October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.

Last year on this day, I remember reading some pregnancy loss blogs, thinking how heartbreaking it would be to lose a baby.  I even thought, “that could be us,” which I think is probably good, because it could be ANYONE.  Fifteen percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage or stillbirth.  That’s a lot of heartache.

But still, when we found ourselves pregnant in December 2008, we felt unadulterated joy, not worry about loss statistics.  And when we hit the 12-week point, with two healthy ultrasounds, we rejoiced, again.  We felt so blessed.

And obviously, our story is not unique, and it is by no means the most heartbreaking story.  We were barely out of the first trimester when we went in for another routine appointment and the refreshing thump, thump, thump on the doppler was gone.  When the nursing student said, cheerfully, “oh, sometimes when they’re so little, they get away from you!” I smiled, weakly, but I thought, “Please, God, please, no.  Please have our baby be alive.”  But they rolled in the pathetic little ultrasound machine, and pulled up an image of our lifeless baby, swishing from side to side because of the ultrasound probe pressing against my stomach.

I did not know what it would feel like to lose a child, but in that moment, I joined the initiated.

Of course, our story did not end there, and most of it is in this blog, preserved for others who may have to go through it.  The genetic testing on the baby and the placenta showed that our pregnancy was not a normal pregnancy; it was a partial molar pregnancy, which carried a risk of cancer for me.  And though that sounds absolutely horrible, I will be honest and say that it is a mixed blessing:  on one hand, we knew that it was nothing *we* did that caused the baby’s demise (I included my husband in there), but that the baby was not viable.  On the other, we were required to wait for months to try to get pregnant again, and in the interim, I had to take weekly hCG tests to ensure that the placenta didn’t regrow like a tumor.  Every week, the tech would say, “another pregnancy test?” and every week, I’d say, “yep…” as though I were the crazy chick who needed weekly confirmations of my gestational status.

And I will be even more honest, and say that those months were some of the worst in my life, and some of the worst in our marriage.  The grief was palpable, and augmented by the fact that I had at least 5 friends due within 3 weeks of our due date in September 2009.  I withdrew from friends, and I withdrew from this blog.  I stopped asking about pregnancies.

Post-partum depression after miscarriage is very, very real, and very, very, debilitating.

He would be one month old today, had he only had the right number of chromosomes.  Our lives would be very, very different.

I say all of this not to be depressing, but to be honest.  I don’t think anyone realizes what it’s like to go through a miscarriage until they have been through it themselves.  It is difficult to know what to say, and words come out wrong.

So, in honor of today, I would like to share some thoughts about what to do, and what NOT to do, if you have a friend going through a miscarriage (and possibly infant loss, but I am not going to pretend I have any idea about that pain):

1)  Do send an email, a card, fruit, food, gifts.  If someone is very good at gardening, you might consider sending a plant, but if the person does not have a green thumb, consider that it might be additionally painful to give a plant in remembrance, only to have it die soon after.

2)  Do not say the following things:  “It’s probably better – you don’t want to raise a child with difficulties,” “You’re young, you can always have another,” or “Get over it”, or “It happens“.  All of these things were said to me, multiple times.  None of them helped, and in fact, most of them made it much, much worse.

3)  Do allow the person to talk about the baby, their pregnancy, or their due date.  Do share your own story of loss.

4)  Do acknowledge the person’s due date, even by saying, “I know how hard this time is for you, and I’m thinking/praying for you”.  That means more than anything else.

5)  Do not complain about:  not being able to drink alcoholic drinks while pregnant, not being able to sleep, vomiting due to pregnancy, lack of sleep in the first few months of having a baby home, being tired, having breastmilk problems, hurting because a baby is kicking you in the ribs, or being sick of maternity clothes to someone who has had a recent loss.  This is not to diminish the trauma of those things (well, except the drinking while pregnant.  Never complain about not being able to drink while pregnant.  Sorry, I am going to sound like a judgmental jerk for this, but you are pregnant, and this is your obligation to your baby.  No drinking.  No cigarettes.  Tough luck.  They will still be around in 8 months).  Sleepless nights, vomiting multiple times a day – those are tangible, and horrible, and stressful.  No question.  However, a person who has just lost a baby would probably give anything for the nausea, for the sleeplessness, for the inconveniences posed by the process of having a child.

6)  Do be honest about your pregnancies.  Do not leave a grieving friend in the dark in order to protect them.  It will simply hurt their feelings more than had they known about the pregnancy in the first place.

7)  Do offer to pray for someone.  Do offer to help in concrete, specific ways.  Do not say, “please let me know what I can do to help” because although that sounds wonderful, chances are, the person is in so much grief that she cannot identify what it is that she needs help with.

Today, on this day, we remember.  Please take a moment to reach out to those around you who have had a loss, and even join the campaign to light a candle at 7:00 tonight.

Blessings to all of you.

P.S.  I get a lot of emails asking about our progress, so just to update and leave this on a brighter note, we were cleared to try to conceive – meaning, I never developed cancer or regrowth – in August 2009, and I took the MCAT to try to get into medical school (which is funny in and of itself) in September 2009.  Right now we are waiting, praying, and asking the Lord to show us what He has planned for us and our family.

Advertisements