Susan Desmarais, Counselor
Our culture has many national days or months of observance. We set aside time for people to come together or individually pause, remember and reflect on beginnings and endings. Some endings are more openly spoken of than others. Some are held close to one’s heart and while they dim with time the poignancy never completely recedes. Between 10 and 20% of pregnancies will end in miscarriage. One in 160 will result in stillbirth. Making the death of a baby in utero far more common than many realize. Yet the sorrow is silent, borne in parents hearts, usually without supportive ritual to offer solace, a bit of comfort.
Understandably and sadly many don’t know what to say to a newly grieving parent. Understandable because our culture at large doesn't give grief or grieving people tender space in which to be with loss, pain and emptiness. We feel awkward saying something, not wanting to make someone cry or make them think of their loss. But please know this…giving someone the chance to cry is healing, speaking about their loss validates it and tells them someone else recognizes their pain….that they are not alone.
When a baby dies in utero or during labor words are never adequate..except to say…. I don’t know what to say, words fail me. October is National Pregnancy Loss Month, hopefully during this month parents will know they are not alone in their loss. What follows here is an essay written by me after my final miscarriage.
What I Didn’t Get to Tell You Then….
I didn't tell you how much I loved you from the moment I guessed you were forming, changing, growing inside of me. You were a miracle to me - as you floated in my precious vessel within - I wondered …
What color will your hair be? Red like mine? Would you have the same twinkle your Grampa had in his eyes? How many freckles would you have? No, not will you have them, freckles were a foregone conclusion. Were you going to be a girl? A boy? That didn't matter much to me.
I didn't tell my hopes for you. I hoped you would be carried on strong, sturdy legs so you could run like the wind when you wanted to. I hoped your intuition would be your north star, your very own compass. I hoped you would grow an open, resilient heart filled with compassion, light and spirit. I hoped your mind would be pliable, creative and strongly connected to your heart spirit. I hoped your breath would be easy, your eyes gentle and your smile plentiful.
I didn't get to tell you my dreams. I dreamt of feeding and rocking you as a baby. I dreamt of your first steps, the first time you smelled a flower, the petals tickling the tip of your little Irish nose as a new scent entered your senses. I dreamt of the first time a puppy kissed your sweet face and you giggled with sheer joy. I dreamt of your first day of school, the first fish that Grampa would help you catch. Oh, how he would have loved you. You would have lit his world, his heart.
I dreamt you would grow up to be a hippie, a doctor or the president, whichever path you chose would be your path, maybe you would be all three!
What I did tell you as my body started to cramp, too soon, pain from my uterus piercing my heart was…..Please Stay…………..I will love you always…..
Susan Desmarais is a counselor who specializes in working with women and families who experience miscarriage, neonatal death, medical termination of pregnancy, and stillbirth. After Susan retired from working as a bereavement counselor, she chose to offer this specialty as it is dear to her heart. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.