We were getting ready for our first ‘first birthday’ party for our daughter. We had the whole backyard decked out with pumpkins, hay, and fall festivities. We had apple pies, sugar cookies, pumpkin cakes… you name it, we had it.
All of this hustle and bustle for her party while inside my belly, I was growing a little human. It was our secret to be revealed at the right moment, specifically at 8 weeks. I remember taking the test as my husband was leaving for work one day and I ran out to him in my bare feet.
“We’re pregnant!,” I told him, with glee and happiness climbing up my throat.
My face was all aglow the day of my daughter’s party. The word leaked about half way through the party and everyone was hugging me and congratulating us on our next big adventure… Baby Bear, as we called him.
I met my husband at the office for our first sonogram. I whispered to him to take video so we could get the very first sound of his heart beat captured forever. We planned this baby down to the very littlest detail… taking ovulation tests and monitoring my cycle to the hour. It was all very exciting… until there was silence. The woman performing the sonogram suggested that I had my dates wrong, which made me angry. She was rough with me, mentally and physically. She tried an internal sonogram to confirm what we were already seeing on the screen… no heart beat. She sent in the doctor who explained to me that they would start to monitor my HCG levels, a hormone that doubles by day when a woman is pregnant.
I was devastated. I cried as we walked out of the office, down the elevator, in the car. The hope of a heart beat lingered there. I did have a positive pregnancy test so maybe the weeks were off. I had my blood taken that day and again the next day to test the level of HCG and then I waited for ‘the call’.
It was just me and my daughter at home as my husband was still at work. My midwife called and informed me that the levels had dropped significantly. It would only be a matter of time before I lost the baby. I just dropped to the floor in our hallway, and for a moment, I had given up. I just let go of the world and sobbed deeply. It wasn’t until I felt two little fingers peeling my hands away from my eyes that I came back to present. There stood my baby girl, looking at me with an old soul face of concern. She wiped both of my eyes and hugged me tight. I knew then that I needed to get up and continue on, despite the ache in my heart.
My first feelings were that it was something I did wrong. I was thinking that when I was making the cookies for my daughter’s party, I ate the cookie batter. I know this sounds silly but I was looking for reasons why this might have happened to us. I didn’t know anyone else that this had ever happened to.
Or did I?
Truth is, it happens… A LOT. About 50% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. About 15-25% of these pregnancies are known (mom is aware she is pregnant). Why did I feel so alone? Why do women hide their pregnancies until 8, 10, 12 weeks or even more? We don’t tell anyone so if we lose the baby, we can just pretend it didn’t happen? Why are we ashamed to lose a baby? This was a time when all I needed was support and most of all, understanding from family, friends, and co-workers. Those 2 months where I had to wait to miscarry through taking the ‘day after’ pill and have it not work… Twice… Killed me inside. It was like I was choosing to miscarry. It wasn’t until the 2nd failed dosage when they decided to have me go in for a D&C. It was a peaceful morning, and I remember dreaming of Christmas. When I woke up, it was all over and Baby Bear was put to rest.
My one true broken heart.
Despite the hush hush that surrounds a miscarriage, I started to reach out to others. I had to. First through social media, seeking out groups that dealt with miscarriages and loss. It helped to share my story there. I started telling my friends and colleagues but the response was much more awkward. People didn’t know how to deal with me. I was labeled fragile. Talking about miscarriages or infant losses was taboo. No one knows what to say. Even women who had miscarried before didn’t know what to say. Well, from experience, here are 3 things never to say:
1. ‘At least it was only ‘-‘ weeks’. And my all time worst, ‘It was probably a chemical pregnancy’.
Never assume that if the loss was early on in the pregnancy that it is somehow ‘better’. A loss is a loss, it should not be compared.
2. ‘It wasn’t meant to be, something was probably wrong with it, not part of God’s plan’.
This is never ok to say to anyone, at any time. You might be tempted to say this as a way to provide insight as to why the couple lost a baby… Resist.
3. ‘Be grateful for what you have/now you can try again’.
This statement dismisses the grief that the parent needs to feel. It says that the loss was insignificant and it’s time to move on. Where you might feel that this might ease pain, it will have quite the opposite effect.
What can you do?
Ask how they are doing and then… Listen, really listen, to their answer.
Hug. Hugs are almost always appropriate in this situation. Don’t be offended if they also do not want to hug or talk about it.
Let them grieve. Let them cry.
Help them with ideas on how to remember or honor the lost. My husband made me an ornament of a baby bear swinging on a rope swing holding a red blanket. It has since given me peace and closure to the loss we had. It was a way to honor his soul that was with us for such a short time. I like to think that he’s up in Heaven, always warm and always at peace. Finding a way to hold onto a piece of baby can help start the healing process.