September 2004, my husband and I took a 2 week trip to Ireland and Scotland.
The morning we left we discovered I was pregnant. We drove the Irish countryside dreaming about the idea of a new baby that we had told no one about yet. I sat in a lot of pubs drinking milk while my husband sampled Guinness and Scottish whiskey. Roadside, I vomited Irish oats and Scottish jam. I felt a sudden responsibility for the tiny 6 week baby inside me. We bought a pair of Scottish red tartan baby booties for our unborn child in celebration of the April 2005 due date.
6 weeks later, seven years ago today, Thanksgiving didn’t go as planned.
Friday, October 7, 2004 we learned that our 12 week pregnancy was no longer viable. I had had a missed miscarriage and our baby died a couple of weeks before and now my body had figured it out.
My husband and I were devastated. Although devastated doesn’t dig deep enough to describe the loss. At the time, I didn’t know 1 in 4 women miscarry. No one I knew had ever shared a miscarriage story with me. I was in shock and felt utterly alone despite the shared grief with my husband.
In addition to sorrow, I felt like a fraud that had been celebrating a baby that had actually stopped living weeks prior. Had my motherhood instincts already failed me?
My doctor said my body would begin to “expel” the baby so instead of traveling for Thanksgiving weekend, we stayed home, waiting. We visited a farmers market and bought 20 pounds of carrots in a giant box. We peeled stupid carrots all weekend long and made soup, muffins and more soup. It kept us busy. Not thinking about what had really happened.
We cooked a small turkey and looked at each other searching for something to be thankful about. It was tough to find perspective. I think our dinner went cold as we cried on the couch.
That was a ridiculously long 3 day weekend. Nothing happened. Physically, I was still pregnant so my mind began to play tricks and hope my baby was alive. Then common sense would hit me and I’d collapse in sobs. The hormones were driving me bonkers. By Monday night, I called the on-call doctor and requested the drugs to bring the ‘labour’ on. I needed to move on. I couldn’t wait in limbo anymore. Those drugs should come with a warning of what to expect to “expel” the baby. I stayed home from work on Tuesday and waited for the “spontaneous” miscarriage the drugs would bring. I was so unprepared.
For those who have gone through this, you know the pain and contractions that occur. I was alone on my bedroom floor, counting minutes until the next round, sobbing in sorrow and in pain. My husband drove home as fast as he could but by the time he arrived, the baby had passed.
No one had told me what to do. I froze it. In a Tupperware container.
I’d had a dream the baby was a girl so we named her Grace. I put what I thought was Grace at the very bottom of the freezer and felt sick every time I opened that freezer – for a year.
I still had to have a D&C that week anyways. Two days after that I went on a business trip for 2 weeks on my own. I sat in hotel rooms secretly reading a book on Miscarriage searching for a reason, a fault, for why this happened. I needed something to blame, something to understand.
No one I knew understood first hand. I started to google and I found a forum on babycenter.com that was dedicated to pregnancy loss. That forum saved me. I read that this had happened to other people too and about how they moved on. I heard about the insensitive comments they had heard and realised my family and friends were not so unusual in their lack of support or understanding – they just didn’t KNOW.
Seven years later, those weeks are still fresh in my mind. I was extremely lucky to conceive quickly afterwards and that helped me with my mental and emotional healing. The new pregnancy gave me a beautiful distraction but the miscarriage made me wary. My husband, still to this day, has an extremely tough time talking about the loss, even though we’ve had 3 incredible children since.
One year later, on Thanksgiving we buried the Tupperware container at my parents house within the raspberry bushes transplanted from my grandparents garden. That Thanksgiving, 2005, we were holding an 8 week old Lauren, and we had found peace and serenity with the loss.
For those who need a community, recognition or support for pregnancy or infant loss, there is an incredible movement to celebrate these short lives. Worldwide Pregnancy and Infant Loss Prevention Day is on October 15th. There are walks and services to commemorate those who have suffered and those who have lost in a supportive environment.
Pain shared is pain halved. Although more women talk about this kind of loss more than past generations, we don’t talk about it enough. Moms need to feel prepared for these circumstances and know they are not alone. I wish this movement had been around in 2004 and I hope all families who are going through this type of pain, reach out to find support. This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for the support so many moms find from momstown and I weep with profound sympathy whenever I read of a mom reaching out online for advice or support during her grief.
Have you gone through a loss? How did you find help and support?
As founding mama of momstown.ca, Ann-Marie Burton is an inspired and busy mom.
While living life in the ‘fast lane’ Ann-Marie blogs (with humour and emotion) about her trials & tribulation of raising three little people.