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Thursday, February 9, 2012

227

One of Those Things Nobody Talks About

It's funny, the plans we make for ourselves. We think about college, about our careers. About the new person we're seeing, our future families, what to cook for dinner. And we rarely stop to think about what happens when those plans don’t work out.

My husband and I were one of those couples that other people sitting in fertility clinics hate. While they go to the ends of the earth with invasive treatments and heartbreaking hopes to become parents, we got pregnant on our first try. (I maintain it was the post-hump high five. That extra “we’re awesome!” affirmation somehow translated to reproduction, I'm 94% sure.) We were ecstatic. With David’s family history of miscarriages and fertility problems, we were surprised that it happened so quickly, but we were beaming. And that was nothing compared to the excitement our parents were feeling. Our whole autumn was spent choosing names, deciding on a gender-neutral color scheme (harder than we initially thought!), and impatiently waiting until April 15, when all the things we had imagined about our baby would arrive. Our December 6 ultrasound showed us our perfectly normal, growing-slightly-ahead-of-schedule baby. We wanted to find out the sex, but the technician wouldn’t tell us and said our doctor could reveal her prediction at our next appointment on January 3. We were disappointed, but like all parents-to-be we were just happy our kidlette was healthy. Besides, if we found out before Christmas, we would just tell our families, and they'd wanted it to be a surprise.

I've never been one to abuse the health care system. I don’t go to the emergency room unless I'm absolutely positive that something is wrong. And I'd always had occasional headaches (when you live near a mountain range where winds gust at near-hurricane strength for a good portion of the year, a wintertime “Chinook migraine” isn’t out of the ordinary), but what nagged at me was the weird cramping feeling. It crept up and rendered me ineffective for most of December 21. I tried napping, and shifting, and stretching, but nothing made it subside. At 1 a.m. after poring over What to Expect and Google searches, I determined that what I was feeling probably wasn’t normal, and since I had a baby to think about and not just myself, I should probably get it checked. Both my husband and I brought books, thinking we’d need reading material for what was bound to be a horrendously long wait because I was being “one of those people.”

We were taken to Labor and Delivery immediately. I was impressed. I was positive that we were going to have to sit there for three hours only to be handed a Tylenol and told to go home to bed. My jovial state of “wow that was quick” wouldn’t last long.

Two separate nurses tried to find a heartbeat. I still was unconcerned — at my last appointment, my doctor had tried to do the same for a minute or two while my baby squirmed around trying to avoid his little machine at all costs. The nurse asked me: “When was the last time you felt any movement or kicking?” I thought about it. We had been so busy the last few days with Christmas parties and last-minute prep that I hadn’t really had any spare minutes to just sit around and feel my insides being treated like a trampoline. “This morning, I think. I haven’t really been paying attention,” I said, and felt like a bad mom. She told me that my family doctor was on his way to the hospital. This made me feel worse. I didn’t want to drag the man out of bed at 2 a.m., three days before Christmas. That just made me a bitch. I would hate me in that situation. For some reason I still felt like nothing was really wrong. I gave my urine sample, and the lab came to take some blood for testing. My doctor arrived, pressed on my abdomen to locate the unpleasantness that had brought me to the hospital, tried to find the heartbeat, and left to call the lab.

Cue “world shattering feelings” now.

Enter doctor with a grim look on his face. “I’m sorry, Jenna. We think your baby has died. We’ve ordered an ultrasound for when the technician gets in first thing in the morning to be sure. Your blood pressure is elevated, and our first priority as of this moment is to keep it from getting any higher, because right now you’re very much at risk.”

I don’t remember much after that. I remember asking if the blood-pressure medication they were giving me was safe for pregnancy. I remember grasping at the idea that any time there was any shift at all in my belly that it was our baby, and that all the medical professionals were wrong. I remember being told I would most likely be induced later that morning, and that remaining “pregnant” wouldn’t be likely. Looking back now, I’m happy that my nurses were as honest as they were. Unfortunately, I also remember David asking me if he should call our parents. I didn’t want to, thinking that there was still some hope because we didn't yet know for sure. Watching him break the news to our family members hurt a little. That’s a lie. It hurt a lot. I’m glad he didn’t ask my opinion when all of them asked if they should make the drive down. I would have said no.

In retrospect there are two moments in my stillbirth experience that will haunt me for the foreseeable future. Yes, labor sucked. What sucked even more was entering the hospital nearly 24 weeks pregnant and leaving with funeral home brochures. But those won’t stay with me nearly as long. I have never felt so (wrongfully, at that) disappointing as I did the moment they wheeled me back into my room after the suspicion-confirming ultrasound. My parents, who had arrived during the night, looked at me with hope, and all I could do was shake my head and break down into sobs. We were heartbroken. All of us. The other moment happened later that afternoon. I was “resting” due to the fact that my blood pressure was threatening to end me. I didn’t know this until later, though everyone else seemed to. Maybe I had forgotten. I was lying there with my mom and mother-in-law on either side, each of them holding one of my hands, which was a miracle on its own considering how many tubes and machines I was hooked up to. The door had been left ajar, and from down the hall we could hear the sound of a woman in active labor, and then the sounds of a newborn and the joy of everyone else in that room. It suddenly hit me that that would not be me. I would have to go through all this work of delivering my baby, and I would never hear those sounds. I would never get to take him home and hold him or love him or fight with David about whose turn it was to get up when he started crying in the middle of the night. I was devastated. All three of us started crying.

The rest of that day is a blur of different people coming in to spend time with me. Most of this time was spent with me apologizing for not being able to give them a grandson or a nephew, mostly because I really didn’t know what else to say. Part of me really did feel guilty. We had asked the nurse to look in the file and tell us what we were having. We didn’t want to pick two names. I took little comfort in knowing that my instincts of “it’s a boy” from the moment I knew I was pregnant were right. It didn’t seem to matter anymore. Nothing did. Even the reassurance from the doctors and nurses telling me that even if I had come in earlier, there was nothing we could have done. It would have just been like watching an accident occur. We wouldn’t have been able to do anything about it, or, even worse, we would have had to make a choice. In some ways I guess we were lucky that we didn’t have to.

At 10:23 the next morning I delivered our son. Because he was two days shy of 24 weeks, he was considered stillborn, and as much as I would have liked to ignore the situation and move on by pretending it never happened, we couldn’t. We had to name him and make arrangements with a funeral home. It was unpleasant at the time, but I’m glad now. I’m also glad that the nurse talked us into seeing him, holding him and spending time with him. I was worried about how he would look. My parents saw him first when I just couldn’t. My dad was right. Aside from being on the small side, he was perfect.

We have some answers about what happened, but not really good ones, and for the most part it remains unexplained which incident caused which. Apparently it just wasn’t meant to be.

The most surprising thing so far has been the aftermath. Losing a child is a strange phenomenon. People you rarely talk to or have lost track of through the years come out of the cracks in your life to tell you that they or someone they know have gone through the same thing. So why does no one talk about it? Yes, I know it’s uncomfortable and weird. I’m not necessarily a hard person to get along with, and yet I’ve had people specifically avoid talking to me because they just don’t know what to say. You don’t have to. No one does, and I don’t think that in the case of stillbirths or miscarriages there is anything you’re supposed to say. Chances are if someone you know has gone through the same thing, they won’t want to talk about it anyway. If they do, all you need to do is lend a patient ear.

The good thing is that each day gets a little easier. Yes, there are moments when I find myself unexpectedly crying, but with time it becomes less frequent. Things will go back to normal. I will always be sad about our little boy we didn’t get to bring home, but I’ve come to realize that it’s not the end of the world. We’ll try again, and I know that when we're meant to be parents, one way or another, we will be, regardless of whatever we think we have planned.

Jenna Gabert is a substitute teacher. She and her husband are looking forward to trying again soon.

227 Comments / Post A Comment

LDiggitty

Oh, honey. I'm so so sorry. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for you guys (and now I'm planning on incorporating the post-coital high-five as well!). :)

j.gab

@LDiggitty I'm 94% sure that's what it was! IMMEDIATELY PREGNANT.

Ophelia

@j.gab This is exceedingly helpful information!

amateur hour

@LDiggitty Yes, thank you so much for your story. I have had friends go through miscarriage and it is so heartbreaking, and yeah it is sometimes hard to figure out what to say or how to interact about it.

I thought I was the only person who did the post-sex high five! haha!

OhShesArtsy

Thanks for sharing, Jenna. That was really powerful.

((hugs))

atipofthehat

Thank you so much for writing about this.

Carrie Murphy@twitter

what a beautiful, honest, heartbreaking piece. thank you for sharing this.

FoxyRoxy

It's true. We don't talk about this and I'm not sure why. Sometimes, I think it's because there's nothing to say and sometimes, I think it's because there's everything to say and not enough time to say it in. Two books that were recommended to me after something similar, and so I shall pay it forward, were Elizabeth McCracken's An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination and Lida Yuknavitch's The Chronology of Water. I'm so sorry for what you went through and hope it keeps getting better.

every tomorrow@twitter

@FoxyRoxy For some reason the first rule about Death Club is nobody talks about Death Club. After a death in my immediate family I found that I had gained the ability to tell, upon telling someone about it (and I had to tell a lot of people, often in the context of "this is why I am now completely dropping the ball, please forgive me") if they had also lost an immediate family member. They all just got this look on their face, and often they would quietly reveal to me that someone close to them had died X years ago. I actually found it incredibly comforting because they knew how I felt, for real, and they wanted me to know it.

Those were also the people who were okay with me talking about it. I found that most of the people in my life who hadn't suffered some kind of catastrophic loss were not comfortable talking about it. There were a few exceptions, and I love them even more dearly for it, but I think one of the reasons people don't talk about it is because hearing it makes other people uncomfortable. I actually lost a friend because I refused to act like my brother who died had never existed, and any mention of him (even unrelated to his death -- a band comes up in conversation, I laugh and say " loved that band until they got popular and then he decided he hated them, and gave all their CDs to me!") made her so uncomfortable she either changed the subject or left.

Jenna, thank you for writing this, and I'm sorry and I ache for you, even though I can't know how you feel.

janiebee

@FoxyRoxy yes, this. i often think it would be easier if we still adhered to victorian standards of mourning - because one of the roughest conversations i had to have (over and over and over again) was the "I'm dropping the ball, please forgive me" after my brother died. its something I still struggle with, almost 10 months later, because a lot of the people around me assume that i'm done talking about him. and like you said, i will not pretend he never existed. i'm not just grieving... i MISS him. i miss talking to him, and texting him during Top Chef, and having him send me goofy pictures of his dog. I tried to explain this to my best friend, whose brother just moved down the block from her, and she just does not get it - that talking ABOUT him is the closest thing i have to talking TO him now.

