Emily's hope for the Emily D for Change series is for all of us to learn how to be kinder and gentler with both ourselves and others.
This project reminds us that life is both so hard and so beautiful.
This is my 4th pregnancy and I only have one living child. (Hopefully a second any day now). I lost my first pregnancy around 11 weeks and my second pregnancy was incompatible with live. We had just moved to Canada and had to make a heart breaking decision to discontinue with our pregnancy. It’s a choice I still resent and one that weighs heavy on my mind. Even though all outcomes would have lead to a baby who would never have made it, the decision being left in my hands haunts me.
I was induced and after a 12 hr labor my son Phoenix was born at 24 weeks. Despite what we were told and against all odds he was born alive. He lived a few short hours held in our arms, filling the room with love leaving a mark on my life I can’t fully put into words. Moments I shall forever cherish. I felt the euphoria of a new mother. A term I didn’t claim at the time and which I still regret. Why is there no word for a childless mother?
After his death I felt extremely alone. I didn’t know how to articulate what had happened to me, there was no simple explanation for the situation and I feared judgement. The high of meeting my son and all the hormones forced me from the highest high to the lowest low.
I wanted people acknowledge I’d had a baby, I wanted people to ask about my son. I was proud of him, regardless of his absence in the world. I’m sure I wanted too much but not being asked anything felt cold.
I know everyone grieves differently and I accept that we all want different things after loss.
However, I feel we should be given a choice and have our loss acknowledged and validated. My advice to others wanting to support loved ones is to reach out. Tell them you know they are hurting and how can you help? Don’t assume, don’t try and find the answers. Be there. Listen. Remember mother’s body’s go through a lot and they need the same care a new mom needs. Ask if they want to talk, ask if they don’t. Ask what works for them. And most of don’t forget them. The hardest part for me was when the messages dried up, time had passed, the flowers died. The world kept turning and you were in the depths of despair. That’s when you REALLY need to check in.
I have been pregnant 5 times and have 3 beautiful children aged 9, 7 and 4. My first miscarriage we found out at our 12 week ultrasound. The technician did some measurements and then went to get the doctor, and they told me I had a blighted ovum, a missed miscarriage, pointing out that the fetus stopped developing very early on, but my body (and heart) didn't notice and carried on like I was pregnant. That felt so unfair. After my second miscarriage, many people told me "they won't help you until you have 3 miscarriages" - there was no way I was taking that advice. Luckily my doctor agreed and sent me to a fertility specialist right away. Months of monitoring and one round of medication and it all worked out. Many people pointed out how lucky I was. I wasn't sure what to do with that feedback. Didn't feel that lucky to me. The rest of the pregnancies were hard for me, I don't think I let my heart believe until I could hold them in my arms.
It seems like a lifetime ago now, or at least as if it was someone else's experience. I think like so many hard experiences, time does heal. Shortly after my miscarriages I went to the book store, in a quest to connect and relate, and bought a book with short stories of women who experienced miscarriages and it really helped me. I still have it and have been able to lend it to friends who needed that support. It sits on my shelf and is a gentle reminder of how hard some days can be, but also as a reminder of how strong and capable we are as well.
I had two back to back (early) pregnancy losses before having my two daughters, now 6 and 8.
They were true and real deaths to me.
The most meaningful and significant advice if you're going through a loss or supporting someone who is, is to allow space to move through your grief. And not minimize, rush or compare one experience with another. Every story is unique. And we all know what it's like to have something happen unexpectedly- to be mad, sad and scared. It may just mean saying "fuck" if they're mad. Or saying "this sucks". But please, never ever start a sentence with "At least...".
#infantlossawareness @lynne.newman Is an occupational therapist and resilience coach. If you need a soft place to land consider working with Lynne or joining her free Grey Mothering Collective Facebook group.
I have had two full-term pregnancies. The first gave me my amazing two-and-a-half year old daughter. The second, my son Sterling, was stillborn two weeks before his due date, on July 28th.
If you had asked me 3 months ago if stillbirths were still a thing that happened, I think I would have said no. It had never occurred to me that just days after my 37 week check up, which showed a healthy heartbeat and baby measuring the right size, my son would stop moving and just cease to live, with no trauma, no blood, no reason.
