Told by: Heidi Faith
This post was originally written in my doula blog, one month after my loss, as we were only preparing to build stillbirthday. If you are miscarrying right now and were led to this page, please click this link (stillbirthday) to be taken to the beginning, where you will be led through a path of options, explanations, and support, specific to your situation.
Finding out in the ultrasound room that my baby was dead, I was propelled into a fast-action spinning nightmare filled with insensitivity, and void of information, resources, and hope. I blogged my experience in real-time. The title, “It’s STILL Birth” was something that I seemed to literally shout at the top of my lungs. What options do I have? What do I do now? Now? And…………..now? The answers I got, “You probably already flushed it” “Don’t worry about it” “It’s not a real baby…..tissue…..debris…..” not only ripped my soul, but I am finding that, even now, I still recoil–I can still feel the vomit rise in my throat as I try to push such horrendous offense away from my broken little heart. “It’s STILL birth” I protested, I wailed, as I held my little pooch of a tummy, which was once bubbling with life, but, as I knew, had become my baby’s dark, quiet tomb.
I didn’t have any doubt–I saw the ultrasound; saw my beautiful baby, lifeless and still. I wasn’t in any kind of denial–I just wanted to do what was right.
I knew that a D&C might be needed. I wasn’t firmly against it, I was just so totally bewildered and overwhelmed, I knew I just needed to slow things down. I frantically wondered, “What would a D&C mean, as a family experience?” “How can we transform a ‘remove dead tissue procedure’ into a ‘medically assisted birth of a tiny, beloved, dead baby?’”
I was warned that “expelling everything on its own” came with risks: the process could take several weeks, the baby could come out in broken pieces…so I tried looking for ways to “naturally induce” the miscarriage. As a doula, I knew about things for full term deliveries, but I wasn’t sure about a miscarriage and so did some researching. What I found, to my horror, were websites promoting “secret abortions from home”.
As labor progressed rapidly enough on its own, I had to plan for our very first homebirth. Planning, as with any kind of logic, seemed to allude me completely as I felt wetness I shouldn’t feel while pregnant, saw frightening amounts of bright red blood in the bathroom, and held an impossible amount of sadness and despair as knew there would be no turning back. Every sensation was tragic, every single moment filled with agony and heartbreak.
After the birth, I marvelled at how beautiful my baby was. Really. Perfect and tiny, what a wonder it was to see tiny little perfect toes, the itty-bitty soft, round head. I reflected on the wonder, how even while we were still happily, naively pregnant, God knew how many hairs would grow on this tiny, little head–none. I sighed as I imagined the baby’s heart, once beating strongly, slowly, coming to a peaceful stop. I peered over my baby, and kept telling him that I was sorry. It was more of a chant: I’m so sorry baby, I’m so sorry baby…
So, if you can imagine with me, a mom and dad, hovering over our sweet, tiny dead baby. A baby that not only didn’t count for any kind of legal recognition–no birth certificate, nothing, but no medical recognition, either. It is hard to explain how I felt, but I will try: it wasn’t just that we were so overwhelmed, so distraught, so grief-stricken and helpless that we could have gently placed our baby in the toilet bowl and painfully pushed the lever. It’s that, I was expected to apathetically allow my baby to just plop into the bowl, and flush without any kind of a care.
It is a God-designed response that takes place in parents, to be willing to selflessly, even eagerly protect our children. We, my husband and I, were virtually the only ones on the entire planet who had any interest in defending the reality of our baby’s existance. So now, we had to decide what to do with our baby.
For me, placing our baby in the tiny jewelry box that my husband had bought that morning, specifically for our baby, I knew I was in the very worst moment of my entire life. Sitting in that moment of darkness, sadness, emptiness, and pain, holding my baby’s tiny coffin in my hands, hot tears frantically spiraled down my face. I felt so trapped in that moment, so unable to escape it, I remember actually looking forward to the very next moment. Just one more moment, just usher me into the next second God. Surely it will be better than this.
