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Tori’s Stories: A Doula-mentary

October is, among many other things, National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month

This one is a hard one, guys, because no one wants to think or talk about the tragedies.  It’s very easy to extrapolate what has happened to others into what is happening with you.  If you are suffering from a loss of a baby, I know you don’t need a special day/week/month to remember.  You remember Every. Damn. Day.  But often this month can be healing, to those who have not acknowledged it aloud, or to those who have not shared their story yet.  It can also be a beautiful reminder to actually pause and mindfully remember what has happened in our lives, and in the lives of 25% of the women around us. So let's talk about the hard stuff, because light is essential in cleaning out the dark.

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Things I’ve learned about Perinatal Loss From Personal and Work Experience

A loss is still a loss. 
6 weeks or 6 months or 6 years, a mother often already has hopes and dreams and excitement wrapped up in that child, and grief is, in the end, mourning the loss of “what should have been”.

There is nothing much that can be done for a pregnancy until the baby becomes viable. 
That is to say that if your body shows signs of a miscarriage before 15-18 weeks *at the earliest* then there isn’t much that can be done to stop it.

This is something your care provider will deal with on a daily basis.
Some of the most amazing medical care providers I know are very analytical thinkers.  To them, there is a REASON you don’t do your pregnancy confirmation appointments until 8-12 weeks in to a pregnancy.  This doesn’t mean they don’t care.  It just means they have to keep it professional sometimes, and sadly you may walk out of that appointment feeling a little unsupported.  I *promise* you, they care, even if you need to look elsewhere for the emotional support.

Allowing yourself to grieve is important.
This is not wallowing.  This is an important part of working through your loss. 

Loss is not easier when you didn’t tell anyone you were pregnant yet.
Then you’re sitting behind a crushing wall of silence because no one knew you had anything to celebrate, so they have no idea that you’ve lost anything either.  People often feel the need to act “normal” in their everyday life but they don’t feel normal.

Each loss is unique.
If someone has suffered more than one loss, they may very likely feel different, but *just as strongly* about it each time.  Be patient with yourself and those who have lost.  It doesn't get "easier" each time. 

The words “At least” are some of the least compassionate words out there. 
“At least you already have a child.”  “At least you know you can get pregnant again.”  “At least it was early, and your body is showing signs of being ready again when you are.”  “At least…”, even though well intentioned, often means, “I’ve had enough of your grief, let’s find something to be positive about.”  Compassion begins with allowing someone to exist in their grief without making them feel better.  Empathy is climbing down there with them, crying with them, and feeling the sadness with them.  And then letting *that person* decide when its time to feel better.

Partners often feel these losses differently, and neither way is better or right.
Or one partner may experience extreme feelings of loss while the other doesn’t get it.  Grief and loss are intensely personal, and should be dealt with in whatever way the person feeling it needs.  This can cause stress between partners though, if not discussed and appreciated in one another.

There are 1 in 4 women who suffer a perinatal loss. 
25%.  When you and your three best friends head out to dinner, remember that statistics show that one of you will have suffered a loss.

The numbers don’t offer any comfort. 
But knowing that I was likely surrounded by women who has suffered this as well made it tremendously helpful to feel like I could open up and share how terribly shitty I was feeling about the whole thing.

You will feel better again one day.
Better.  Not necessarily whole.  But better.  Like all kinds of loss, we make it a part of us, and we continue with other amazing advenures in life, never really leaving it behind, but moving with it until we are more fully ourselves because of it.  But that day might not be today, and that's ok.

If you know someone who has experienced a loss, please remember that the way you might deal with it is probably not the way they might.  They will need to do their own thing.  It’s helpful to check in every once in a while about it.  You’re not “reminding her” of something terrible that she has forgotten. Often just acknowledging it can help her feel like she’s not alone, she’s not crazy, and for a brief period, she *did* have a baby.

You guys, *talk about it*.  Tell people how you are doing when they ask.  Ask your friend even if you know what she might say.  And if you are ready to move through a loss, but don't feel like you can, it's good and right and just to ask for help.  There are places and people who specialize in this kind of thing.

 

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About Victoria

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Victoria is mom to three precocious preschool-aged sons, proud Army wife, and owner of Doulas of Fredericksburg.  She enjoys spending time in her not-so-fruitful vegetable garden, and believes with every fiber of her being that in order to raise capable and confident kiddos, we should leave no stone unturned (and no support left untouched) to find these qualities in ourselves!

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