International Bereaved Mother’s Day was founded by CarlyMarie Dudly. This year it takes place today, May 7, one week before traditional Mother’s Day. It is a day that we honor and remember any parent who has lost a child, and, in particular, to honor those who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS or any pregnancy and infant loss.
This is a difficult topic to write or read about, for obvious reasons. It is one that needs to be talked about. And often. Why? Because the discourse around death is often discouraged.
Having open and honest conversations about grief and loss is a necessary part of the process of grief. Those who have suffered loss need to share their story. Often.
Giving voice to the pain and sorrow allows families to create a narrative that can ultimately lead to peace and healing.
- Miscarriage is defined as “the spontaneous end of a pregnancy before fetal viability” and is medically recognized as a miscarriage when the loss occurs before the 20th week of gestation.
- Stillbirth is when the baby dies in utero, after the 20th week of pregnancy or above a certain weight. There is no generally accepted definition for stillbirth, but this is usually how the medical community defines it.
Far too often families who have experienced fetal loss suffer, struggle, and are left to heal on their own. This has to change. These babies are still their babies, and they deserve to be known, loved and grieved.
There are many reasons babies do not survive until their birth day or through it, and in some situations, we may never know why it happened at all. No matter what, the answers can’t ease the heartache. Whatever the cause, the pain is all the same.
As doulas who have supported families through loss, we recognize the struggle that goes along with such a loss. Our outsider’s grief can never understand what a mother feels when they lose their child before ever getting to see or touch them.
We’ve asked a friend if we could share her story, and hope it offers solace to those walking the same path. You are not alone.
This is Josiah’s story
In March 2000, after 10 months of trying, I was finally pregnant. I was so shocked when I saw the positive on the stick that I took about a dozen more tests.
I had a miscarriage scare at about 6 weeks, and all day sickness until 18 weeks, but other than that it was a very normal, easy pregnancy. At the 18 week scan, we found out we were having a boy and named him Josiah.
At my 32 week OB appointment (with a nurse practitioner), I expressed some concern about my lack of weight gain and my small belly. The nurse assured me that because I was heavy (about 30 pounds overweight) this was normal. Just to reassure me, she did a quick scan and told me that everything looked great. This was on Tuesday.
On Friday, I felt three strong rolling movements from Josiah. On Saturday and Sunday I felt very little movement. I didn’t want to freak out and make a big deal out of things. I figured it was just normal and that I shouldn’t worry.
Monday morning I decided to call Labor and Delivery. I was told to drink some juice, lie on my side and count kicks for one hour. Nothing. At that point I was told to come in. I called my husband to let him know I was going in, but told him that I was sure everything was fine. He decided to come with me anyway. Thank God.
When I arrived at about noon, several people tried to find his heartbeat. Then they brought in the ultra-sound machine. Two doctors looked at it.
It still had not occurred to me that my baby could be dead.
Sick, yes. In distress, yes. Emergency C-section, yes. Dead, no.
Finally the doctor pointed out the heart, and said the words that will forever be etched in my mind, “here is the heart, but it is not beating. I’m sorry.”
Simultaneously, I had two thoughts, “We will get this baby out, move on, and everything will be fine,” and “Nothing will ever be fine again.” As it turns out, I was wrong on both counts.
Before beginning the induction, the hospital gave me a book, “When Saying Hello Means Goodbye.” I am so thankful for this book. It talked about things that had never occurred to me: naming the baby, holding the baby, taking pictures of the baby.
At about 6:00 PM, the induction was started. I was told that it would take one day if I were lucky, 3 if I wasn’t. At 1:00AM, much to the doctor’s surprise, Josiah entered the world. Silent, still, and beautiful. He looked just like his daddy, with my nose.
He weighed 2lbs, 3oz, the size of a 26 week old. My concerns had been right.
He was cleaned up, dressed, and then brought to me. We held him, kissed him, took pictures with him, told him we loved him, and said goodbye. How I wish I had taken more pictures, spent more time, but I know that it would never be enough. His ashes were scattered beyond the Golden Gate Bridge. His spirit went to heaven, where I will meet him again someday.
After an autopsy and lots of blood work, the cause of death was found. I had blood clots in my placenta which caused him to have severe IUGR, cut off his nutrients, and caused him to die.
I have so many if onlys, and what ifs. If only I had done kick counts every day. What if: I had seen a doctor instead of a nurse practitioner, I had gone to the hospital on Saturday instead of waiting until Monday? But I have learned not to live in the if onlys, and what ifs – at least most of the time. I have found that there is too much in the now, and I don’t want to miss it.
Today we will light a candle and send positive energy to every family who has lost a baby too soon.
We hold you in our hearts.