Tag Archives: grief

Five monthaversy poem, pings, and pangs

Yesterday was the five “monthaversy” and my mom sent me another poem that I got this morning:

How quickly, yet how slowly
Five months can pass.
I took a walk this morning
And thought of little, lost Noah,
And I realized that he isn’t “lost”
But traveling before us to whatever lies beyond.
Who can know where the souls of unborn babies go?
I can only guess that it’s a place of brightness, love and miracles.
He gave us the gift of sorrow,
So that we can appreciate joy.
By descending into the darkness,
We yearn towards the light.
By releasing this tiny soul,
Our paths become open to the possibility of bliss.

—-

I had a whole post I wanted to write yesterday about the many small losses and the pings,  pangs, and zings that continue to be a part of my life. But, I didn’t get a chance to do so. Suffice to say, it is weird how many “firsts” and pangs there continue to be—for example, this week my usual PJ pants were in the laundry and had to dig around for others, realizing then with a pang, that I had not worn that pair of pants since I was in labor with Noah (and pulled them off because they were terribly uncomfortable at the moment). On Tuesday, I taught my class wearing a pair of pants that I hadn’t worn since the day I found out Noah died—they were the pants I was wearing at the ultrasound.

There’s more…I’ve been reflecting on how it just doesn’t really seem to have a stopping point, but it is past time to put my kids to bed, so this is all for now.

Another Loss Poem

I’ve had a sad couple of days lately for a variety of reasons and I have a lot of posts building in my head, but not enough time lately to share them. Read this quote today and really liked it: “Loss makes artists of us all as we weave new patterns in the fabric of our lives.” ~Greta W. Crosby. My good friend had a miscarriage this weekend and it just feels really unfair somehow—I know it isn’t a logical thought process, but I feel like “didn’t I learn enough from my own experiences to spare anyone else in our group from having to learn them too? Wasn’t my own sadness enough?” Of course, that isn’t really how life works and this isn’t about me at all. I don’t really remember having “it’s not fair” thoughts about Noah—more of thoughts like, “I guess it was my turn” and things like that—but with this I feel as if it’s just not fair. I also keep remembering all the “aftermath” thought processes and the semi-irrational thoughts and the self-blame and the general wondering and rehashing and the having to cross the dates off in the calendar (I’d written ahead until about 25 weeks and each day in my journal I’d have to cross out what I’d written–knowing that it had been written there in innocence, naivety, hope, and promise) and I am just feeling so sick that someone I know and care about has to do all that stuff too.

I read this poem yesterday and thought of her:

Our Baby

by Teri Stuckman

An empty space where life once stirred

My eyes were not yet seeing

Where once my heartbeat shared a tone

with a small and fragile being

So scarely formed yet still a life

A dream, a hope, a promise

Our plans were changed to now include

This new life thrust upon us

Then just as quickly as it came

Our dreams were gone away

The deepest pain I’ve ever felt

Our baby died today

With footprints left upon our hearts

She gently took her leave

We’re left with nothing but regret

And only time to grieve

there was no service to be held

No mourning time required

No songs of longing and despair

No words to be inspired

We’re simply told to bear the pain

‘It’s nature’s way’ they say

I can’t forget our baby moved

inside me yesterday

And with each word of sorrow

my teardrops fall like rain

The anger and resentment

are mixed with guilt and pain

I look to heaven for a sign

to help search out a course

Where love can teach acceptance

and eliminate remorse

My body will accept the truth

that now our baby’s gone

But in our hearts our Angel

everlastingly lives on!

A Birth Healing Blessing

One of my Facebook friends shared this poem yesterday and I felt like re-posting it.

A Birth Healing Blessing

Blessed sister, beautiful one
with broken wings.
Your journey is a difficult one…
that no mother should have to endure.
Your path is steep, rocky and slippery
and your tender heart is in need of gentle healing.

Breathe deeply and know that you are loved.
You are not alone,
though at times, you will feel like a
desolate island of grief
untouchable
distant.
Close your eyes.
Seek the wisdom of women who have walked this well-worn path before you,
before,
and before,
and before you yourself were born.
These beautiful ones
with eyes like yours
have shared your pain, and
weathered the storms of loss.

You are not alone (breathe in)
You will go on (breathe out)
Your wings will mend (breathe in)
You are loved (breathe out)
~ Mary Burgess

Author, Mending Invisible Wings, a healing journal for mothers following the loss of their baby through late-term miscarriage, stillbirth, or neonatal death.

