July is National Bereaved Parents Month. This month is a time to raise awareness, advocate, and support those who have lost a child. There are many different facets of loss, and no two journeys are the same.
To the parents who experienced the loss of a pregnancy, baby, infant, or child, we at Central Coast Childbirth Network, INC see you, honor you and your babies, and hold space for the bereaved.
We know pregnancy loss is more common than we may hear. "Of all pregnancies, 15-20% end in miscarriage; 75% of these in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, " according to the RESOLVE website. The support parents receive in early pregnancy loss or any loss matters. Some may feel medical professionals and society seem to diminish the loss, making the parents feel as though it wasn't "that big of a deal." After all, they were "really early" in their pregnancy. The latter was what one of our members experienced.
We recently read one of our CCCN Member's social media posts of an open letter to her unborn baby and offers some crucial resources to her and her family's healing. Our member, a wife, mother, grandmother, doula, and business owner, shares her open letter with us.
"November 23, 2017"
I woke up this morning with a hole in me.
It has been one week since you stopped growing and I feel as though this hole is getting bigger, deeper. Right now, you would be developing hundreds of brain cells a minute and your heart would be getting stronger and stronger as well. Your nervous system and digestive system, all on its way to being fully developed. You would be about the size of a blueberry; I love blueberries. But this hole that is in me, the one I woke up with this morning, is a place where you should be, and you're not anymore.
The morning we lost you is a day I will never forget. I woke up feeling out of sorts; somewhat anxious, a bit crampy, extremely exhausted, and emotionally off-balance. I attributed it to pregnancy and morning sickness, got dressed, threw on my glasses (vertigo, I thought) and headed into work. The night before, I had driven to Ross to get some more chai caramel tea latte, thinking to myself, 'I can't wait to get back home and tell Joe (your daddy) that as I was driving to Ross everything just felt so perfect. Like everything has fallen into place.' I am glad I forgot to tell him. The first half hour of work I was sluggish; my head felt cloudy and I could not concentrate. I needed to pee, so I headed to the bathroom. When I wiped there was bright red blood. Immediately I knew this was it, you were leaving my body, but I called a couple friends of mine anyway. One was my best friend (you would have liked her very much) who had experienced a miscarriage, and one was our pastor's wife who was a nurse (she would have snuggled you after you were born; she's great with babies). Both told me to take it easy and not to worry, that many women spot during early pregnancy, and to take the day off, go home and rest. Not sure what to think, I stayed at work and about ten minutes later I had to pee again. More blood and more cramping. Worried, I paced back and forth in the office until I had to pee again about ten minutes later and there was even more blood and cramping; the first part of you was gone. I told your daddy we needed to go to the hospital, and we headed there right away. I tried to stay calm and patient, not giving myself hope, but keeping myself in check, even though I knew I'd never get to nourish you past 6 or 8 weeks in the womb. We did some blood work, had an ultrasound (in which they found no heartbeat; even though just days before I found you on the doppler), I got my RhoGAM, got the blood work results (hCG levels were 84 when they should have been in the thousands), signed some papers, and headed home; empty and sad, already missing who you could have been.
Two weeks earlier, we had found out we were expecting you. We had been 'not preventing' for ten months and were elated we were pregnant. You were our last. Well, supposed to be. I already started buying things for you and even announced the good news to some of my closest friends and our immediate family. I also announced the pregnancy to an amazing group of ladies on Facebook who were equally excited for us. Your dad and I had already started planning and picturing what our lives would be like come July. We went and looked at a house, talked about how we were going to fit three car seats in the truck, what space we would make for you, what double stroller would work best for you and big brother, if I would be able to try for a vbac again or just schedule a repeat cesarean. I had even called a couple places to see about establishing care, since I was close to needing my first prenatal appointment. We had even ordered pregnancy announcements for family and I had photographed an announcement for social media. We dreamed about what you'd look like and revisited our list of baby names we had already made before your big brother Joseph was even a thought, settling on one name if you were a girl. For those two weeks, our hearts had already found a place for you and our dreams had you in them.
