We are now in the 30th year of bringing awareness to the subject of pregnancy & infant loss. The statistics of pregnancy & infant loss are overwhelming. Approximately 25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage; add in the statistics of stillbirth and neonatal death, 1 in 4 pregnancies end in a loss. After experiencing a loss, many women stay silent because they do not know what to say or who to say it to.
This topic is a personal one for me on several levels. On my journey to motherhood, I have experienced four pregnancy losses. Each one was unique. However, I had a similar response to each one physically and emotionally. Now I work as a doula, and I see the experience from another angle. Last winter I had the privilege of attending a workshop presented by Sherokee Ilse, an advocate for perinatal loss & bereavement. Her work is an important step in changing how this type of loss is approached. It is possible to change the whole experience of a woman and her family by changing a few simple actions.
Reducing Traumatic Impact
Pregnancy and birth are something a woman remembers for her entire life. And, if it is surrounded by trauma and negativity, that trauma and negativity can be difficult to release. Fear from the experience can be carried into subsequent pregnancies, and can even affect fertility. When a woman experiences a loss, her rational mind is annihilated for a period of time. Hormones are shifting, and emotions that have possibly never been felt before may arise. With stillbirth or neonatal death, there are decisions to be made and formalities to pursue. For anyone in a supporting role, something as simple as slowing the “closing” process down and changing the language from a clinical, medical textbook, or “it will be okay” to sensitive language can help shift the entire process.
When a woman has a miscarriage, the loss may be “silent.” Maybe she has only seen a positive pregnancy test and has not shared the news with her closest friends and family, or perhaps she has. No matter how early the loss, the pain of something so “small” can feel quite great. Recovery is still necessary, physically, and emotionally. If she is given time to rest, acknowledge the hurt, and tools to uplift and heal rather than a mere diagnosis her story could be one of healing or hope, not just the memory of pain.
Tools for Support
When you or someone you know has experienced a loss, tools are vital in transforming grief into acceptance. Here are a few links to some tools that I have found helpful in both my personal and professional journey.
Baby Loss Family Advisor/Doula is a person that you can reach out to who can provide support either in person or via phone. This link provides a list categorized by city/state.
Support Groups can be helpful to connect to others who have had similar experiences.
There are many books written on Infant & Pregnancy loss. Some good titles are:
Empty Arms by Sherokee Ilse
A Guide for Fathers: When a Baby Dies by Tim Nelson
Pregnancy After a Loss by Carol Cirulli Lanham
Coping with Infertility, Miscarriage, and Neonatal Loss: Finding Perspective and Creating Meaning by Amy Wenzel
Online resources that are right at your fingertips:
Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month is in a place now where we can take action steps toward a healthier society. People no longer have to grieve in silence or feel they are alone after experiencing such a loss.
“When you love someone, you have to offer that person the best you have. The best thing we can offer another person is our true presence.”