Tiny babies, big lossBeverly Godfrey column: As someone who had four miscarriages, you’d think I’d be all over something like National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.
By: Beverly Godfrey, Duluth News Tribune
As someone who had four miscarriages, you’d think I’d be all over something like National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.
But I don’t want to write about it. I don’t want to know anything about it. I was drafted to the cause against my will, forcibly recruited to the ranks of sad women who have lost babies.
Despite the harsh reality, I sometimes feel unworthy to claim the status. I know so many people who have had it worse. The issue includes miscarriage, stillbirth, death of a newborn or baby from SIDS or other causes, so there’s a big range of emotion and loss.
According to the March of Dimes, 10 percent to 15 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. The total number would be higher if you could factor in pregnancies that aren’t yet known to the mother.
When I was expecting my first child, I ignorantly assumed that women who experienced a miscarriage must have had an underlying health problem. I wasn’t passing judgment, but I sure didn’t think I had anything in common with them.
Now I know that it can happen to anyone, sometimes for a reason that’s known, but more often, for a reason that’s never known.
I was the mother of a 2-year-old and 15 weeks pregnant when I found out my baby had died. It was a routine checkup, and I was seeing a new doctor. He couldn’t find the baby’s heartbeat and immediately scheduled me for an ultrasound.
I was slow to understand what was probably happening. I figured the doctor didn’t know what he was doing. Why else wouldn’t he find the heartbeat, right?
The first pit in my stomach and rush of adrenaline hit when I found out they had called the ultrasound technician back from home to see me. That didn’t seem normal.
On the ultrasound screen, I saw the black hole where a beating pulsar of a little heart should be, and I knew the baby was dead. I asked for a picture. The technician hesitated a moment, but then printed the ultrasound image. I still have it in a baby book.
I almost stepped in front of a car when I left the hospital. I realized just in time that traffic wasn’t stopping for me. I wasn’t trying to get killed, just in a weird state of mind. I thought they would stop. I thought they would know what just happened, and stop.
The colors seemed different as I drove home. Sound wasn’t reaching my head the normal way. I struggled to compose the sentence I would say when I got home and had to tell my husband, starting with, “I have sad news.”
A friend once observed that I grieve this loss like a stillbirth, and the other three lost pregnancies as miscarriages. It’s probably not fair that this baby got a name, a memory book, sympathy cards, a special Christmas ornament. But the others were easier to get over, and I won’t feel guilty about that. I’m blessed with four living children, and they often hear that life is not fair. Same lesson could go for my four children who never lived to hear me say it.
For more than a year, you could lightly scrape my skin, and the grief would be there. After a while, it required a stubbed toe to spill out. Then the grief went deeper, and physical things wouldn’t trigger it. I’d have to be reminded by something. Now, 12 years later, I need to consciously think about it awhile to get worked up enough to cry. And so I don’t.
As Oct. 15 approaches, I share my story because I know that when it first happened to me, it helped to read other people’s stories. I’m not a counselor qualified to advise people, but if you’d like my advice anyway, I’d say this: You don’t need to prove your love by staying sad forever. Grieve as much as you need to, and be OK with it when your spirits lift back up.
Beverly Godfrey is a copy editor for the News Tribune. She writes in memory of Daniel, Asher, Noah, Aurora, Myles, Cameron, Matthew and all lost babies. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.