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.