Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance
From the first moment a woman realizes that her cycle may be a day late, her stomach feels a tad queasy, or her body feels a bit tender or sore… before she even pees on the stick to confirm a yes a no…her thoughts are focused on a tiny life growing inside her. Whether planned or unplanned, whether sure or unsure—her mind begins to picture the presence of that little one as part of her life. Whether that little one ever takes his first breath, her life and heart have been changed. Unfortunately, one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage. That is a startling and sad statistic. This month is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance.
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Just as they had planned, they were starting their family. Excitement grew as they pictured this little one and how their lives would be changing. Now on this day, they would get to see their baby for the very first time. As the ultrasound screen flashed before them, their heart raced with anticipation and joy. But a quick glance at the tech revealed a stone cold stare. Something wasn’t right. This little one would never grow to be held in their arms. He was gone.
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She hadn’t remembered the doctor’s exact words, but it was something that stung deep, really deep. Something about the “tissue that was no longer viable.” She could hardly say the words. That was her baby. Her baby. Her baby was gone. It was no tissue. It was her child. And now, she struggled to know what to feel. Was she crazy? Would others think her crazy? If this was a tissue issue, how come it felt like she just lost a piece of her heart?
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She had gone for a routine visit. They hadn’t been able to find the heart beat on the doppler, but that had happened with other pregnancies. They would do a vaginal ultrasound and it would all be ok. Her husband hadn’t come to this appointment, as she felt certain all was well. But those next moments revealed a horrible reality. Her baby’s heart was no longer beating. She couldn’t even stay in the office to process this. She could only leave. I don’t want to talk about it. I won’t talk about it. She turned and left before the nurse could offer any instructions. How does one deliver this kind of news to an expecting Dad? It felt unbelievable. But the pain was intense.
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She thought the news in the doctor’s office was the worst moment she could imagine. But that paled in comparison to the horrible pain she endured through the night, cramping, bleeding, and giving birth to what looked so distinctly like a baby. So perfectly formed. Her baby. A girl. And it was lifeless. After enduring the hours of pain, it ended with the horrible realization that she had no idea what to do with this precious little one. It was not meant to be thrown away or disposed of. It was meant to be loved, held, and cherished. And all of that was gone as she looked at the little life and struggled to find an honorable way to bury this, her baby, her little girl. Should she name her? How could she ever recover from this pain?
April 8th never passes without me thinking of the little one I never held. Something about discussing it feels a bit out of the ordinary, yet very important. Between the birth of my second and third child, I experienced an early miscarriage, but the whole event felt very private. For many reasons, I found it hard to discuss. It was as though I felt others would question the existence of something they never saw, or that because my doctor hadn’t even seen me yet, it was less legitimate or real. Guilt plagued my heart, as I realized my suspicion of being pregnant and didn’t feel ready for another pregnancy so soon. I remember feeling a little uneasy, which haunted me later. I feared my lack of excitement at the prospect of adding another baby had caused my body to harm my own child in some way or robbed this little one of life, of being.
I struggled through the next several months in silence. We had not announced the pregnancy, so only my husband and I knew. My sister, whom I was very close to, was pregnant at the time. I didn’t want her to have to worry about my feelings or make her feel like she had to hold back her excitement. So we kept the struggle to ourselves for some time. I found some support on the Silent Grief website. The stories women shared there were comforting and assuring. In reading these stories, I didn’t feel so alone.
Often, I questioned why God would give something and then take it away. It felt unfair. Why did he ever give me something so special, knowing that child would never be held in my arms? I knew God was a big God and could hear and handle my questioning heart. I also knew that my heart could wrestle through this and hold onto my faith in God in the end. I remember at times, wondering, Does God really even care or see my pain? Does He even know what I am going through?
On the morning of April 8, what would have been my due date, I went to see a friend of mine. I had not been to her house often, maybe two or three times ever. She had no idea what was going on in my heart, or that I had suffered a miscarriage. But on this date, she showed me a picture she was giving another friend. I will never forget this moment. She showed me the picture of Jesus holding a smiling baby. I had never seen this picture before. In that moment, it felt like a God wink. God was giving me a little sign that yes, indeed, He knew what mattered to my heart on this very day. And this child was in His arms and happy.
I got a copy of that picture and have kept it up in our home every day since. Every time I see it, my heart feels some comfort and peace. It is something small that reminds us of that child we never got to know. Yes, I did have several children after that. Yes, I did have a rainbow baby and gave birth to a child that I couldn’t have had if the other baby had lived. But despite that, I still grieve a little for that little life. No other child has replaced that one. Nothing replaces that little life or my love for that child. And yes, sometimes, I still find myself wondering…would it have been a boy or a girl? (Okay, chances are boy…after all, we are 6 boys to 1 girl!) And sometimes I wonder what that little person would be like…yes 15 years old now!
