sharing your stories and remembering your children
By: MaKenzie Schienebeck
I wanted it to be over. I wanted our once joyful baby to be out of me. The pain of carrying a baby inside of me that is gone was only bringing awful pain. I was given medication to make the process faster. I inserted the four prescribed pills and waited for my body to speed up the process. These pills help rid the baby from your womb.
The next morning, I awoke in pain and blood. I felt sick. I hopped in another hot shower to ease the cramps. This is normal when you’re giving birth. I was dilated. Once I finished showering, I laid on the couch in agony. The pain was immense. I ran back to the shower. My two boys and husband were now up for the morning. My oldest was getting ready for school. Let me note, this was also my 24th birthday. My husband got our oldest on the bus and made me my favorite stuffed French toast for my birthday breakfast. I showered again, and happened to hold my hand out at just the right moment to catch our baby. It was a beautiful little baby with all its anatomy.
We placed our baby in a Tupperware container with a towel temporarily until we could bury him/her. I then laid on the bathroom floor, feet away from my son and husband, who were in the kitchen. I asked my husband for a glass of water. The blood loss was making me extremely thirsty. I recall waking up to my cup of water spilled on the floor around me, blood all over, my husband at my feet as his voice cracking with fear. He was on the phone with 911. After another unconscious moment, I woke up to a stretcher in my house, an ambulance crew, and police. I was taken to our local hospital by ambulance.
Sitting on a white bed and looking at bright lights, I felt blood pour like a waterfall out of me. I asked the nurses and doctor if I was going to die. They looked fearful. My husband held my hand. I was passing out over and over. I felt a strange peace amongst the sickness and blood loss.
My husband temporarily had to leave my side to hand my grandmother our youngest. She took him to her house while my husband stayed by me. As he was away, I grabbed my phone with the last ounce of strength left in me. I wrote my sons and husband a goodbye letter. I felt as if this was it me. My life is over at 24, on my birthday. I recall the immense pain, thinking of missing out on birthdays, graduations, and life with my family. How easily we take for granted the sunrise the next day and the family beside us.
An ambulance crew from Woodruff, Wisconsin, came to take me from Park Falls. My husband followed along in the car. It was a 45-minute drive. I had an emergency D&C and blood transfusions. I asked and EMT if I was going to die. He told me “nobody has ever died in my ambulance, and you are not going to be my first.” He was an angel. He made me feel safe.
After surgery, I received more blood in my recovery room. I was given instructions to sit up hours later. My blood pressure and heart rate skyrocketed, and I passed out. My body was not taking the blood loss and new blood well. I was fearful to ever sit up again. We stayed in the hospital overnight. The next day, after more blood was given to me, we were sent home. I took it easy to recover.
My husband took down the crib and so forth. I sold every baby item and cried each time. I kept TWO items: a black and white muslin blanket with arrows, which I would cuddle it every night, and my baby’s soft, yellow sleeper with ducks on it. I had a cabinet with wedding memorabilia. Baby’s sleeper, pregnancy test and ultrasounds are now in there with our wedding belongings.
I had panic attacks for months. I decided I was not going to be given this card in life without fighting back. I set up a Facebook page to talk to others going through this. I speak out. I want to normalize this taboo subject. I never thought this would happen to me. When I found out I was pregnant, I felt invincible. I felt nothing bad could happen. My biggest fear was something happening to me at birth.
My whole outlook on life has changed. It is a gift. We get so used to waking up every morning that we forget about those who don't. I was almost one of them. I was also one of the one in four woman in every pregnancy that lost her baby. One in four. Let that sink in. I could not fathom the women in my life who opened up about their losses. There are so many of us mothers to angels, but you would never know it. It could be you, your friend, sister, mother, neighbor. It is not uncommon, and it is brutally painful.
We buried our baby in a small wooden box, kissing it as we lay it down into the cold, brown dirt. I purchased blue and pink flowers to plant by our baby. We did not know the gender. Our baby was not going to he buried nameless, so my husband and I combined our first initials and named our beloved angel KC. KC turned my pain into power. My sadness into greatness. I will not stop speaking out until my last breath.