We got back from the hospital with tears in our eyes, hearts heavy, my belly aching from all the space that was there now where you once were; even a space the size of an apple seed felt like a black hole of eternity. We parked the car, squeezed each other's hands, unlocked the front door; all normal things we do every day, but somehow felt tedious and insurmountable. I went to check the mail, forgetting about all of the things I had already purchased for you. Six packages. Full of your things. Onesies and pants and a sleep sack that said 'in Jesus name AMEN', a pacifier that I was determined to make you attached to, that I couldn't justify paying for when we were pregnant with Joseph (that would've been a waste anyway because none of my babies were binky babies, and you will never be too). How ironic; the day we lose you we come home to six packages for you. I've unpacked them and snuggled with them, kissed them, and folded them. Cried over them. But your things are tucked away neatly in a bag in hopes that we can use them for your future brother or sister. They sit at the foot of my bed, too numb right now to pack them away for good.
I felt silly, having told so many people 'so soon'. Just the day before, I had shared you with all the moms in my local mom group. All of them so very happy for us and excited to have a new baby join the bunch in the following year. For a moment, I thought about all of the people I needed to now tell of this news and felt bad for even having to put them through it in the first place. But then I realized that if our joys were shared just between daddy and I, there wouldn't be anyone to walk this journey with us and lift us up in the tragedy too. I have also come to find that so many mamas share this same path as well and I feel so fortunate to be connected with them, even during this time. You see, not too many mamas feel as though they can share their pregnancy loss and oftentimes feel so alone. But if there's anyone who can understand and empathize with mamas who have lost a child, it's that 1 in 4 who are right there beside us. I know for me, it helps me heal, sharing you with the world.
Your daddy and I sat down the other night and wept over you. We made plans and named you. And even though those plans do not include being able to kiss your sweet forehead or hold your tiny body, or maybe even cup your small and wiggly little club feet (your big brother Joseph was born with right clubfoot, so we just imagined you having club feet too) or watch you sleep and dream, we have new plans. We plan to remember you and think about you and love you every day. We plan to plant a tree for you in our front yard on the day you were to be born, your "unborn day" as we have decided to call it (July 6, 2018), so we can watch it grow and take root, envisioning it being you. I plan to get a tattoo for you like I did with your big sister and brothers-an American Traditional style tattoo with your name. Speaking of names, we have named you Hazel Mae. The only name I ever wanted for you, even if that want was only two weeks long. I knew from the moment I realized you were there that you were a girl; I felt it in my bones. We have hopes, too. We hope you know we love you so very much. Big sister and your big brothers do too. And the rest of your family. There is even a whole community of mamas out there who love you along with us. We hope you could feel our love as you left us, and that you will carry that love with you wherever you are. And we hope someday that you'll be able to feel our arms wrap around you and hear us tell you we love you so very much. In whatever form that is, however far away that will be.
I know that this will hurt for a very long time, maybe even forever. But I also know that the hurt will lessen, be easier, possibly just be used to it. and I know that there will be months that will go by where my heart won't be heavy and then one day I'll be walking down the street and the sky will turn another shade of something or a song will come on or the air will smell sweet and I will crumble. But baby I don't want you to worry about us. We will be okay. We will get through this. I know this because I've known you.
You are a blessing, Hazel Mae. We love you.
Throughout our journey we have come to find that our healing comes in the form of sharing our journey with others. We speak her name, remember her, share her, and honor her. We water her tree, light a candle on a cupcake on her unborn day, and weep. For us, including her as a part of our life has given us the opportunity to fully mourn our loss-to feel it all, because she was real.
We encourage you to keep sharing your story. We invite you to share any part of your story, in the comments below. There can be healing when you know you are not alone. There is support locally and nationally. Below are some resources to help you through your journey. The resources below also offer information on how to support our loved ones through loss. If there is anything you need, please reach out to us at Central Coast Childbirth Network, INC. We can hold space for you and help you process. There are three local doulas in training or certified as a bereavement doula and are available in whatever way you need.
Brittany Randolph – Certified Birth & Bereavement Doula with Stillbirthday
Zabrina Cox – In-Training for Bereavement Doula with Stillbirthday
Ashley Daoust – In-Training for Bereavement Doula with Stillbirthday
Central Coast Childbirth Network has other resources listed here on their website.
Jonathan Gee, LMFT-Orcutt
Co-Authored by Ashley Daoust, CLD & Zabrina Cox, RN, CLD, LCCE, B.S. Child Development