We made plans to bury our baby. I remember feeling startled as the funeral director said that he was sorry for our loss.
He was the first professional to volunteer such an intimate recognition.
Because the cemetary we chose has baby plots, the price wasn’t as much as an adult burial. But, even at that, it was still very expensive, and I remember wondering coldly, “Why are you charging us so much?
Nobody else even counted our baby as real, so why do you need so much money?”
The pastoral staff at our church have been kind, loving and supportive. They offered to have someone present at the funeral, and we were very grateful, but declined. We imagined it’d be hard to speak for somebody who one had never seen smile. As arrangements for the funeral were made, I knew we’d want pictures. We intentionally didn’t take pictures of our baby, because we didn’t want our baby to be remembered being so tiny, so seemingly unfinished; but we did want pictures of the funeral, the “celebration” of a very real person’s life, and death. Only “his” brothers, parents, and grandparents were there. There was no preacher, no inspiring words, no sermon, no awkward shaking of hands in sympathy. It was a quiet funeral on a cold, gloomy afternoon.
It was immediately afterward, that I updated my original blogpost to include information about our new project, and to petition to other mothers to share their miscarriage experiences with me. The original story received 4,000 views in the first 2 weeks, and hundreds of mothers continue to bless me with the responsibility of caring for their tragic, yet inspiring stories.
As I continue to lift my broken heart to our Lord, it being torn with agony, plagued with anger, shame and grief, He’s held onto it so tenderly. He’s spoken words of love and hope into my crumpled spirit so clearly to be nearly audible. I hesitate revealing too much, because in doubt and disbelief I wonder why He’d pick me out of the crowd of grieving mothers and only bless me with such revelations of His goodness. Yet, as I read letter after letter from other mothers who’ve triumphed over this path that I am so newly stumbling upon, I see, sometimes plainly, sometimes hidden within the story, God still holds their hearts carefully too, still reveals His compassion into their spirits–whether they see it yet or not.
Based on my experience, and a culmination of other mothers’ experiences, these are some things I now know:
–Some people will say some very hurtful things in an effort to ease some of your hurt (this might be medical staff, friends, family, or anyone).
–Some people will make terrible decisions in your very best interest.
–Pregnancy loss has unique medical and emotional/spiritual needs that often reflect each other and include one another, and both need to be cared for thoroughly and compassionately.
–Accepting, really accepting, the death of your baby is a process that is insurmountably compounded if the process of accepting the ill-timed birth is interrupted, stifled, silenced or rejected.
–When a mother doesn’t feel the reality of her child’s life being acknowledged at the time of pregnancy loss, she will often retreat to an extended, “silent grief” long after the loss has occured.
–This “silent grief” can have serious health consequences (spiritually/emotionally, socially, sexually, and physically).
–Parents need and want choices (even if they don’t choose them all) during an experience that is so amazingly out of their control.
–The logic to create choices does not function well-at all-in the midst of the shock of pregnancy loss. When logic returns, it is often accompanied by a powerful amount of regret (over the decisions made without it).
–From the earliest age of pregnancy loss, when “flushing is inevitable and finding the baby is impossible” parents still long to exhibit their love for their child, in some act of kindness or expression.
–There are many names for the experience, and many terms within it, but if a woman sees two pink lines, and then sees blood, the reality of her experiences need to be validated. It is still birth, and, it is still death, regardless of the order, duration, medical assistance, or timing.
–The reality and importance of these things are relevant regardless of the faith or spiritual strength of the family. These facts cross all bridges and boundaries, and compassionate care is needed for every single family impacted by pregnancy loss.
–The new website, stillbirthday, will be a help in all of these things.
[Later, I wrote pertaining to my subsequent pregnancy: She's Not My Rainbow, Irish Twins, Not as the World Gives, and Subsequently, among other articles in the emotional health section and the devotionals section of stillbirthday.]