Breaking the Taboo: Discussing Pregnancy Loss
Originally posted December 2, 2011
A few months ago, I was contacted by a doula named Adalheid Faith, who had found my name listed on the Amethyst Network- an association of perinatal loss doulas. Heidi invited me to list on her new website, Stillbirthday.com. I accepted her offer, always glad to put my name out there as someone who has an interest in helping families through pregnancy/newborn loss.
You see, I’ve had two losses myself- Calan (meaning first in a dialect of Scottish) in August of 2004 and our son, Anduril (meaning Flame of the West– it reminded me of a sunset) in August of 2005. We lost Calan at 8 weeks and Anduril at 22.5 weeks. Two very different loss experiences- one was at home, alone, only one day after having seen my beautiful, healthy little bean on an ultrasound; the second was the induced birth of a still baby boy after two days of ultrasounds, medical appointments, horror and confusion.
I’m relatively open about my losses. My children are a fact- they lived, they died and their lives have had an incredible impact on me and on this world. Within a short time of knowing me, most people learn about my losses- I am continually processing them and bringing people along on the journey with me. It’s healing for me to speak about Calan and Anduril- saying their names aloud is like a balm to my soul.
I’ve assisted seven different couples through pregnancyl oss- one couple on three different occasions. Once I had a long text conversation with a grieving dad at 3 in the morning. I’ve listened as an older woman who learned about my losses began telling me, with tears in her eyes, about her son who was born still 60 years ago and who was buried before she ever got to see him (apparently, a common occurrence back then). I’ve ached inside as I’ve heard stories about parents who lost their babies due to medical mistakes, or who learned of a fatal diagnosis while their seemingly healthy baby kicked happily inside his mother, or heard about a mother whose baby died for lack of access to medications.
This is the ugly truth we don’t talk about in polite society, the unseen epidemic. Women get pregnant and many of them will lose their babies prior to birth. Most of us are stunned at our loss- it happens so quickly and we are in no shape to research, to question. We do everything we can just to get up, just to go on through a day in a world that doesn’t acknowledge that the person we were died along with our baby. And we don’t know that many of thewomen around us have suffered this way, too. We don’t know that there are experienced, kind professionals who consider it their life’s work to help us through- because we don’t talk about pregnancy loss until after a pregnancy is lost.
Only after a loss will women begin hearing about other losses- how they were handled, how the mother survived, what she wishes she’d done differently… Somehow, because of the beauty and joy of pregnancy,discussing the possibility of loss seems tasteless, profane, indecent even. But when mothers learn another has experienced loss, somehow the taboo is lifted and we can share our hearts with others who know.These women, the mothers of lost children, are in a fellowship of grief. We understand the fundamental shift that happens inside a woman when the child she has loved, dreamed of and planned for is no more. We understand the slithering doubt that clings to the joy of all subsequent pregnancies. We understand the fragility and the profound beauty of life at all stages. We understand how wrong it is that we basically went through our losses without guidance. We understand what a failure it is for women to have to piece together resources that might assist them during what may be the worst experience oftheir entire lives…
We have to speak up. We have to let young women- girls even-know that pregnancy IS a beautiful and joyous thing, but that it can also be heartbreaking and bittersweet. And just as we know to turn to Susan G. Komen for information about breast cancer, we need everyone we know to be familiar with pregnancy loss resources so if the time comes when they need information, they don’t have to search. We need women to know before they need the information that there is a fellowship of mothers who have loved, lost and lived and who are willing to help… Please share the Stillbirthday site with allthe women you know. Keep it handy so if someone in your circle experiences a loss you can hand on the address quickly when they may need the information most.
And if you need to talk about a loss- whether it was 60 years ago or is happening right now- please know that I and the other wonderful doulas listed at Stillbirthday are ready to listen and are prepared to do whatever we can do to help…