So i guess I'm saying... the Death Club sucks balls. And I'm so sorry that you (and Jenna) are a part of it too. Hairpin Death Club pinup?

MatildaGold

@janiebee I'd come to that pinup.

janiebee

@MatildaGold We could get t-shirts made! "My [blank] died, get out of my way."

LabRat

@janiebee I would be at that pinup too. And I just want to tell you, it's more than two years for me, and I still feel like I'm dropping the ball all the time. I can basically promise you, you're not.

H.E. Ladypants

@every tomorrow@twitter Yes to Death Club.

I had the strangest phone conversation once. I was talking to someone about something about professional work things and she was apologizing about being late on a bunch of stuff and went on to explain that her mother had died (which I already knew from her assistant.) My father had died a few months prior and suddenly I found myself explaining this to her and telling her not to worry because I really did understand.

And there was the strangest sense of understanding after that. We talked for a moment about her mother and what she'd been going through and then politely got off the phone with no more apologies. Because, you know, we're in death club now, and we both know what it's like and that's it.

Also, yes to Victorian mourning conventions. I dreaded having to explain again and again why I'd disappeared professionally for a bit, why I was depressed and out of sorts, why, why, why. And our culture has very little room for saddness anyway. It would have been so nice to have an unspoken signal that I needed that space.

And yes, yes to the missing thing. It's sort of bittersweet in it's own way.

janiebee

@H.E. Ladypants Well, now I'm sitting here crying, but in a less horribly alone way than when I was sitting here crying yesterday. Its amazing how much it can mean to have someone say "i know what this is, i have felt this too." The death club for the (horribly depressing) win.

H.E. Ladypants

@janiebee HUGS.

We should all get emblazoned leather jackets and form a really empathetic biker gang.

:Cinnamon Girl:

@FoxyRoxy I love it when the hairpin gets serious. More serious ladies at our slumber party, pls!!!

sevanetta

@janiebee I'd come to that pinup.

Bittersweet

@H.E. Ladypants: The thing about Death Club is that all of us will become members, whether early on in life or later, so why is it so taboo to talk about?!? We totally need the studded leather jackets and Harleys so we can run around town and intimidate those people who somehow think they can avoid death by never bringing it up.

janiebee

@H.E. Ladypants Hah! the skull and crossbones would be so, so apropro. With, perhaps, Memento Mori in fire-dripping letters?

Death Club craft-y pin-up, coming right up.

Craftastrophies

@H.E. Ladypants It's totally a club! That moment of understanding between people who know that there aren't words but that we will try to say them anyway is like a warm blanket when you've got hypothermia. You're still fucking cold, but it's not so bad all of a sudden.

@every tomorrow@twitter, @janiebee, I hate the way just talking about my dad makes some people uncomfortable. I refuse to pretend like he never existed or was important to me, just because someone doesn't want to admit that death happens to everyone. "i'm not just grieving... i MISS him." really hit the nail on the head. I am finally done grieving - for now, it's pretty cyclical - but some days I just miss my dad so bad, I want to pick up the phone and hear his voice, and knowing that I can never do that again is like a punch in the gut.

It's amplified because my dad committed suicide, which I have no trouble talking about but omg STIGMA. And yet, almost every single person I talk to knows someone who has committed suicide. Some of their stories have been so helpful to me. Just knowing how many people in my life knew the deal, and had gone on with their lives, and understood, was so valuable. Yes, exactly like being in a secret society.

You guys. I'm sorry for your losses.

:Cinnamon Girl:

@Craftastrophies If I'm allowed to talk about my dad, you're allowed to talk about yours. I can't believe people would not want you to talk about him. That is atrocious and beyond comprehension to me. Ugh. People!

It's also bad because if someone doesn't know your dad is dead, you don't want to be like "my dead dad used to love hiking!" or whatever. But then if you don't clarify that he's dead and they ask follow-up, then they feel all awk for asking, even though you're mostly a cool cucumber. (I don't actually know if this happens to you because my dad is very much alive, but my dog died and when I talk about her I'm never sure whether to be all "my dead dog ____" or risk being found out when I use the present tense. Death even affects verb choices, yo! The least people could do is be cool and understanding and not awkward and stigmatizing.

FATTY VIRTUAL HUGS, YO.

:Cinnamon Girl:

@.Lauren. also, CLARIFICATION: I'm not saying that me losing my dog is of equal magnitude to losing your dad! (it's not) Just that I am a human who can, you know, imagine where you're coming from, and like you can tell us anything, including that story about your dad.

Craftastrophies

@.Lauren. I got it :) Sharing experiences is nice, even when they aren't exactly the same!

It's not that people ask you to stop, etc. But some people get SO UNCOMFORTABLE and you know, I just want to talk about some dumb joke he told, or a thing he did when I was a kid, etc, without it being a big deal. Sometimes it feels like I'm not allowed to remember my alive-dad, which sucks. That is basically exactly what happens. It's better now, as it's further away and I can just be normal about it and choose not to care if people have a problem. I still resent it, though.

Someone once told me that it's the person that dies, not your relationship with them. It's just that now, it's only you maintaining that relationship, not both of you. Sometimes negotiating that is painful, but it's worth keeping on with.

Heike

@janiebee I would come to that pinup too. My best friend died and I'm proud of myself for dropping the ball everywhere I went- I was in a phase of life when I was meeting a lot of new people so I would say, "Sorry I'm a bit vague and out of it right now, my best friend died recently and I'm not sleeping well at night."
People responded to it really well, partly because I think the 'not sleeping' bit gave a nice practical lifeline for them, conversationally, so they could condole then move on to suggestions on how to get the sleep back. I'm sure that my relatively good mental health on this topic now is due to not concealing the pain, like I usually do, and like so many of us do.
A Victorian death protocol would make life so much easier. I would be wearing lilac now... (which in fact I am, mauve coloured T shirt.)

TheSkyGirl

@every tomorrow@twitter Oh man...SO MUCH THIS. My dad died 15 years ago. In my job, I am constantly working with new people and so I am constantly telling my life story to new people. And it tends to come up that my parents live in Tennessee now, that they moved there when my step-dad retired. And that inevitably leads to the question of, "Oh, where is your dad?" To which I respond, "He passed away when I was 13." And there is a definite divide between people who have lost a parent and people who have not. The people who have not lost a parent immediately get uncomfortable and awkward and they apologize for asking and abruptly change the subject. People who have lost a parent tend to say they are sorry to hear that and they lost their mother/father x years ago and we sort of nod at each other and the conversation moves on.

Also, my boyfriend's father was sick and passed away pretty early on in our relationship. And in a weird way, the shared loss of father became a bonding point in our relationship, because I was able to be there for him and I knew what it was like to have a sick parent and to have a dead parent. And my boyfriend wants to talk about his dad and tell me stories and I want to listen, and it's also nice because it gives me an opportunity to talk about MY dad, which is something I wish I had had so many years ago. So yeah.

OhShesArtsy

I had a friend who was murdered. I've never really been able to talk about him to anyone because we weren't super close, people don't understand why his death upset me so much. We were in those stages where you realize you have a lot in common and make plans to become better friend, soon. Then his cheating wife's boyfriend shot him and they threw his body in a ditch. I hadn't met any of his close friends or family, I wasn't able to find out the funeral arrangements in time.

That story is just dark and awful, no one cares to hear about it, you know? I've had other, closer-to-me people die but I've been able to grieve for them like a normal person. No one questions why you are sad that grandma died.

OhShesArtsy

@OhShesArtsy Also, now that I read next to these stories of dead parents and stillborn babies, I feel trivial and small again.

janiebee

@OhShesArtsy Oh my dear, i'm so sorry. I think you've really brought up a good point about one of the difficulties of grief - there is a difference between something that is sad, and something that is a tragedy. No one questions why you are sad that grandma died, because when grandma dies, it is sad. a lot of people can relate to that, because grandmas are, in a weird way, supposed to die (at some point). But when something tragic happens, it threatens people's security - it forces them to realize that life does not follow proscribed lines. A friend is murdered, a father commits suicide, a brother dies of an overdose, and we suddenly are confronted with incontrovertible evidence that everything will not always work out for the best, that happy endings are not guaranteed.

I have to say this Death Club thread is amazing - because for the first time in a while, I don't feel like my death knowledge is catching, that I'm being shunned because my experience scares other people.

Dusk

@H.E. Ladypants I think we should update mourning conventions (omg the jewelry!) to reflect how close you are to the person who died. The biggest issue for folks like me is the uncomfortable pause where I try to figure out if this is worse than my cat dying (I loved that cat). Basically something that indicates whether you will continue to think about this person for years and years, or whether you'll get over it in a few months. I realize that's very hard to figure out even on your own, but it would seriously cut down on the stupid blank faces I make, I promise!

Slapfight

@FoxyRoxy I'm in on Death Club. My father passed away from cancer right before Christmas. I haven't told a lot of people because the pitying, "you're broken pieces of eggshell" reaction I get from people make it worse. I'm ok. I'm sad but ok. We shouldn't be the ones comforting others in this situation. I guess that's why it's annoying. We shouldn't have to keep our mouths shut because others are uncomfortable. Just let us deal.
Wow. I guess I have some anger. I should probably go get drunk adn weepy with my friends, my favorite coping mechanism. That and tell some dry, cunty jokes.

OhShesArtsy

@Dusk I'm with you on that. When my 96 year old great grandmother died, it was honestly a relief from her hideous decline. Her funeral was a celebration of her life. I wasn't sad, I was proud of her and of the beautiful legacy she left us. My coworkers kept insisting that I should take time off work to be with my family, they acted like I was a monster when I said that I had already grieved for my Memaw during her fight with dementia and onset of serious health problems. Memaw was gone a long time before her body stopped working.

@Dusk (again) I have that issue with my previous cat! I LOVED that cat, he died suddenly of a stroke at an admitedly old age but otherwise excellent health. When people talk about distant relatives or relatives of friends dying, I always wonder if they are as sad about them as I was about my cat, then I feel awful for equating my cat to a human life and judgey for trying to measure their grief.

H.E. Ladypants

@OhShesArtsy Condolences. Strangely enough, I have a friend with a very similar story and she's expressed a similar thing, how difficult it is to explain how this wound is DIFFERENT.

@janiebee You're right, there is a difference between saddness and tragedy. One of the more awkward things I had to deal with after my dad died was people assuming that he was old or that he'd been sick for a while. (I'm almost 30, so sure, why not.) In fact, neither of these things was true and I would have to explain to well meaning people over and over again who asked "was he sick for long" that no, he was in a car accident. He was healthy. He was not that old.

H.E. Ladypants

@Slapfight Oh gosh, I got SO angry after my dad died. Angry is okay. I feel weird because I also feel like the angry is a thing that no one ever talks about? But for me it was so consuming, the only thing that finally helped was going to a house in the middle of nowhere and just yelling and yelling and yelling.

