Tuesday, October 15, 2013

How Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day Can Change ALL Of Us...

Today is a national day of remembrance for the babies that were lost to miscarriage... stillbirth... or as infants.

You might be tempted to click away, feeling this entry just doesn't pertain to you.  But it does.  This entry is relevant to ALL of us - women young and old and even men.  Surely we've all come face to face with a woman who has lost a baby.  It's hard to know what to do - what to say - how to act - know what she needs.  Hopefully, the entry below that I wrote last year on this day will help you in the future.  But if not, please use thirty seconds of your time to think of the lost babies - including mine - with love.

There is an interesting movement on a website called "Count the Kicks."  They encourage pregnant women in the third trimester to count their baby's kicks each day and keep track of how many movements they feel in a certain period of time.  It can truly save a lot of babies from stillbirth!  If you notice movements slowing down, you should head to your doctor right away so they can see if there is anything going wrong with your pregnancy.  Unfortunately, this wouldn't have helped me save Darcy as she had a freak cord accident that couldn't have been reversed.  But there are so many things that CAN be done - and this campaign really empowers Moms to know when something just isn't right. Check out their website if you'd like to learn how to count kicks or if you'd like to download their kick counting app.

I was also informed about a beautiful book called Sunshine After the Storm:  A Survival Guide for the Grieving Mother.  It's a collection of stories from grieving mothers of all kinds.  Those who have suffered miscarriages, stillbirths, infant loss and even the loss of an older child.  It's available as a free download to Kindle until October 17th.  Click the book title to take you to Amazon if you're interested in this book for you - or for a grieving friend.  I downloaded it yesterday afternoon and made the mistake of starting it in bed last night.  One hour later... I was still reading.  And this morning I must have hit my snooze button ten times.

Here is my entry from last year - just as relevant to me now as it was then.  Actually, even more so since we lost Gavin.  

In memory of our sweet Darcy Claire and our beloved Gavin David...

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Today is National Pregnancy And Infant Loss Awareness Day.  I'm pretty sure you all know why this day would mean something to me.

I've always wanted to devote a blog post to the friends and family of those who've lost a baby to miscarriage or stillbirth.  Today seems like the perfect day to do it.  I think many people are at a loss when looking to support or comfort the Mom and Dad who lost a baby.  I thought I'd offer my two cents - coming from my own, numerous and unfortunate losses.  This is, of course, from my perspective.  Everyone is different.  But, well...here goes! 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Please Don't Judge.
It's very easy to project your experiences or feelings onto another person.  Maybe you had one miscarriage...or ten.  And maybe you were over it in a week...or never.  Everyone is different.  Try not to judge another person for how they handle their own loss. You may think they should be "over it" after a certain period of time - that their grief is out of proportion because the baby wasn't even born...or  they never got to know him or her.  Or that they got "over it" too quickly.  It's always best to keep your judgements to yourself and respect everyone's journey as just that...their journey.  People may find it strange that I don't recall the dates of all of my losses.  And most of the time - I don't remember how many losses I've had.  Every single time I am asked, I need to stop and re-count.  I suppose the way I deal with it is to block it all out.  I truly stopped keeping track after my fourth loss.

Please Don't Avoid.
The worst feeling in the world is to feel completely isolated and abandoned after a loss.  Let's face it - no one likes to talk about death.  And if you add the whole "OBGYN" portion to it, people feel queasy. But imagine going from the incredible excitement of life in your womb... picking out names... planning a nursery...to BOOM - gone.  It's a "falling off a cliff" feeling.  Be there when your friend reaches the bottom and needs help getting back up the mountain.

Please Drop the Platitudes!
We've all heard them - and many of us have said them.  

"God doesn't give us more than we can handle," 
"Something was probably wrong with the baby - this was natures way of taking care of that," (especially offensive if you already have a child with special needs) 
"You can try again,
"There's always adoption," 
"It wasn't the right time,"  
"You just need to relax and it will happen"

.... and so on and so on.  Truly - I promise you - the best possible thing you can say to a friend who lost a baby is simple.  Just say "I'm so, so sorry.  I can't imagine what you're going through." (Because you can't!) Even if you went through it - it was in your own way.  Trust me on this.

While I could say something about each of the above expressions and explain why they are annoying/offensive/insulting/frustrating/all of the above, I should also say this:  If you have just lost a baby and hear any or all of the above (I've heard them all and more over the years!) - don't take anything personally.  Remember that the person across from you is probably feeling awkward and nervous and just doesn't know what to say.  Sometimes people who want to help think they can do so by giving you advice or their opinions.  Always assume (for your own sanity) that it comes from a well meaning place.  Nod politely, say thank you and move on.  Trust me on this one.

