I miscarried several years ago, before my son was born. The pregnancy was a surprise, but a welcome one. In the days leading up to my first prenatal appointment there was so much nervous excitement. My first memories of that question "What do you want to be when you grow up?" were always answered with "A mum". Now here I was, about to hear my baby's heartbeat for the first time. As I lay on the table, the midwife moved the doppler from one side of my belly to the other. Then back. Then back. "Baby must be hiding", she said.
According to the March of Dimes, 10-15% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. This usually occurs in the first trimester, but a smaller amount occur after 13 weeks. When the loss happens after 20 weeks, it is considered a stillbirth. The CDC reports that around 1% of pregnancies end in a baby born still. This is a similar number of babies that die during their first year of life. Many times, the causes of miscarriage and stillbirth are unknown. This can deepen the questions and the grief surrounding the loss.
It is safe to say you know at least one person who has experienced pregnancy or baby loss. Maybe you know about it or maybe it's being guarded. There is a lot of silence around this issue, starting with the very first pregnancy test. Women often hold on to their news until their pregnancy is "safe" at 12 weeks. Is this a good idea? No one can answer that question but you. Are you the type of person who would reach out to friends and family if a loss occurred? Would you prefer to share that grief with your partner alone?
The second part of my appointment that day was an ultrasound. I remember the doctor saying that at this point they should be seeing the heart beating. It wasn't. I was sent to the hospital for a second ultrasound, but there was nothing there. Just a tiny sleeping bean on the monitor.
When you lose a baby, at 12 weeks or 40 weeks, there is a great well that opens up. All your dreams seem to get washed into that hole. Maybe you can see them still, but they are far away. You do not need to hear "Everything will be okay" or "At least you know you can get pregnant". Those statements come from a place of love, but they are not helpful in healing. What works here is having the space and time to fall completely apart. It doesn't matter what that looks like for you, open grief or quiet reflection. It's how you put all those pieces back together that will matter.
Through the perspective we use to frame our experience of losing a baby, we can find a beauty that will take your breath away. For example, there is new research showing that fetal cells migrate to the mother via the placenta and, even after the child is born, she carries those cells with her forever. So know, that they are never far. Always with us.
Sending love and strength to every family who needs it today.