Dusk

@OhShesArtsy Yes, my cat kept me sane during my teenage years. It's been over 10 years since he died, but I still think about him and get choked up sometimes. He wasn't a person, but he meant so much to me. As for people; even different family members have different reactions to the same death. For my sister-in-law I know to not mention her at all to her mother, speak only in hushed tones about her to her sister, and simply act as though she's slightly more difficult to get hold of now, to her brother.

Slapfight

@H.E. Ladypants I think anger is a reasonable reaction. It just felt really unfair. My dad was only 59, he'd had cancer for 5 years, and we sat there watching him die for two weeks and there's nothing you can do. Being helpless when someone you love is in pain is SO DAMNED FRUSTRATING. I went for a run to the woods with the intent of screaming my brains out but there were too many people around and I was worried about freaking them out. Instead I ran and sobbed like a nutbag. People still saw me, but it was quieter. I wish I'd said "screw it" and screamed.

Slapfight

@H.E. Ladypants And yes to feeling like you have to rush to get back to life. I really wish I'd taken more time. I keep feeling pressure (I put on myself) to get "back to work" but my heart isn't in very much these days.

roadtrips

@OhShesArtsy I'm so sorry about your friend. I have a good friend who is in a similar situation and feels that she wasn't close enough to a friend who died to publicly grieve his death. I lost a work colleague last year and still miss her even though we weren't conventionally close. I think that it is OK to grieve someone's loss and it is OK to realize that you were closer to that person than you thought. It's a testament, I think, to how interconnected we all are and how important friendships are (even the little ones). I am so glad you can express your loss here - death is hard and terrible and there are no rules for what kind of relationship you need to have in order to grieve someone.

datalass

@OhShesArtsy I thought of my mom when I read your first paragraph. When my 87-year-old grandmother died, my mom was, of course, very sad, but there were other, mitigating emotions as well. Beyond the fact that my grandmother had had a long and reasonably happy life, she was also, frankly, a very difficult woman who leaned very heavily on her children.

Shortly after my grandmother died, a work acquaintance of my mom lost her own mother. In that case, the mother was only in her 60s and had been more like a best friend to her daughter, so the daughter's grief was profound. The daughter kind of sought out my mom to commiserate with; understandably, she had assumed that my mom's grief was similar to her own. I can remember how conflicted and guilty my mom felt about that encounter. She didn't feel quite right allowing the woman to assume that her own pain was equal to that of a woman who'd just lost her best friend, but my mom also felt like a pretty horrible daughter in admitting that her own mother's death didn't rock her to the core.

I try to remember both sides of that conversation when someone tells me that a friend/family member has just died.

More battenburg, vicar?

@janiebee You can add me to the Dead Brothers Society. It's been two years and I still find myself thinking he's going to call soon. I miss him all the time. This may sound strange but the gift I got from him dying is how angry I get when I see people (including me, particularly me!) pissing about in their lives, putting off doing important things, as if we have all the time in the world. My brother Ian died when he was 49. I'm 47. What am I waiting for? Both my parents and my only sibling have died, and horrible though that is, I no longer have the illusion of my own immortality, and so I do the stuff that matters to me, today, while I'm alive. I might live till I'm 102, but I'm no longer willing to act as if that's guaranteed.

:Cinnamon Girl:

@OhShesArtsy I don't equate my cat's life to a human life, but his presence in MY day to day life was huge.

Thanks for sharing your stories, y'all. Carpe diem, love you all, etc.

Rrrowena

@FoxyRoxy My dad died a year ago, and I do my best to just bring him up casually. I like to think I'm helpong to blaze the trail for other people, because it is super awkward sometimes, and it really shouldn't be. At first I was more worried about upsetting other people, but I kept backing myself into awkward conversational corners where I either had to fess up, or flat out lie to people, which seemed way too convoluted. So now I just pretend it's a normal thing to bring up, in the hopes that one day it will be. Sometimes this results in people thinking I'm weirdly flippant (three 20somethings and a high schooler trying to plan a funeral was pretty funny...) but whatever. Plus, a death in the family is basically the best get out of jail free card for odd behavior ever.

Craftastrophies

@FoxyRoxy It got easier for me to talk about it like it was normal - it's been three years now, and the last year was SO MUCH EASIER. There were plenty of funny things at the funeral - the resident church show=off cracked a high note and I was trying so hard not to laugh that I almost dropped the casket, the hearse started to back-slide down the hill when it went to drive off, etc. There were plenty of horrible moments too, but I don't want to only remember those, just like I don't want to only remember my dad as My Dad - I want to remember the funny, smart, complicated person that he was, too.

I would say the first year, I didn't even grieve. I was too angry, and too busy dealing with the fallout from my mother. The first month, she basically moved into my house and didn't leave. This led to much public transport crying, and also an episode where I went away for a camp, had five minutes to myself, and lost my shit. It was a truly movie-worthy scene, where I ran off into the forest in the middle of a storm to shout and sob. Until I cried so much I threw up, I wouldn't put that in the movie!

@OhShesArtsy et al that situation is hard. The thing I have learnt about grief is that it's a force all it's own. It doesn't ask for permission and it isn't predictable. If you feel grief, that's ok, that means that person/thing meant something to you. I get real mad when people make it a hierarchy. When my mum dies, I'll grieve for the relationship we can't have, and the person she could have been, but I won't grieve much for her. That one's going to be hard to navigate. But just because she's got that title in my life, doesn't mean she's got the relative importance. I've ALREADY grieved for her, because I've already lost her, for all practical purposes.

I'm all for new traditions. I found the first few months were hard because I didn't know what to do, myself. A few rituals would have been handy, but I'm not religious. And about three months in everyone else seemed to forget or think I should be 'over it'. As if you ever really get over it, but certainly not in three months! Three months in I was still counting the days - that's the first March he's not seen, the first Friday the 12th, etc. I think society at large is bad at death and grief, so I try to give people some slack when they say the wrong thing. They're trying to navigate something new and scary, just like me. But it's rough. I feel like grieving is a life skill.

Craftastrophies

@Slapfight PS, I'm sorry for your loss, and I'm glad that you're ok. Also, I know endorsing alcohol as a coping mechanism is technically incorrect, but I was drunk a lot that first year and frankly, it helped. Being drunk cleared away a lot of the other crap and let me just feel what I needed to. I got hammered the night before the funeral and turned up still drunk - my family IS Irish, after all.

OhShesArtsy

<3 you guys. I'm out of important-sounding things to say so I will just say I wish you all the best and I hope you all find the kind of peace and healing you need.

angelan

@H.E. Ladypants I felt angry when my dad died, too. It just seemed so stupidly unfair, and I just kept having to remember that I'd never be able to call him or email him again.

I guess I'd led a pretty sheltered life, all things considered, and it was my first confirmation that things won't always be ok. We clearly need some kind of Grief Sign. I was off work for about two weeks and when I came back people kept either telling me to smile (because I was looking so miserable) or else asking me how my holidays had been. I needed a t-shirt or something.

Slapfight

@Craftastrophies Thank you. I'm sorry for your loss as well. I'm not much of a drinker, but it definitely seems let let me open up and let it all out. Well, some of it anyway. ;)

yourpretendfriend

@OhShesArtsy I'm totally in the same boat. A girl who went to my school was raped and murdered and I didn't personally know her, but I had seen her and had friends who knew her and it just really got to me. After she died, I found out we had so much in common; if we had met we probably would have been friends. I'm in college now and she's always in the back of my mind but I don't really have anyone to talk to about it. The one time I brought it up, my friends were kind of horrified and changed the subject. But, good has come out of it because California passed Chelsea's Law last year, which has harsher penalties for sexual predators and whatnot. So Chelsea King will always be remembered.

vomiting

@janiebee It's been six months since my sister passed away. You really nailed it with stating that you're not just grieving, you actually MISS your brother. Somehow people overlook that and expect that at one point you'll be 'over' it and would have 'dealt' with [situation].

vomiting

@Craftastrophies My Father and sister committed suicide about 11 days apart last year. I get it, the stigma. You don't want to make people uncomfortable, but I feel like it's important to put it out there. You can help so many people and yourself by being honest. Biggest hugs.

Craftastrophies

@vomiting Jeez, that must have been rough. I'm so, so sorry.

The hardest thing for me was that he CHOSE to leave. The abandonment issues are harder than the grief, some days. I know enough about depression, from personal experience and reading, to know that it's not personal and he just couldn't see us anymore. But it still hurts.

janiebee

@Craftastrophies Oh, I know what a horrible mental path that is to wander. I can't help but think that if I had just tried a little harder, if i had done a little more, my brother would still be here, clean and happy. My other brother said something recently that just broke my heart - "He just didn't love us enough to stay". I try really hard not to think that, not to think that he loved the drugs more, that he didn't care how much it would hurt to have him gone. I like what you said much more - "he just couldn't see us anymore". I'm going to go ahead and steal that, if I may.

sevanetta

@janiebee I've been just following this thread. I just needed to say please never think that about your brother! Or think it (I know how branes like to go awful places), but then firmly dismiss it each time. I'm sure it's not true at all! Drugs can be insane (to say the least) and it's not that he didn't love you - he must have had pain that was too hard to handle. ohhh huggg everyone.

Craftastrophies

@janiebee Please, steal away.

The hardest thing for me was that the night before he killed himself, my dad stayed at my place. And I barely even talked to him because I was at a friends house. Because the friend had just had an emotional run-in with his ex, and I was afraid HE was going to kill himself. I will never not feel bad about that. Actually come to think of it I haven't ever told anyone that, because I am afraid that they will judge me as harshly as I judge myself. But I have made the deal with my dad's ghost that I won't feel guilty, and in return I won't blame him. That's hard some days, but still.

