Monday, October 15, 2007

Empty Bellies, Empty Arms

Today, October 15, is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. On the one hand, I think it's a bit corney that they make official remembrance days for just about everything...on the other hand, it's a good opportunity to talk about something I feel passionate about.
I believe that miscarriage is a largely unnoticed tragedy. Most miscarriages happen in the earlier parts of pregnancy--before the woman 'shows' and before many people know that she was even expecting. When the baby is lost, there is rarely a body to hold or bid farewell. Even if the mother sees her fetus, those beyond the family do not, and so, the baby is not real to them. As outsiders have no object for grief, they do not grieve...leaving the parents (especially the mother) very very alone. For some reason, our culture does not recognize a miscarriage as a valid loss (as they would with a stillbirth or especially an older child). Even the medical term "spontaneous abortion" is heartless. Our culture does not accept our grief, and so we are left to grieve alone. In silence.
That is wrong.
Statistically, one in four pregnancies results in miscarriage. With earlier and earlier pregnancy detection, that ratio is decreasing. If we could detect pregnancy at the moment of conception, I suspect that actually only about one in four pregnancies makes it past the first 5 weeks of gestation (3 weeks past ovulation). But let us just go with the "one in four" ratio. That means that 1 in 4 women that you pass on the street has suffered a miscarriage. If you have 3 sisters, then one of you probably has (or will) miscarry. If you have 4 members in your book club, playgroup, or carpool, one of you has (or will) miscarry. If you have more than three children, you will probably have a miscarriage. If you have 7 children, you will probably miscarry twice.
I have miscarried at least three times. Three times I reached at least 12 weeks gestation, only to lose my baby. The first time I had a spontaneous micarriage, at home, and held my tiny son's body in my hand. He was only a few inches long, and his tiny hands and perfect little feet could all four fit on my thumbnail together. My husband's wedding ring could have fit around his head like a crown.

(if you click on the picture you can see it larger)

So tiny, so perfect...and not ours to keep. My subsequent miscarriages, unfortunately, involved D&Cs, so there was no baby to hold, no one to bid adieu, and no closure. Holding my tiny baby was the hardest thing I had ever done...until I had to say goodbye to babies I couldn't even hold.
Miscarriage is overlooked the vast majority of the time, yet it is so common. Following my miscarriage(s), women 'came out of the woodwork' and shared their own miscarriage stories with me. My mother said that the same thing happened to her after she miscarried. Why is it that we do not tell our stories except to other women who miscarry? By doing so, we are promulgating the cycle of silence. Mothers, you who have suffered with empty bellies and empty arms, be silent no longer! Speak up! There is no shame in having miscarried, only in refusing to acknowledge how it changes us.


Bryan R. Terry said...

That's so beautiful ... thank you for sharing.

alisaterry said...

Were you able to hold a burial? I have always wondered what I would be allowed to do with the body of a lost fetus. I would not want it simply trashed at the hospital.

katef said...

Oh that photo is amazing..amazingly sad and amazingly beautiful. I have lost two babies both stopped growing at 7weeks but my body still thought it was pregnant weeks later so I had no idea both times until scans at 10 and 11 weeks... and you are so right... it is so very hard to loose someone that you have never seen or held but loved so very much!
*hugs* good on you for tackling a difficult subject

brightonwoman said...

Thankfully I miscarried at home, so little Thomas' body was in the tub (in the intact sack) in my pile of bloody clothing when we had to go to the ER (my bleeding would not stop). I don't think they would have let us bring him home from the hospital.
It was the next morning that we broke the sack and held him. We were renting an apartment, so we didnt' have a place to bury him. We put him on a blue cloth in a pretty little wooden box, and Hubby took him to the hospital. I have since wished that we had thought of something else to do with his body, but I still don't know what it would have been. Perhaps we could have buried him in the mountains somewhere, I don't know. I was too weak to go anywhere for several days.
Hubby said that when he got to the hospital, he took the box to the nurse and said "this is my son." He said she teared up and told him that she had lost a son recently too. I refuse to think about what they did with his body after that, but I am comforted by the fact that we had the time to hold him and say goodbye that morning.

cathryn said...

Oh wow Jenni. I've heard the story before, but seeing that picture? Wow!

Kimberlee said...

Amazingly beautiful.

sara said...

I've heard your stories also but the picture just made me want to sit here and cry while I rubbed my cheek on my little guy's head. My husband's sister died at/before birth. This was just over 30 years ago and they had to fight to get the baby's body. The hospital wanted to throw her away. I am glad to see photography services and other things offered to grieving parents in the hospitals now and as heartbreaking as it is - these stories are invaluable for people who have experienced loss themselves. Thank you for sharing.

baby~amore' said...

no truer words spoken on pregnancy loss at any stage.
I saw my daughters body but others who did not still found /find the grieving hard to understand can we grieve a half finished baby. But how can we not - the hopes and dreams we had planted from the day we knew of them joining our family will never be forgotten.

BethNoel said...

I applaud your courage to stand up and talk about something so devastating. I have never had the experience of either being pregnant or suffering a miscarriage, but unfortunately I have watched my two best friends go through the devastation of losing a pre-term baby.....both within the past year. My heart broke for them and breaks for you and your babies. Those losses never go away, but hopefully they become less acute as the time passes. I truly believe that by sharing, and conversely by reading, these thoughts we are all honoring your sweet babies and those of all of those "One in Four" Women. Thank you again.

Abby said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I miscarried on February
9th. When I told my mom, she said "Please don't write about this on your blog." It devastated me. It wasn't that she didn't want me to write about it on my blog, it was the feeling of being silenced. It made me feel like I couldn't or shouldn't talk about it with anyone at all.

My mom has never had a miscarriage, and one of the things I learned from this experience is that people who have not had a miscarriage never know what to say and almost never say the right thing. Also, many of my family members and friends know about my miscarriage, but don't talk about it unless I bring it up, and then I know it makes them uncomfortable when I do.

Luckily, I have one sister who has had two miscarriages. Today I got a card in the mail from her that was so simple but made me feel so good because I knew she understood me. She said, "It must seem like the end of the world. At least that's how I felt when I lost my first pregnancy and I suddenly realized that scary things could happen to me."

So true. And so helpful. I say talk about it. Grieving on your own isn't healthy, and it won't help your recover any faster, either.

Sanity said...

I just recently had my second miscarriage, at 5w4d, after 3½ years of even trying to conceive at all. Somehow I manage to find my way to your blog when I need to. Thank you Jenni.

Kayce Pearson said...

I was just sent to your blog, and I am so glad. A week and a half ago I miscarried my fourth baby (first three were before six weeks) at 13 weeks 5 days. I have my story posted here (there is a picture of him at the bottom).

I hate that you know the pain of a second trimester loss and of multiple loss and I am so so sorry. At the same time, I am so glad that you are here. Support is so important for those that experience loss, especially when miscarriage is so taboo.

I will be following your blog from now on, thank you for writing about your losses!

Mommy Bee said...

(I received this in an email)

I don't have any sort of login I can post a comment with. Maybe you can post this for me.

"And then there are those women who have never even gotten pregnant. And who cannot adopt. And have spent their whole lives wanting nothing else but at least one child. They too have empty-bellies/empty-arms. And pain."

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