I hate the word “miscarriage”. Miscarriage sounds like an accusation that the mother didn’t do something right. It may be true, in some cases, that a woman’s actions cause her baby to die in the womb or be born too early to live. This is not the case most of the time. Perinatal loss is a better term, but I’m not quite satisfied with that either. It should be called the-hardest-experience-a-woman-goes-through-that’s-unrecognized-by-society.
I spent 4 months crying by myself. I listened to well meaning people discount the loss of my baby. To the outside world my baby was all theory. For my husband and me this new life was already a reality. I spent three months holding my baby, thinking about her, planning for her, and making sure I was being healthy for her. Three months is a long time. People fall in love in three months and get engaged or even married. Three months is plenty of time to fall in love with your own baby. A few people did understand my grief and I appreciated their empathy. I also felt incredible guilt to feel that sad when I had 5 beautiful and healthy children. I had so much more than so many women. I felt selfish and miserable.
I don’t know if my baby really was a girl, but that’s how I think of her. I held her in the palm of my hand, grey and lifeless. She looked like a tiny baby. She had the faintest hint of fingernails, but not a bit of hair. In contrast to the grey of her skin her lidless eyes were dazzling blue. Those blue eyes are what stay with me. To my grieving soul they were an undeniable testament of personhood for my baby. My husband buried that tiny love, under a tree, in the yard. We struggled for awhile before we decided on that route. Our society and culture doesn’t have rules or customs to guide us in handling these tiniest of human remains.
The next time someone asked me how many kids I had, I stumbled. I wanted to say six, but that didn’t make sense. I only have five and the one that wasn’t anything to anyone, but me.
I started thinking of all the women I knew with losses. Surely I couldn’t be the only one who’s felt this severe grief. We seldom talk about it as women. In a world where nothing seems taboo anymore, a common and terrible life event is blatantly ignored.
As a labor nurse I’ve taken care of countless women who were actively losing and grieving their babies. I hope my words and actions helped. I thought I was sensitive, understanding and helpful to those women. That was before I knew for myself the real pain. The knowing is so much worse. Now I reflect on the past and see how futile my actions were to soothe those women.
I remember one very sad case. A woman was losing her baby in the second trimester. The baby had already died and the mother had to have her labor induced. The mother was of course distraught. When it came time to push she couldn’t, wouldn’t do it. No amount of gentle but firm coaxing could convince her to push out her dead baby. As long as she didn’t push she didn’t have to accept the truth. Her cervix eventually started to close and the induction process had to be started again. I felt appropriately sorry for her at the time. I helped her feel comfortable and eventually she was able to push. If I had that patient today, I wouldn’t feel appropriately sorry for her. I would be devastated. I would cry and whisper in her ear how much my heart hurt for her. I would tell her how strong she was to push and how beautiful her baby was sure to be. I would urge her to make just a couple more pushes and we would be able to meet her baby together. I would wrap that precious one in a blanket and help her to look at every beautiful thing about her baby. It wouldn’t be enough to heal her hurt, but it would be a memory that she could hold in her heart.
I’ve been changed forever. Not many things or people in life can truly change a person. One tiny person changed me. It’s a shame that we don’t talk about how these babies affect us. I would love to hear all your stories. Share your sweet and sad memories. Together we can celebrate, mourn and remember our tiny ones.
© 2014, Carrie Halsey. All rights reserved.