In retrospect, all the classic signs of someone about to commit suicide were there with my dad, but he worked really hard to hide them. I still wish I'd seen them, and I still wish I could have helped him, but at the end of the day he made a choice and I guess I have to respect that, no matter how angry it makes me. It also makes it not about me and what I could have done - maybe something I could have done would have delayed it or changed it, but ultimately, it was not something I had power over. No one but my dad did, and in the end even he didn't. It's not that he didn't love us - the hardest things at his funeral were the stories of how much he loved being a dad. He just didn't have the capacity to see or feel anything but his depression. Depression and addiction are as much a fatal illness as cancer or anything else.

janiebee

@angelan the grief t-shirt really, really needs to be a thing. I literally got straight in a cab to the airport when i got the call - i was wearing pajamas and a sweater. So I ended up being at my parents with nothing to wear, and had to go to target to buy underwear, which was disconcerting. It was so brightly lit, and my mum and i were just wandering around like zombies, and weirdly fretting over which patterns to buy. polka dot? black? the lady who tried to help us and the cashier both asked how we were doing today, and we just stared blankly at her. a t-shirt would have made the experience a little easier. perhaps target should start selling them?

janiebee

@Craftastrophies oh, a million hugs to you. this thread has been an amazing comfort. please know that NO ONE will ever judge you for not preventing your dad's death - and if someone hints that they feel that way, go ahead and send them my way and I'll break both their legs. you were living your life as best you could (and being a good friend in the process), and while its hard not to feel like it would have been worth it to give that up to get your dad back, unfortunately that's not a choice you're given. I'd cut my arm off to get my brother back, but no one will make that deal with me. Likewise, no one will let you go back and tie your father to a chair for 24 hour love watch.

maggiekb1

@FoxyRoxy

I think the silence thing is horrific, especially with something like miscarriage and stillbirth where this is all happening inside you and it's damned difficult to explain to anyone who hasn't experienced it. I had a miscarriage last summer, and I can't tell you how strangely relieving it was to have approximately every woman I have ever known ever come out of the woodwork to tell me their story of going through the same thing. I wish we told girls how common this is upfront, so nobody had to have that horrible feeling of, "There is something wrong with me. I've done something wrong. I have to hide this."

In the vein of paying it forward with reading material, I have to recommend "Coming to Term" by John Cohen. It's non-fiction, all about what we do (and mostly, what we don't) know about miscarriage. For a science-oriented girl like me, this was exactly the book I needed to feel like I had some kind of handle on my life again. It was like a lifeline of sanity.

Slapfight

@janiebee @Craftastrophies YES YES YES. Someone's depressions/addictions are NEVER about the people in their lives. It's not a matter of them not loving you enough to stay. It is hard to believe the things your brain can convince you of when it's not functioning properly. The feeling of chronic anguish is hard to understand when you've never suffered from depression. You'd give anything to stop feeling so horrible. It's a sickness, a disease and is no one's fault.

Slapfight

@Slapfight And when you're in this state of being, it's really hard to ask for the help you need.

limejuiceandgin

@every tomorrow@twitter I've been following this thread ever since the story went up here: I'm a long time Hairpin reader, and never commented before. BUT my grandfather died very suddenly a month ago, the first of my grandparents to die (I'm extremely lucky in that regard: I'm 25), and I've really been struggling with people's reactions to it. I'm heartbroken, and agree with the commenter who said, "I MISS HIM". I do. I miss the emails, and the gruff answerings of the phone when my granny wasn't nearby, and the advice on restaurants 50 years gone... oh, I miss him so much. And I talk about him, and I can feel people I'm talking to suck in their breath as if they don't know how to respond, so I feel as if I'm shouting into a void about this man, who I want the world to know about and talk to me about and value the way I did, and do.

I know this is away from the topic of the article, which is brilliant and beautiful and devastating all at once. But the one thing my selfish, grieving mind is shouting is that people need to talk honestly about these things, and let those of us for whom it's a new and open wound talk about it too, as and when we want to/can. Everyone in this thread, and the rest of the comments, and Jenna most of all, are incredibly brave for just standing up and saying "I'm not okay. And I'm not going to be okay for a while." Most of all, it is NOT okay that the way we deal with death- the not dealing with it, if you like- silences that dialogue in normal life.

What I'm trying to say is, thank you, Hairpin commenters: everything you've all said here really helps. I'm so sorry for everyone's losses, and thank you. Thanks. (And I'm also sorry for this mini essay.)

rubyslippers

I would also like to join the Death Club and, good god, a "I'm grieving, get out of my way" t-shirt would have saved a lot of energy.

If nobody minds, I'll add my story to the Death Club as well (because it feels good to share and I haven't shared in a while).
Last summer, my boyfriend died. He had been feeling a sick for a couple days, like a sinus infection and some muscle pain that got progressively worse. We went to urgent care a few times and they sent him home with antibiotics and "oh hey, your blood pressure is really high, work on that." Kind of like when your dentist tells you that you really should be flossing more. Anyway, we thought that magical antibiotics would do the trick and we could return to life as we knew it. Then on the fifth night of him feeling sick, we were sitting on the couch making fun of Guy Fieri. I made him matzo ball soup and we winked at each other with "sexy nurse" jokes. Then he started vomiting. The doctors had given him pain killers so I thought they might be upsetting his stomach. Then he started having neck pain and I freaked out thinking he had meningitis. I couldn’t take it anymore so I took him to the ER. We were sitting in the waiting room and everything was fine until the nurse made him put on a face mask. He started panicking. He turned to me as a tear went down his face and said “I’m so scared right now.” I sat in front of him and said “Darling, you are a 25 year old man in one of the best hospitals in the country. Most likely they are going to give you some fluids and scoff at us for wasting their time. I promise that you will be okay.” He actually felt better.
When the nurse took us back to take his vital signs, the panic began again and the pain returned. The pressure from the blood pressure cuff was so agonizing that my mild-mannered sweet heart ripped it off of his arm and flung it across the room. When nurse left the room, he looked at me and was terrified. I stood in front of him, cradled his head, and did breathing exercises with him. Then… the only way I can describe it is that someone pulled the blinds behind his eyes. I saw the blood drain from his face and he slid out of his chair. I caught him and screamed for help. The next thing I know, the entire ER was in the room and I ended up shoved in a corner, clutching his glasses because he would be sooo disgruntled if they got crushed. At some point, I started sobbing and so they took me to another room. They worked on him for about 3 hours. Then they brought me back to the operating room. As they gave him the last injection to kickstart his heart I held his left leg because it was the only thing I could reach. I poured every ounce of love, need, prayers, promises, bribes, and bargains into my hands, into his leg. Nothing happened. There was complete silence as they stopped doing CPR. They unplugged the machinery, drew the curtains and let me sit in the room with his body.

@ Craftastrophies: I drank half a bottle of bourbon that night. I finished it that week. I know we aren’t supposed to endorse alcohol for grieving but I don’t think I could have done that first week totally sober. The good news is that our families drank just as much as I did (we’re Irish too ☺) so I wasn’t the only drunk there. Like you said, it really allowed me to express some of the grief that I would normally try to lock up inside.
Also, what you said about grief (“The thing I have learnt about grief is that it's a force all it's own. It doesn't ask for permission and it isn't predictable.”) should be published in a pamphlet handed out to all mourners because god damn that was the most painful lesson to learn. Grief is the Honey Badger of emotions. It don’t give a shit.
Another thing for your highly educational grief packet would be what you said here: “About three months in everyone else seemed to forget or think I should be 'over it'. As if you ever really get over it, but certainly not in three months! Three months in I was still counting the days - that's the first March he's not seen, the first Friday the 12th, etc.”
Why would we be over it?! Are we robots?! I also felt like I was bringing everyone around me down when I talked about it so I just shut up. I still had a therapist and my mom but I felt guilty talking about it after a while… and also strangely felt guilty for not talking about it, like I wasn’t giving my bf the public grief he deserved.

My final “this is the worst” thing is specific to the fact that he was my boyfriend. I hated saying that he was my boyfriend because all I could hear in people’s brains was “Oh, JUST her boyfriend?” No, we didn't get to engagement and marriage but boyfriend makes it sound so trite. I'm 24 but he was my first real love and I was his. On our first date, I actually felt something in my chest “click” as we were talking. Me, the most cynical person about love who NEVER lets anyone in, had butterflies in my stomach.

Anytime someone hears that story and cannot only sit through it without squirming but also relate with their experience with death, I am SO relieved. It is like this big, mental exhale. At my bf’s wake, a coworker’s wife came up to me a related a very similar experience she had when she was my age. It was good to see that someone had gone through it and come out the other side intact and happy. Yeah, it still f*ing hurts when you think about it. I still cry all the time. However, this comradery helps us see that we don’t stay in this incredibly painful place every moment for the rest of our lives, never recovering. That is why the death club is actually the least depressing club. Because we made it through.

Craftastrophies

@rubyslippers Oh, honey, I am so sorry. That is so, so hard. I have so many fears about my boyfriend dying or being hurt because, as I've said, I've seen how quickly that line between normal life and the raw guts of the world can slip away. It would, frankly, be just as bad as my father dying, in its own completely horrible way. That's the thing with griefs - they are all different, like all our relationships are different, but they all hurt like fuck.

I am so sorry that you went through that, and I am really glad that you shared your story. Join the club! You any good with money? We need a treasurer. You are right, it's the least depressing club because we don't have to hide or fake it (either faking being ok or faking being devastated when we're fine for now). It's hard but we're making it. Sometimes we're making it easier than other times. But I never realised how internally strong I was until I had to be.

Kulojam

@FoxyRoxy I am so sorry about your boyfriend (and for everyone's losses on this thread, of course). my boyfriend was killed in a car accident when I was 19. The same thing had happened to my best friend's sister, and she told me "welcome to the worst sorority in the world." it helped because I realized others had been through the same thing. And that "Just your boyfriend" thing? I totally get that. We had not been dating that long but I really truly felt - and drunkenly told a friend - that he was someone special, that I was going to marry him someday. But because we were "just" dating, I felt strangely guilty about grieving as much as a I did, and I felt very judged for my grief. No, i WAS judged for my grief - my best friend's father told me to "get over it." Less than a week after it happened. that same best friend, despite acknowledging her father's awfulness? Told me the same thing less than a month later. People. Anyway, email me anytime you want if you want to talk about it.

@ TheSkyGirl: This, all the time. Where in Tennessee, by the way? My dad moved to Tennessee right after he & my mom divorced and this exact situation comes up all the time (my mom died a few years after the divorce). I like talking about my mom, but the awkwardness of other people makes me try to avoid it.

Why is it like this? Why am I not allowed to talk about my mom in front of my stepmom? I mean, she's never expressly said I can't talk about her, but oh the awkwardness if I mention my mom. My stepmom is lovely, but she has a crazy jealous streak. CRAZY. Right after my mom died, I was organizing old pictures and I found one of my dad & mom on their honeymoon. Stepmom was sitting next to me and said "I can't look at that" and flipped it over. WHAT was that? She's dead, crazy woman, she can't "get" my dad back.