I would also like to tell everyone reading this that you are not alone. Do not be afraid to speak up. If you want to remain quiet, remain quiet. If you want to talk, talk. If you want to cry or grieve, get it out. And last but not least.. do not forget about the fathers. They feel the pain we feel. They helped bring that little life into this world with you. Although they do not carry the baby, they share the love we do. Talk to them, ask if they are okay, support and love them. Sending sympathies to mom? Don't forget dad.
My hope is that I save someone from this pain. I hope you know you are strong, loved and needed. The pain will remain but your strength is stronger. Fight it out moms and dads: you are warriors. God gives his toughest battles to his strongest warriors.
MaKenzie Schienebeck is a mother to two beautiful boys and an angel baby. She is a wife, blogger, and entrepreneur. MaKenzie is Mrs. Price County Wisconsin and running for Mrs. Wisconsin United States.
By: MaKenzie Schienebeck
Growing up in a small town full of love, family and friends, life was seemingly beautiful even after enduring many hard times. The people surrounding my life were always there to lift me back up, dust me off, and straighten my crown.
Envisioning my future, I knew I wanted a big family of my own with my husband. We have two beautiful young boys together, ages seven and three. The two of us work hard to keep a roof over our head, food on our plates, and love, laughter and adventure flowing through our house. We knew we wanted another child to add to our crazy, mud-digging, Hot Wheels-filled, goofy household.
One day, while my husband was away at work, I picked up a pregnancy test from our local dollar store. Once home, I went to the restroom, unwrapped that good old box and did the test. Seconds later, I saw two beautiful pink lines. I tried to keep calm and collected as excitement flooded throughout my body. I touched my belly, realizing I was carrying another blessing.
Once my husband arrived home from work, I asked him to come check out the tomatoes in the garden with me. It was my way of getting him alone to tell him about the new bundle of joy. After I told him, we hugged, cried, and went on to tell family and friends.
Doctor’s appointments, ultrasounds, days, and nights passed by. We saw our growing peanut’s little hands, feet, belly, arms, head, heartbeat, and wiggling little body all on a black and white screen before us.
The two of us had excitedly purchased all the necessities for baby number three: Pack-n-Play, rock n play, bottles, crib, bedding, toys, blankets, Bumbo, activity mat, diapers, you name it. Baby’s room was set up only two months into our pregnancy. “Excited” is nowhere near the joy we were experiencing.
Our boys would kiss my belly, talk to baby, dream of adventures they’d have as baby grew up with them.
Fast forward to my morning sickness. I had such bad sickness with my previous pregnancies, so I was thankful this last pregnancy that I wasn't enduring the morning sickness after two months. It completely stopped and I felt way better. I continued to rub my belly, make plans, and buy baby products. Our two boys came to appointments and ultrasounds with us. The last ultrasound is where my story turned from sunshine to an unspeakable darkness.
The doctor squirted jelly on my stomach and began rolling the heartbeat monitor around. Thinking she had heard movements or a beat but could not say for certain, she reminded us this is common in early pregnancy. We were given the choice to head home or get an ultrasound. The clinic was 45 minutes away and we had to wait five hours for our ultrasound.
My husband and I decided to take our youngest to the park to play, as our oldest was in school and would be going to his grandmother’s later on if we were not back in time. AT the park, there were giggles, rain, swings and talks. We played until it was time to head back to the ultrasound.
After a while in the waiting room, we were called in. Giddy, we thought nothing of this ordeal. Baby was too small for the heartbeat monitor, right? Time to change into my gown as previous times, lay on the bed in a dim, calm, quiet ultrasound room which always stirred up amazing memories of my babies. More jelly on my stomach and up comes the image on the screen.
My husband was by my side, holding our youngest son. The tech scrolled on baby three, changing screen colors. Flat lines on the heartbeat grid, moving to different angles, round belly, head. Same baby but this time, different story. My husband said "there is no heartbeat.” The tech told us she could not confirm his suspicion; only our doctor could. My soul, my husband’s soul felt crushed within minutes.
Tears of the worst pain flowed down my face. We were walked in a quiet hallway away from public, upstairs to my doctor’s office. The news we already knew was confirmed. We had lost our baby two weeks prior.
I had an awful ride home. How do I tell my sons? How do I tell my family and friends? Did I do this? Did something I ate or do, do this? This cannot be. The ultrasound has to be wrong. My baby is not dead. Denial. Blame. I felt it all.
