Since Ariella died, I've had a number of friends open up to me about their pregnancy losses. Today I have the honour of sharing with you something that a dear friend of mine wrote about her pregnancy loss. I hope you'll take the time to read this, as her words reveal a struggle that is so often overlooked by society.
Even in stillbirth we can understand the pain a little bit more than a miscarriage. With stillbirth, there is a physical baby there, for the world to see. I think seeing a perfect baby, born sleeping forever creeps into the depths of our hearts and would make the toughest person break down. The baby is there, there is proof of its existence, there is a funeral to attend and a grave site to visit. Somebody died, a baby died.
But with miscarriage, nobody physically died. Not for anyone else to see. There was no "somebody". In most cases there is no physical evidence that there was a baby at all. So when a woman experiences a miscarriage, it is all silent and secret, just like the miracle that was meant to be growing inside of her.
When I had my miscarriage I was six weeks pregnant. We had been trying for six months and over that six months the love for my unmade baby was already starting to grow. When I saw those two little pink lines my heart exploded with six months worth of love. Despite us knowing for only two weeks, it felt like a lifetime of love and hope and excitement had built up and was nestled in my heart.
When I had my miscarriage I was only six weeks. We had not even had an ultrasound performed. We never even got to see our baby's heart beating.
At six weeks, the embryo is the size of a pea. It looks like a tadpole with a big head. It's ugly and alien. But its tiny heart starts beating. What a miracle. But to an expectant mother, that little alien is a baby. A baby. A chubby cheeked, fat fisted, dribbling baby, a child, a daughter or a son.
At six weeks, a miscarriage is described as an "early pregnancy loss". A lot of doctors dismiss it and speak harshly about bleeding and D&Cs and when you can try again. There is no recognition for your hopes and dreams which now lay, crushed on the bottom of that hospital floor.
I was devastated. My precious baby. My child had died. Gone. Forever. And there was nothing I could do but watch as my baby was literally ripped from inside me in a painful and bloody way. There was nothing anyone could do. No baby, not anymore.
When I started to share my grief and the devastating news with the few family and friends I had told about the pregnancy, the responses were mixed. Some said "how sad, how awful. I am so sorry" and that was nice. And some said "at least you knew you could get pregnant" or "it was for the best, obviously something was wrong, and the baby would probably have had down syndrome" or "it wasn't as if you lost an actual baby". That hurt the most. No, I didn't physically lose a fully formed baby. But in my heart and mind my embryo was a baby. It was a person, a somebody to me. Even if it wasn't a somebody to others. As the weeks went by I found that I craved recognition for my baby. While others guard the loss in the depths of their souls, I wanted to tell the world that "I had a baby, and it died".
A dear friend of mine only a month before my miscarriage had a still born baby. I was devastated for her. Her baby was incredibly beautiful and it was an incredibly unfair, unjust, unexplainable loss for her and her husband. I began to feel so ashamed at myself for feeling so sad for my loss when hers was so much greater. My baby most likely never had a beating heart while hers beat for nine months. How dare I be so selfish at being sad for me, when she lost an actual baby.
Suddenly I found myself feeling what others had felt for me. That it wasn't like I had actually lost a baby. All I lost was a little pea. My sweet little pea.
But I can't shake the devastation for how I still feel about losing my baby. For having an "early pregnancy loss". I joined a still birth and neonatal death Facebook support group SANDS. This group also supports woman who have experienced a miscarriage. But those woman were much further along in their pregnancies than I was. Again, I felt the crushing weight of guilt and shame for being a phony. For pretending to be a mother who lost an angel. For what was my loss next to the losses of these women? I was torn between grieving the loss of my child and feeling ashamed at pretending I lost a child when I didn't, not really.
Doctors, friends, strangers, they had dismissed my loss. It was just an "early pregnancy loss". But out of everyone in the world, it was the women who I believed to have lost so much more were the ones who comforted me.
They were the ones who recognized my little pea as a baby. They understood the grief and loss I felt. It was my dear friend who reassured me, told me that I wasn't a phony, wasn't pretending to have lost something more valuable than it actually was. That even though I had an "early pregnancy loss" I still lost a baby. That hers was just a bigger baby. And it was a baby. I need to realize that I lost my child. I lost my son or my daughter. My child died. It doesn't matter how far along the pregnancy was. It doesn't matter if you, as an outsider don't understand or think that it isn't the same as if somebody actually died. My baby was a somebody to me, my baby was a somebody to my husband.
When I would have been twelve weeks I announced my pregnancy. I wanted my baby to be recognized. I wanted to feel like my baby had existed. It was like the more people knew about my baby, the more my baby's existence and meaning couldn't be taken away from me.
So if somebody you know has gone through or is going through an early pregnancy loss, a miscarriage, a regretted abortion or a stillbirth, please acknowledge their baby's existence. It isn't about what you think. It isn't about how you think. It's about recognizing that a mother and father have lost their child, no matter how far along the pregnancy was. Say "I'm sorry you lost your baby", and that is all that is needed. Allow time for the parents to grieve, for as long as they need. It is not about how long you think they should grieve for. Don't try and explain it, or try to make them see the silver lining. Just be there for them. And every now and then ask how they are going and really listen if they choose to actually tell you. Because their baby was a somebody to them.
I was six weeks pregnant when my baby died. I was six weeks when I had an early pregnancy loss, but it is more than that. I was six weeks when I became a mother to an angel. My Angel. And nobody can take that away from me.