Miscarriage Doulas…

On a pregnancy loss message board that I read, a mother posted asking if she was the only one who experience her miscarriage as painful (because no one mentioned it being painful in the stories she had read and she was very shocked by the pain involved). I had a couple of thoughts in response to this question. I also shared my “favorite” miscarriage-birth quote: “Miscarriages are labor, miscarriages are birth. To consider them less dishonors the woman whose womb has held life, however briefly.” (Kathryn Miller Ridiman).

I do think the amount of pain probably depends in part on where you are in the pregnancy. Since a lot of women experience very early miscarriages (less than 7 weeks), I think that is perhaps why you don’t hear them talk about pain. OR, because a lot of women end up having D & C’s and thus do not go through the “natural miscarriage” experience, perhaps that is why pain doesn’t figure heavily into narrative. Or, maybe because there is so much emotional pain involved as well, the physical pain gets overshadowed? That said, my 6-week miscarriage was not physically painful at all (not that it couldn’t be for some women, of course). However, my miscarriage at nearly 15 weeks was indistinguishable from a full-term labor. It was just the same, except with the addition of MASSIVE blood clots following the baby. I value his birth as another birth experience in my life, but at the same time I am SHOCKED that miscarriage is so often overlooked as a birth event that requires tenderness and support (where are the miscarriage doulas and midwives?! While in a way, I feel proud of myself for have an “unassisted” birth-miscarriage, I could have used the care of a knowlegable, caring woman rather than to just be left on my own trying to gauge how much blood loss is normal, etc.)

So, what about “miscarriage doulas” as an idea? I have seriously thought about becoming one. I am trained as a birth doula, but have no interest in actually working as one, but being a m/c doula does interest me a lot. I feel like adding a section to my business website (I’m a childbirth educator) that says, “having a miscarriage? Call me and I’ll come over and rub your back and bring you things to drink…”

I decided two things shortly after my first miscarriage: one, that I was going to write a book specifically about how to deal (i.e. “what to expect when you’re having a miscarriage”), because I felt very betrayed by having this huge wealth of pregnancy, birth, and midwifery books all around me and NONE of them had the information I was looking; And, two, that if anyone was ever to tell me she was in the process of miscarrying I would go to her right away (unfortunately, it seems like people feel like they have to tough it out alone or don’t want to “bother” anyone and so only tell after the fact). Well, if she wanted me to go, obviously, not against her will. And, that would include going to the hospital with her if she needed a m/c doula there, not just for “home miscarriage.”

Thankfully, I had already read a long message board thread about, “what exactly do you see with a miscarriage” long before I ever had a m/c experience of my own, so I knew to expect mine to be like labor and not to be a “heavy period” (OMG, I want to scream when I see miscarriages described like that in books over, and over, and over again! Though, then when I had my second m/c it WAS, in fact, like the mythical heavy period, so then I understood a little better why that was a prevalent descriptor.)

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11 responses to “Miscarriage Doulas…

  1. peacefulbeginnings

    Writing a “What to Expect” book sounds like a great idea as does opening up to being a m/c doula. I agree about needing someone during a miscarriage. I felt very abandoned during my experience (by my care provider) and feel now that I will carry that over into my own practice….as in, I will never, ever leave a mom to miscarry on her own, no matter how early it may be. In a way, I think a mom who isn’t getting a living, breathing baby at the end needs a doula MORE. You’d be great at that! I’d also like to add that I am happy to go as well, if you can’t.

  2. I have had 7 miscarriages (4 early, but 3 in the 12-15wk range). Just this weekend I spent an hour IMing on facebook with a friend of mine who lives 5000 miles away, but who had just had an ultrasound showing a dead baby (at 15wks) and was sitting at home waiting for the cytotec to kick in so that she could deliver her child. She had no family or friends nearby, and her husband, in his grief, had left the house for a couple of hours. She was alone.
    I talked with her for a while, shared my experiences, and helped her prepare by getting an idea of what to expect physically. I wanted so much to just go over there, bring her food, make dinner, clean the house, talk with her, bring her a nice distracting movie, or just be there and provide labor support as she needed it.
    Afterward I started thinking of exactly this idea–of being a miscarriage doula. I have been interested in doulaing for some time but I have little ones of my own and was concerned about the scheduling side of it so have put it on the back burner for now. However, suddenly I feel this pull to reach out to these women in the way that I wish I could have reached out to my friend–in the way that I wish someone would have reached out to me. I think my experiences make me uniquely suited to it.
    I actually googled “miscarriage doula” and that’s how I found you. I’ve been thinking about this and wondered if it was too morbid to bring up. I thank you for being willing to do so. I will continue to think on it. The one part that I feel very awkward about is the idea of payment…I would love to support these women out of charity, but I do have a family and at this stage I can’t spend hours away from them without some kind of recompense… but how do you go about discussing that side of things?