Once home, I sat on the shower floor as hot water fell upon me. I took shower after shower to soothe my pain, anxiety, and depression. I remembered how I would rub my belly and realized I was rubbing a belly with a lifeless baby inside, unbeknownst to me.
MaKenzie Schienebeck is a mother to two beautiful boys and an angel baby. She is a wife, blogger, and entrepreneur. MaKenzie is Mrs. Price County Wisconsin and running for Mrs. Wisconsin United States
By: Katie Stockdale
How do you begin writing about burying your child? It’s not a subject often discussed because it’s so hard and so personal, but it is necessary. Vulnerability allows us to help each other. So, here it goes.
My husband Calvin and I found out about our fifth child when our fourth was only seven months old. It was a shock. (Granted, we are not known for planned pregnancies.) Even though this wasn't how we thought life would go, we wanted this baby, but just like that, it was all over. We lost Anastasius at 10 weeks, found out at 12 weeks, and delivered him at 13 weeks. (I will be using “he” as we do not know the sex.) We buried him two weeks later.
The ordinariness of life and death was in stark relief because we had to preserve Anastasius’ body until burial. This required a sterile saline solution, as well as refrigeration, and so our baby ended up nestled in among the leftovers in the fridge. Just like preservation, burial arrangements forced us into a necessary and limited emotional planning process. Because a baby born before 20 weeks is not considered a stillbirth, most states will not issue a death certificate.
Parents choose many ways to handle their miscarried babies. Because traditional burial isn't common, this lack of death certificate will confuse both funeral home directors and those who run the cemetery. Check on the laws in your state, but know that when you call those who run the cemetery (in our case we had to call the county clerk) to arrange for burial, you may have to wait for them to confirm that you do have the right to bury your child.
I learned from a friend that funeral homes will provide a free casket for a baby. I called two funeral homes and asked what their policies were for burying a miscarried baby. The first one was very empathetic, and would provide a burial container for free. The second showed less empathy and would provide a burial container at a discounted price. The choice here was clear.
If you choose traditional burial, check with the funeral home about burial laws. We were required to use an airtight and watertight container. Thankfully this was provided. The funeral home can either place the baby in it for you, or you can take the container home and do it yourselves.
The burial day was a cold March day. I placed Anastasius in the burial container, safely nestled in a muslin swaddle blanket. To bury him in the blanket was a way for me to take care of him. We had our goodbyes, took our last pictures, Calvin sealed him in, and we left for the cemetery. The sexton met us there along with my parents and our pastor.
Irrationally, I expected a large hole in the ground, but instead a small, square hole awaited us. This was shocking. It made the unnaturalness of burying a child all the more real. After Pastor delivered a fitting and brief message, Calvin and I placed Anastasius in the grave. Our eldest son, Timmy, helped Calvin return the dirt to its rightful place. The sexton finished the process, and we left.
The burial process wasn't straightforward, but it certainly was worth the effort. For us it provided needed closure, and I felt that my child was protected and safe in a beautiful graveyard. If you must walk this path, do not be afraid or embarrassed to enlist the help of those around you to help do the planning. You are not meant to walk through this alone.
By: Kathryn Wales
When my husband and I suffered the loss of our second child at sixteen weeks, we had never heard a story of miscarriage. We did not know what to expect. One day I felt the first quickening flutters, and the next day we heard no heartbeat. Because we would be traveling to see our families for Christmas the following week, induction rather than waiting seemed to be the better choice. My husband and I arranged for my two-year-old son to stay with friends, settled in at the hospital, and clung to each other through the storm. After eleven hours, I was holding my daughter in the palm of my hand. Her shining red face looked like us.
In the midst of that excruciating grief, a nurse told me that the local funeral home was ready to help. My beloved mother-in-law several states away had been preparing for us what would be a life-changing grace. She had called Cedar Grove Cemetery at the University of Notre Dame (where my husband was a in grad school) and learned that they had recently begun allowing students to bury their deceased children as a special privilege. My in-laws then gifted us with the burial plot and headstone.
All of this was ahead, however, because we had decided to have genetic testing done to determine the cause of death, and that process would be delayed through the holiday vacation. Our daughter’s remains stayed in the care of Palmer Funeral Home, which performs all services for miscarried babies free of charge. The Palmer family had suffered many losses themselves and so offered this as an act of mercy—such mercy.