Please Wait to Tell Your Story.
If you get a phone call from your friend telling you they just lost their baby, now is not the time to start telling your story.  Especially don't tell your story if it isn't your story.  Hearing about your neighbor's daughter or your cousin's friend is not helpful.  Focus on your friend and save the story for later when the dust has settled.

Please Remember the Husbands.
A baby is made by two people.  A miscarriage or stillbirth is grieved by the same two people.  The husband bears the extra burden of society's expectation.  He's supposed to be the strong one supporting the wife as she gets showered with the attention medically and emotionally.  Please don't forget the Daddys of these lost babies.

Please Don't Bring THIS Up.
"At least you have other children."
This was a kick in the gut for me each and every time I heard it.  I have always felt like comments beginning with the words "just" and "at least" were one way to (unintentionally) minimize a situation.  The comment, in my opinion, implies that I'm not grateful for the children I have.  Just because I have two boys (that I am so grateful for!) doesn't mean I don't miss the 10 babies (9 miscarriages and a stillbirth) that I've lost along the way.  Actually, having Gavin and Brian means I know exactly what I missed with each loss.  The comment is also a bit of a guilt trip.  And there's nothing worse than a guilt trip when you're already feeling guilty for losing the baby inside you.

Please Don't Attempt to Figure Out Why.

"It was God's plan."  

"Maybe you worked out too much."

"I told you you were too {fill in the blank} and that it may affect the pregnancy!"
They are already questioning why.  They are likely already blaming themselves unnecessarily.  Try not to add to that.

Please Listen.
I've learned in my lifetime that most people want to be heard.  They want to feel that their story - their experiences - their suffering - matters.  They don't need advice or conversation much of the time...they just want you to listen.  The subject matter is painful - miscarriages and stillbirths are ugly and devastating.  But try to just listen.  And if they aren't able to talk - it's okay to be still.  The truth is - there really are no words at a time like this.


Please Remember the Babies.
If you are really close, remembering the date they choose to celebrate the baby they lost is such a loving thing to do.  If they named the baby, there is nothing better than to hear people say his or her name.  I love when people mention Darcy by name - it makes my heart skips a beat!  It's nice to send a card or a note that you're thinking of them.  And if you get a gift - one that memorializes the baby in some way is extra special.  A very special friend had a star named after Darcy Claire when she was born - and it's something I will treasure forever.

Losing a baby is a devastating experience.  And I can tell you from my own experience, loss number 10 was just as excruciating as loss number one.  I hope, on this National Day of Remembrance, that people everywhere will come out of the shadows and talk about their losses.  I encourage anyone who wants to write their story to use my comment section as a way to jump in the water.  Whether you are 21 or 71, you never forget the babies you carried.

Today I celebrate ALL of our babies...and thank them for the way that they changed us.


We remember them every day.


23 comments:

  1. Thank you, Kate! Beautiful words that couldn't be more true. After 2 losses I've heard a lot. And some of the niceties hurt. I leaned on my friends that just let me cry and get it all out. And then when the due dates rolled around it reopened the wound I was surprised. I didn't expect that. But having those friends made a world of difference. They may never know the difference they made in my world, but I've thanked them so many times and in every way I could think of.

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  2. Beautiful, Kate. And such good suggestions about what to say and what not to say. XO

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  3. Thank you. As a mother with 3 children, 2 here with me on earth and 1 in Heaven. I heard so many hurtful things when our 1st was born stillborn with a fatal birth defect. Everyone thought they were saying the right things, but they were terribly hurtful.

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  4. You raise so many great points. Sorry to read that you speak from experience.

    While I've lost a child, I'm still at a loss for words many times. I think those that haven't lost, expect me to say something so incredible that POOF, the child will be back in their parents arms again. Not going to happen, I've tried everything.

    Since I had Triplets, I hear "well, at least you have the other two" all.the.time. I get what they're saying, but I can still be happy, sad and appreciative, all at the same time. I really wish that if you were happy, you weren't sad. Sometimes I wish that all this would go away. But it won't so I learn to live with it.

    For me, giving people the benefit of the doubt (that they mean well, as you mention) has helped me get through those uncomfortable situations. Of which there are still far too many.

    Everyone dies yet no one knows how to deal with it. Funny how that works.

    I found your link through a common friend Deanne Shoyer.

    Besos, Sarah
    Blogger at Journeys of The Zoo
    http://www.journeysofthezoo.com/2013/10/like-raise-deceased-child.html

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  5. I am so sorry for your loss. I cannot imagine your pain. I am happy you mentioned the Kick Counting. Counting kick is what saved my baby. When I noticed that she wasn't moving like she normally did, I called the doctor. Of course, I felt funny, like I was being crazy. They told me to go in and get checked. Well thank God that I did. They immediately saw the baby was in distress, I had an emergency C section. My daughter had her cord wrapped around her neck three times. She is thankfully fine. All of the doctors told me that I was lucky that I noticed and came in. Sometimes when I think of what could have been, I am overwhelmed. I thank God everyday. I know most miscarriages, etc...are not preventable, but I always tell pregnant women to count those kicks and never feel funny to go and get checked. Praying for all the moms missing babies. And praying for you to have a safe and happy delivery!