    So here is a question…what do you think would be appropriate training for a miscarriage doula? As in, should I get DONA certified, or should i just jump in from where I am with the empathy and experience that I already have and go for it?

    • It sounds like your experiences would well qualify you! I’m not sure about the mechanics of it myself–I think the “friendly visitor” variety rather than a business would work best. You’re right about payment–no clue as to how to do that. For me, I think it would have to be donation based. I do know that when I mentioned the idea on Mothering.com, SO MANY women responded saying, “yes, I wish they existed!” I know there is a need. I found the Midwifery Today issue about miscarriage helpful (you can buy it as a back issue, I think it is from 1996) with several essays mentioning the idea of serving as witness to “these small, sad little births.”

      Thank you for posting the links to your stories also. There are lots of good thoughts on your blog and I read many of them! I sent a quote from your empty bellies and arms post to my friend who just gave birth to her baby at 16 weeks two weeks ago.

  3. Wow, we are so on the same page! I found your site by searching for miscarriage doulas, because for the past year (since my miscarriage July 2009, where I was completely alone) I have been trying to organize a miscarriage doula program. I had my babies at home, not knowing what to expect, even though I was already a mother of 4. Miscarriage is different in a lot of ways, but it is still labour, still painful still requires support.

    I am a birth doula as well. I just started the Tiny Angels Project (www.tinyangelsproject.com) , and part of the project is to provide miscarriage doulas to moms who need them in my area.

    Thanks for your post. 🙂

    • Since writing this post, I was contacted by another woman who was on the same page as well and we are currently the midst of starting a miscarriage doula organization as well. We will check out your website and hopefully we can network!

  4. Pingback: Miscarriage and Birth | Talk Birth

  5. I realise this is an older post but so glad it is here! I think a m/c doula is a fantastic idea and hope you are practicing as one currently. In fact I found this through researching them. I have had 2 m/c – one at 16 weeks and one at 11weeks. My birth experience on my own with no information or knowledge at16 weeks was so horrific and traumatic that I was unable to allow my body to m/c naturally for my second at 11 weeks and was forced to have a D and C. I too am in the process of writing a ‘what to expect’ book after my first experience because it annoys me no end. With a little bit of forethought from my carers my 16 birth could have been a very joyous, beautiful experience. In relation to payment, it can be a diifcult subject to broach with the recently bereaved. It would need to be on a case by case basis. In my current situation – I am looking for a doula now before I have my third pregnancy just in case. Someone who will be able to support me from the first little blue line at 5 weeks through to the end of the pregnancy at whatever time that may be. In this instance I will insist on paying my doula even if the pregnancy ends in miscarriage. For me the support they provide through the pregnancy itself and in the event of m/c or stillbirth is irreplacable and they are professionals. I believe they should be compensated for their services.

  6. Janelle–thank so much for commenting! I’m so sorry about your losses. I share your shock at the experience of an unassisted home miscarriage in the second trimester, and also your desire for a doula to be present in the future! After this post, I made contact with several other women with similar visions and we co-founded The Amethyst Network, an organization to train miscarriage doulas, to offer support, information, and referrals for loss families, and also to train support circle leaders: http://theamethystnetwork.org/

    So, my isolated nighttime musings about the need for miscarriage doulas did actually bear fruit! 🙂

    Best wishes on your pregnancy-after-loss journey. The legacy of miscarriage is profound and you’ll never forget those little babies whose entire lives were lived within you!

  7. Oh, and my own rainbow baby is now two!

  8. I just found out that my baby is gone…, at 8 weeks they are guessing. Hospital is recommending D & E but my husband is concerned ans suspicious of hospital precedures. Would home miscarriage at 8 weeks involve a lot of pain and blood loss? Doctor scared me a bit about that today…, plus possible infections of keeping the fetus inside for long… Any thoughts?

    • I’m so sorry about your baby. 😦 Check out the doula listings and theamethystnetwork.org and at Stillbirthday.com. Stillbirthday has some excellent resources and “birth plans” for preparing for a home miscarriage. I hesitate to say definitively, but at 8 weeks you are pretty likely to be able to do it at home. Pay close attention to blood loss, of course. The uterus is a sterile/closed environment and an infection is not a high possibility if there has been nothing else unusual. It can happen in rare situations. Again, I can’t predict exactly what will happen or make any promises, but I think your chance of having the miscarriage at home is very good and may well be a healing and peaceful experience. Best wishes with making the decision that is right for you! Definitely check out the websites I mention too. You might be able to locate a support person who can come to you. ((Hugs))

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