And while I do think about some of these things randomly, I don’t go there too often. I make that choice to move to a place of joy and gratitude. A place of knowing that God knew something I didn’t, and I will choose to trust His hand.
This month recognizes those babies that were lost through miscarriage, still birth, never taken home from the hospital, or died after going home. It can be a very complicated and difficult grief, no matter which of these losses affected you. All of these should be remembered and honored, not just on the official remembrance day October 15, or the official observance month, October, but each day of life. You may know someone who is going through this struggle or might possibly be going through this heartache yourself. I’d like to offer some ideas for things that you might find helpful during this time.
- Accept the grief as your own unique journey. There isn’t a formula or manual on how to grieve the loss of an unborn or infant child, so give yourself lots of grace. Do those things that bring you healing, despite what others may choose. (ex. Taking pictures, choosing a burial or memorial service, keepsakes, etc.)
- Find at least one person to be a support as you travel the grief journey.. While you may feel private, it is still helpful to have someone who knows what you are going through and can check up on you, and it can be helpful in your healing. (You might find the website Silent Grief helpful as well.)
- Feel free to talk about your loss, your baby, your grief, and your journey down this difficult path of pain and loss.. Even though others may choose to handle it privately, you don’t have to. Talking about it can be therapeutic in your healing process.
- Find a special way to commemorate your baby and keep their memory alive.. I bought a little teddy bear angel that sits in a special spot in our house and a Christmas ornament that we put on every year in remembrance. You might like a stepping stone in your garden, a hearty plant, a bush in your yard, a decoration for your home, etc. I also remember, early on, buying a bunch of little yellow roses. Now every time I see little yellow roses, I think of that child and smile.
- The process of writing can be a way to get those thoughts out of your mind and work toward an acceptance of feelings and sorrow. Write a letter to your baby. Keep the letter and know you can always write more. You might find journaling in this fashion helpful. Sign up to download these helpful journal prompts to aid in your healing of grief and loss and more useful resources.
- Find things that bring you peace and comfort, even those simple little joys. Connect with those things that can bring a bit of sunshine into your day and bring a smile to your heart. Maybe a cup of flavored coffee, cozy blanket, favorite flowers, or even a special phone call with a friend.
- It is a proven concept, that those who utilize their faith can experience better health. Place yourself in God’s presence, even if all you can do is voice your anger, sadness, or tears. God can hear it all and can handle even your strong emotions.
- Know that there is no expiration date on the time it takes to grieve your loss. Move at your own pace and give yourself a lot of grace. On the flip side, even if you stuff the pain now, it will have to come out at some point.
- Don’t use counseling as a last resort or if all else fails, but rather an effective tool for the journey. Know that having some professional help can be a great support for the many emotions you are struggling through. Seek help if needed.
- Take some risks in sharing your struggle with miscarriage. You may discover how many people around you are, or have, struggled with the same pain, even though it is often not shared. It can be quite surprising to find how many people are able to understand.
According to the March of Dimes1, as many as 50% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, however, many of those are before a woman misses a period or even knows she is pregnant. Up to 15% of recognized pregnancies will end in a miscarriage. So you can imagine the number of women who have carried this grief. Despite these numbers, miscarriage and infant loss is still not a very talked about subject. Maybe we as women can start changing that. Imagine if our daughters lived in a world where they don’t have to struggle in silence but feel able to share this pain better than past generations.
A local news anchor just recently shared her personal struggle through two miscarriages and the excitement of an upcoming birth. You might find both help and hope in this video they aired publicly.
I would like to share this poem that was comforting to my heart in my time of loss and grief.
How very softly
You tiptoed into my world.
Only a moment you stayed.
But what an imprint
Your footprints have left upon my heart.
We’ll hold you in Heaven,
You might also find the past blog article about Child Loss helpful. Feel free to visit this post and get the resources offered there. You will see the downloads and will be able to sign up to receive them to your inbox.
Chances are great you know someone who lost a baby and grieved this loss, rather publicly or privately. Can I challenge you this week to do one of two things—
- Drop a note or message to that person and offer just a little encouragement. You might even reference that this month is a remembrance month for those little ones lost and you thought of them.
- If you or someone you know has experienced this loss, can you take a risk to talk about it with one other person. This is the only way others will come to understand the complicated grief– if we are able to do what feels difficult and just TALK about it. Feel free to share below if that feels easier.
Once you complete one of these, I’d love to have you comment below with your thoughts or what you chose to do. I am sure this challenge can uncover some great things, if we just take the time to care and share.
Let’s do this!
1 March of Dimes