by Ellen DuBois
Some twenty-years ago I lost my baby to miscarriage. To say it was one of the loneliest, most isolating times of my life is an understatement. Nobody saw my baby. I never held my sweet baby. So, why was I overcome with such profound grief?
When you suffer a miscarriage, many people don’t view your loss as ‘real’. If they do, there seems to be a limit on the time you’re allowed to grieve. All too quickly women hear, don’t you think you should be over this by now? Or the dreaded, it was meant to be, and there was probably something wrong with the baby, and lastly, you can always have another.
Like this baby didn’t count? My baby did count, and I wanted to scream it to the world! That’s how I felt all those years ago, and sadly, many women feel still feel the same today. As far as we’ve come in terms of miscarriage awareness, support sites, groups, books on miscarriage and so on, we’ve got a long way to go. But, at least we’re heading in the right direction. Step by step.
At twenty-four years old, I stood knee deep in the fallout of my miscarriage. I felt like a wet, heavy blanket was draped around my shoulders. My husband, (at the time), and I didn’t talk about it much. He didn’t get the connection I’d already formed with my unborn. After sixteen-weeks of pregnancy, suddenly, I wasn’t. My body felt pregnant. My heartfelt pregnant. My hormones were a mess. I was bloated, depressed, and cried at the drop of a hat. I avoided pregnant women like the plague along with anything having to do with babies. The thought of attending a baby shower made me cringe. I barely made is past the baby isle in the grocery store without suffering a panic attack, or fighting back a deluge of tears.
Please don’t get me wrong. I was happy for friends and family who were pregnant; it’s just that pregnancy was a reminder of what I lost. It stung. I couldn’t break free from the world of “Why not me?” Why couldn’t it be me? Why did I lose my baby? Why…why…why?
My grief lasted a long time. I’m not talking months, although I improved slowly. I’m talking years. Much that had to do with how little I shared with anyone. I wanted to talk. I wanted to see a counselor…anything. But, it didn’t happen for some time.
I was back to work within a week of my D&C, but I was just going through the motions and still wearing that heavy blanket. By the time July rolled around, I was so run down I landed in bed with a double lobe pneumonia. That’s how I spent my Fourth of July. There were so many tears, so many words left unspoken, and so much kept inside. I busied myself to the point of distraction so I wouldn’t have to think. Every time I thought, my mind went straight to the baby I lost and missed terribly. The tears flowed again and again and the emptiness wouldn’t go away.
Carrying so many emotions inside, very sad ones, made me sick- literally.
There were days I thought I was losing it. There were moments I wondered if I was crazy. Why couldn’t I let go? Where was the relief? Why couldn’t I talk to my husband about it without him getting worked up or wanting to avoid the subject and me all together?
And so it went.
I learned over time that I wasn’t crazy or losing it for feeling like I did. What I discovered after my miscarriage and divorce and lots of grieving was this: I was normal in feeling what I did. My life took on a “new normal” after my miscarriage because I suffered a very real loss- one that went unacknowledged by many. I learned so much out of self-preservation. I searched and searched for something that spoke to me and my pain and there wasn’t much out there- not back then. I had to dig deep into my faith and into myself to find ways to cope and heal.
I remember the day, eleven years after my miscarriage. I was sitting at the kitchen table when a feeling so strong overcame me and ‘urged’ me to write about my experiences and life after miscarriage. The need to reach out to other women was incredibly powerful and I couldn’t ignore it. After all those years, I knew it was time to dive in to something I never thought I would: revisiting miscarriage and giving validation and support to those who needed it. Even if I reached just one person, I had to give it a try. Why? Because I didn’t want anyone feeling as alone and isolated as I did after I miscarried.
The Internet wasn’t really around when I miscarried, but it was eleven years later. I learned about e-books and wrote a short one about what I went through after miscarriage combined with steps I took along my journey toward healing. I emphasized that healing didn’t mean forgetting. You don’t forget losing your baby to miscarriage just like you wouldn’t forget any other loss. My support site was launched in 2006, and I began receiving comment after comment from women who needed to voice themselves- to let it out. They were living the nightmare I’d lived and felt they had no one to talk to. MiscarriageHelp.com proved to be a place where women and their families were heard and supported by me and by others who’d lived it. I respond to each comment and have for six years.
My e-book grew into a paperback. I wrote much more and was honored to have Dr. Linda Backman, a licensed psychologist and grief counselor, write a heartfelt foreword and several of the beginning chapters.
Even today, I feel the sting. I know what it’s like to lose a dream nobody saw, but you loved with all your heart. I have trudged through the muck, fighting my way from a place of desperate existence to living and experiencing joy again. I have been inspired by the strength of others. Women who are grieving the loss of their own babies to miscarriage reach out and offer words of comfort to others on my site. I am amazed by their strength. We are sisters tied by a common thread. We know, and we are there for each other.
I’ve come to realize that in my life, there have been reasons for everything that’s happened. You couldn’t have told me that when I was smack dab in the middle of my grief, and I’d never say it to a woman who was in the throes of grief. I had a long road to walk after my miscarriage. We all do. It wasn’t easy. There were bumps and I stumbled often.
Boy does it help when there’s a hand reaching out when you stumble.
Would I want to live it again? No. Who would? Do I believe we all have the capacity to turn adversity into something positive? Yes. It’s all a choice and we all cope differently. We all heal differently and what we choose to do with our life lessons is up to us. There is no right or wrong, just a common goal: that of healing.
I feel my baby around me all the time. My sweet Alex inspired me and was with me long enough to leave an impression on my heart that will never, ever go away. He is the reason for my book. He is the reason for my outreach. He is the reason I care so deeply for those who have miscarried- for those who just need know someone cares and understands.
To all those who have lost a baby, or sadly, more than one, to miscarriage, I am deeply sorry for your loss.
And to my son:
I never held you my little one, but I loved you with all my heart. Still do.
About the Author: Ellen M. DuBois is the author of I Never Held You, a book about miscarriage, grief, healing, and recovery. Available on Amazon in paperback and in Kindle/download formats, Barnes and Noble, and more. She is host of the support site Miscarriage Help. Ellen resides in Massachusetts with her fiancé and Baron the Dachshund.