Hope Blooms: Sharing Your Stories and Remembering Your Children
By: Mariah Shull
“I was devastated. I did everything right. I didn't smoke or drink alcohol or caffeine. I took my vitamins faithfully and ate balanced meals. It never occurred to me that I would lose this baby.”
Connie Shull was a young wife and mother of a two-year old daughter when she experienced the heart-wrenching grief of a miscarriage. Since she already had a child, she believed that this pregnancy would go just as well until she learned at a routine check-up that her baby didn’t have a heartbeat.
“I passed the 3-month mark, so I thought that it would be safe to share with others that I was expecting. I miscarried at about 3 and half months and had already told family, friends, and folks at church that I was pregnant.”
Amidst that internal heartbreak, Connie had to put up a front of composure so that others wouldn’t feel awkward. “It’s an incredibly unpleasant conversation for people who haven’t gone through it. I then became responsible for their emotions. I had to say, ‘Oh, it’s okay…’ even though it wasn’t, just so they wouldn’t feel uncomfortable.”
Well-intentioned comments such as, “Oh, you’re young, you’ll have more,” would cause “those raw emotions of loss to come crashing back.” People did not seem to understand the significance of losing a child in the womb.
Connie felt numb. Empty. She recalled moving through life in a dark, depression-laden haze for about two weeks before she could move back into her old routine. The combination of postpartum depression with the pain of losing a child caused Connie and her family to spiral into what felt like an “emotional pit.” The loss of a child is enough pain; families shouldn’t have to deal with the social etiquette that miscarriages are something to be kept private and mourned in secret.
Connie’s husband was as supportive, but he didn’t always know what to do: “I didn’t know how to make her feel better; all I could do is hold her as she cried.” Connie says that “I knew that I was loved and prayed over, but I felt completely empty.”
A friend from church, Linda, reached out to Connie, and even though she didn’t feel particularly social, Connie accepted her invitation. Having experienced several miscarriages of her own, Linda knew just what to say and what not to say. “She prayed with me and just listened. That's the thing about loss: you have to walk through those trials to be a comfort to those in need.”
It was from that experience that Connie began to heal. “I don't shy away from miscarriages or parents who have lost children now because I know their pain and how to minister to them.”
Melissa, lead labor and delivery nurse at a University of Michigan hospital, says mothers often struggle with the thought that their child will be forgotten or replaced. She tries to “meet the parents where they are and acknowledge that their grief is real, that their loss is real, and that their child will not be forgotten.” Though she cannot completely take away their emotional pain, she does her best to give them space and grieve with them. Mothers often need this kind of care.
The March of Dimes estimates that as many as half of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, which means that most people likely know someone who has gone through this tragedy. One way we can support one another is by openly talking about and sharing our experiences; just as Linda comforted Connie, we can help each other commemorate the precious life that was lost and move forward.
The EPLA seeks to help women and families find support in others who have experienced pregnancy loss and overcome the stigma of quietly “getting over it,” because no family should suffer the pain of miscarriage alone.
Mariah Shull is a senior Professional Writing and Information Design major at Cedarville University. She is also active in ROTC.
By: Emily Carrington EPLA President & Founder
My first miscarriage was a “missed miscarriage.” I sat in the waiting room at the doctor’s office with my husband. I clutched my Saltines while we talked about how we would announce the pregnancy after this visit. This was our second visit; we had seen a heartbeat about a month before and the doctor had assured us that after a heartbeat was detected my risk of miscarriage was very slim. This was just a routine check-up.
First the doppler, then an ultrasound, then a trip down the hall for another ultrasound. All three tests confirmed the same thing - no heartbeat. The doctor carefully walked me through my options and sent us home to take time to think.
The next morning we went on a walk in the woods. I felt like a living, breathing, walking tomb. Fully alive, I carried death inside me.
The next six months were filled with landmines. First it was the pregnancy announcements, then the gender reveals, then the births. I was in my late 20s and many of my friends and family were entering into parenthood with joy while I was left behind to face the agony and reality of death.
My motherhood began when Baby was conceived, but I ached for my motherhood to be realized. Picking myself up, we tried again, and I quickly became pregnant, only to suffer the same fate. By the end of 2014 I had been pregnant for more than 20 weeks but never left the first trimester. I felt robbed, broken, and insufficient.
I also felt silenced. While my family and close friends encouraged openness, I could not figure out how to move forward and embrace my story and my children. There was no social script for me to follow; there was no graceful way to talk about it.
Then I was asked to share about my losses in front of a group of 80 women at a local Bible study. As I wrote our story, the story of my first two little ones, my heart was released and they were given life again. As I told my story to a room full of women of all ages, I continued to feel feel empowered as the mother of my children, even though they were no longer with us.
For many reasons, the grief of miscarriage can be stolen. Miscarriage is common, miscarriage is misunderstood, and miscarriage is largely invisible. Miscarriage is pregnancy loss before 20 weeks and most miscarriages occur during the first trimester. This is before a woman is showing a baby bump or feeling kicks. Because of these things, our culture has perpetuated myths about the severity of the loss through the the things we tell women to encourage them: “At least it was early,” “I am so sorry you are disappointed,” “Just try again!” All of these things belittle the death and grief caused by miscarriage.
Mothers have had enough. Since my first miscarriage in 2014 the dialog has changed. Celebrities are coming forward, non-profits continue to pop-up, and mothers have started to share their miscarriage stories on social media.
It has always been part of our vision at the Early Pregnancy Loss Association to give a voice to grieving families. We hope to use this blog to share your stories and remember your children. We also seek to bear burdens by encouraging community, furthering public discourse, and connecting professionals and parent advocates. Through parent stories, artwork, professional perspectives, editorials, and podcasts, we will fight the hushed culture surrounding early pregnancy loss.
I hope you will join us as Hope Blooms, even as we embrace and acknowledge death.