Finally, and I'll stop: There are a lot of Issues surrounding my mom's death, mainly about how she and I had not seen each other in six years when she died. I can't remember the last time I spoke to her or touched her. That sucks, and to remind myself never to get in that situation again, I got a tattoo that conveys that meaning to me. It isn't in an obvious place but people do notice it occasionally and ask about it. So I usually say it is personal or that it reminds me of something and let it be - not because it makes ME uncomfortable, but because it makes others uncomfortable. How did i learn this? One acquaintance asked me what it mean, I said that it had to do with remembering my mom. She made a face and said "God, if that's what it means you shouldn't have gotten it where people can see it because they are gonna ask." So I should have changed my tattoo to safeguard other people's feelings? Um, no.

thanks for this thread. i'm so sorry to Jenna and everyone who has lost someone.

rubyslippers

@Craftastrophies I am terrible with money but I promise to spend it on booze!
Yeah, the saying "Life is unpredictable" might be a cliche but it is a cliche for a reason. That's why I think that people should treat their partners like it's valentine's day as much as possible. Not showering them with gifts but just expressing their love in some way. If you wait until one day a year to show them how much you love them, then the other 364 days were wasted. I was stingy with "I love you" because I was afraid and that was my biggest regret. I said it, and meant it, but I just didn't say it enough.
As for internal strength, hell yeah. At the same time, it is kind of like you don't have a choice, you know? Like, yeah, I'm on my feet and acting normal but what am I supposed to do? Hole up in a dark corner for months? I wanted to but the sad truth is that I have to pay my rent and no amount of depression is going to do that for me.

@KuloJam: They don't know, even though they think they do. There is just no way anyone can understand unless they have been through it. Not that it makes them less of assholes, because they are major assholes. You best friend's father is a heartless one at that. All losses are different but I just remember being in the hospital room with his body. My bf's sister and her boyfriend were there and he was rubbing her back as she was cried. It was kind of selfish but I was thinking "I don't have my person anymore. My person who I want to lay with in bed while I cry and he holds me. My person who comforts me how no one else can. My person is on the table in front of me."
No matter how long you were together, he was your *person* and you were connected. From one widowed-gf to another, everything you felt was real and legitimate and no one can take that away from you. You cared about him. That was *real* and so was all of your grief.
As for the tattoo, good for you. Basically I'm the of the mindset that if people can't handle hearing about it then screw them - they didn't have to LIVE it. What kind of tattoo did you get, if you don't ind sharing? I was thinking of getting a hummingbird. It sounds dumb but it has to do with their hearts. Long story.

When we meet for death club, can we talk about the dreams? Because those were the worst. The first night after he died I dreamed about him and he HATED me. He absolutely loathed me and wouldn't even talk to me. Just kept walking away as I was sobbing and begging him to listen to me. Then there are the dreams where they have miraculously survived and they feel so real and you're so happy... and then you wake up. I'm just curious to see if anyone else had those.

To everyone who has lost someone and shared, thank you. This thread helped me unclench my iron fist on my emotions for a bit. I would never wish anyone to go through what we have been through but I'm glad that we can talk about it.

sevanetta

@rubyslippers Hey rubyslippers, and everyone. I didn't share my story before because February is a hard month. I want to, but not sure if I can. 8 years and counting since my friend passed away (and no not just any friend, a friend I knew from birth, he was named after my dad, and he and his brother are like my brothers).

I've had the dreams. I hope over time they become better for you rubyslippers (and anyone else). Sometimes I think the good ones are wish fulfillment and other times I like to believe that it's that thing where they are visiting and want you to be happy. I'm into shit like that. :)

Kulojam

@rubyslippers That is so hard, to know that your person is gone. I am so sorry. As for the tattoo, I got her birthdate in roman numerals on my wrist, all together in a line - no separation. My watch, which i always wear, usually covers it, but sometimes it gets noticed. but i want to be able to see it and remember, dangit!

thank you for your kind words even while you are going through such a hard time. you are strong. everyone on here is.

Tyrantanic

Thank you for this. Two very good friends of mine just lost their son about the same amount of time into the pregnancy, and this piece I think helps me to understand what they've been through a bit more. Best of luck to you and your husband when you try again!

wharrgarbl

Thank you for this piece. I hope your next attempt brings you everything you want.

automaticdoor

I'm so sorry. My mom was 18 weeks into her fourth pregnancy when I was 13 and lost her baby and it was devastating for all of us. I'm tearing up right now just having read this. My dad chose to put it out of his mind and move on immediately (as he does), and my sisters were too young to really get it. But, I remember, and I remember her original due date, and every year we talk, hug if I'm actually in the same geographic area (rarer now), and just take a moment. So, point is, you aren't alone. I think people are quiet about it because they're afraid of getting the same reaction my mom got: "Oh, well, it's not like you lost a baby or anything." Well, she did. You did. And it's devastating. I hope it all works out for you. ♥

applestoapples

You are brave to share this with everyone, and this random Hairpin stranger wishes you the best in your future attempts in expanding your family.

Kivrin

I am so sorry for your loss. I hope that writing about it and sharing your experience will bring some additional comfort to you.

Maria

Thank you for sharing.

I've also often wondered why we don't talk about these things. It seems most women I know who have children have at some point also had a miscarriage, and one very dear friend lost a child to SIDS when he was (I believe) 6 weeks old. Yet we seem to not want to warn each other for fear of jinxing it. Like if we don't think about it, maybe it won't happen, but really, it's something like 15% of pregnancies. But I suppose nothing could prepare you for something so heartbreaking.

wharrgarbl

@Maria There's also the inability to do anything to stop it. A pregnant friend spent the holidays driving herself completely crazy with worry after receiving news that a cousin had just needed an emergency c-section at 26 weeks. The cousin was only a week further along; she lost one twin, and had the other in the NICU with a poor prognosis (he's still touch-and-go). It's good to know that it's a possibility, but dwelling on it too much can produce an absolute ton of anxiety--it's completely out of your hands.

dj pomegranate

@Maria God, 6 weeks. I can't imagine.

I think you are right about the fear of jinxing--it makes no logical sense, but it's there.

Dusk

@dj pomegranate Absolutely. I hated being pregnant because I could not ever be _certain_ my son was okay. When he was born, I could always stare at his chest like a paranoid at 3am to make sure he was breathing.

swirrlygrrl

This was so sad, and so moving, and so beautiful. Thank you for sharing with us.

Bittersweet

So sorry to hear this - I can only imagine how devastating this was to go through. Thanks for sharing it with us. All the best to you, your husband and your family.

Anji

Oh my god. I'm so terribly sorry for what you and David and your families have gone through. I know you have no idea who I am, but I hope that the next time, and the times after that if you should want them, brings you what you wish for. Thank you for sharing this story. I know it couldn't have been easy, to say the very least.

Slutface

Thank you for sharing. I wish we talked about these things more. Best wishes to you and your husband.

frigwiggin

Thank you for this. We don't talk about it for at least part of the same reason that we don't talk about any death--it's big and scary and nobody knows what to say. There's that look that people get when it comes up in conversation that my best friend died (just over a year ago, now), and while I certainly don't avoid talking about it, I don't go out of my way to make people uncomfortable with DEATH DEATH DEATH. Sometimes people need to feel uncomfortable, though.

Craftastrophies

@figwiggin Yes, every now and then I have a moment where everything shifts a bit and I realise all over again how thin that edge between 'normal' life and death it. How precarious our little bubble story of things being fine is. I really value those moments because they make me appreciate everything more, but I would like to keep them to a minimum, thanks. They're scary.

I've made a few people uncomfortable accidentally on purpose. There was the guy joking about gassing people in their cars to whom I said 'you know, my dad gassed himself in his car'. Yep, shut him right up. I don't have any problem wielding it as a weapon, but I never shoot first. I'd rather use it constructively, to provide support and understanding for other people.

Nicole Cliffe

I'm so sorry. Thank you for writing this for us.

Nutellaface

One Million Hugs.

New Commenter Name

What a heartbreaking story. That must have been difficult to write and share with the internet. I hope as time passes that you and your family are able to find peace.

ipomoea

Thank you for this, and I am so sorry. My best friend since fourth grade (22 years!) got pregnant about a trimester behind me last year, and we were so excited to be moms together. She went into labor when visiting relatives in Europe and delivered her daughter at 25 weeks, four days before my son was born. Her daughter didn't survive, and it was heartbreaking to know that she was going through this literally on the other side of the planet from me, and I couldn't do anything. I wish you and your husband nothing but luck with your future tries-- may you soon join the ranks of the sore-boobed and sleep-deprived.

PistolPackinMama

Oh, I am so sorry this happened to you. <3

Kitty

Thank you for this.
I wish people talked about ALL THE THINGS.
Happy things, sad things, scary things, awful things, and wonderful things.
ALL the things.
Because when you are handling YOUR THING, sometimes it helps to know that somebody out there has experienced YOUR THING... and then it makes it OUR thing. And sometimes the OUR of the situation makes it easier to handle.

Xanthophyllippa

@Kitty YES. And the more people who realize that it is OUR THING, the more people will feel comfortable talking about THEIR THING. And the fewer people will try to shame us into being embarrassed about whoever's THING we're dealing with.

EpWs

@Kitty YES. Yes to all of this. We all need to talk about more things. This is part of the reason why the Hairpin is so great.

frushka

i'm reading this at work, and i couldn't stop crying. especially at the part where they hear the joyful labor from the other room. :(

TheJerseyDevil

@frushka That part killed me. The night my mother died, there was a large family in the waiting room, presumably there for a birth (they might have been there for another reason, but typically people aren't so joyous in the hospital.) I remember walking past them on the way to "Room 1" where the surgeon and anesthesiologist told my uncle and me (though we already knew) they'd done all they could but my Mother was clinically dead and thinking, "Why do they get to be happy? Why does their family get to win but mine gets to lose?"

This is a beautiful piece. I'm so sorry for your loss, Julia.

Craftastrophies

@frushka That bit was where I just lost it completely and had to make a dash to the work bathroom.

Lily Rowan

I'm so sorry. And even more sorry about the maternity clothes ad I had along side the piece.

julia

@Lily Rowan Firefox adblock plus add-on.

ARS
ARS

This was simply the best Hairpin post I've ever read. Thank you for such a candid account of your experience.
My sister-in-law experienced a similar loss over 10 years ago. No one in our family has ever forgotten Emma and no one ever will.

OxfordComma

Oh, honey.

I am so, so sorry.

Thank you for sharing this with us.

Love and prayers for your healing.

Mrs. Hutchinson

Jenna, I'm so sorry you're going through this. Having a doctor say "Well, it's what I feared," during an ultrasound was probably the worst moment of my life. Different situation; same result. Thinking of you.

raised amongst catalogs

This happened to a good friend of mine several years ago and I had the good sense not to say, "I know how you must be feeling" or any of those angry-making platitudes that tumble out of our mouths in the worst of times, when we truly have NO idea how the person is feeling. Because you were so honest with us just now, I do have an idea of how it felt for them. Thank you, and I'm sorry.

SweetAlissum

I need to stop reading the Hairpin at work if I am to avoid crying at my desk. Thank you for sharing.