After spending Christmas with our families on the east coast, we returned home to bury our child. A priest friend of ours performed the ceremony with only ourselves and our toddler present. Palmer had provided a white ceramic coffin on which we placed a peacock feather as a symbol of the resurrection of the body and a holy card of our daughter’s namesake. We sang as we huddled in the snowy cold. Later, a rose-colored headstone was placed there. It reads Theodora Nicodemus Wales, 2011. My family has moved away but not too far. Whenever one or all of us are in town, we visit and pray. We show our three sons and remind them that they have a sister who someday they will meet. We know that she intercedes for us, and especially me.
In the year following our loss, three of my friends suffered the same sadness. They buried their babies alongside mine. I recently learned that Cedar Grove Cemetery now holds a poinsettia/wreath fundraiser each Christmas to cover all burial expenses including headstones for Notre Dame families who lose children. It is my sincere hope that more opportunities like this will become available for families who miscarry all over the country. Knowing where my daughter’s remains are kept and with what care is a consolation beyond words.
By: Carissa Dobson
Karen was a mother of four healthy boys and pregnant with her fifth when she was told that her baby might not make it. She was induced on her due date, September 10th, and gave birth to Stephen, who survived only a couple hours. “I’m a tender person, and I remember… it was so hard to talk to people without tears coming out my eyes, and that’s hard. That’s really hard,” she said. “Because, you know, you’re very vulnerable. And it’s not always fun going around with tears in your eyes, or stuff like that. It’s hard. Tears help to bring healing, it’s true. But it’s not easy.”
After the sorrow of losing Stephen, Karen decided to have a surgery to prevent further pregnancies. She later regretted her decision and had a reversal done. “I was excited. I said, ‘Oh, wow, I can go ahead and have kids now!” Karen said. Only two months later she was pregnant again, and she felt ready to have her next child.
Unfortunately, before even seeing a doctor she began to experience spotting and cramps, and then she miscarried. “I was surprised I had a miscarriage because I’d been really healthy all along without any problems, so this did take me by surprise,” she said. Karen was shocked and devastated by the loss.
Karen and her husband, Mike, decided to try again, and she found out several months later that she was pregnant for the seventh time. She went in for an ultrasound, and was met with shocking news. “The woman who did the ultrasound was really surprised. (She said,) ‘You know you have three sacs here?’ I said, ‘Are you serious?’” Although Karen was pregnant with triplets, it looked like none of them were alive at that point. “I just prayed and prayed that one or two of them would still be alive,” Karen said.
Once more, she miscarried. She lost all three. “I did miscarry on my own and it was just a horrible time again… Oh, it is just a scary, hard time. And you’re doing it by yourself, you know?”
Karen was devastated, and she felt alone. She had emotional problems, stress, weakness in her muscles, and the numbness and tingling continued. “I was crushed after I miscarried… It was very, very difficult.”
During this time, Karen would cry and talk to God, trying to sort out what was happening. “I knew I needed God, I knew He still loved me, I knew He was in charge, but yet it was hard,” she said. Her health was declining, and she didn’t feel comfortable going out of the house.
Karen kept her grief to herself. “I didn’t know a lot of people that had miscarriages at that point. Now it’s much more open and common… It was kept more inward, so those were some inner issues that I had to deal with.” This was a different experience than losing a child after birth. “I remember getting a card or two from people with Stephen, because that was public, of course. But with the miscarriages it was pretty much on my own with the grieving. ”
Following the loss of the triplets Karen suffered a long and difficult season and she thought she might not ever become pregnant again. Eventually, Karen had reason to think she was finally pregnant again. “I noticed toward the end of December going into January of ’98, I felt like I might be pregnant again, because my cycle was a little late. And I was excited, but I was so scared. Because I didn’t want the same thing that happened to Stephen, and I didn’t want to miscarry again. So, I was thinking, trust in God.”
Fortunately, this time, Karen had a friend who came alongside her and encouraged her through her pregnancy. “She was pregnant at the time, too. And we would go on walks and we would talk, and she was so dear to me… she just encouraged me… and I am so grateful.”
Eventually, it was time to check on the child’s health. “I ended up going in for an ultrasound, which scared me to pieces because I hadn’t had one done that was ever good,” Karen said. Luckily, for the first time in years, Karen had a positive ultrasound. “I could just cry now. I was laying on that table and they said everything was okay. Its heart was beating, things were developing, things like that.”
