Six years ago I found myself shattered and angry after loosing a baby at 11 weeks pregnant. This was a very difficult time in my life and I was ill-equipped to navigate the emotional landscape that surrounded me. I struggled to find my way through the medical system and intervention that took my baby from me, the lack of acknowledgment and compassion from the world in general and my inability to find a constructive way through the pain. Sadly, it took me a long time to move through this experience and it resulted in damaged relationships, anger and a very difficult post natal time after my next baby. Again I find myself navigating the loss of a baby at nine and a half weeks pregnant and am faced with the same choices and possibilities. The difference now is a resourcefulness and strength that I didn’t have before. A knowing and trust of my body, birth and my pain. A community of women who willingly journey alongside each other and hold each other in the good and bad. But most of all a trust of life and its cycles and my ability to sit in the intensity of that, and make it out the other side. Here are written some things that I chose to do differently this time – things that allowed me to feel, to open and to work through the loss of our baby. Not everything that I chose will resonate with everyone. In fact some things may repulse people or seem strange and unnecessary. My intention is not to present a recipe for working through pregnancy loss but rather an invitation to acknowledge ourselves and each other as we navigate a pathway to healing. My hope is that my story will encourage all of us to honour and heal in our complete journey of pregnancy, birth, mothering and womanhood.
- Honouring Birth – Once I knew my baby was coming, I surrendered to birthing her as I would have if I had carried her full term. I chose to stay at home with the loving support of my partner. The room was lit with candles, and he kept me warm and hydrated as I allowed myself to feel every surge of my body, every pain. We cried together as I birthed and just allowed ourselves to be in that moment together. Regardless of when we birth our baby – we birth. We may experience the same intensity and opening. For me it was important to birth my baby my way and honour the vulnerability and opening that brings. To be in an environment that supports me and my choices.
- Honouring our Baby – It was so important to me to have my baby’s body. I didn’t want her body to be flushed down a toilet or medically removed. Previously I had undergone a D & C and been told that my baby was a ‘blighted ovum’ so never existed, never grew, never was. It was really important for me to see and hold our baby and to treat her body with the respect she deserved. I kept her body close to me for several days until I was ready to bury her close in our garden. This was very comforting to me and allowed me to let go in my own time and my own way.
- Naming our Baby – we chose to give our little baby a name. This gave her a real presence in our life. It allowed us to bestow on her our dreams and wishes and speak about her with ease. She was a real person in our lives and deserved a lasting place.
- Saying Goodbye – we planned and held a simple ceremony with our other three children several days after she was born. We gave them a choice about participating and they were glad of the opportunity to be included. We gathered outside in our garden, read poems, played special songs and each had the opportunity to say good-bye. We planted a special tree and created a garden which anyone could visit when they wanted to. It is close to our house and a place we walk to every day. This was an intense experience for my children but certainly not one I regret. Life is full of intensity and I want them to experience it in our loving arms and know they can move through it. We celebrated afterwards with a special dinner and ice cream. The children had many questions which have continued to flow with ease ever since.
- Letting others know – I made a conscious choice to let people around me who I trusted and felt safe with, know that we had lost our baby. Some were not aware yet that I was pregnant. Despite feeling very vulnerable and raw I decided it would serve me better to allow people into this space to support and love me rather than to maintain the silence and feel very alone. I consciously let people know and set boundaries around people visiting. I gave myself the space I needed whilst still allowing those who love me to support me and my family. Allowing people to see the realness of my pain was such a gift to them and to me. The deepening of friendships will continue to serve all of us. People offered their support to me in many ways including cooking meals, caring for my children and sending cards or flowers.
In opening myself to others it was also important for me to accept that some people are not able to listen to me, have compassion or be with my pain at this point in their life. Understanding that this is totally fine and supporting myself to meet my needs elsewhere was really important in not holding onto resentment or anger. It was also important for me to allow people their awkwardness when they are trying to genuinely connect but just didn’t know what to say. After all death and loss are mostly taboo subjects in our culture.
- My beloved – It was important for me to allow my partner to take over. To let go of my guilt and allow him to be the strong and capable nurturer that he is. To let go of my way of doing things and allow him to be my rock and hold the family. He was and still is experiencing his own journey of grief and part of the healing for him comes in nourishing me and our family.
- Circle of Women- I am very blessed in my life to be surrounded by a community of women who willingly support and hold each other in our journeys through life. One of my dearest friends organised a circle for me where I was able to receive the acknowledgement and love I desperately needed. This circle was a place of allowing myself to be seen and held in my grief. A place of ritual and giving. Women brought tokens of their acknowledgements, we cried together, danced together and felt together. I value the healing this space brings to me in my life and the web we weave together as women. Such a circle can be as simple or elaborate as we please. It is a rich and healing way to support each other and build the bridges we need back into our lives.
- Taking care of my body – My body needs time to heal and be re- nourished just as if I had carried our baby to full term. I stayed at home for a couple of weeks, resting and allowing my body to physically heal and find balance. It is really important to me not to rush this process and allow the time needed to stop bleeding and rebuild my stores of iron and other nutrients. It is also important to listen and honour our bodies giving ourselves space and not rushing back into the busy-ness of life too quickly. It will only come back to haunt us later.
. Many years ago I wrote; “Pregnancy is a privileged journey. It is an experience that can take us to a deep place within – a place of ultimate creation and being. It is a sacred place and a sacred journey -a place of deep learning and a place of challenge. Sometimes the challenge is not gentle and causes immense pain and distress. It can push us to places we wonder if we really want to go. The mystery and magic of pregnancy can not be underestimated.” ( Natural Parenting Magazine, May 2004). I have learnt to embrace the necessary unravelling that is required for true and authentic transformation. As I approach 40, I find myself in a place of uncertainty like never before. I do however trust the void with the knowing that this is life’s journey. One of death and rebirth on so many levels. I am thankful to my babies for teaching me the true essence of what this means. “Tears are a river that take you somewhere. Weeping creates a river around the boat that carries your soul-life. Tears lift your boat off the rocks, off dry ground, carrying it downriver to someplace new, some place better. There are oceans of tears women have never cried, for they have been trained to carry mother’s and father’s secrets, men’s secrets, society’s secrets and their own secrets, to the grave. A woman’s crying has been considered quite dangerous, for it loosens the locks and bolts on the secrets she bears. But in truth, for the sake of a woman’s wild soul, it is better to cry. For women, tears are the beginning of initiation into the Scar Clan, that timeless tribe of women of all colours, all nations, all languages, who down through the ages have lived through a great something, and yet who stood proud, still stand proud.” Clarissa Pinkola Estes (2008: 374) Women Who Run with the Wolves.