I actually think about this subject quite a lot. I only have one sibling, 11 years younger than me, because of miscarriages. My mum suffered at least 3 really sad ones in those 11 years hoping for a second child. She and my aunt at the same time also went through miscarriages fairly long into their pregnancies around the same time. I was fairly young, but I just remember the house being sad and quiet. I feel like there is nothing as sad as miscarriage (or still-birth). While feeling that, I have to work myself up to the reality that given the history in my bloodline, it is a very possible part of my future.
A very sweet coworker at my last position also went through this and was absent for a long while. She told few people in the company what had happened, but confided in me and a few others. I didn't know what to say except I was sorry and held her hand. I went to the bathroom later to privately cry because I didn't want to upset her. There really isn't much to offer besides empathy.

Slapfight

I am so sorry this happened, but thankful you wrote this. A friend miscarried on Monday and this may be of some comfort to her. I wish you well.

thebestjasmine

I am so sorry that this happened to you. This has happened to other people I know, and it's so horrible. And almost every friend of mine who has been pregnant has miscarried. One girlfriend talks about her miscarriages (she had 3, and now has 2 healthy great kids) a lot, because she wants other women to know that it's both normal and not your fault, and not anything to be ashamed of. My heart goes out to you.

meganmaria

@thebestjasmine I felt weird thumbs upping this, but I'm glad that your friend is using her experiences to try to alleviate those negative feelings women have about their own miscarriages.

Bittersweet

@thebestjasmine: A high school friend lost her baby when she was 8 months pregnant; she almost died herself. She got an angel tattoo with his name and date of birth/death, and she commemorates it every year and lets the rest of know too so we can remember. She's a huge badass.

Craftastrophies

@Bittersweet I love this story because I like the way it makes that child and her experience a part of her future life. It's not just something that happened to her, it was a person in her life, if only for a short while. Not a secret to be talked about in hushed tones, in private. Lovely.

Lady Humungus

Thank you, Jenna - good thoughts to you and your family.

Psychbucket

I am so sorry for your and your family's pain. I admire you for writing this piece and hope you found some comfort and meaning in doing so. I wish the best to you and your family.

blee

Thank you so much for sharing.

packedsuitcase

I am so, so sorry this happened to you. Thank you for sharing - this was a beautiful piece.

Ophelia

I'm so sorry this happened to you, and I think it's really amazing that you wrote about it. People definitely don't talk about miscarriage and stillbirth, and they should. I never knew until recently that my grandmother had a miscarriage between having my uncle and aunt, and I probably wouldn't have known had she not commented with her real name on an article in the New York Times. It was kind of amazing/surreal that that gave us the opportunity to talk about it.

DDay

@Ophelia It took a friend's miscarriage to learn about my family's history of miscarriages. One grandmother actually had a situation like this where it was actually closer to a stillbirth than miscarriage (back then they just put her under she never saw the body or anything). But hearing about a variety of experiences was really a comfort to my friend b/c she only knew of women who had miscarriages on their first pregnancy.

She Saved The World, Alot

I don't even know what to say except I'm so, so sorry and thank you so much for writing this.

oh, disaster

Thank you for sharing this.

j.gab

Thanks everyone! There are only a few feelings worse than not going home with your baby when that's been the plan since the moment that pink line shows up. I think the feeling of thinking I was the only woman ever to not get to keep her baby was worse. I know that was a silly thing to think because women go through this every single day. But at the time it seemed so unfair- that all the other women everywhere were having regular healthy pregnancies and I was ending up with nothing. I think its important to know that if you're in a similar situation, there are sooooo many other women going through the same thing, so that "alone feeling", though you'll have it, is temporary.

whimsy

@j.gab
I also think part of it is it's really hard to bring up even if you want to or need to talk about it. You don't ever want to bring it up and bum other people out so you don't.... but when those moments happen they are rarely depressing, but rather emotional and release a lot of feelings that are loving and compassionate. More of a bonding experience that can really bring us together, which is exactly what I think this post has done, so Thank You.

On another note, I was working on a labor and delivery floor for awhile and one of the most amazing things available was a woman who would come take loving photos of the baby with the family so they could always be remembered. I always wished I could have met that woman, I bet she had a lot to teach.

Craftastrophies

@j.gab I know I am banging on about losing my dad and it is not the same, but when my dad died, I knew the statistics about suicide but it was the private, personal stories that really helped. Thank you so much for writing about this - so beautifully, too - because it's the personal stories that make us feel less alone.

@whimsy a close friend had two stillborn children. The second, they took a cast of him. He showed it to me once and it was one of the most moving, beautiful, terrifying things I have ever been honoured to see.

julia

While this isn't the point of this piece, it made me think of this excellent essay by Martha Mendoza. This is not uncommon, and the more restrictions put on doctors' ability to treat a pregnant woman losing her child, the more painful an already devastating situation becomes not to mention the added danger to the mother.

Ophelia

@julia Thanks so much for linking to that essay.

Kira-Lynn@twitter

@julia I read that piece often.

merisk

Thank you for writing this; I found it deeply affecting and I am so very sorry for your loss. It's brave to speak/write/present from the (unfair) margins of standard discourse. I hope more pieces like this can help expand our conversations about issues surrounding reproduction to make them more honest and inclusive. I'm another anonymous commenter sending good thoughts and energy to you and your family.

Katie Scarlett

I'm so sorry for your loss. You're right, it's not a topic that's discussed very often and that's really unfortunate since a miscarriage is such an intimate experience, for women especially.

jennifa

I myself prefer the post-coital fist bump, which resulted in me now being 18 weeks pregnant. Which really means I shouldn't have read this piece while eating my lunch, alone, in a public place. Sobbing mess.
I am so happy I read it. I'm currently hearing every mothers birth story (whether I want to or not), why doesn't our culture share these common stories just as much? Jenna- much peace and love to you. Thank you so much for sharing.

j.gab

@jennifa I think any type of post-coital "we're freaking awesome!" similar-to-how-frat-boys-interact action is really what helps conception.
Congratulations on your pregnancy :) There is no feeling like it, and there is no feeling like the annoyance you feel when other women tell you what to expect. I think the greatest piece of advice so far has been "everyone is going to tell you about each of their pregnancies and tell you that if you are or aren't having whichever symptom, you're weird or off schedule or something is wrong. Don't listen. Sometimes mom's are morons, and they forget that everyone is different."
Also, if anyone calls you out on crying in public, point at your belly. They'll almost instantly apologize. Pregnancy is really not a time for restraining your emotions. It just doesn't work.
Good luck with the next 22 some odd weeks :)

maevemealone

A gentleman I work with and his wife lost their baby two weeks ago at 26 weeks and they are of course devastated. The funeral seems to have sent the wife into a grief spiral and she's seeing a grief counselour to help get her on feet again. It's incredibly sad.

The not talking about it reminds of what happened when The Interpreter of Maladies came out. When it was discussed in book groups, all these women suddenly discovering amongst their friends that they weren't alone in having gone through it, but never feeling that they could share it. Thank you for sharing this, I think so many people need to read this.

LuluBates

Thank you so much for sharing this story. It's amazing and tragic that these stories are so rarely shared and yet so common.

MatildaGold

Thank you so much for writing this. Stillbirth is such a hush-hush topic - we need to hear more voices like yours to fight the loneliness and isolation of mothers who go through it.

Hamburger Hot Dog

I sent the article to a pal of mine whose sister lost her son, and she told me about this place:
http://www.glowinthewoods.com/ which she describes as "An incredible site for bereaved parents (no mentions of God, angel babies, or rainbow bridges)."

OhShesArtsy

@Hamburger Hot Dog Thanks for the link. It is beautiful.

Myrtle

@Hamburger Hot Dog It's a beautiful site. I read a bit before bookmarking it.

H.E. Ladypants

Thank you. I am so sorry for your loss but thank you for sharing.

roadtrips

Jenna, Thank you for this. Death is so complicated and difficult and it makes it that much easier when we have others to share our experience with, and to talk to. "The Year of Magical Thinking" by Joan Didion is one of the best things I've ever read that describes how we experience death - I would recommend it to anyone.

bumblebees

I work with infants in newborn intensive care units and healthy newborn nurseries, and become violently angry when I run into protesters outside the hospital waving posters with photos of fetuses, because (amongst a million other reasons) how do the women walking out of the hospital after losing a baby feel when faced with that??

Xanthophyllippa

@bumblebees THIS.

bumblebees

and Jenna, thank you for making other women feel less alone in their grief.

Joey Camire

I'm desperately trying not to cry at work right now. It's really hard. I'm very sorry.

Party Falcon

This is the kind of writing that defies Ms Molly Whatsherface and the her specious conclusions in the n+1 article.

I want it so badly to get as many comments as a Beauty Q&A or an Ask A ______, just to prove her SO SO WRONG. But it won't. It can't. It IS too hard to talk about. And that's okay. Humans (and Falcons) don't have the language we need to talk comfortably about loss and grief. That doesn't make us silly girls, it just makes us people.

Party Falcon offers her sorrow and her sympathies to Jenna and her thanks for what she shared with this particular slumber party.

PistolPackinMama

@Party Falcon I know? I am usually verbosity personified, and see what I could come up with above.

leastimportantperson

@Party Falcon I wish we didn't feel like we had to prove or demonstrate to anyone that we can have more than one thought or feeling per day.

Craftastrophies

@Party Falcon The thing is, though, that a lot of comments on the Ask A_ threads ARE about things like this. I know that it's those threads that I talk about my abusive mother and dead father (god, I sound like a Frank McCourt novel or something). I mean... it's our lives, trivial and deep. Plus there's more back and forth on those posts, but not necessarily more actual words?

Party Falcon

@Craftastrophies Agree, whole-heartedly. Those threads are some of the best examples of caring, friendly REAL conversation. Better than most IRL book clubs, I bet.

The craptacular thing is that that's not what's visible to anyone NOT participating in the conversation. It's just static. Kind of like jerks eavesdropping on a nearly incompressible gab session between great friends.

j.gab

@Party Falcon Party Falcon is probably the most awesome thing I have ever heard of, and aside from this one horrendously tragic thing, my life has been pretty freaking awesome (for instance, the day before I learned I was pregnant, my best friend and I were hiking in the mountains and encountered a bear, and successfully escaped a mauling. Pretty f*cking awesome). Rock on Party Falcon.

nevernude cutoffs

@Party Falcon I totally agree with this. It's just easier for me to talk about silly makeup and clothing stuff, as a pair of nevernude cutoffs is inclined to do, but I always read/learn from the articles like this. I just don't know what to say, except I'm sorry. I've never been in this position, but I'm really thankful for this insight into it. And @j.gab - Escaping a mauling is badass. Please submit a how-to article on that.

roadtrips

@Party Falcon These are the kinds of conversations you have with your friends - this is what lives are about. There are all the little things in between, like what books you read or what you're doing this weekend, and then there are the huge things, like loss, and family relationships, and love. Good friendships are about sharing all of these things. How amazing is it that all of these things can be shared here as well and it seems just as safe to share as at cocktails with your best friends? I think it's great.