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  6. Thank you Kate. I have tried to be supportive to friends that have lost a child, but I know that I have done it all wrong. I have avoided all of the normal pitfalls of " they are in a better place" or "at least you have another child", but I know that I still said things wrong or badly or inadvertently hurtful. The sad and painful truth is that there just isn't any good thing to say. I know of one mother that even got sick of hearing "I am sorry for your loss". There just isn't any good thing to say.

    I hope that this is one thing that is good to say. I made a donation to a young mother of my son's bassinet, his super saucer and some games -- in honor of Gavin. She and her husband are just starting out and were so happy to receive them. I had sent you a message awhile ago promising that I would do this. I was waiting for the right person and I found her. Her first pregnancy. A gift to honor Gavin, to a mother who may not know it, but she is filled with hope.

    Peace to you and all the other mother's tonight that grieve their babies. Be well.

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  7. In addition to the kick counting, which Anonymous above has just shown to be so valuable, I would urge all pregnant women to trust their instincts. So many pregnant women, especially first-timers, are afraid to call the doctor if something seems wrong, afraid they'll be shrugged off or laughed at and told it's normal. Don't be afraid. If something seems wrong, demand it be looked into. You are the only one who knows how your body feels, how the pregnancy normally feels. If it turns out to be a false alarm, so what? The alternative is tragic. You are your child's strongest advocate their whole life--starting in the womb.

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  8. I had a close friend that lost a pregnancy at the start of the 2nd trimester. I had no idea what to do or say. Luckily my next door neighbor was a gem of an older lady, with 3 sons older than me. She had had at least 2 (possibly more, I don't recall) miscarriages. So I asked her what helped her most, and what I shouldn't do. She had some wonderful advice, and the one that I remember most was one of her favorite gifts wasn't the white flowers of sympathy, it was a beautiful nightgown for her to wear when she and her husband were ready to try again.

    She also talked about remembering to focus on the person who lost the child as a person who was more than just a pregnancy. So I bought an airline ticket for my friend to come and visit me, and we took a mini-vacation together. And then when she had a successful pregnancy 2 years later, I went out to see her after the baby was born so I could help out for a few days.

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  9. We remembered Darcy and Gavin tonight when we lit our Wave of Light candle, among far too many other precious lost loves. And we're believing in Hope right along with you!

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  10. This is absolutely touching. Great tips for anyone who wants to help and doesn't know how. Thank you so much for posting this, because I can only imagine how difficult it is sometimes to remember and share.

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  11. Your post on what to say and do was full of wisdom. I thought I knew how to grieve with people, but I learned a few things. xoxo

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  12. Thank you for writing many of the things I have thought, felt or dealt with after the loss of my daughter Debbie, 22 years ago.Thank you again!

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  13. Yes, yes, yes, and yes some more! Fantastic post. And THANK YOU so much for taking the time to read our book (Sunshine...) and post about it! I am glad that it touched you. Hugs to you as we remember our babies!

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  14. Thank you for saying you really didn't remember the dates of all your losses. Our first son, premature stillbirth,I DO remember. But the other four miscarriages, I can't recall the dates. At times, I feel badly about that but what you said helped. It is not that I have forgotten, just those dates have become lost in my memory. Two of my kids recently got married,both have them had memory candles in memory of the brother they never knew. He was born before both of them yet this is something they chose to do.

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  15. Thank you for this post. I have found myself in the situation of not knowing what to do or say several times, sadly. I also find your posts very helpful and true about human interaction in general, and how to cope with the reactions you can have to people who don't understand your situation. I'm sorry to keep making anonymous comments but I don't have any of the online profiles to use.

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  16. Thank you for putting into words what I have always felt. Beautiful!

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  17. Thank you for this post. I had a miscarriage two years ago, and I have always minimized what happened, explaining it away, saying " it was so early in the pregnancy" I was only about 8-9 weeks along, and somehow it always made me feel as if I shouldn't be as sad as the person who lost their baby at 6 months along, or after the baby was born. I grieved for the loss of this little one, but also made myself feel that I should be ok and grateful for the two beautiful sons that I already had. (Which I am) I am beginning to realize and come to terms to the fact that even though it was early, too early to even know if the baby would have been a boy or a girl, I need to accept that our loss was just as devastating as anyone else's. I still miss what could have been. Thank you for sharing your life, and helping others in the process.

