This is a very triggering/upsetting topic...pace yourself if you need to.
Before I begin - I want you to know right away that I do free support for stillbirth and miscarriage. Please let me know in advance if at all possible, but I will do my best to be there for you even if it is without notice. Sometimes it is easier to have a stranger carry you through a time like this rather than a family member that is going to be as weighed down with grief as you are. Sometimes a miscarriage or stillbirth can include going through the whole labor process or even having an induced labor. These can be very hard to do alone and having someone there to support you and your spouse is very important.
The hated topic of pregnancy loss can be so painful to think about that most moms choose not to...or you might be one that thinks about it far too much. Either reaction can be very unhealthy. The horrible truth is that many women have suffered this loss. The self-blame, grief and feelings of failure can be very overwhelming. 15-20% of confirmed pregnancies end in miscarriage. This means there are a lot of women in the same grieving process as yourself.
Early Miscarriage: Women are often told not to announce their pregnancy until they're out of those first early weeks when pregnancy loss is most common. I don't honestly know who's heart this saves, even early losses are far reaching and deep. Women who have lost a baby (even in the very first weeks) deserve the loving support and encouragement of friends and family. It should not be a hushed secret, but it often is. This leaves hurting parents to recover in isolation. While no one really wants pity, we all need a shoulder to cry on from time to time. The death of a 9 week old pregnancy is more than the death of a dream and it should be properly grieved, it is a true loss.
In a recent conversation I learned that many women experience similar feelings in the process of dealing with a miscarriage. It is normal to feel like you can never trust your body again. It is normal to think you caused the loss in some way. It is normal to think you're to blame in some way. BUT none of these thoughts are healthy or healing. The grieving process still has to take place, even for such a seemingly small loss.
Other things that mothers of "angel babies" have shared with me repeatedly are:
As you burrow deep into your sorrow please practice forgiveness for those who mean well or are just not thinking about what their words might mean to you. ALSO - be gracious and forgiving toward yourself. Assigning blame rarely does anything good or helpful. You're not a criminal for having this happen to you and it is not a punishment from an angry God.
It is a good idea to name your baby and find out the gender. Many moms have lost them in the toilet and just flushed without thinking about this. You may really want to know the gender later, if you can't bring yourself to look, find someone who will or ask your doctor if you've had a D&C or a hospital induced delivery.
Late miscarriage/still-birth and infant loss:
These are perhaps the most painful of all. And as above, you will need to process and grieve. You'll need the loving support of family and friends. And if you have to labor and birth a dead baby you should have the loving support of a doula too. NOT so she can make money on your loss, but so you can have someone that can see you through your hardest day/night - lovingly holding your hand and helping you with the details. Having a kind friend or family member to help you through may also work.
Name your baby and if possible hold him/her. Ask your hospital staff to clean her/him up for you so you can hold and say good-byes properly. Be sure they know before hand that you want to see the baby once delivered.
Take some clothing or a sweet blanket with you to wrap him/her in.
There is a program out there for parents that want pictures to memorialize their lost baby. "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep" - their services are free and a professional photographer comes to the hospital to take family shots. This is a lovely way to recall the love and joy of your pregnancy and to honor the little life that touched you so profoundly for a few short months.
Counseling is not a bad idea for part of the recovery. Losing a baby is just as painful and life-changing as losing a teen or child or spouse. It is not unreasonable for you to need help getting back to living well. Both of the parents are likely to need some added care. While men tend to internalize much more than women, they are in just as much pain in a time of loss and may actually need more help because of the type of relationships they tend to have - one of more action than words and comfort.
Gentle Hands Doula Services does not charge a fee for attending a miscarriage or still-birth. I will do my best to be there for you or to get one of my back up doulas to come if I cannot for some reason. Please understand that there might be a situation where we cannot be there because of the sudden situation, but we will try.
1. SHOCK & DENIAL-
You will probably react to learning of the loss with numbed disbelief. You may deny the reality of the loss at some level, in order to avoid the pain. Shock provides emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once. This may last for weeks.
2. PAIN & GUILT-
As the shock wears off, it is replaced with the suffering of unbelievable pain. Although excruciating and almost unbearable, it is important that you experience the pain fully, and not hide it, avoid it or escape from it with alcohol or drugs.
You may have guilty feelings or remorse over things you did or didn't do with your loved one. Life feels chaotic and scary during this phase.
3. ANGER & BARGAINING-
Frustration gives way to anger, and you may lash out and lay unwarranted blame for the death on someone else or yourself. Please try to control this, as permanent damage to your relationships may result. This is a time for the release of bottled up emotion.
You may rail against fate, questioning "Why me?" You may also try to bargain in vain with the powers that be for a way out of your despair ("I will never ... again if you just bring him back")
4. "DEPRESSION", REFLECTION, LONELINESS-
Just when your friends may think you should be getting on with your life, a long period of sad reflection will likely overtake you. This is a normal stage of grief, so do not be "talked out of it" by well-meaning outsiders. Encouragement from others is not helpful to you during this stage of grieving.
During this time, you finally realize the true magnitude of your loss, and it depresses you. You may isolate yourself on purpose, reflect on things you did during your pregnancy and plans you made. You may sense feelings of emptiness or despair.
5. THE UPWARD TURN-
As you start to adjust to life without your dear little one, your life becomes a little calmer and more organized. Your physical symptoms lessen, and your "depression" begins to lift slightly.
6. RECONSTRUCTION & WORKING THROUGH-
As you become more functional, your mind starts working again, and you will find yourself seeking realistic solutions to problems posed by life without your little one. You will start to work on practical and financial problems and reconstructing yourself and your life without him or her.
7. ACCEPTANCE & HOPE-
During this, the last of the seven stages in this grief model, you learn to accept and deal with the reality of your situation. Acceptance does not necessarily mean instant happiness. Given the pain and turmoil you have experienced, you can never return to the carefree, untroubled YOU that existed before this tragedy. But you will find a way forward.
You will start to look forward and actually plan things for the future. Eventually, you will be able to think about your lost baby without pain; sadness, yes, but the wrenching pain will be gone. You will once again anticipate some good times to come, and yes, even find joy again in the experience of living.