If you would have asked me when I was younger what a pregnancy loss looked like, I wouldn’t have had an answer. Sure, I would have detailed what I THOUGHT it looked like, felt like, and seemed like. I would have gone through the emotions without comprehension, without being shaken to my core. Empathy would have washed over me, covering the heart on my sleeve and deepening my understanding — but only to a point.
I wouldn’t have truly known.
Now, after two pregnancy losses, I know all too well the feelings of hopelessness, blame, grief, depression, and the entire gamut of feelings thrust upon anyone who experiences such a loss. As the cliche goes, you don’t think it will happen to you. Until it does.
I wanted to be a mom since I was a little girl. I would play with my Barbies, stuffing toilet paper underneath their clothes to signify pregnancy. I watched TV shows and movies and knew a baby would someday be part of my narrative. (To be fair, too, I also daydreamed about going to Paris.)
I’ve always been the “career type,” and I cultivated a successful public relations and writing career at a young age. What many didn’t know about me was that I used to daydream about my future children’s names and who they would grow up to become. I would see others my age with children already, and an ache often erupted into my consciousness. On the outside, I had it all, but there were still aspects of life I desired more than anything. I kept those dreams locked inside my heart so I could shelter them from the burning sun.
Fast forward to meeting my husband and making the decision that we wanted to try to have a child. “It should be easy,” I thought. “Time is still on my side.”Little did I know that I was not in control. It didn’t matter how much we planned, prayed, and focused on having a child. In the end, we are not the ones in control of such a destiny.
My first pregnancy ended in a loss that changed my life forever on June 4, 2019. I experienced a very early miscarriage at five weeks while at home, my two cats comforting me by my side. I didn’t know what to think or feel. I felt numb and that my body sabotaged my truest desire to be a mother. I felt alone in my loss and knew I wanted to help others.
Almost seven months later, I discovered I was pregnant again. This pregnancy resulted in our rainbow baby, Luke. Words will never be able to describe how I felt when he was born. To have a baby after a loss — especially when your first pregnancy was a loss — is something I will never take for granted.
I had another miscarriage on April 20, 2021. This one was at around six weeks, and it’s something I wasn’t anticipating in several capacities. Nothing prepares you for a loss, especially the losses of two of your children. I will always remember the spring snowfall that blanketed our yard that morning as my heart broke again. It’s burned into my memory.
Now, I know the pain of pregnancy losses. I know the excitement of planning a baby’s nursery in my head, only to wake up to a miscarriage process. I know what’s it’s like to not even be able to give your baby a name, to not see this child grow up, to never even meet your child. To live in a world of unknowns that aren’t comforting when your grief overwhelms you. I know what it’s like to not get the most basic support you need and to not fully understand the entire process from a medical standpoint.
Now, I truly know because two pregnancy losses are part of my living history.
If you have lost a child at any stage of life, you know its highly specific brand of grief. Once this happens, you cannot go back to where you were before. It’s like when Alice says in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, “I can’t go back to yesterday. I was a different person then.”
The reality is, one in four pregnancies ends in a pregnancy loss. According to the Mayo Clinic, the majority of those losses occur before week 20 of gestation and can be attributed to various causes — or sometimes have no explanation at all.
Often, we don’t have nearly the number of resources available to us in our moments of active miscarriages. We may not receive the empathy we need and deserve from those around us. We may grasp at any possible sign of hope when something sounds promising at the moment.
During this October’s National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Month, I want to share what I have learned after experiencing two pregnancy losses:
Have empathy for the unseen.
Grief is complicated, and there were so many times that I looked OK on the outside but was screaming on the inside. As a public relations practitioner, I have to hold it together to ensure that pressing communications matters are met. After I compartmentalize my own emotions and thoughts to get the job done, I am able to revisit them.
Be compassionate. Listen to your partner, friend, sister, coworker, or anyone who is going through this. Just do things for them. Often, when we go through grief, we cannot communicate what we need. Bring them dinner, give them space to come to you, and be patient. Don’t make their pain about you. If you feel uncomfortable, just remember that they are going through the loss of their child. Small gestures can mean the most. And if you’re the one going through this loss, don’t be afraid to tell people that you don’t feel like talking, and put up boundaries to shield negativity if that is needed. For example, you don’t need to make anyone feel better and more comfortable during this process except for yourself (and maybe your partner as needed).