—-

The “eyes like yours” line really stood out to me. I mentioned when I shared my few pregnancy pictures here that I asked Mark to take a post-miscarriage picture of me, because I wanted to remember how my eyes looked. I haven’t had the heart to post about it, nor have told many people at all, but I had another miscarriage on February 1st. This one was very early and completely different than my experience with Noah (and one reason I haven’t felt like sharing about it, is because I don’t want it to overshadow my experience with him or to have him just be one in a long line of recurrent losses [which is what I now fear]. I also felt strongly that I simply CANNOT handle having people feel sorry for me again so soon). Anyway, every time I saw myself in the mirror I kept thinking, “these are the eyes of a mother whose babies have died.” They are different eyes…

Mizuko

I have written already about the semantics of loss–in short, our culture lacks the right words for talking about miscarriage and really about death of all kinds. Today, I read an article on the UK Miscarriage Association website called “Water Baby” that discusses that Japan is the only culture that has a special word to refer to babies lost during pregnancy–”mizuko,” which means “water baby.” The author of the article goes on to say, “Miscarriage describes the process, but not what has actually died. In the West we rely heavily on euphemism to describe death and miscarriage is no exception; we get around the absence of a word like mizuko by adding the word ‘lost’ to various nouns, as in: lost baby. But the nouns we use tend to be subjective and fraught with controversy.”

The Progress of Grief

Yesterday was the four month anniversary of my miscarriage. Mark and I spent some time talking about having another baby as well as talking about how our experience with Noah still has a profound impact on our lives. I’ve had some challenging interactions with a couple of people lately that have made me wonder if I’m supposed to be “over it” already. When you see me in person I am very normal and act okay…that is because I AM okay. However, I am startled at the degree to which this experience still impacts my life and occupies my thoughts. I am okay with not ever being “over it” completely—I was reflecting on how the births of my other two children were intensely significant moments in my life and I will never forget those experiences or the meaning they held for me. This is no different for me, thus, no “over it” possible! What struck me this month though, is that I feel like the miscarriage experience has been incorporated into my life—instead of being a painful memory or a fresh wound. I guess that stage would be the grief stage of “acceptance.” In the first few weeks after Noah died, I was indescribably sad. I also thought about the miscarriage constantly—about every third thought would be about it (kind of a flashback in a sense). I also intensely felt the loss of being pregnant—every day I thought about how many weeks pregnant I “should” be. After a month or so passed, I missed the baby more than the pregnancy—the thought that he would have been big enough to feel from the outside, the wondering if he was a “normal” baby that died for some unknown reason or if he was a baby with some kind of not-physically-visible abnormality that meant his lifespan ran its natural course more briefly than other babies, that sort of thing. I now no longer feel as if I “should” be pregnant and I no longer count how many weeks pregnant I would have been. I am still very much aware that his due date is approaching and that I would have been very pregnant right now.

Here is where I am in my head: I still think about the miscarriage/birth experience every day, probably at least once an hour—not in a flashback sense, it just comes to mind (actually just about every time I am at rest/mind is still/not busy doing something else, it comes to mind). Every day when I say my morning prayer/blessing after yoga, I offer thanks for Noah. At least once a day and sometimes closer to three times, I go out to the tree where we placed his memorial plaque and put my hand on it. I always feel very still and peaceful when I do this and it is a sort of touchpoint for me. I wear my “baby in my heart” necklace every day and never take it off—periodically during the day I touch it and remember. Perhaps these things make me seem preoccupied or not “over it.” That is okay. They all feel normal and healthy to me. I do not feel like I am still “sad” really or that these thought patterns are an expression of unresolved grief, but are instead part of the process of acceptance and incorporation. I also noticed that I can talk about my experiences with a (genuine) smile on my face and without crying/feeling like I’m going to “lose control” and cry in front of people—I want to keep talking about it/sharing about it, just like I wanted to talk/share about my other children’s births. They were all milestones/rites of passage in my life as well as intensely embodied experiences. It makes sense to me that I wish to talk about them.

So, that’s where I am right now. Not sure what the next couple of months will bring!

I read a post on a miscarriage blog I enjoy that addressed a similar question (posed by a semi-hypothetical reader in a Q & A format)—”How much longer am I allowed to openly grieve for my dead baby among friends, family members, and other people in my life? I’m updating my Outlook calendar right now, and want to make sure I mark that grieving cut-off date with a red flag.” The post was part of a column of posts, so if you want to read it you have to scroll past two other topics to get to this one. Her blog is written in a pretty intense, matter-of-fact, and kind of “in your face” style—no hearts and flowers there, so be prepared for that. Anyway, her response to the question was to categorize the “levels” of connection to calculate  your “public-grieving-cut-off date” (did I also mention that she has a great sense of humor and that is one reason I enjoy her blog?).  Pretty much that with Facebook friends (level 4) you’re “allowed” a week. With not-emotionally-close friends and family you get three weeks. With level two–close friends people—she says you get two months with this additional note: “longer is possible, with risk being given a pep talk, a loving plea to move on with your life, a subtle push to find out if you’re suicidal, a gentle prod to find out if/when you’re planning to try again, because it might be a good idea” (this is where I feel like I am with some people right now—kind of “yeah we get it, it was a big deal, but life goes on!). With level 1 people—i.e. your husband—you get 1-2 years. With level 0 people—i.e. people who have “been there” in more or less your exact situation or “that one best, best, best friend who still lets you vent about it and asks how you are; your mother; your dog; maybe even your spouse): Eternity.” (emphasis mine)

