010

This interest and post led to the co-founding of the organization The Amethyst Network, originally intended to train the miscarriage doulas I’d longed for during my own experiences. TAN took some time getting off the ground and in the meantime the thoroughly amazing organization Stillbirthday independently arose in vibrant support of women and is now skillfully fulfilling the mission of training loss doulas.

Thankfully, I had already read a long message board thread about, “what exactly do you see with a miscarriage” long before I ever had a miscarriage experience of my own, so I did know to expect mine to be somewhat “like labor” and not to be a “heavy period” (OMG, I wanted to scream when I saw miscarriages described like that in books over, and over, and over again! Though, then when I had my second miscarriage and it WAS, in fact, like the mythical “heavy period,” and so then I understood a little better why that was a prevalent descriptor.)

On Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day this October I was out-of-town, but I shared past blog musings on jagged peace, acknowledging that the legacy of miscarriage is profound. I also linked to a friend’s story: Mormon Monkey Mama: A Few Thoughts on Miscarriage and to my own birth-miscarriage story: Noah’s Birth Story (Warning: Miscarriage/Baby Loss).

And, I updated my Facebook status with the following:

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Babyloss is part of the spectrum of the childbearing year, and miscarriage is one type of birth experience that a large number of women experience. I appreciate the opportunity to recognize this, rather than to keep a lid on our “negative” stories of grief, loss, and a multitude of complicated emotions. Today I think of my own lost baby N and also my lost babystart. I also think of all the women who do not conceive and birth the rainbow babies they so long for. I also think of a friend whose baby died last month. And, I think about and appreciate my friend/doula from Peaceful Beginnings Doula Services who helped me so much to heal from loss and who has her own babystart to remember today as well.

There are many helpful babyloss organizations and one that was particularly helpful to me was Angel Whispers in Canada. They mailed me a birth certificate for my baby (with an official looking gold seal). It meant a lot to me because it acknowledged that he had lived and was born. It hangs in our hallway and it is amazing to me how meaningful a simple, small act of kindness from strangers can be.

Today we recognize the third anniversary of the birth-miscarriage of our little son Noah. I post not for “sympathy” or condolences, but because memories are important, and because even though he only stayed with us for a couple of months, he shaped our lives and in a very real sense is responsible for the life of Alaina. 20121107-013748.jpgI share because his birth and the long, slow journey of grief was a pivotal, transformative point in my life as a mother/woman and because he helped change my destiny. And, I share because there are SO many loss mamas out there with stories of their own to tell and I hold them all in my heart and wish them all the love, caring, and wisdom that I was lucky enough to receive, both three years ago and ongoing today! ♥

There is a sacredness in tears. They are messengers of overwhelming grief…and unspeakable love.” –Washington Irving

“Remember our heritage is our power; we can know ourselves and our capacities by seeing that other women have been strong.” – Judy Chicago

“Change, when it comes, cracks everything open.” ~Dorothy Allison

“She’s turning her life into something sacred: Each breath a new birth. Each moment, a new chance. She bows her head, gathers her dreams from a pure, deep stream and stretches her arms toward the sky.” –from a journal cover

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Related posts:

My memories of this time in 2011: Sand Tray Therapy
From 2010: Pregnancy Update
And memories of the anniversary of the second worst day of my life
And, some past thoughts about Honoring Miscarriage