Craftastrophies

@roadtrips I have a group of blog friends, most of whom live interstate to me. When my dad died, they were one of the most useful communities. This group of women I had never met, or met once, gave me their phone numbers and told me to call any time, listened to my stories and shared theirs, and offered me such strong, balanced sympathy and caring. It was amazing, and I am so grateful for them. And we met on blogs where we talk about craft and what we ate for dinner - certainly not particularly profound, read entry by entry.

Now we meet up regularly for craft retreats, and those are some of the best times of my life. They're my tribe, and I feel like they are the family of concerned aunts and older sisters, or the best friend down the road, that I would have in olden times. There's one in March and I've been looking forward to it since December. But you wouldn't see those connections and the importance of the support just by looking at our blogs.

Party Falcon

@j.gab You? Awesome.

I wish you could be IRL friends with Party Falcon's favorite cousin. She lost a 24 week baby as well. And felt a little...violated when she had to deliver, name, grieve and plan a full Catholic funeral at what felt like the exact same moment. Without being able to share any of it with anyone other than her husband.

And now is pregnant with what was twins until her 21st week. And now is faced with the fact that she's going to deliver one healthy baby and one not-growing fetus. That she's going to have to name and bury, again. And yet? so amazing and positive. Which makes me hope she's got someone to confide in.

barnhouse

I am so, so sorry to hear this happened to you. Made me cry for you and your family.

I think a lot of the reason we don't talk about things like this is that we are very afraid to say the wrong thing. It's such a huge thing that happened to you, and so unfamiliar to me; how do I figure out how to offer you even a sympathetic shoulder, if I could? What if I were to mess it up and somehow offend you just because I haven't been there and therefore I can't understand, not really ... so ordinarily I would say as little as possible and at least both of us are safe from me being an idiot, that way.

That's why it is so valuable when someone who has been through your experience can describe it so perfectly, and so movingly, because then people are less scared to talk about it and offer all the sympathy and love they can; your writing is so lovely and so friendly and so exact that readers feel they are understanding a little bit about what happened to you; enough, at least, to offer the love, which is what I am writing to do.

iceberg

@barnhouse Ahh this struck a chord. I failed at being there for someone once: a close relative of his had died, and knowing myself to be terrible at coping with other people's pain, I didn't go to the open-casket-in-house wake with him, because I thought, what would be worse than him having to comfort ME at his time of loss. Turns out not being there was worse, but he didn't have the words to tell me at the time.

j.gab

@barnhouse I think the idea that we will always make it worse is very true. The sad thing is that when there is no appropriate outlet for those feelings everyone get when a death (of anyone, not just babies) occurs, they somehow become translated into feelings of shame. There is no reason to be ashamed of feeling sad. Everyone experiences grief differently. If someone is grieving, so often you don't have to say a word. Instead just allow them to talk it out if that's what they need. I know I've had people tell me they don't know what to say. I think its ridiculous to expect someone to know exactly what to say. I would never consider myself a reasonable person for holding it against someone if they said the wrong thing during this experience. I know its horribly awkward, but there really is never the right thing to say. Honestly, the people who have listened and cried with me have been the greatest help. I know I have felt guilty for "bumming people out". Apparently my support network is better than I thought because everyone has told me that was silly. I maintain the best thing to do is just be available.

TheSkyGirl

@iceberg I do NOT do well at funerals, but when my boyfriend's father died, I was THERE, there was no way I wouldn't be. But I was a soggy, gibbering mess because it brought up all my feelings about my own dad and yes, my boyfriend had to comfort me, but in a way, it helped him cope with the day because he had somewhere to focus his attention and not just on his father. But I did feel like a super jack-ass for being all emotional.

barnhouse

@j.gab You are very right. What people are filled with is a desire to reach out and help you to feel better and I imagine that they wish they knew a magic phrase to connect with you and make that happen. This is how I always feel around people who are grieving. I always manage to forget what the other side is like, though I am in the Death Club too and have experienced grief something like the way you have, where I just want company, really, and a hug.

Thank you for this kind note. I'm wishing all the best for you.

rubyslippers

@TheSkyGirl Maybe I'm weird in this aspect but I felt a lot better when the people around me were emotional messes too. It made me feel less "on display". The morning after I lost my boyfriend one of my coworkers (who I would consider a good friend too) called me sobbing. It felt really reassuring to hear someone as upset as I was.

Claire Zulkey

Thank you for this. I am so sorry. Sending you best wishes for future tries.

Mingus_Thurber

Jenna, thank you so much for writing this. I'm going to echo somebody upthread who said this is the best thing they've ever read on TH.

And I'm so, so sorry and so enraged on your behalf that you had to be on an L&D floor and hear another woman in labor and another baby being born. I know there was probably no way to avoid it, but I still wish you and your family could've been sheltered from that.

I wish you and David the absolute best of luck and send you many hopes for as many happy, healthy, annoying, sleep-destroying babies as you want.

Bebe

Oh, I am so sorry for you and your family.

My great-grandmother had 14 children who survived, 2 miscarriages and 2 stillbirths. Whenever anyone asked her how many children she had, she always said "eighteen," and then named them all in order. She wasn't supposed to talk about the 4 pregnancies that didn't work out, but she did. As a young girl, I thought it was morbid. And while I'm not a mom now, I am an auntie, and I understand so much better now - they were her children, just as the ones who were born healthy were her children, and they should have been acknowledged and mourned.

We should all absolutely talk about this more often, and make it OK for parents going through this terrible time can to ask for and find support.

beeline96

@Bebe I know this is slightly off-color (especially given that I find your great-grandmother's strength very powerful, and I appreciate Jenna sharing her story very, very much), but I wonder if your great-grandfather and great-grandmother high-fived or had some other post-coitus pregnancy-guaranteeing technique?

Bebe

@beeline96 They were Greek, and the high-five hadn't been invented yet, so instead they had to yell "Ya'ssou!" and break a few plates. You kids today, you don't know how easy you have it!

Xanthophyllippa

@Bebe They must have gone through place settings like crazy.

j.gab

@beeline96 I know its not really "science" but I am seriously sure any post-hump "recognition of awesome" is really what gets people knocked up. Those teens on 16 and Pregnant should stop fist bumping and or high fiving immediately.

iceberg

Adding to the chorus of thank yous. An ex-coworker of mine proudly announced his wife's pregnancy at 7 weeks, and she miscarried the next week. An in-law had 3 miscarriages between her 1st & second child. I feel like this and Nicole Cliffe's breastfeeding story are kind of similar in that there is so much shame, and feelings of failure, attached to things that are so out of our control, but if we just share about them we can feel less alone.

sevanetta

Trying not to cry. Thankyou for sharing this. I'm all for talking about this stuff, especially since I'm in the Death Club due to different loved ones passing away. The thing I always think about it is - for a really important death, you don't get over it, you get used to it. And, I really relate to seeing other people having what you want and thought you would have. Biggest hugs and best thoughts for a healthy pregnancy for you soon.

Interesting thing: I know we have some (lots of) Anne of Green Gables fans here. One of the things I love about the later books about Anne's family is how... [SPOILERS I GUESS]

... even about 25 years after the birth of her first child, stillborn, Anne remembers her. You see Anne's jealousy and sadness in the year after, and she always remembers.

hallu

So sorry for your loss. It frankly scares me - while I read this my 25-week boy was bouncing around inside me like a superball, as if to say, I am still here! Good luck to you in going forward with your dreams of having a family. We tried for a long time (sad couple in the fertility clinic style) and feel very blessed to be finally making our perilous way towards parenthood.

jennifa

@hallu Keep on bouncing baby boy!

Ally

You are a lovely writer and I am so sorry this happened to you and your baby and your family. Good luck with the healing and stuff.

angelene

Stillbirth happened in my family. 'Death Club' is right - it removed my fear of talking about death. However horrible it is, it's a normal part of life.

My mum found it hard to still be grieving, while cherishing her new baby, having tried again - feeling like she had to suppress the grief, which was intense. I'd be cautious of saying that all stillbirths/miscarriages are the same - one of the things she learned is that stillbirths are unique, like other births, and that people respond to losses differently – but there does always seem to be something cyclical about it, remembering while moving forward. Good luck in the future.

Craftastrophies

@nestingdoll I was thinking about this the other day, thinking how much easier it was to have lost a parent than a child. Even though every year is another year he didn't see, and that hurts, I don't have to think 'today he would be eight' or 'today we might be attending her graduation'. So difficult to always be seeing other children growing, imagining your child alongside them, the life and future that they could have had.

angelene

@Craftastrophies yes, it was a total bolt from the blue. I think it was most intense for my mum, because she carried him. When he would have been about four, she had a dream that he was in the house, playing, and told him "you're always welcome here."

It's strange to think that if she hadn't lost him, she might not have then had my brother who's ten now, lovely and thriving. His birth definitely helped us, but I sort of see their two births as equally strong shadow and light; it's not a question of one replacing the other. There will always be a missing member of our family. But while I do think "oh, he would have been eleven now" it's more with a feeling of mystery than pain. The song "Baby Birch' by Joanna Newsom always makes me well up when she sings "It's been a long, long time; how are you?" – I sometimes imagine meeting him after death, even though I don't believe in an afterlife, or in dreams. But not in life, which is for the living. My subsequent brother helped, by showing how life continues; I'm so glad that he's here. But I don't mean to imply that he somehow cancels out the original loss, because the comfort doesn't come from that. The loss is always there, it just becomes a part of you.

girlandtonic

Thank you for writing this - it mirrors my own experience so much it's a little spooky (around Christmas, just past the point where names and funeral homes were necessary, happy labour down the hall, heck I'm even a substitute teacher).

I found it all so hard to talk about I think because I didn't want to be that downer of a friend talking about her stillbirth. I'm mad with grief, but still don't want to make things awkward and have the other person at a loss for what to say - how ridiculous is that?

sevanetta

@girlandtonic hug. hugggggg. I'm sorry.

girlandtonic

@sevanetta Thanks love :)

Craftastrophies

@girlandtonic I'm so sorry.

And I don't want to pressure you to talk about it, go with whatever makes you comfortable. That said, my own experience with grief was that more of my acquaintance had had my exact experience than I ever would have guessed. Some people will be awkward, but many more will understand already.

girlandtonic

@Craftastrophies Thank you :)
And, yeah, it was around last Christmas, so now that some time has passed it's become something that's a bit easier to talk about. And you're right, it's pretty crazy how many people have been through or know someone that's been through the same thing.

wee_ramekin

@Craftastrophies I have had your exact experience, Craftie. It is terrible.