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  18. Thank you for this. It was so beautiful! I have had 2 miscarriages and its very true what you said about not being easier to go thru, thankfully I have my son who is helping me get thru this second miscarriage which I had 3 days ago. Thank you for sharing.

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  19. Thank you so much for sharing such wonderful, helpful advice to those who find themselves in contact with a grieving parent. Thank you for sharing the stories of your beautiful Darcy and Gavin.

    Thank you for reading and sharing our stories in 'Sunshine'.

    You're right - it never stops hurting. I saw last night at a memorial service, some much older women who were just as grief-stricken, though perhaps not as raw as I was, and it was devastating to realise that this is truly never going to go away. I'm never going to get my first (and perhaps only) two children back. And it sucks.

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  20. Thank you for posting this. I am so very sorry for your losses. I too would encourage anyone who is pregnant and feels a decrease in movement to go with their gut and get checked right away. I had two healthy children (#1 and #3) and two miscarriages (#2 and #4), and was one week shy of my due date with pregnancy #5 when I noticed a change in our daughter's movements and just had a feeling that something was different. I called my OB who got me in right away, checked the heartrate and performed a non-stress test which we passed just fine, but he said "Although you passed the test, what concerns me the most is your feeling that something isn't right. If there's one thing I have learned in my years of practice, it's listen to the mother. I would much rather do this [scheduled repeat C-section] sooner than later." So, we were at the hospital first thing the next morning. Everything went well, and as he pulled our daughter from my body he said, "I am SO glad we did this today." It wasn't until he saw me the next day that he told me what he had discoveted...our daughter's umbilical cord which was extremely short was wrapped around her neck three times. It was highly unlikely she would have survived another week until her due date. I still get the chills when I think about it. I am thankful I trusted my instinct when I felt something was wrong and I am thankful to my wise doctor who recognized that sometimes a mother's intuition means more than the results of any test. He saved our daughter's life. She is now a happy healthy 9 year old and I cannot imagine life without her. Don't ever feel stupid about calling or write off that feeling in your gut that something is wrong. Peace to all of the families who are missing their sweet angels.

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  21. Kate u r a beautiful person inside and out...ur story is an inspiration to all...I just want to hug u everyday....u have experienced more pain then anyone I know and yet u still shine and carry on to help others....u have made all of ur children proud....

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  22. angels and rainbow mamaOctober 18, 2013 at 4:42 AM

    Kate you and ed are such a strong couple. your family is an inspiration and a blessing. from gavin and brian and darcy and hope. And the countless miscarriages. you have been through it all. and for that you are able to relate to it all. thank you for sharing your story. gavins story. brians story. darcys story. and the wonderful miracle and blessing of miss hope with us all. And thank you for remembering and honoring all the parents who have lost babies.
    I lost 5 babies. all through miscarriage. and one sticks out more clearly than the rest. it was 3 days after my husband and i got married. that i lost my baby at 11 weeks 5 days. barely shy of getting out of my 1st trimester. the hardest part other than losing our baby and the tests coming back that nothing was wrong with her/him was watching how my husband broke down after witnessing it. thank you for mentioning that it affects the fathers too. Because it does. and while we as women usually blame ourselves I'm sure most dads are blaming themselves. and asking the same questions.
    i was finally blessed with my miracle. my rainbow after a long painful storm that was a downward whirlwind in my life. On November 8th 2012 i gave birth via emergency c section to my beautiful baby boy. And i know whole heartedly we are being watched over by 5 precious Angel babies that wait for us to come home.

    thank you again kate for everything you do. makes me realize i am never alone. and there is always HOPE

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  23. I just came across your blog, and this post really hit home for me. While you posted this a couple months ago, I think it would help me to share my story. About 3 and a half weeks ago, the day before I would have been 10 weeks pregnant, I ended up in the ER with the most awful pain I've ever felt. After several hours, I found out the devastating news that I was having an ectopic pregnancy and that it had ruptured. I had surgery that night because I was bleeding internally, and the surgeon had to remove one of my tubes. It took some time for it to really sink in that I had lost my baby. I'm a newlywed (married in June), and while this pregnancy was a little unexpected, my husband and I were so excited to become parents. Our baby, who we have called "Peanut" since my first positive pregnancy test, will never be forgotten and is so loved. I've had a hard time coping with this loss because I think people sometimes discount early pregnancy loss, as if the baby wasn't really a person. But my Peanut will always be my first baby, and while we can't wait to try to get pregnant again, Peanut will never be replaced. Buying a beautiful ornament for our Christmas tree in our baby's honor, and placing angels throughout our home has helped me and makes me feel our baby's presence. I know that my husband and I have a beautiful angel watching over us, as you have many precious angels watching over you. Thank you so much for sharing your story and for giving a voice to the babies who were gone too soon.

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