Karen delivered a beautiful, healthy baby girl named Katrina. She and her husband were overjoyed. “I just had a hallelujah time of praise to God. Because the baby was born… And it’s a girl!” Katrina grew up healthy and strong, and Karen thanks God for it all.
Karen knows her happy ending isn’t consistent with everyone’s experience. “I know this does not happen to everybody, that you’re allowed to end up having another pregnancy and everything goes well,” Karen said. “And it’s gotta be really hard for those women that it doesn’t happen to. And God showed a lot of grace towards me. And I’m so grateful.”
Carissa Dobson is a junior Professional Writing and Information Design major at Cedarville University.
By: Sarah Gregory EPLA Vice President
I received the announcement from my sister via text while I was in seminary. I opened the text and saw a picture of a precious little onesie. I literally squealed with glee. She and her husband were so ready to start a family. They had heard a heartbeat already at a doctor’s appointment. In a flurry of excitement, our whole family started to anticipate the arrival of a new baby. We had a shared Pinterest board for nursery ideas, full of whimsical, literature-themed decor. I started thinking about baby showers and baby clothes and diapers.
A week or so later, the celebration ended abruptly. They had another appointment. This time, there was no heartbeat. She elected for a D & C (a surgical procedure to remove the deceased fetus). Our family’s world hovered in disbelief and shock.
Thus was my introduction to the world of grieving mothers who miscarried. At the time, we didn’t know this would be a long, arduous road for Emily. My sister suffered through three miscarriages before her daughter was born. Later, other friends and family members experienced their own miscarriages. I was the supporter-friend for all of them. Close enough to each woman to be moved and sad, but not in the midst of the deep despair that the mother and father faced.
As the supporter, it took time to unravel the complicated emotions and grief women bear when experiencing a miscarriage. When Emily had her first miscarriage, I didn’t understand the depths of her grief. My own response included sadness and tears. I spent time reflecting on the nature of unmet expectations and anticipation. My sister, on the other hand, was devastated.
To provide comfort, I relied heavily on my seminary training. In seminary, I interned as a chaplain for a nursing home. During my time there, I had the privilege of sitting with families as they said goodbye to their loved ones. I would sit quietly and listen. Families would tell hilarious stories, stories of regret, and stories of triumph.
Grief is often accompanied by this kind of communal catharsis. The bulk of my chaplaincy training centered around one simple truth: When someone is grieving, they need your presence. Your presence affirms their grief is heard and their grief matters. They need you to affirm that the person they are losing matters.
But unlike the death of an elderly adult, there are very few memories to share during a miscarriage. Most stories about the baby are personal hopes and dreams, often still privately held and impossible to articulate. Sometimes, only a few people even know that the miscarriage happened at all. As a culture, we talk about babies younger than 12 weeks old in hushed tones. We do so to protect our loved ones from disappointment.
But for many mothers and fathers, the end of a pregnancy is far more than a disappointment. Those of us who have never miscarried fail to account for all of the factors consuming a family devastated by miscarriage. They face physical tolls, gruesome images, and hormonally charged emotional spirals. Add to that the chorus of “you should try again soon,” and “at least you never (fill in the well-intended but soul-wrenching blank).” As a result, unlike other loss of life, the family grieving their miscarriage ends up defending their loss as something worthy of grief.
To combat the isolation, the practice of presence is vitally important. During each miscarriage, I tried to simply be available for my loved ones. My presence affirmed that the grief was shared. Presence dampened the loneliness. Presence allowed communal catharsis to emerge. Even when I couldn’t understand the emotional complexity a mother was feeling, I learned to listen and support rather than try to fix her sadness. When I wasn’t nearby, I made phone calls and sent texts. If I could, I visited.
These visits took different forms, I played triominos on the porch while eating cider donuts and making jokes about county fairs. One time I watched movies all day. Other times I cried and prayed.
If you find yourself in the role of a supporter, be sure to be affirming and present. Don’t try to fix her. Don’t try to minimize the loss. She lost a baby. Rather than console her with attempts to bypass her pain, be with her. Keep her off of Google by giving her helpful information from established organizations. If you don’t know what to say, clean something, give her husband a chance to rest while you sit with her, sit with her husband who also may be mourning the loss, babysit her other children if she has any, make her dinner, or watch a movie. Most importantly, just be present.