So, bottom line is that I’m doing good, I’m fine, I’m okay, I’m happy, I’m not depressed, I’m normal, I have a great life…AND…I’m not “over it” and never will be.

“Over the passage of time, we do more than survive the journey. We go through a labor of self-discovery and give birth to the being deep within…we emerge more enriched, empowered, and evolved women, connect with the instinctual wisdom that lies deep within us, and experience the more whole life we deserve…grieving…opens a door into our souls that might otherwise not have been opened.” –Marie Allen & Shelly Marks

What I’ve Learned from Miscarriage

Several days after Noah was born I wrote the whole story in my journal. Someday I hope to type it all up as a complete narrative to share. After I wrote the story, I also made a list of things I’d learned. Except for occasional additional notes in brackets, this list is verbatim from what I wrote 3 days post-miscarriage:

  • I need to take care of myself—it is important.
  • I have good coping skills.
  • I am strong and brave and powerful.
  • I can trust my body.
  • I have an amazing husband.
  • I have amazing parents.
  • I have wonderful, fabulous friends.
  • Midwives are amazing.
  • To be grateful, humbled, and awed by the kindnesses of others.
  • Home miscarriage is important for the same reasons as home birth.
  • This was a birth experience.
  • I could have an unassisted birth–I did have one, just not full-term.
  • I wouldn’t have died in pioneer Idaho after L was born…probably didn’t need Pitocin then after all [this one needs some explanation beyond what was originally in my journal---I have a tendency to overthink things and something that bothered me about my first son's birth is that I had "sequestered clots" and a pitocin shot after he was born. I kept thinking that I could have done the whole thing myself---even if I had been born a pioneer woman in Idaho---save that Pitocin shot. So, then I wondered if I would have died frome excessive bleeding in pioneer Idaho...do other people think things like this or is it just a special neurosis of mine?!]
  • I’m glad I knew already to name him and take pictures and keep mementos and what “normal” grief is like (well, at least what grief is like to read about).
  • I’m a good enough mom and that is good enough.
  • Maybe I’m a pretty good person after all and people actually DO like me.
  • This was another journey/rite of passage.
  • The only way to do it is go through it.
  • I will have a piece of sadness in my heart forever and that’s okay.
  • I love my baby.
  • I can lose WAY more blood than I ever thought possible and still be okay.
  • It is apparently normal for me to clot copiously after birth [the tons of clots is what led to pitocin after my first baby, this time I had clots the size of grapefruits and survived without any intervention for them]
  • I do not feel like I “lost” my baby. I feel like my baby died and I let him go.
  • I trust the wisdom of my body.
  • I don’t know if I could ever do this again—I hope I never have to.
  • I will have tiny footprints on my heart forever.
  • When tested, I rise.

Then, earlier this month I was driving into town for a workshop and I was thinking about how we almost decided NOT to have a third baby in the first place and if we had made that decision, how I would still be clueless about miscarriage and also unaware of the feelings that go with it and all the experiences that I have had since November. I then realized that if I had to go back and start all over again without being able to change the outcome, I would still choose to have been pregnant with Noah and to have given birth to him like I did, rather than to have “spared” myself the pain and the knowledge. It has actually been a growth experience for me.

I feel like all of my children have been good for my soul—like I’d be a less “evolved” person if I hadn’t had them! I feel like my first son caused me to grow. My second son caused me to open—to bloom/expand.  And Noah, my third son, deepened me.

Books About Miscarriage

I already had quite a few books about miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss on my shelf prior to my own miscarriage (some from my CBE training and some from when I worked at the Ronald McDonald House). I read them all in the days following my own miscarriage and have since ordered and read many more. I wanted to share the list here in case it will help anyone else:

After Miscarriage: Medical Facts and Emotional Support for Pregnancy Loss-–this was one of the best books I bought. It was lighter on the emotional side than many of the others. This isn’t necessarily good in and of itself, but it was what I needed to read after reading about 6 books with an emphasis on the emotional side and almost no exploration of the physical side (my observation of most books on this subject). Plus, this book was published in 2008, so it is fairly up-to-date and so I trusted the information in it about miscarriage causes more than I did the info in the 90′s books I have. I also liked that the sole focus is on miscarriage.

