sharing your stories and remembering your children
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: Emily Carrington EPLA Founder
I have to admit, I don’t always know what to say or do. I remember what hurt, I remember what healed, and I remember what I longed to hear, but when I find myself in front of a bereaved mother even I don’t know always what to say.
It has gotten better as I have unfortunately had more practice, but I often walk away kicking myself after sitting with a family who has suffered. I replay the conversation in my head and quickly think: “how could I possibly be so dumb? So insensitive?” I worry that I talked about myself and my experiences too much or that I disclosed too much gory information of what is to come. I wonder, “did my words of comfort actually comfort or did they offend?”
The last four years my life has been saturated in pregnancy loss. I have lost three little ones to miscarriage and I have walked through loss with a number of friends. Not only that, but now, as the President of EPLA, people often look to me to talk about caring for women and families.
While I have come to listen more and talk less, I still find caring for a loved one after loss a difficult path to navigate. Doing what I wanted or needed is not always the right thing. My experience is only my experience and my needs are only my needs. I needed to be public, I needed to talk about it, I also needed my friends and family to mention my little ones and acknowledge my loss. Someone else might respond very differently to their own miscarriage.
Which is why we need this blog. We need to talk about miscarriage because it is often misunderstood or downplayed. But to take care of each other other well, we need to keep listening to your experiences and your needs.
We cannot love one another or bear one another’s burdens if we don’t come together in honest vulnerability. Since launching Hope Blooms in October, we have had the opportunity to share beautiful stories from mothers, fathers, grandmothers, daughters, siblings, and medical professionals. We have talked about grief, pain, hope, and healing. We have explored emotions and offered suggestions for what to say or do for a loved one. We have grieved, we have learned, and we have loved.
As we look forward to 2019 we are ready to do more of the same. We must continue this conversation: share stories, share suggestions, and work through our experiences. And we must do that together. We cannot do it alone, and we don’t want to. Please keep reading our blog, please keep sharing posts with your friends, and, if you are so inclined, please consider writing your story for us to share; we’d love to hear from you.
Emily Carrington is the founder of the EPLA and mother to four children.
By: Emily Carrington EPLA Founder
As we approach Christmas and New Years I find myself dwelling on things of the past and the future. This year, however strange it might sound, my heart is full of fondness as I think of my three little ones who died in early pregnancy.
Before my pregnancy with my daughter, I had spent approximately 25 weeks of my life pregnant over three pregnancies. I had survived most of the whole first trimester, twice, before I learned that our little ones had died. My third pregnancy came and went before I knew we had conceived, but I was pregnant for at least a couple of weeks.
And while there is so much tragedy and sorrow in each one of these pregnancies, there is also so much joy. My first two children spent over two months inside me. I knew they were there. I not only dreamed about who they would be, but I thought about them as they were: an embryo, a fetus, my child.
Four years later, part of carrying my grief includes remembering the happy moments with these little ones.
But these moments are hard to share with others. Often when I bring up my first three pregnancies, it casts a cloud of sadness on the conversation. Sometimes I just want to laugh about cravings, complain about morning sickness, or share stories about first ultrasounds. Before I had my daughter I felt like I didn’t have a right to talk about these things, like my pregnancies weren’t real because they didn’t produce live babies. But however briefly I held them, these children were mine, and my memories are real.
Now I try to embrace every single moment I had with each of my children. I remember fondly the moment we saw “Baby’s” heartbeat flash on the screen at my first ultrasound. I remember telling parents and friends we were expecting. I remember being excited for morning sickness. I also remember the moment we found out “Yoshi” was a boy; even if this was after he passed, knowing more about my child, my son, was a beautiful gift.
I hold on to each of these memories. Sometimes, they pop up in normal conversation. Sometimes, I keep them close to my heart, a special memory just for me. While I mourn the passing of each child, I also ache to celebrate each life as beautiful.
One of my resolutions for 2019 is to tell of the fond memories of my first three little ones. I will be doing so in the coming months in some of my blog posts for Hope Blooms, and I invite you to do the same. We want to celebrate your baby with you and remember them fondly as you do. If you have happy memories or moments of a pregnancy that ended in miscarriage, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Emily Carrington is the founder of the EPLA and mother to four children.