Sarah Gregory is a Christian Education freelance writer, consultant, and musician. Sarah lives in St. Louis with her husband Kaleb and her son Cecil.
By: Madeline Gill
It was my daughter's due date. I opened the journal I had started eight months before after losing her at five weeks' gestation. Within its pages I had expressed my first pangs of grief. I pasted in every card I received from kind friends, immortalizing the kindness of people who, having no great words, knew the power of saying simply, "Thinking of you." "Weeping with you." "Praying for you." I copied down poems that captured my sense of loss, like Wordsworth's "She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways." Beside the poem I pressed a violet like the "half-hidden from the eye" bud he writes about.
On her would-be due date, I picked up my pen to write a "birthday" note. I told her how much I missed her and wanted to hold her. "This day marks the time I could have met you - not as I did, but as a healthy, breathing baby I could carry and nurture. If I close my eyes, I can almost feel you in my arms. Other babies will come, God willing, but I'll never know exactly what it is to hold my Lucy. Not until I join you, at least."
I was about to write that our reunion in heaven might be like that beautiful scene in The Return of the King when Frodo wakes up to a tearful, laughing gathering of his long-missed friends. None of the pain would matter in that moment.
That's where I broke down, sobbing too hard to write.
I realized that Lucy knows what heaven is really like, and I do not. But what killed me was that she had not read, and would not read, The Lord of the Rings. The analogy was worthless, and my favorite book was just another thing we couldn't share. I couldn't give her her first copy of Tolkien, watch her love it as much as I do, or argue with her if she underrated it.
Suddenly, I hated that I was writing a letter to someone who would never read it. I was afraid that I would have nothing in common with my daughter. Would we be total strangers when we met in heaven?
Whenever we lose someone, we grieve for the past and the future. On the one side are all the memories you have shared with someone, and on the other are all the experiences that will not come. In miscarriage, the balance tips heavily to the one side. Whether you long for what has been or what might have been, the hole is still there.
My husband and I won't start making memories with Lucy until we're in heaven. I don't really know what that will look like, but I have faith that it will be perfect.
In the meantime, I still write letters.
Madeline Gill is a homemaker and mother of two. She blogs about literature and motherhood at roadstainedfeet.wordpress.com
By: Adam Carrington
Men don’t grieve well. At least not most of us. At least not me. I didn’t truly learn this about myself until my wife suffered through her three miscarriages. Each one deserved—demanded—sorrow for lost life, sadness for broken hopes. But each one failed to bring out in me anything approaching the grief I thought required. A barrier existed, one that kept most of the pain locked away, with only an occasional, intense, but fleeting leak soon patched up.
Some of the barrier was external, beyond my own psyche. First, it seemed that mothers could build a connection with their unborn children easier and earlier. I watched my wife bond with our lost ones from the first moments we knew our babies existed. She would tip me to her cravings by touching her belly and saying, “Baby wants pizza…and wings.”
I also witnessed her morning sickness, unable to be on the same floor as the kitchen when I’d cook meals she usually loved. And I heard her fretting over everything she touched, drank, or simply stood in the same room as. Each instance a piece of a bond so new yet already as broad as every moment and as deep as the fiercest love.
I had no physical connection. The pregnancies felt at times like an abstraction for me, mitigated but hardly eliminated by ultrasounds or relayed feelings from my wife.
Second, fathers do not receive most, sometimes much, attention in a miscarriage’s aftermath. Nor should they receive the main part. My wife suffered in ways I did not, in ways I could not. She faced the actual removal of our deceased child, the second time naturally—a grotesque mockery of labor that confirms death, rather than reveals life. She endured the loss of all the previously-described connections she had built with our babies, every one a stabbing memorial.
Instead of one of the grievers, fathers often serve as part of the support system. I sought to be a shoulder for my wife to cry on, to fill in on chores she normally would do, and to protect her from any hurtful comments from friends and family, regardless of how well-intentioned. Beyond that expectation from others, I felt it, too. I didn’t think I deserved to grieve as much because I knew I hadn’t suffered as much.
These reasons present barriers to fathers feeling and expressing loss. But mine were internal as well. If you show extensive attentiveness to your wife after a miscarriage, you may look like a loyal and loving husband to some; perhaps even your own spouse. In my case, there was truth to that perspective. I do love her and wanted nothing more than to protect her as she suffered.