Empty Arms: Coping with miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant death-one of the things I found interesting in this one was the question, “Are miscarriage and stillbirth really all that different? Is stillbirth more painful because the baby was carried longer?…’What is miscarriage, but an early stillbirth?’” This is how I felt about my own experience—like it was an early stillbirth. Perhaps if there had been no baby to see and touch and relate to, I would separate the two more readily??

Help, Comfort, & Hope after Losing Your Baby in Pregnancy or the First Year—this one is one of the best for sure. It is from 1997, but because it doesn’t address medical issues, it is completely relevant. This is one that I had my shelf since my time at RMHC and I’m glad I had it, it was very helpful and I really recommend it. It covers a lot of ground, because it includes infant loss throughout the first year of life. It has helpful sections for family members, friends, and professionals. Highly recommended!

Mourning Sickness: Stories and poems about miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss—a more creative, exploratory, personal look at the experience. I marked one quote in which the woman says (referring to being at the hospital): “This is no place to have any real feelings or to let myself wonder why this is happening.” That is exactly how I felt at the doctor’s office when we found out Noah died. I felt like they were expecting me to cry or something, but what I felt was, “get me out of here and THEN I’ll let myself feel.” I even said that to the nurse-practitioner we’d seen—”I’ve got to process this later.”

Miscarriage: Women Sharing from the Heart—I got a lot out of this one emotionally. After Miscarriage was my favorite for medical information and this one was one of my favorites for the emotional side as well as for exploring grief and transformation.

Surviving Pregnancy Loss: a Complete Sourcebook for Women and Their Families—on the older side, didn’t get much out of it.

Unspeakable Losses: Healing from Miscarriage, Abortion, and Other Pregnancy Loss—something I marked from this one was “And before my own losses taught me differently, I had always assumed that once they were over, there was nothing more to say about this unseen losses.” Of course, there IS lots more to say. Hence, this blog. Another quote I marked from this book is: “As a culture, we seem to have an intolerance for suffering; we tend to want those who have experienced a loss of any kind to get on with their lives as quickly as possible. Often, by minimizing the impact of significant losses pathologizing those whose reactions are intense, and applauding those who seem relatively unaffected by tragic events, we encourage the inhibition of our grief. In both obvious and subtle ways, we tell those who grieve they are wrong to be so upset, to dwell on their miseries.”

Coping with a Miscarriage: Why it happens and how to deal with its impact on your family—I do not recommend this one. It is on the older side and it persists in referring to miscarriage as “spontaneous abortion” or even just “abortion.” I hate that. It drives me crazy and makes me mad. I know that SA is the technical, medical term for miscarriage, but I refuse to “own” the term. I have a hard enough time with “miscarriage” being enough. SA just feels like a slap in the face as well as just wrong. Like many medical terms for things affecting women, it is insulting in a way—like “incompetent” cervix or “irritable” uterus…

Pregnancy After a Loss: A Guide to Pregnancy after a Miscarriage, Stillbirth or Infant Death—I coincidentally had this one on my to-sell shelf for Amazon. I unlisted it and read it myself—at the time, I wasn’t ready to consider the possibility of trying again, so I probably need to re-read it.

Ended Beginnings: Healing Childbearing Losses—this is one I had on hand from my CBE training. It is good. Again, on the old side, but pretty much exclusively emotional, so it doesn’t really matter—it doesn’t feel “dated.”

Presenting Unexpected Outcomes–another one from my CBE training. Same other as Empty Arms above. It is helpful as an educator, but wasn’t particularly useful as a woman.

Empty Cradle, Broken Heart: Surviving the Death of Your Baby—another one focusing on emotional recovery.

For my kids, I bought the children’s book Something Happened. My older son (6) was reluctant to have me read it to him, but when I did, he kept nodding and saying things like “yeah.” It was an interesting experience. I’ve only read it to them once.

I also have two more that recently came from Bookins and I haven’t read them yet:

Coming to Term: Uncovering the Truth About Miscarriage—this one is written by a man whose wife had three miscarriages. He is a health writer and investigative journalist.

Miscarriage: Women’s Experiences & Needs—I don’t know anything about this one.

Maybe this seems like a lot or “too much” reading, but I have found it very helpful. Reading is what I do! So, having this experience is no different for me—I read in order to make sense of my own feelings and experiences. I also have found it helpful to paticipate in the Pregnancy and Birth Loss form at mothering.com. Though is is also scary in a way—there is SO MUCH PAIN carried in the world surrounding childbearing loss. It is staggering what so many women and families have gone through. My innocence is definitely lost and reading about other women’s experiences makes me worried about doing this over and over again (or having subsequent even more emotionally painful losses).