The Shape of Miscarriage

Easter weekend is early this year. While I’m not a religious person, I am in tune with the seasons and feel attached to dates throughout the year. Easter weekend 10 years ago was when I miscarried my first child. So, each year at Easter, I hold space for this memory, pain, and what could have been.

I have written about key dates that we remember before. This is a different kind of post, one that may be hard for some to read. Today I’m writing to share what happened to me when I miscarried. I feel like I need to share this here but please don’t feel like you have to read further.

I was 12 weeks along in my pregnancy, and had already met my lovely team of midwives. I was planning to announce the pregnancy at the various family get-togethers over the long weekend. What better time than Easter and the resurgence of Spring to announce a baby is to be born, right?

No, that’s not a good time after all.

Instead, my partner and I spent the weekend going back and forth to the hospital. We canceled most of our plans to be with others, and hibernated from the world as we knew what was happening.

I had begun spotting at work earlier that week, and instinctually figured out that it was not something to ignore. I have had my period since I was a mere nine year old child, so have always been in tune with my body. A call and visit to the midwife confirmed that my pregnancy hormones were dropping and she couldn’t hear a heartbeat. As it was a long weekend ahead, she suggested I go to to emergency if anything happened. Sure enough, the spotting turned to blood and I got 3 blood tests and a “lovely” intrauterine ultrasound over the course of the weekend.

Instead of eating scores of chocolate eggs, being surrounded by family, and sitting around talking about life with a baby, I cried and changed MANY pads that were soaked with blood. Each day.

Luckily for me, I was able to complete the miscarriage naturally. I mean “luckily” in a sarcastic way of course, and yet a part of me is gratified that I was able to avoid the dreaded D&C. I say dreaded as I had worked at an abortion and reproductive rights clinic and know what ordeal some patients have to go through. I also chose to wait out the inevitable instead of taking the meds that would help quicken the process. Looking back, I can’t quite remember my reasoning for that decision. Other than a hope that we were all wrong, and that I had such trust that my body knew what to do. I have absolutely no judgement for any one who makes a different choice: clearly I am all about choice and doing what is best for our own selves. For me, this is what felt right.

But that week, when I still was off from work, my body expelled what was left of my ovum. It came out with such a force, that it was intact and full. It fit perfectly in my palm. My partner was at work, and I remember how scared I was. I was so depleted, both emotionally and physically. I had to call him to come home as I knew my body was in such turmoil. I left what was left of my pregnancy in the sink. I was able to catch it when it came out, but after that, I remember not knowing what to do. I had lost a lot of blood, and I remember being as white as a ghost. I left it there to hold space for the baby that never was, and also to show my partner what I had to endure. We chose not to give it any more weight. So instead of burying it and doing something more meaningful, I said bye and discarded it. I remember the polarizing mixed feelings I went through – as a Feminist who believes in having choice, for being in charge of my own body, it felt like I shouldn’t do more. And yet as a woman who wanted to have a baby, I felt like I needed to grieve more.

Soon afterward, I remember events that will always be tied to this part of my story. Maybe that same week or the one following, I went to one of my favourite restaurants with my partner. No one there knew our secret. We went there during lunch, when things are typically quiet. And yet there I was beside a very pregnant woman, who was sitting beside a new mom and her tiny newborn. What are the chances of that – it felt like a Klimt painting come to life – the Stages of Motherhood.

Soon after that, I was in a therapy session with a client. She had news for me – she had been unexpectedly pregnant recently too and miscarried. While she was not as far along in her pregnancy, it was just as painful for her. I was not ready for this news. I did not self-disclose then as it was much to raw, but I realized I was not ready to return to work yet. Sometimes, going back to a routine is key, but we also need to the time we need to process, grieve and heal.

I had scheduled a follow-up with my midwife. I had to have some final lab work down to confirm that I was no longer pregnant. But since I had officially miscarried, I was told that I was no longer a patient of the Midwife clinic. While this made sense logically – their services are for pregnant people after all, I felt abandoned and left alone. And I remember being sad that I couldn’t say goodbye to them. I still had the continued support of my family doctor, but I remember wishing that I could have more. This article was recently published and the author also talks about how confusing it is, to feel at fault when there is nothing to be at fault for.

This is one of the reasons i now do this work, providing support to women who experience miscarriage or stillborn loss. We can’t do this alone. We deserve better than that. The stigma of miscarriage needs to be addressed and abolished. I really admire the work of such organizations as The 16 Percent, We the Mamas initiative and I Had a Miscarriage Instagram account. The stories that are shared bring a communal voice to something that had been quiet for too long. I was told to “wait” until I got past the 12 week mark. My own mom experienced 2 miscarriages and 1 stillborn loss before (and after) I was born. Forty years later, we are still being told to wait. Well, I sure could have had the support of my village when I experienced my loss.

I recently read this article and it really resonated with me; when her therapist suggested that the journal she had been using was not as helpful as she thought. I also learned that when I write, it needs to be cathartic, and not just a place to purge.I started to write in my journal and turned even more inward. When that wasn’t enough, I started to practice the tools I suggest to my own clients, around mindfulness and body work like dance classes and yoga. I started telling people about my experience, and friends shared their experience with me.

For months after, going my period was such an ordeal. It was messy, heavy, and triggering. The first cycles were especially hard as they were accompanied by severe cramping, a different colour and level of blood, and they were filled with worry that I may not get pregnant again. I will always remember my trip to New York City with my mom and sister. One of our only trips with just the 3 of us and it was July. It was such a hot month and my period came early and with such a vengeance. But I fought back and am glad that i had already told my mom what I had experienced – we have that in common now, and I trusted I would have her compassion. After that month, my cycle returned to my normal.

