June is a beautiful month. Sure, it’s ridiculously hot, tornadoes and hurricanes abound, and you get so many mosquito bites it looks like you have chicken-pox, but it is still beautiful. People seem more carefree and plan vacations, the sunshine is lovely to behold (from inside an air-conditioned facility), and snow cones! Good stuff.
Yet, June is a month that fills me with just a tinge of dread and moodiness.
It takes me about a week to realize it, and at first I try to blame it on anything else: hormones, stress, sleep-deprivation, sugar crash, or general angst at something I read online.
Then it hits me – June is the month that I miscarried my first child. The aforementioned tinge of dread and moodiness transforms into the remembrance and sometimes, reliving, of that loss.
Yes, it was 10 years ago.
Yes, I was in college and it wasn’t “the best time” for me.
Yes, I was “only” 9 weeks pregnant.
But the truth remains: my first child died, and I was devastated.
People tried to tell me that it wasn’t really a baby yet, so why was I so upset? Which is just about the dumbest thing you could possibly say. Do they realize what all has happened by 9 weeks? That cells with unique DNA begin to grow and divide in your body without you doing any of the work, and that in a few weeks that bundle of unique genetic material builds a HEART that pumps blood constantly, and then starts piecing together tiny little human parts while you’re throwing up/eating handfuls of Doritos/crying for no reason/not actually doing anything to tangibly assemble this new creation?
Are you going to tell me that something that GROWS ITSELF without my assistance, something that is UNIQUE, and SEPARATE from myself is not a baby? You’re going to tell me that just because it happens to be small, that it’s not a baby?
Oh, I forgot. You only become human when you reach a certain size. I’m so glad I have random strangers, who know nothing about building people, determining when I can consider MY CHILD a human.
Sorry. Sarcasm – my favorite defense mechanism – is rearing its ugly head.
Miscarriage is a real loss that often gets overlooked. In the psychology world, we call it “disenfranchised grief”, which is a fancy way of saying grief that is not acknowledged by society. Meaning, there are no rituals to walk us through the grief, there are no social mores that show us how to care for each other, and most importantly, it is not generally deemed as worthy of grieving. Society says that it shouldn’t be that bad, that it’s not like we lost an older child.
Again, dumb thing to say. We should not compare any loss to another – simply doing so diminishes the significance of that loss. And the significance of the loss is the most important part to those who are grieving.
And miscarriage is worthy of grieving. To say so implies that what was lost is significant, meaning, my baby was a person whose absence I feel and I am not crazy for feeling the way I do.
When you miscarry a child, you grieve for what won’t happen in the future: first kicks in the womb, decorating a nursery, first smiles, first words, parties, holidays, yearbook photos… it seems endless the things you lose before you had a chance to experience them.
In addition to the grief, you feel guilt that it’s somehow your fault and/or paranoid about what you could have done differently. Did you stand too close to microwaves? Did you not eat enough iron? Did you have too much wine? These questions are endless, too.
And then there is the depression – that sad, empty feeling encapsulated by hopelessness and exhaustion.
Not everyone experiences miscarriage loss this way. But many of us do.
I still miss my child. 10 years doesn’t take away the loss, it just changes my relationship with it. I will never be “over it”. I lost something I loved. A part of me is gone – I can’t un-feel its absence just because time passes.
However, I don’t re-experience the grief, guilt and depression like I used to. As I said, my relationship to it has changed. I feel these things in June, I honor their presence by thinking about my child, praying like crazy, and then I move along, still carrying the loss on my heart like the scar that it is. But it doesn’t drown me like it used to.
Why share this with you, my ACNM audience?
Because miscarriage touches the lives of so many, and I want to give you permission to claim the significance of its loss in a way that brings you healing.
And if you’ve never experienced miscarriage personally, perhaps you know someone who has. Maybe they didn’t experience their miscarriage like I did. We’re all different. But if you take anything away from this post, let it be this: honor the individual’s experience, ask them what they need, and don’t try to diminish their sorrow with fluffy words. Be present. Be prayerful. That’s enough.
We all want to do something to mitigate the pain of loss or to turn grief into something positive, to find a silver lining in the clouds. But I believe there is real value in just standing there, being still, being sad.
― John Green
Thank you for reading. By allowing me to share this, I am honoring the child I lost one more time, and that helps in ways that I can’t explain.
For information on miscarriage/neo-natal loss, please see the following resources:
Seleni, a non-profit organization that has some good articles about miscarriage loss