However, my seemingly selfless actions hid much more mixed motives. I loved her. But I also was scared. I couldn’t face what happened head-on. I couldn’t contemplate that the death was real and the death my own child. I couldn’t handle the reality of fatherhood with two hands not in a cradle but in the grave. Just a glimpse of its magnitude, just an inkling of the feelings accompanying it, felt overwhelming to the point of utter, soul-rending despair.
So, I didn’t face it. Not full on. I poured myself into helping my wife, into keeping the house together, in working at my job harder every time my lost children came to mind. My supposed strength, whatever its solid substance, mixed with deep weakness. For all of my supposed support, in this point I failed. Not only to my wife, not only to my children, but to myself—the self I selfishly tried to protect.
I had a grief deferred. Over the years, it didn’t go away. Instead, it remained a dark, mysterious, foreboding mass welling deep in my soul. To this day, I know I haven’t fully dealt with the loss of our children. But, slowly, I am starting to do so. I don’t have any magic formula for it. I don’t have an easy set of proposals.
Instead, all I can offer is the call to fathers that we face our grief. Furthermore, that we do so in community—with our friends, our family, and especially the mothers to our lost children. Yes, we must hope for space from them and from society to mourn. Still, we then must do it. That process may not come naturally. It will not come painlessly. But in it is strength, not weakness. In it, ultimately, is hope beyond the despair.
Adam Carrington is an Assistant Professor of Politics at Hillsdale College.
By: Linda Tibbitts EPLA Board Member
Four years ago, I was preparing to order dinner at local restaurant when my cell phone rang. I was excited to talk to my daughter. I knew that she and her husband had a 12 week visit with the OB. She had decided that once they knew everything was okay at this visit, we could tell others about her pregnancy. My husband and I were eager to tell friends that we were going to be grandparents.
I answered the phone and from the weight of her voice knew something was wrong. “No heartbeat?” I left the restaurant shaking in disbelief. “Are they sure?” From here some of the details are hazy. I remember at some point learning that she had a ‘missed miscarriage’, meaning the baby had died at 7 weeks in utero but her body had not yet delivered the remains.
My heart wrenched. I was a grandma that would not meet my grandchild in this life. Now I would be telling my closest friends about the loss, knowing that many would respond with “But I didn’t even know she was pregnant!”.
As I bumbled through my own feelings and tried to find the right words to say to my daughter, I remembered the physical and emotional pain of my own miscarriage thirty years earlier. My greatest hope was that her journey would be filled with more information, more compassion, and more hope than mine had been. As I struggled for those first words, I sputtered “Let yourself grieve.”
Thirty years ago, my husband and I had experienced an early miscarriage. I recall the shock of realizing I was bleeding. I remember feeling dismay when we learned that this bleeding was in fact the beginning of a miscarriage.
While our doctor was willing to talk with us about next medically necessary steps, no one coached us on the emotional and physical pain that often accompany miscarriage. One well-meaning family member assured me that there were “worse things in life”. She tried to console me by telling me that “I wasn’t really grieving. I was merely disappointed.” Others told me that I was young and could easily get pregnant again and fulfill my dream of being a mother.
All of these well-intended condolences left me empty and confused. My grief was compounded by guilt and fear. I felt guilty as I wondered if I had done something to cause my baby’s demise. I was fearful that I might never carry a baby to a live birth.
My doctor’s only words of ‘comfort’ were that after three miscarriages he would begin testing to determine a cause. When I told him that I didn’t think I could get through three miscarriages. He assured me that I didn’t know what I could tolerate.
Since this experience was pre-internet, very little information was available. I walked downtown to the community library and searched the shelves of medical books trying to find any information I could about what we were enduring. I found one book that gave miscarriage statistics and was surprised to learn that approximately 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. I wondered how something so common could be so hush-hush.
So now as I heard my daughter’s painful words, I naively thought her experience would be different than mine. I assumed that there would be information packets given at the hospital much like people receive when they have a difficult medical condition. I imagined that in a society where people openly talk about difficult subjects, there would be available avenues for emotional support. I hoped that medical testing would give them answers they needed to reduce the guilt and fear.
