sharing your stories and remembering your children
By: Emily Carrington EPLA Founder
“What will happen to the body?” I asked.
“It won’t really come out as a body, at that point it is just medical waste,” responded my doctor.
“Oh, okay.” I paused for a second before I went onto the next question.
My husband and I were meeting with my OBGYN. Only two days earlier we heard the words that no expecting parents ever want to hear: “I am sorry, there is no heartbeat.” We had gone home to collect our thoughts and now we were back with a notepad full of questions.
In addition to mourning the loss of our first child, we had to decide how to move forward. The doctor explained that this was a missed miscarriage, meaning that the baby had died a few weeks earlier, but my body had not yet expelled the remains. I had the choice to wait for my body to catch up naturally or schedule a D&C, a procedure to remove the remains.
Less than three weeks away from moving across the country, we feared the unknown. What if everything started sometime on our 21-hour road trip? What if I had to deliver this baby in a truck stop in Arkansas?
After much discussion and working through our list of questions, we decided that the D&C was the best option. We left his office and scheduled the procedure for two days later.
A couple of weeks later, we returned to his office for my post operation appointment. He told us everything went as expected and the lab said it found “the products of conception.”
“Of course they found the products of conception,” I thought. Not only did I have a positive pregnancy test and 6 weeks of horrible morning sickness to prove I was pregnant, only a month prior we had seen our little one alive on the screen. There was a heartbeat. Of course there was a baby in there.
Since then I have thought a lot about that week. I do not blame my doctor for his words or for the medical terms he used. A miscarriage is a medical event, and we were making medical decisions. This was a place for a clinical straight forward approach, but we weren’t just talking about any medical procedure. This was the procedure that removed my deceased child from my womb.
We were also mourning the life of our baby. A life that we knew was there. A life that only ever existed inside of me. And when I asked the doctor about the body, I felt ashamed for asking such a silly question.
Five years, three more pregnancies, and one healthy child later this mama heart is no longer ashamed. Of course I wanted to know what would happen to the body of my child, even if my child was still in the early stages of development. I wanted my child buried or cremated, not thrown away with the medical waste.
The question of burial for a first trimester baby loss is a muddy one. Hospital regulations, cemetery procedures, and state laws vary. Additionally, the situation varies from family to family. Sometimes there is no discernable body due to gestational age. Sometimes bodies cannot be retrieved. Sometimes families need to surrender the body for testing. Sometimes the bodies are surrendered in medical procedures such as a D&C or D&E.
Over the next few weeks, we will to try to unmuddy the waters, as we explore burial options for early pregnancy loss. We know that everyone grieves differently, and for some, burial might not be that important or it might be important but not possible. But for others, it might serve as one way to honor and memorialize their little one.
As always, we hope to equip and connect our readers. Together we can bear one another’s burdens.
Emily Carrington is the founder of the EPLA and mother to four children.