Lauren and Loss
11th May 2018
In August 2017 my husband and I lost our precious baby through miscarriage. As a marriage and family therapist, I am trained to work with pain and trauma. I have studied pregnancy loss, have counseled women who experienced losses, and had friends lose babies. And still, this experience was far more traumatic, difficult and complex than I ever could have imagined.
Re-thinking the play by play experience of my journey to motherhood and subsequent loss will always bring me to tears. I have never felt emptier or alone. I had been traumatized, deeply wounded, and lost so much of who I once was. While I had wonderful support from family and friends (who I now consider family), I also experienced hurtful responses and actions from others. Our mommy-obsessed culture, silence around miscarriage, and perception that it’s “not that big of a deal” only added to the heartache and anxiety that I was already experiencing.
A week after my loss, I got a prescription for Xanax for panic attacks. A few weeks after that I started a low dose of Zoloft for depression. I had never taken either but I desperately needed some support to get through the day. My heart would beat uncontrollably. I nervously was on edge waiting for the next loss or death to happen. I would feel distressed being away from my husband. I struggled to concentrate. I withdrew socially even more. I went to therapy. I teared up, cried, or sobbed almost daily. I was angry a lot. I went to Reiki. I stuck to only people who were kind and loved me. Not to mention that my body was a mess trying to heal after giving birth to death. I was grieving, deeply, and I still am. I think it will always be there.
Yet, the lack of knowledge about miscarriage created even more alienation and I quickly realized how taboo and misunderstood it is. I looked for books and films to gain more insight and learned that there is not a whole lot out there. So, I decided to start connecting with others through Instagram and began interviewing women on film about their experiences. I wanted to share people’s stories, to hear people’s stories, and to know I was not alone. I wanted to help and teach others about this sort excruciating experience. To speak out about the secret club of invisible mom’s.
Although I love children, and have a long history working with babies and kids, I was never someone who felt like being a mom was my only aspiration. I don’t believe motherhood defines women. Before even trying to get pregnant, questions like “When are you going to have kids?!” felt offensive. We live in a culture where that is emphasized as far more important than women’s other accomplishments and value. These inquiries are said without any thought to what one might be going through such as infertility, losses, etc. They are loaded. And I was terrified of becoming one of those women that would have to endure this sort of prodding after a loss, something I experience regularly now.
I want people to talk more about the spectrum of motherhood, of pregnancy, and support all outcomes. There are women all around us who mother daily, but don’t have their own kids. I still consider them mothers. There are women who have lost babies to miscarriage, stillbirth, or abortion, who have tried for years to get pregnant and it has not worked out, or who wish to adopt but cannot afford it, I consider them mothers. There are women who don’t feel called to have children but care for others around them. Motherhood is a stance of heart, a collective energy. Due to our culture’s fear of death and grief, what is talked about and focused on are healthy, happy wombs, pregnancies, and babies. But there is a whole world of us that live somewhere else on the spectrum of motherhood. Support us all. My baby changed me forever, I am still a mother for that.
My hope is that our friends, families, and communities can learn about grief and how to sit with others who are grieving. It is very typical for people to want to fix one’s pain, say something meaningful, encourage them or avoid grievers all together because of fear and discomfort. Grievers don’t need to hear that “everything happens for a reason” or “at least you weren’t further along.” Those platitudes only minimize one’s experience and feelings. And grievers don’t need any blame. They need your presence and your support to grieve in whatever way one might need to. There is no map, there is no specific process, and there is no end to grief. The truth is, we will all experience loss and we all need the space and encouragement to let ourselves feel what we need to feel.
Lastly, I want women experiencing pregnancy loss to know that your feelings are valid. You get to put yourself first and you do not owe anyone anything. You can tell people when the things they say and do are not helpful or kind. You can say no to invites and baby showers or distance yourself from others. If you need a therapist, find one. If you need medication, take it. If you need extra time off work, schedule it. Do whatever you need, there is no shame in taking the time to care for your broken heart and body. Miscarriage is a trauma. It matters. It is big. Put yourself first, be open to your process, and take your time. I am so sorry you are going through this. Be kind to yourselves, mamas.
There is an unspeakable connection between parents who have experienced pregnancy loss. May you find others who can sit with you that know the depths of your pain.
Feel free to reach out to me, too.
Youtube: Lauren and Loss