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 Maria Servold EPLA Editor
Support from friends and family is essential in the days, weeks, and months following a miscarriage. Loved ones provide essential things, especially emotional and physical support. But what about the things you may not think you need?
Organizations like the Early Pregnancy Loss Association are driven to provide resources for women immediately following a loss. We are also pleased to work with other organizations who fill needs we aren’t able to. One such organization is Heaven’s Gain Ministries.
The organization's founders, Jim and Donna Murphy, suffered three losses of their own. They were unable to find a casket small enough for their miscarried babies, so they decided to create a company that could
provide them. As they explain:
"We did not want any other family to be in this situation and so we start Heaven’s Gain. It is so important for us to offer dignified caskets and urns for families experiencing the loss of a baby.. We also offer support , advocacy, and guidance for grieving families. We hope we can serve as a part of your healing as your grieve your baby."
In addition to selling beautiful caskets and urns, Heaven’s Gain provides information about infant burial. Sadly, many families do not know there are options available for burying a miscarried baby. Oftentimes, a family need only talk to a local funeral home to figure out what is allowed where they live, but in the fog of grief, such conversations may feel impossible. Heaven’s Gain provides a list of infant burial guidelines for each state. This is a great resource to share with a friend or family member who has recently suffered a loss and is interested in burial.
The Early Pregnancy Loss Association is honored to promote the work of other organizations helping families after loss. Soon, we will be partnering with Heaven’s Gain to provide their miscarriage kits as part of our at-home miscarriage care boxes. The specially-designed kits allow a woman to preserve the body of a miscarried baby until it can be cremated or buried. Such kits may seem gruesome, but Heaven’s Gain has filled the need families have for properly caring for their miscarried babies.
This Christmas season, let’s be grateful for organizations like Heaven’s Gain and others that fill gaps and provide care for suffering women and families.
Maria Servold is an Editor at the EPLA, Assistant Director of the Herbert H. Dow II Program in American Journalism, and Lecturer in Journalism 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
By: Nick Carrington EPLA Editor
Parents grieve following a miscarriage not solely for unfulfilled desires but for the death of a child they longed to hold, nurture, and guide. In the second episode of the EPLA podcast, Dr. Marguerite Duane discussed recognizing the humanity of our lost children as an important part of dealing with that death.
We do things to remember loved ones who have passed away, so it makes sense that we would find ways to acknowledge and remember the loss of life within the womb. Parents and family members can remember these children in many ways, there is no one right way. For those searching for something they can do, here are a few ideas.
1. Name the child
Consider naming your child whether you know the sex or not. Some families use gender-neutral names when they don't know the sex of the child but still want to give him or her the dignity of a name.
The name might have special meaning or be a family name. Sometimes, naming the child can add heartache to an already devastating situation, so if it’s too hard, parents should not feel obligated to do so. But few things emphasize the humanity of a lost child like giving him or her a name.
2. Tell other children about their siblings
Just as you would tell your children about a deceased grandparent they never met, talk to your living children about their lost siblings. Dr. Duane explained how it meant a lot to her to know of her two brothers lost to miscarriage. Your children may feel the same way.
Most families will be able to have healthy children after miscarrying. While the family will never be completely whole in this lifetime, they can celebrate the short life lived by the missing family members.
If you already have older children this conversation might be really difficult as you sort through your grief while caring for them. Depending on the age of your children there are different ways you can approach this conversation. There are many great books and articles out there to help you navigate this process.
3. Hold a day of remembrance every year for lost children
If you’ve had multiple miscarriages, it might be difficult to remember past due dates and other dates of note. But just as we celebrate birthdays, consider taking a day to celebrate the children you’ve lost. This day may be more somber, a day to visit the graves of your children. Or, you might want to celebrate the short lives of your little ones with special food and activities. Regardless of what you choose to do, holding a special day of remembrance will accentuate the humanity of those children.
4. Frame ultrasound pictures
In our homes, we hang pictures of loved ones; miscarried children can have that honor as well. These pictures let guests know that a child was lost and that while that little one isn’t there to love on, he or she is loved.