Advocate for yourself.
I have never advocated so much for myself than during my two miscarriages and my son’s pregnancy. While there are so many people who want the best for you, there are others who allow things to slip through the cracks. It’s important to ask questions of your medical providers. Also, if you feel like you’re not being treated with respect during your period of grief, don’t be afraid to let someone know. It can be challenging if you naturally do not like conflict, but sticking up for yourself will pay dividends. You will have closure in the particular situation and could have some answers to your most pressing questions and fears. I have so many stories of not being treated well during these three pregnancies. In fact, it’s one of the main motivators for me wanting to help others going through situations like this.
Do your own research. While this can be a black hole, especially when you Google symptoms and other medical conditions. Research can be a valuable tool and will allow you to form your own questions and educate yourself about processes and emotions.
Unplug from social media (and other events).
Something that was incredibly helpful for me during both losses was staying off of social media. All of us know that social media can be damaging to our mental health, and it’s increasingly evident during a period of grief. I didn’t want to see others’ pregnancy announcements, growing baby bump photos, newborn photos, anything that even mentioned the word “baby.” It caused an entire host of emotions, from explosive anger to extreme depression. It’s no one’s fault, but these triggers began to really tear into my psyche. So, I took breaks from social media. I deleted apps from my phone and dedicated the time I would spend mindless scrolling to other activities. It’s OK to take a break — either temporary or permanent — from social media. It’s OK to not attend someone else’s baby shower or go to a family event if you are triggered or just feel down. It’s OK to press the “unfollow” button, to not watch a certain TV show, or take some days off work. You don’t have to meet anyone else’s expectations or even your own when you are in this period of grief.
Even this essay can be triggering for some. Come back to it and other pieces of pregnancy loss content when you feel up to it. And if you never do come back to what you missed, it’s OK.
Get help when you need it.
I used to think that I could handle everything myself. In fact, I still have that thought distortion and have to nip it in the bud. One of the best things I did during my first miscarriage was going to therapy on a regular basis. I was able to step into my grief, allowing it to wash over me, as I figured things out. I am still in therapy and recommend it to anyone who wants to learn to accept what you can’t or don’t want to change and then change the other parts of your life that hold you back. While this may seem intimidating, try to attend an in-person or virtual group therapy session. I did this during my second miscarriage, and it was so helpful. While you don’t wish this pain on anyone else, it is comforting to know that you are not alone. There are others who share their stories and help you on your own healing journey.
While it’s so challenging to ask for help in the throes of your grief, even the slightest help can alleviate anxiety and depression. Ask for someone to bring you food, help with laundry, watch your child (if you have one here), and anything else that will provide you with some solace. If you or someone you know is struggling with the grief of your child, get your own version of help.
Keep your child’s legacy alive.
This looks different for everyone, and it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. Most people would want to push away the pain, to never think about a period of grief like this. That line of thinking does us no favors. Burying the grief along with our children will not allow us to heal. Instead, I have chosen to keep my children’s legacies alive by sharing my story. I recently released Healing Your Heart: A Prompted Journal for Pregnancy Loss, which allows anyone dealing with a pregnancy or infant loss to chronicle their journeys. No matter how challenging it is, writing or communicating about your loss will begin your healing journey.
Do what works for you. Write letters to your child, give him or her a memorial, burn a candle in his/her memory every time your due date arrives. Keep your child’s memory alive in ways that make you comfortable. It’s OK to not want to share your story with the world, but it’s also OK if you want to do that. Legacies take all shapes and forms.
I am blessed beyond measure to have one earthside child, Luke. He is my rainbow between two storms. I will never forget what I have lost. I am forever changed and cannot go back to the person I was before all of this happened. I wouldn’t want to. These babies, in addition to our earthside child, made me a mother. It’s what I always wanted and will always cherish.
Mothers can carry DNA from their pregnancies in their bodies for decades, according to several studies. This phenomenon is called microchimerism.
I will carry them with me, always. And I hope this gives you comfort, too.
Kaylin R. Staten, APR, is an award-winning, accredited public relations practitioner and writer based in Huntington, WV, with 18 years of professional communications experience. As CEO and founder of Hourglass Media, she uses her compassionate spirit and expertise to delve into the heart of clients’ stories. She is a mental health advocate, wife, mom, and Leia Organa aficionado. Connect with Kaylin on LinkedIn.
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