April Showers Bring May Flowers…
At the time of this post, it is Monday, April 1st. A new week. A new month. A new quarter. New beginnings are all around us and, in Columbia, there are reminders around every corner! We have the tiniest buds on trees. Green grass is starting to pop up. The sun has graced us with her presence a bit more than usual and, though chillier than last week, the promise of warmer weather is present.
“I glanced out the window at the signs of Spring. The sky was almost blue, the trees were almost budding, the sun was almost bright.”— Millard Kaufman
True to form, we’ve got lots of babies on the way this Spring! It’s exciting and beautiful and hopeful. Our older Harmony babies are growing strong and achieving milestones with all of the joy and childlike wonder only a fresh, new human can exude. It would be so easy to stop there and keep those beautiful, sunny faces front and center to our work. In fact, most of the time, we do! Birth work is joyful and bright, much of the time. However, there is also a heartbreaking reality of grief and loss in this world.
Why would I come come to you with this right now? Well, it’s been on my mind for a number of reasons. We are often contacted during the second trimester for birth doula interviews, but sometimes we get to meet excited parents-to-be a little earlier. Over the years, there have been a few folks who we’ve gotten to speak with about services who have to later let us know that there is no longer going to be a birth in the immediate future. In spite of this, we have also gotten to experience the pure joy of celebrating with those same families as they welcome their “rainbow babies” (a term used to talk about a pregnancy and/or birth after a loss) into their family. This is truly a special moment! What a beautiful way to celebrate this little life while also honoring the space left by a potential sibling.
It is also April 1st, a fun day here in the United States known as “April Fool’s Day”. A popular thing to do–though becoming less fashionable in recent years–is to make a fake pregnancy announcement to trick family and friends. While not malicious in intent, this practice has devastating consequences for those who are struggling with infertility, grief and loss.
Of course, if you’re reading this, you aren’t the person who is posting these kinds of announcements. However, this topic struck you for a reason, right? I get it. As you can see by the statistics above, 1 in 8 couples experience infertility and double that number of individuals will experience miscarriage or infant loss. Knowing that many folks will lose pregnancies they didn’t know they even had (often in the first 5-8 weeks), I would argue that these numbers are actually higher. Some folks discount this type of early loss, calling it a “chemical pregnancy” or other term that can feel diminishing or dismissive of the experience for those who have been attached to this little life for hours, days and weeks. Are there differences between the way early loss, infant loss, infertility and other forms of grief and loss are experienced? Absolutely. Similarly, there will be differences in the way each person will face each of these traumas. This post is not meant to sort all of that out, but to simply let you know that your experience is valid. You are supported. You deserve to be listened to. You get to feel what you feel and give yourself the time and space to hold those feelings. Here are a few tips for those experiencing pregnancy grief and loss. Please contact us if you want to talk more or learn about local resources in your area that may be helpful during this time.
Some Tips for Coping with Pregnancy Grief and Loss
- Allow the Pain: It can be tempting to brush it off as “not that big of a deal” or “not as bad as it is for some people”. This is not only unhelpful, but it can do harm over time — especially with subsequent pregnancies and future births!
- Give Yourself Time: This process will likely take longer than you want it to. Whatever you think is a “reasonable” timeline for your grief, double it. Then, double it again. Maybe around that time, you’ll feel a bit better. You do not have to feel better fast for anyone.
- Take up Space: You are worthy of taking up the space you need. Whether this is at the doctor’s office, your home, or even your local coffee shop. Just like we are encouraged to downplay our feelings of loss and get over it quickly, we are also encouraged to hide physically and emotionally. If you want to hide (from your best friend’s baby shower next week, for example), go for it. But, that means you get to take up space in your living room with a pint of your favorite frozen treat and a TV binging session instead. You do you, boo.
- Talk to Someone: There is immense power in hearing the phrase, “Me, too.”. That is a whole post in itself, but please make it a priority to talk with someone about how you are feeling and what you are experiencing right now. This can be a professional, a trusted friend or a particularly supportive family member…as long as this person will hold space for YOU and your feelings without inserting their own.
- Honor Your Loss: Again, this could be its own post, but there are so many ways to honor your loss. Whether you hold the date closely and acknowledge the anniversary every year, make it known that your next pregnancy is a “rainbow baby” or be confident and clear when you fill out the number of pregnancies on those never-ending medical forms, you get to honor this life in whatever way makes most sense to you.
Love and light to you,