5. Write letters to your lost children
I love to write notes to my wife. It causes me to reflect on the joy she is to me. When my children learn to read, I anticipate writing them notes as well. This kind of intimate communication is unique to people.
Writing letters to your miscarried children may help you express your emotions in a detailed way, but it’s also a great way to recognize their humanity. Addressing them directly in written form, as some do when grieving a lost spouse or parent, will be an intimate way to connect with your lost child. You might even read them to family members if you have an annual day of remembrance.
Part of remembering miscarried children is recognizing their humanity. By doing so, we give those children dignity as human beings, a gift that will emphasize their worth and our love for them.
Nick Carrington is an Editor for the EPLA and Assistant Professor of Professional Writing at Cedarville University
In this edition of the Hope Blooms podcast, Emily talks with Dr. Marguerite Duane. Dr. Duane is co-founder and Executive Director of FACTS. A Board-certified family physician, she serves as an Adjunct Associate Professor at Georgetown University, where she directs an introductory course on natural or fertility awareness based methods (NFP/FABMs) of family planning.
She is also a physician with Modern Mobile Medicine, a direct primary care (DPC) house calls-based practice serving patients of all ages in the D.C. metropolitan area. She has served on the board of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) and the Family Medicine Education Consortium (FMEC).
In this episode, Dr. Duane explains various terms associated with pregnancy loss and common treatments following an early pregnancy loss. She also discusses popular questions from women and families following a miscarriage.
*All information in this podcast is intended for educational purposes only. Information is not intended to diagnose, prescribe, mitigate, or cure any symptoms or disease. Please consult your doctor with any questions concerning your health.*
By: Emily Carrington EPLA Founder
The best advice I ever received following a miscarriage came from a dear friend in the tender hours after my first loss. As I told her what had happened she listened quietly and then responded, “have you thought about doing something in honor of your little one?”
This idea brought comfort, hope, and a small sense of control. Bombarded by all of the thoughts of the things I couldn’t do with or for this child, I realized the one thing I could do: remember.
So I got to work “remembering.” I made a plan. Beyond the service and the memory box, I would also purchase a single purple rose on Baby’s due date each November. That way, Baby would always have a space in our family.
Then I miscarried again only a few months after losing my first. We had another service and added stuff to the box. I also received a few thoughtful gifts to serve as memorials. I resolved to buy a flower for this child, too, every April.
November came and I bought Baby’s flower. This helped me heal as the due date stirred up so much raw emotion and loneliness. I needed Baby. How could I ever forget? Then April came and I bought another flower.
During that first year I also bought ornaments, attended loss mom events, received memorial gifts, lit candles, and made donations in honor of my children. I had to do something to give them a space in this world.
Then August came and I miscarried again. By November I felt exhausted by the idea of keeping up with all of my memorials, like buying flowers, and I started forgetting death dates and due dates. With three losses, I had six special dates and remembering them became a burden.
I felt guilty and confused. If I didn’t remember my children, who would?
Four years later I realize that I have never forgotten my children, even if I can’t remember their due dates. I have since abandoned rigid memorials and rest on the memorials that I set in place at the time of each loss.
As I unwrapped Christmas ornaments this year, I came across two ornaments purchased in honor of our first two children lost to miscarriage. I took time to remember each of them and then gently joked with myself that the third child we lost to miscarriage never did get an ornament because, well, isn’t that how it goes with third children?
Whether you have recently lost a child in early pregnancy or you are years past from your loss, the holidays can be a time of both difficult and fond memories as you think of your children.
While I never have to be reminded of my children, I have found that the exercise of remembering has brought the comfort, hope, and control that I longed for. Even if it isn’t at the frequency or intensity of that first year, I still take the time to remember my children through many of the same activities.
I have found that my lost children are on my mind particularly during October (Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month) and December.
If you are looking for a way to honor and remember the life of your little one this holiday season, consider some of these ideas that can be done privately, with family, or shared publicly.
What are some ways you remember your little ones during the holidays?
Emily Carrington is the founder of the EPLA and mother to four children.