Grieving someone you never met but still loved deeply is hard and confusing. I have the hole that his loss left in my life, but few memories to try to fill it. Friends and family have been wonderfully supportive, providing us with help for meals, caring for my daughter, and just listening. Being able to talk openly about the loss has been most healing for me. It's obviously not a subject people want to talk about, but friends and family have been happy to listen when I need to talk, and read when I want to share.
My family is healing. It's not linear, and sometimes it feels like we're going backwards and finding new ways to hurt, but we are healing. We are grateful to the friends and family who haven't asked us what we need, but have done their best to guess what would be helpful and acted on it. I think the tendency we have when in pain is to isolate, to insulate those around us from what we feel. But I've found that by opening up, letting people in, it lightens the load.
I have had 2 pregnancies and I have 1 beautiful daughter named Gray. My loss happened in the Summer before my 2nd year of University. Only a couple people knew about my loss and I did not have effective support. After the birth of Gray, 7 years later, I wondered what would have been with my first. Who they would have been. What that birth would have done to the course of my life. After my hysterectomy in 2017, the grief from the devastating loss of my fertility and my first pregnancy held so much more weight and sadness for me. With loss, the grief continues. It continues after the food and friends have gone. It changes and morphs and is triggered over and over again... forever. I would have loved for the people that did know to ask about it. Ask about me. To recognize my loss. To not talk to me like it was a positive thing due to my age and my student status. To everyone who has experienced loss, I see you and I am sending you love and peace.
I've had 4 pregnancies: my first ended in a missed miscarriage with a D&C at 12 weeks; the second resulted in my beautiful almost 3 year old son; the third ended in my darling daughter who died of a congenital heart defect at 2 days old; and I am currently 6.5 months pregnant and feeling cautiously optimistic.
My biggest tip for friends and family would be to do without asking. I am not the kind of person who knows when and how to ask for help, or am eager to receive it, but this is one of those times in my life where I desperately needed it. People just started organizing around me, and I am eternally grateful for those who just did something, and didn't ask.
Three prime examples were;
1. Food started showing up at our doorstep one day and continue for three months. These meals saved us, especially my son
2. My mat leave Moms organized a photoshoot documenting some of the most difficult hours of my life and giving us physical memories to cherish forever.
3. Friends would come over to watch a movie and brings snacks, wine and DVDs. They wouldn't ask if we wanted company they would just show up.
When everything hurt and our world crumbled around us, these are the people who saved us. The ones that didn't make me think or ask me to make a decision, but just did. The reality is that I couldn't think, and if people had asked I might have, foolishly, said no.
My first miscarriage coincided with the death of my father around my 35th birthday. Grief about the loss of someone I had known forever was constantly interrupted by the very physical process of losing someone I’d never met, from within my own body. Each time my feelings focused one way or the other, guilt came with it.
My second miscarriage, a year later, occurred at the same time in pregnancy, at 10 weeks, just at the time a fertility patient graduates from their clinic to a regular OB. I went into that ultrasound excited to get my referral. I left nauseous after learning the heartbeat was gone, again.
During my third pregnancy, a single twinge or cramp would made me freeze in my tracks. Each week only seemed to inch me toward the risk of another loss. Every impending ultrasound caused a knot in my stomach.
Toward the end of my second trimester, as I was starting to relax, I was diagnosed with vasa previa. I learned that if I went into labor there was a very real risk of losing the baby. I walked on eggshells then, never straying more than a few miles from the hospital, keeping a tight radius around it at all times.
My baby was delivered healthy, albeit early at 34 weeks, via c-section to avoid labor and any emergency. She stayed for 35 days in the NICU. Finally, after 6 years of infertility treatments, countless hormone shots, blood labs, surgeries, procedures, and what felt like endless pain and loss, she came home.
Last month, I had a conversation with a dear friend who told me she didn't know one person who has experienced the loss of a pregnancy or infant and she felt really ashamed of herself for experiencing these loses. I was shocked and so sad. She has experienced three to date and still she knows no-one. She will feel a million things that I can't help her with - but I can help her feel less alone. This series is for her. I hope she sees herself in these women's stories and, in the smallest of small parts, feels less alone.
Lastly, for the people who are fortunate enough to love and support people in our lives who have experienced the loss of child or infant - I hope these stories give you tips for how to be compassionate. It's so easy to avoid topics because we don't want to offend or make it worse. I hope these stories help you to be brave - I know they helped me.