A Meditation on Grief, Strength and Honoring the Experience, By Brooke Cates
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, and here at Bloom, we are passionate about breaking the silence that surrounds the grief and trauma of losing a baby. Throughout the month we will be sharing stories of mothers who have weathered the storm, exploring the emotional and physical ways you can process grief, and talking about how you can support someone near and dear to you who has experienced loss.
Miscarriage is common. In fact, 10 to 20% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. This makes it even more important that we normalize these hard conversations and redefine how we deal with our trauma. The more we talk about this, heal and move through the pain - that’s how we honor our children.
Below is a blog Bloom founder Brooke Cates wrote in the very early days after her own miscarriage several years ago. It’s full of the raw grief of loss, anger, confusion - and the attempt to find a path towards healing. For mamas who have experienced loss, we hope you can find some solace in her words. For those who have not, it’s an insight into what your friends or family members might go through after losing a baby.
IT’S TIME TO TALK ABOUT MISCARRIAGE
After 14 years together and three years married, my husband, Pete, and I decided we were ready to expand our love and start a family. We chose to start in April with the attitude of "not, not trying." In May when we found out we were expecting, we were stunned and thrilled that it had happened so fast, so easy. It felt almost too good to be true, and maybe it was.
My 1st trimester was a breeze.
Only a couple of bouts of sickness, some minor food aversions, and a few fun cravings that I somehow managed to keep within my super strict diet. Overall, I was feeling great during the first 12 weeks and absolutely in love with being pregnant!
Exactly one day after officially sharing our baby joy with the world, I started to experience signs of loss.
I woke up in the middle of the night with my body moving through what felt like labor. I immediately knew something was wrong. The joy we had experienced in the previous months was quickly replaced with sadness, confusion, and a full-body numbness that I had no vocabulary for. I labored for 3 hours in the comfort of my home with my amazing husband holding space right beside me. This was not the picture of birth I had in mind. We were devastated.
How could this happen to us?
I had spent the past year preparing my body for this pregnancy, doing everything I could to ensure the most healthy state for myself and our future child. I saw my osteopath consistently every two weeks, ate a non-inflammatory diet, ONLY drank water and the occasional glass of wine, exercised four days a week, and spent ample time outside. I was also blessed to have an incredibly fulfilling relationship with my partner, amazingly supportive girlfriends, and I adored my work. I was so confused, so angry, so sad.
Aside from the intense emotional pain I was experiencing, I was also struck with the reality that just as we had publicly shared the beautiful excitement of expecting our first child. We now had to face the numbing idea of sharing our loss. Being in the birth world, I knew I had to speak about my experience in the same transparent way I always talk about things.
As I was moving through some of the heaviest, deepest pain I'd ever felt, I realized that everything was going to be okay. This experience was simply a part of my story. More than that, the reality is that this type of loss happens to thousands of women every day. Statistically, one out of every four pregnancies ends in a loss.
However, the majority of women who experience miscarriage tend to keep it to themselves, or only share it with a few of their dearest friends and loved ones.
Why aren't we talking about this?
Talking about miscarriage isn't easy, but I believe it's a part of the healing process. It's crucial in honoring your experience and your little one. For in talking, we heal. In sharing our stories, we connect to one another, gain the ability to relate and help others who've experienced a loss like this.
Through talking about it, we can stare our pain in the face. When more of us share what it’s like to experience loss, more women who are suffering will be empowered to speak out. It will become clear that many women go through this, but keep the pain close to their hearts due to the stigma and fear surrounding miscarriage.
The fear of talking about loss is why most women don't announce their pregnancies until 13 or 14 weeks. If only we'd waited to announce our news - just one more day - maybe I would have chosen to keep quiet too. But now there was no turning back. I didn't have that choice; I had to take the road less traveled. The circumstances of my loss gave me the opportunity to help other women gain their voices by being vocal myself, and talk to others about their experiences, their pain, their anger, and the babies they lost.
Here I stood in the midst of the most terrible storm, and like a buffalo, I was ready to find the strength needed and the stance required to face this dreadful storm.
Knowing that real strength comes in several forms, I understood that my strength would be gained in time. The strength I’m talking about is constantly shifting, in a soft yet sturdy manner to support every step of our journey. Strength isn't always about standing tall and being tough. Often it calls us to crumble to the ground and be rebuilt. Ready to face all the emotions required to move through this painful experience.
I was willing to be vulnerable in sharing my story with anyone who asked because I knew in doing so, I would be a part of the ripple being created, in order to shift the fear of miscarriage. I wouldn’t share the sugar-coated story of my loss, but the real deep, raw human experience, the one that I hoped would help other women share and grieve with one another. To come together to find solace in their pain.
In moving through this loss over the past several days, I feel stronger than ever in stating that we need a village. It takes a village — a village that is willing to both celebrate and suffer with us. Brokenness is not meant to be dealt with alone. When we can be that village for others, we build a thread strong enough to heal wounds that run deeper than we can see.
immense love and support that Pete and I have received has filled us to the brim and provided an unusually bright light in a rather dark time. Please know that in writing this, I’m not looking for sympathy, nor am I searching for more “I'm sorries.” I'm hoping for change! Change in the way we talk (or don't talk) about common pregnancy complications like miscarriages. Change in the way we allow ourselves to be vulnerable enough to heal in a deeper way than we ever thought possible.
So, as deeply saddened as I am about losing our much-longed-for child, I’m sharing my story in hopes that others feel safe enough to share theirs. The more we talk about our losses in pregnancy, the more healing we will experience.
The ache is real. It comes and goes, and the smallest comment or thought can break me to pieces I never knew I'd crumble to, yet I refuse to stay broken. I won't allow myself to remain in the hurt, in the anger, in the whys? I face each one of them. I choose to sit with them for as long as I need, but I always rise and allow myself to recognize the beauty that exists in all tragedies.
After all, healing from tragedy is what helps us grow. And often we grow the most when faced with the most painful experiences.
When I allow myself the ability to step back from this loss, alter my perspective ever so slightly, move through it, and feel the pain as it ebbs and flows - this is where I grow. These moments are where I honor my pregnancy, my child, and the loss of my son. Sinking deeper into the sadness does me no good, although some days that seems like the easier road. It sure is less congested and doesn't have all the long, hard stops along the way. But to be completely honest, I enjoy looking at life as one big learning and growth experience.
We take part in many life lessons, and it’s all in the way we approach these teachings, the way we gracefully dance through both the challenging and the breezy aspects of life - this is when we powerfully shift into the beings we are to become!
Here's to other women who have lost their babies too early, may you be able to see through the muck and know that beauty exists even in the most tragic times. Knowing that it's more than okay to talk about the pain of losing to a miscarriage, it’s necessary for the healing journey you need to embark on. For those on the receiving end, it's okay just to recognize the sadness in front of you and hold space where it's needed.
There is no reason to let someone else’s loss make you feel uncomfortable. There is enough discomfort in the mama moving through the experience. A warm embrace, a willingness to listen, and maybe even the occasional “FUCK LOSS” is all we need.
And to the all sweet babies, gone too soon, (the ones gifted to moms like me) even for just a short while, you are far too loved to ever be forgotten. I like to believe that you will all find your way back to us. Maybe it's just that you had far deeper lessons to teach us before joining us here on earth.