And I conceived again in October that same year; my first-born Earthside will be 9 this year. That’s another story for another time.

If you have had a similar experience, please don’t hesitate to contact. WE don’t need to do this alone.

Holding Space for Your Loss


Today is October 15. Besides being a windy, cool Fall day here in Toronto, it also marks a global day of remembrance for those families that have lost babies either during pregnancy or as a young infant. I’m sitting at home watching the evening sky come into view. After a day of rain, the hues outside are a very fitting shade of pink, blue and purple – the chosen colours of today.

I am one of those 1 in 4. And before i started this work, i didn’t share the info so openly. Now, it’s a part of life both as a quiet identity and one that knows i need not feel shame. In my own journey as someone who has lost a baby by miscarriage, and as a therapist now supporting families and women with their own loss, this past year is a very meaningful one for my own growth and healing. It seems fitting, then that i wanted to share with you some helpful ways we can hold space for others and companion them after experiencing a loss like this.

While i have found ways to heal from my own miscarriage, i still take time to acknowledge this loss. One thing that i do still is to keep this Desert Rose crystal near my bed. As my children who are alive Earthside sleep down the hall from me, this beautiful creation from nature is close to my bed. Desert Rose helps to support grief especially related to miscarriage. It is very grounding and i love how fragile and strong it is at the same time.

I took a course this past year that really confirmed for me what ‘holding space’ means. Amy Wright Glenn leads a very healing and comprehensive course that is open to anyone to participate in. She talks about how holding space means to deliberately check in with your friend, to not shy away from being direct and asking they are doing. Those of us that have lost do want you to ask about how we are coping with this loss, and to acknowledge our grief. This is a key tool as so many of us are afraid to go down that road, like asking may bring up feelings for the person experiencing grief that we ourselves are not sure how to support. It’s a good reminder that to truly companion someone, we may need to be a bit uncomfortable and step outside our small talk zone. it’s not about our comfort but rather their pain.

There are some amazing ways to hold space and heal, and still find a way to keep the baby we lost close to us. Molly Bears is a great example of this: you can order a teddy bear that is the exact same weight as your baby. To be able to feel and hold all over again, to be able to connect with this feeling in your body can be really healing and gratifying. You can plant a tree or garden, or have a special place in your home that your baby sits at. I know some women who have gotten a commemorative tattoo or beautiful necklace with their baby’s name on it. Carrrying something with you is a powerful way to feel connected.

We can hold space for others in so many ways too. For instance, i recently flew my favourite butterfly kite in honour of a couple i work with. They were acknowledging the anniversary of their child’s birth by flying kites with a group of family and friends. While i wasn’t there with them, i was definitely there in spirit. This can be done in so many ways – light a candle for someone else like the Wave of Light campaign, say hi to the sunrise, donate to a children’s charity of some kind in honour of a baby you never got to meet. Send your loved one a text or call them on an important anniversary or just to say you were thinking of their baby when you saw someone who would be the same age. The website October 15 has an amazing and thoughtful list of ways you can support someone who is grieving this devastating loss.

Finally, remember there are so many different ways to grieve, and it is not up to anyone else to decide when we have moved on or not. Grief and mourning are not as linear as the Stages of Loss proclaims. I like the idea of a river, that has ebb and flow and change. It can be quiet for a bit, but then a trigger (like a baby the same age yours would have been) can make the water turn into intense white rapids.

So, if you know someone who has lost a baby, take a moment for them today or this month to let them know you were thinking of them. You could send flowers, or a meal, or just hold space by being present with them and letting them know you were thinking of them.

Dates to Remember

Timing means a lot to me. I know not everything happens for a reason, but i can appreciate when some things happen just when i’m ready to open more. Strange how that happens. I’m also good with remembering dates. I still remember my first boyfriends’ birthdays, you know the boys i dated in high school. And i’m in my 40s now…I also remember other more pressing dates and like to honour special dates throughout the year.

In reflecting back about my own loss, something i have learned about myself and the women i support is that we need to be intentional with how we take care of ourselves on dates that are hard – whether it is an anniversary of a loved one’s death, a larger community loss like December 6/Montreal Massacre, or Remembrance Day. We can feel the date slowly start to creep into our consciousness so it’s helpful to prepare for it mentally.

heart-rocks

Someone recently shared a very powerful and heartfelt article about her miscarriage loss. It came into my feed on social media and i couldn’t believe the timing: just 2 days prior to the anniversary of what would have been my first baby’s expected due date.

So, when i noticed that November 19 was fast approaching, i started to prepare for it and take care of myself. This is not an easy task as a working mom of two energetic kids. And my kids don’t know that they could have had an older sibling, or that 9 years ago i would have had another first child.

I thought i was being more mindful and attuned to my feelings, but life still gets in the way. Friday was a PA day and the weather was glorious outside. Maybe because it was so lovely out, maybe because the kids felt my energy, maybe because i was just too introspective, but wow was it ever hard to be a parent that day. I take that back – it wasn’t hard to BE a parent, but rather have the presence and patience to parent my children when i was not feeling my best.

A good learning moment for sure. Luckily, after a stressful morning, we had a lovely play date (for all of us!) all afternoon at our local favourite park. I also scheduled in a luxurious facial for myself on The Day and told my partner i needed to take some time to myself. This helped – i didn’t want to assume he remembered the date or that he knew what i wanted. Telling him directly is something i’ve learned is the only way for me to get what i want and need.

For me, i have moved on with my life and don’t need a whole day of self-reflection, but i do need some time to honour my miscarriage and to take a moment to slow down and breathe out.

This made my day so much better and helped with my healing.