Thursday, July 9, 2015

Think About It

   Why don't we treat a miscarriage like a birth? Why don't we treat a miscarriage like a death? Scientifically, it is both. The baby has died. The baby must be born. Why does death and birth by miscarriage get dropped into an enormous void in which we treat it as neither? Is it something about the 20th week of pregnancy that suddenly makes a baby's death and birth more qualifying for those terms?
   Science validates both the death and the birth, so why do we as humans invalidate them? For the family it is both. Why is it different for others? Because nobody calls Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep for photos of the birth of a dead baby in your bathroom, or because the photos hold far less romantic and memorial appeal when Mama is unconscious and strapped to a table? Or is it because it's really easy to turn a blind eye to what they never saw? A bump rounding out a shirt is not as precious and memorable as tiny, wrinkly fingers and toes.
    Physically, the birth is very, very real. The mother's body does everything exactly the same, but the baby is smaller. The recovery is the same, but the belly has less mass to shrink down. If, God forbid, the mother's body cannot give birth naturally and a surgical birth is required, the physical trauma is exponentially more, and the recovery is often longer than full term birth. I can tell you from experience that the surgical birth of my tiny Asher in January was exponentially harder than any of my 4 full term live births. By 8-10 weeks post-partum with my live births, I was completely recovered and there were no signs of my recent pregnancy aside from the babe in my arms. My tiny Asher was born five and half months ago and I am still not only not physically recovered, but under medical treatment for things resulting from his birth.
   Emotionally? Let's think about that. I had severe post-partum depression with three of my four live births. I know the difficulty of those newborn weeks and the intensity of adding the very dark cloud of PPD to it, and I can tell you with certainty that the experience of empty arms, empty womb, and grief are exponentially worse than anything I dealt with during the emotional ups and downs or post-partum depression of my live births.
   It's cruel the way much of society drops the families affected by miscarriage into some void that everyone knows is there but tiptoes around hoping to avoid the awkwardness of not knowing how to respond. The only people who seem to get it are the ones who have been there. Most of us don't talk about it much because of this- because for some reason we want to protect others from feeling awkward and uncomfortable. We have a code where, "How are you?" and gentle hugs hold much more than they seem to, and unspoken undercurrent tells one another what we mean. Why on Earth are those of us experiencing the loss and pain protecting everyone else?! Why isn't everyone else trying to help US with our burdens?! THIS IS ALL SO BACKWARD!
   I don't think people  realize all of this- the cruelty and backwardness of it all. I think it's a societal norm we've been groomed into, so we don't give it a second thought. Until it's us. Until we're the ones on the table hearing the words, "I'm sorry. There's no heartbeat," kicking us off the beaten path to a much rockier, more painful, lonely one. If you're one of the blessed ones who have never touched this path, I beg you to empathize. When's the last time you took a meal to a friend or a meal train was organized for a family experiencing a loss by miscarriage the way they're organized for live births? Is it because we don't have a live baby to keep our hands full so surely we can prepare our own food? I assure you, the shock and grief had me stuck in a huddling ball on the couch much longer than a sleepless, breastfeeding newborn ever did. When's the last time you took flowers or sent a card to some one experiencing loss by miscarriage the way society says is proper etiquette to do for some one who experiences the loss of a family member? We received a couple cards in the months following Asher's birth, and those moments of thoughtfulness, those gestures of, "I'm truly hurting for you. Please know you're in my thoughts/prayers," triggered tears every time, but they were a different kind of tears, and a welcome change from the oceans I'd been crying for my son, and those cards are all in his tiny box of keepsake memories in my bedroom.
   I dare you to change the way you think. I dare you to empathize. I dare you to reach out. It doesn't matter that you don't know what to say. Just let them know you know and you care. Say their child's name, if you know it. Send them a card on his/her birthday- because it IS a birthday. Start a meal train. Send a card. Give hugs. Be a visible source of love and support, because there literally is almost NONE for those suffering. Dare to care. Awkward or not, your effort will mean so much more than words can say.


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