Why I Want to Change the Way We Talk About Infant Loss and Miscarriage
My husband and I experienced a horrible loss this past April. I was four months pregnant with our first child when our baby’s heart stopped beating. I remember everything about that day — going in, having the routine vitals checked (blood pressure, weight, etc.) and the nurse coming in to hear the heartbeat with a Doppler machine.
After a couple of minutes of silence from the machine, I began to panic and could feel myself breathing faster. She exited the room without saying anything. Another nurse came in and said, “Let me try.” Silence. I could feel the hot tears start to well up in my eyes. As she walked out, she said, “I’m going to check if you can have a sonogram done.” I immediately began to pray, “Please God, please God, please God, let everything be OK.”
The cold gel no longer tickled as it had the first couple of times. I asked, “Is everything OK?” The woman responded, “I’m sending a report to the doctor. He’ll be with you shortly.” I was led to the doctor’s office, and at that moment, I already knew something was wrong. As I sat down, he said, “There was no fetal heartbeat detected. I’m sorry but the pregnancy is not going to continue.” As soon as the words left his mouth, I broke down crying as I felt the world collapsing around me.
Through sobs I somehow managed to ask, “Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure.”
He began to explain my options on how to proceed with the necessary arrangements, but I wasn’t listening. I completely drowned him out and just sat there and cried. My husband showed up and everything after that was a blur. I sat there, completely numb, as the doctor explained to my husband the situation and I heard the news all over again.
There are absolutely no words to describe the feeling. We were beyond devastated and completely heartbroken.
“This isn’t happening. How could this be happening? Why must I go through this? It isn’t fair!”
All of these thoughts played over and over in my mind as I was forced to face the reality of the situation. I was admitted into the hospital two days later where labor was induced and I delivered my baby. Seeing my baby girl and saying goodbye was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, and it has changed me completely. I was given a memory box that day with an infant onesie and a small newborn hat, but the most precious thing in that box was a set of three cards with my baby’s footprints.
I cried so much as the thoughts and dreams I had for this new life with our daughter were shattered. I didn’t know how I was ever going to be able to face another day knowing I would never get to hold my baby, watch her grow up, go to school, to the prom, get married. I didn’t know how I was ever going to come back from this, how I would ever be the same.
I came across a story one morning, “To the Mom I Didn’t Mind Making Uncomfortable at the Playground,” and read it with tears in my eyes. I empathized with this mother. I knew exactly what she was feeling and I wanted to reach through the computer, give her a hug and tell her, “I understand.”
In the past three months, I’ve encountered friends who I haven’t seen in a long time, and it never fails — that question I so dread always comes up. “Do you have any kids yet?” A couple of times, I’ve experienced the uncomfortable silence on the other end after telling people what my husband and I have been through. At first, I struggled with deciding what I would say, but I finally came to the conclusion that I didn’t have to keep quiet — I shouldn’t have to keep quiet. My baby mattered to us, and there shouldn’t be anything wrong with talking about her.
Throughout the days, many shared they had also experienced the loss of an infant or had experienced a miscarriage. Many of them still cried when sharing their experience, but it was always in a quiet and private place, almost as if they didn’t want others to know what they had been through, and I wondered — why is this topic so secret?
There is a horrible stigma surrounding infant loss. That needs to change. It should be OK to talk about this loss and look for support among each other. I know infant loss and miscarriage are extremely difficult and sad topics to talk about, but I want to be comfortable talking about my daughter. She was very much already a part of me and my husband’s life from the beginning, from the time we first heard the heartbeat, to the times I had morning sickness, to the time we saw her move her arms and legs on the screen. She is and will forever be a part of our history, a part of our hearts.
My husband and I received a tremendous amount of love and support during the days that followed the loss. Family was always available, calling every day, bringing food and checking in on us. Co-workers went above and beyond to make sure we were OK, sending cards, collecting monetary donations and taking care of my students while I was out, and friends were there to cry with us, as many times as we had to.
You see, it’s never easy to talk about the loss of a loved one, but I think by showing people it’s OK to reach out to one another and talk about our losses, we will be helping so many others who may be feeling the same things but do not have the courage to say so.
So I ask others, please don’t feel uncomfortable when someone shares their story. Mothers, lets continue to support each other, tell our stories and be there for others who know exactly what we have been through. Fathers, I know your heart aches just as much as the mothers’, but together, you will come out stronger. I promise.
Many of my family members and friends were honest with us after the loss and said, “I’m sorry, but we don’t know how to approach you. We don’t know how to talk about it.”
And I always respond, “I know, but this is a start.”
My thoughts, love and prayers go out to all of the families who have walked similar paths.