Unfortunately, at that time, very little had changed from our experience thirty years prior. My daughter and her husband were faced with making decisions about next steps with very little information. They were assured that the hospital would take care of their ‘product of conception’ as ‘medical waste’. They were given little insight into the emotional and physical pain they might be facing. And testing is still often not administered until a woman experiences three miscarriages.
After my daughter had her second miscarriage experiencing similar gaps in care, she began articulating how she wanted to be part of changing the social script around early pregnancy loss. After conducting a series of focus groups and hearing the painful, lonely stories of numerous women and couples, she formed the Early Pregnancy Loss Association.
As a board member, I have had the opportunity to network with other organizations and professionals that share a similar mission. I see a movement focusing on changing the climate that surrounds early loss.
More hospitals, OB offices, crisis pregnancy centers, and non-profit agencies are recognizing and providing for the loss community. More people are openly sharing their loss stories. As this movement gains momentum, I have genuine hope for a world in which no family has to suffer miscarriage alone.
By: Alyssa DiCrasto
I have never been pregnant, so I admittedly cannot comprehend the pain that accompanies losing a child in the womb. But, most of the important women in my life are mothers who lost precious little ones during their pregnancies, so this issue is very close to my heart.
When I was 14, my parents wanted to have another child so my sister, who was 2 years old at the time, would have someone to grow up with. The whole family, all seven of us, was so excited for the new baby because we needed a new little nugget to spoil. But one Sunday, my mom became very sick and had to go to the hospital.
Through hushed tones, my brothers and I learned that something was wrong with the baby. It was the next day when my dad finally got the strength to tell us that the baby had died.
I have an image burned into my memory of my mother closing her bedroom door with tear-soaked cheeks. This was a very unsettling sight for me, a girl who had never before seen her incredibly strong mother cry bitter tears.
Of course, this experience was hard for all of us, but after that day, my mom never talked about the miscarriage, except to tell us that she had named the baby Jaimie. She mourned in silence, behind closed doors. That was the kind of mourning that made sense for her, and that was okay.
My mom has since told me that when she lost Jaimie, so many women confided in her that they had also lost pregnancies. My mother was exposed to a community she hadn’t known existed before her miscarriage. This community helped her cope.
For the longest time, I thought this kind of grieving was the norm for women when they had a miscarriage: they would cry, name the baby, talk to other women, and move on in silence. Although this is true for some, each woman grieves differently, and they should be able to grieve the way they need to.
When my brother and his wife became pregnant, I was the first person he called with the news, but they lost their first baby, Oliver, at 16 weeks. My heart ached for them and their situation: a young, freshly-married couple who had lost their dreams when they lost Oliver.
Sadly, I did not know how to help them. I thought that my sister-in-law would need the same things that my mom did a few years prior: space and quiet. You can imagine my shock when she was not only very open about her miscarriage but also very vocal about it. It seemed to me like she wanted the whole world to know the pain she was going through.
I struggled with what words to say, and for some reason, I had it in my mind that I had to say something because she was saying so much. To my shame, I probably said something to the effect of, “You still have time for your family, it just wasn’t your time yet.”
When they became pregnant again, I was thrilled for them. The timing seemed right, but they lost their second beautiful baby a few weeks after their announcement, and within the next year, they lost a third baby.
With each loss, my sister-in-law became more and more vocal, grieving loudly. But by the third loss, I realized that this was how she needed to cope. She needed to grieve loudly to make her loss feel real and so that others would know her loss was real.
There were absolutely no words that I or anyone else could ever say that would make their pain right. All they needed from me was to know that I took their loss seriously and felt their pain deeply and that I would be there to listen when they needed to talk.
To this day, my sister-in-law is a champion for miscarriage awareness. She often tells people that miscarriages never “happen for a reason,” but instead were never supposed to happen in the first place. Losing a baby is unnatural and wrong, but most importantly, miscarriages are not any less of a loss than the loss of other human life.
My sister-in-law grieved very differently than my mother had, but both were able to move on despite the people who tried to “help.” We’ve not forgotten any of our lost babies, but these incredible women taught me that everyone grieves differently. The best thing we can do for loved ones experiencing early pregnancy loss is to treat it as a real loss and let them know they’re justified in mourning whatever way they need to.
Alyssa DiCrasto is a Digital Marketing Content Creator at webSURGE