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.
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.
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.