sharing your stories and remembering your children
"Our Biggest Fear is that People Will Forget that We Have a Child”: A Grieving Mother’s Perspective on Loss
By Carissa Caples EPLA Staff Writer
Kelsy Dowd had just passed the 6-week mark in her pregnancy when she noticed she was spotting. Even though others brushed it off, she felt very concerned because she knew what was at risk. This was her baby. This was the child she and her husband sang to and prayed over. She’d already made a whole Pinterest board of plans for them, and she’d even handed her parents onesies to announce her pregnancy. Kelsy wanted to make sure everything was fine, so she contacted her OBGYN and her doctor to see if she could come in for a check-up.
Unfortunately, she was told that they didn’t have any openings and that her symptoms did not qualify as an emergency. “I was like, you know what, nurses are going to advocate for you, they know what they’re talking about, and you’re not having any red bleeding or cramps, so it’s probably in your head,” Kelsy said. “[I thought,] ‘I’m worried for no reason.’”
To Kelsy’s dismay, her 9-week appointment was when she and her husband, Lex, discovered that their baby didn’t have a heartbeat. “My body thought that I still had a viable pregnancy, but our baby just didn’t grow past 6 weeks and 3 days, which was really tough,” Kelsy said. Her grief was devastating, and Kelsy could barely handle the thought of telling her loved ones.
But after shouldering the initial grief, Kelsy and Lex went and told his parents the grave news, then went to tell Kelsy’s parents and her little brothers, who were still very young. “Having such young siblings, that was one of the harder things,” Kelsy said. “A couple weeks after that happened, Zane asked me, ‘Where’s your baby?’ and then he realized, ‘Oh, I shouldn’t have asked that question.’ You could see it on his face… 4-year-olds shouldn’t have to experience that.” To add to the pain, a few days later, Kelsy had to go in for a D&C so the doctors could remove the remaining tissue.
Luckily, there was a bright spot in all her pain: Kelsy knew the importance of opening up about her trials, and because of her vulnerability, she was able to find the community she needed to heal. She reached out to women in her circle who were willing to listen and help her, and she discovered podcasts and other resources that proved to be instrumental in her healing process.
After taking the time to grieve privately, she began sharing about her loss on social media. “It is actually really easy to find people who know what I’m going through,” Kelsy said. “25% of women have experienced a miscarriage… When you vocalize about it, there’s going to be people who have gone through it, so they’ll reach out to me.” Her friends, family, coworkers, and others in her life have been very supportive and helpful, and she truly feels that she had everything she needed to cope with her bereavement well.
However, even with all that support, Kelsy put pressure on herself to get pregnant by her first baby’s due date, and every month that passed was a reminder of her childlessness and inadequacy in comparison to her expectations. “Now, as the months have gone by and we’re still not getting pregnant, I am just kind of confused,” Kelsy said. “Like, God, why was it so easy—we got pregnant within two months! Now it’ll be almost a year, and we still haven’t gotten pregnant again, so that’s more frustrating.”
She tried to open up to her husband, but he struggled when he was reminded of the pain, so Kelsy and Lex just tried their best to mesh their coping styles together in a constructive way, being considerate of each other, yet making sure their own needs were met.
Kelsy deactivated her Facebook, sick of looking at everyone else’s highlight reel, and when the due date arrived, she and Lex went out for a “staycation.” They rented out a hotel room, went out to dinner, and hoped that getting away for a while would help take their minds off the weight of that day. But still, every milestone—holidays with loved ones, monthiversaries of losing their child, and hearing about another family’s developments—brought tremendous grief.
Now, Kelsy is in the “after” season, where the worst of the pain seems to be behind her, but she is still wading through the emotional aftermath as others in her life get pregnant. “It’s very interesting to me that grief and happiness can coexist,” Kelsy said. “Like, I don’t want people to tiptoe around me. If someone gets pregnant, I want them to tell me. I want to rejoice with them. I want to praise God with them, be there with them, and help support them every time they get to the next mark in their pregnancy… and I think that’s kind of hard for some people to understand… But at the same time, there are days where it’s like, ‘okay, if I see one more person announce that they’re pregnant, I’m going to be so emotional today.’ Each day’s a different day.” Grief is not straightforward, and she doesn’t always know exactly how she’ll feel about everything, but she mostly just wants people to reach out to her and show that they care.
Over time, Kelsy has felt the support fade, and she feels hesitant to bring it up herself, fearing that she’ll ruin someone else’s day with her grief. She wishes others were more comfortable talking about her baby. “I would rather have people communicate with me and acknowledge that our baby was real, and that they were a person, and that they mattered, rather than tiptoeing around it and never talking about it,” Kelsy said. “I think, for me and Lex, our biggest fear is that people will forget that we have a child.”
Kelsy explained that it doesn’t have to be extravagant, but she wishes people understood that grieving mothers still need support, even years down the road, and it can be small things, like reminder texts that others are thinking of them and praying for them. As she explained, “If people just communicated about it more, we would be able to find comfort in our grief.” In dark situations, greater support leads to greater healing.
Carissa Caples is a Senior Professional Writing and Information Design major at Cedarville University and staff writer for the Early Pregnancy Loss Association.