@girlandtonic I'm so, so sorry.

j.gab

@girlandtonic ALL THE HUGS

The idea of being ashamed of our grief is I think what hurts the most. I think that's why I felt it so important to write this. Sometimes allowing strangers into our lives to share our horribly sad experiences can be more therapeutic than all the friends in the world offering what little they can. Its no one's fault. We're not programmed with the perfect things to say in any situation let alone an uncomfortable one. But it is strange that so many women go through this and no one is willing to say anything about it.
Luckily a good number of friends have told me its outright foolish to think that talking with them (which is something I need) is going to bum them out. Yeah we'll be sad for a while, but we're being sad together and it gets so much better with time.
I hate that we feel such shame and embarrassment to ask for help while we grieve, and its because people aren't willing to talk about it.
I hope that time is making things easier for you too. That's really all we can hope for :)

girlandtonic

@j.gab Yes yes yes to all of this. Thank you (again!) for your wonderful words.

@wee_ramekin Thank you.

Even just typing this little bit out has helped (and the kind words have helped all the more). Thanks Pinners, you're all wonderful :)

laughingwoman

HAIRPIN GET OUT OF MY HEAD (no, but you're there in a good way).

I haven't told anyone I had previously told that I was pregnant what I just learned two days ago: that there is no heartbeat, that I will have to induce a miscarriage, that my baby will not be a Virgo and that I am a slobbering mess. Thank you for writing this now. There is so much I am already relating to, have already been experiencing, thinking and seeing around me (happy, healthy babies EVERYWHERE but in my uterus). I am so sorry for your loss. And you're right: I don't want to talk about it either. But it helps to hear other people's stories.

rebeccasue17

@laughingwoman

I had the exact same thoughts. I just had a miscarriage after spending eight days awaiting seeing if it was just too early or if the egg sack was empty. It was empty. And it's hard to know what to do or who to tell. I just know that I am sad...and it seems like there are lots of people around who are pregnant and weren't trying.

Thanks for sharing your story. It helps...a lot. You will be in my prayers for continued healing.

sevanetta

@laughingwoman hugggggggg I'm so sorry.

sevanetta

@rebeccasue17 and hugggggggg for you too. hugs all round.

PistolPackinMama

@laughingwoman @rebeccasue17 I am so sorry for both your losses. I hope you are being cared for as you need.

laughingwoman

@rebeccasue17

I am so sorry for your loss. The sadness is immense and strange for its very quality of being so very private. The days have felt surreal. I just went back to the hospital today to give another blood draw, and will likely have a follow-up sonogram in a week to confirm. I wish the only thing I read on the internet about any of this was this Hairpin piece...truly the web is full of highly variable and horrifying stuffs.

Be kind to yourself. While it's hippie-ish advice, I've found it to be the most true thing that's helped these days.

Party Falcon

@laughingwoman Daling, here's to you laughing again one day soon.

Party Falcon

@rebeccasue17 Party Falcon knows about sitting on your egg, even if it's just 24 hours, 3 days or 2 weeks. It makes you feel like a mother....and then not...and then those feelings don't count, somehow.

Grieve, darling. Even though you won't get flowers and cards. Party Falcon has such positive wishes for you.

sweetleah

@laughingwoman and rebeccasue17 I'm so sorry for your losses ladies! I had a miscarriage at 12 weeks 3 years ago and I still think about it all the time. I'm nervous that the next time I'm pregnant it will happen again, too.

embley

@laughingwoman I am going through the same situation as you are, also with a Virgo due date. We learned at the ultrasound that there was no heartbeat, and I took the medication and had the miscarriage yesterday. You're not alone.

Jenna, thank you for writing this, and I'm so sorry for your loss. Hairpin, thank you for posting this.

Myrtle

@embley I'm so sorry and I admire you being there for someone else when your loss is so new.

Waiting

I'm so sorry for your loss <3

Lizzy

I had a miscarriage at 10 weeks - it's hard to explain how devastating it was to see that tiny baby on the ultrasound and know that was all I'd ever know. I can only imagine how much more difficult it would be so far along in pregnancy.

After a few painful days of just being with my husband and my grief, we decided to announce on facebook that we'd lost our baby. I couldn't believe how many people messaged me and sent cards that I had no idea had gone through a similar thing. It was shocking and moving. It almost feels like becoming part of a club you didn't know existed... and you wanted no part of.

deanac

Thank you so much for sharing this, I have a younger brother that my parents named Adam who was delivered stillborn at 6 months. I have always imagined how heartbreaking that was for them, but I now have a deeper understanding thanks to you. Thank you for opening yourself up like this and allowing all of those with similar experiences to know that they are not alone.

ampersandc

Thank you for writing this beautiful piece. Similarly to laughingwoman, rebeccasue17, and Lizzy I learned that my 11 week old baby has died. We found out yesterday at our first ultrasound. It's such a strange feeling to know that what you hold inside you is no longer alive, isn't a part of your living body. That the one blip of baby shape is the only image of your child you will ever get.

I lost my father six months ago and that is a grief I have barely begun to delve into so I can't quite wrap my head or my heart around this new pain. But articles like this remind me that I am not alone and there are people and places to turn when I am ready. Thank you and I am so sorry for everyone's losses.

Myrtle

@ampersandc I'm so sorry for your losses. You and your partner are in my heart and thoughts.

Myrtle

What no one tells you is that our body knows it was pregnant, and now there's no baby. There's a physical grief, for me, at the lack of closure. It's like a full-blooded scream inside my head; grief and loss and rage, that surfaces at odd moments like frustrations at work or in traffic. I have a fear that if I start screaming, I won't be able to stop.
The emptiness can't be filled by work or sex or food. The nothingness is complete.
I'm so sorry for your loss, all of you who've written.

Craftastrophies

@Myrtle I'm so sorry that you had that experience that you have written about so eloquently. I hope the emptiness gets smaller, if it can't be filled.

George Templeton Strong

I'm a gay, childless man who has been lurking around the Hairpin since its first post. I live in NYC and knew about the two Pinups here but didn't have the courage to go. I have finally signed up and logged on to express my sincere condolences. You're a stronger person than I am, I think. I'm very sorry for your loss.

:Cinnamon Girl:

@George Templeton Strong Welcome, George! Hope to see you around these comments more often :)

George Templeton Strong

@.Lauren. Thanks. I didn't want this to be my "maiden" voyage, so to speak. I love everything about this site, how funny it is overall (usually, except when it's serious), how insightful, I love all the people who contribute, all the commenters. I was moved to sign up and comment because when my sister delivered her second child both she and her daughter almost died in childbirth. This was 2000, not 1900. At one of the best hospitals in the world. I've always wanted to adopt children but my life-partner of 26 years wasn't into it and so we didn't (we've raised dogs instead) and now we're both getting a little too long in the tooth, so to speak, to go through with it. So we spoil our nieces and nephews (and grand-nieces and grand-nephews) rotten. I've always had a soft spot for children (in a non-creepy way.) I hated "Slumdog Millionaire", for example, because I can't stand to see children abused in any way. Whenever there's a tabloid story about "pervs" I feel nauseated. TMI, and also verging on tl;dr, so sorry. This is my second post on the Hairpin!

Craftastrophies

Thank you for writing about this, Jenna. Your words are so simple and beautiful and full of emotion. Thank you for sharing your story, and blowing another hole in the secret of grief and of stillbirth.

I know I'll think about this article, and about you and your partner, often. I hope healing is as easy as these things can be, and that there is much joy in your future.

One Chicklette@twitter

I am so sorry for your loss and hope writing about it gives you a modicum of peace.

Faintly Macabre

My would-have-been older sister died when my mother was eight months pregnant--she got tangled in the umbilical cord. Because it was so late in the pregnancy, my living older sister (born a year later) and I knew about it, and she had a name. When I was little, I didn't really get it except to ask, "Would I be here if she'd lived?" (Probably not.) As I've gotten older, the horror of what happened to my parents has dawned on me more and more. (My mother felt fetal distress but thought it was something else; my father thought he felt the baby kick when she wasn't, but the baby's foot was still pink when she was stillborn.) Luckily, my parents are both incredibly strong people who had two more healthy daughters without a lingering sense of grief and loss hanging over us. I couldn't finish reading this right now because I don't want to spend the night crying, but I will, and I am very, very sorry for your loss.

raelite

Thank you for posting this. My husband and I want to start "trying" but I am so scared because I have APS. I'm glad I know I have it, as many women are diagnosed when they lose their babies...It was really helpful to me to read about before, during, after. I think it's worth trying as there's something in me that wants to be a mother. Thanks again.

karnimata

Another long-time lurker signing up just to say thank you for sharing this, and thank you to the Hairpin for featuring stories like this. I had an ectopic pregnancy when I was 19 and even though the guy i was with was an abusive juicebox whom I knew would make the worst dad ever, I still felt a real sense of loss and grief. I get kind of bummed every year when the anniversary comes around. I find it difficult to speak about it IRL, but reading these accounts helps me deal a little better. It also gives me hope that someday, I will be married to an awesome guy who will be there with me as I'm weeping and bleeding out in hospital (unlike the last time), or who will be eager to have a kid with me. Knowing that I deserve that, it's easier to forgive myself and to keep myself from making any more bad choices. Thank you.

tortietabbie

Thank you so much for sharing your story, Jenna. And I'm so, so sorry for your loss.

Lisa_RedRowFarm

I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for writing about your experience. More of us need to talk about this.

kt80

I saw the headline for this piece on twitter yesterday and I immediately thought, "I bet that's about losing a baby." I'm so sorry you lost your son. Other people have already recommended www.glowinthewoods.com and Elizabeth McCracken's beautiful memoir of her stillbirth. Those made me and my husband feel a part of a community of bereaved parents in some way, and it does help to know there are others out there getting through the same thing, living with it. We lost our baby girl at 16 weeks. She had a rare genetic anomaly that made her "incompatible with life" -- that was the diagnosis. My due date was the same week as yours. I really relate to how much it hurts (on top of all the hurt) to have to give people you love that bad news. I find I withdraw from talking about it partly because I can't cope with comforting anyone else, and yet I do want to talk about it. Thank you for writing this piece. I wish you all the luck you deserve when you try again.

eanlaith

@kt80
I am seconding Glow In The Woods. Also Empty Cradle, Broken Heart by Deborah Davis.
Much love to you, kt80, and Jenna. And any parent who survives the devastation of losing your child, at any age.

anachronistique

Thank you for sharing this. My mother miscarried before she had me, but we rarely talk about the older brother I would have had; my grandmother had multiple miscarriages and stillbirths, which we never talked about. I'm so sorry you had to go through this.

momo147

my thoughts go out to the author and everyone on this thread. we should talk about this stuff more than we do. someone up-thread said there's not much place for sadness in our culture. i think thats a big part of it. so much emphasis on "being positive" makes you feel like you need to apologize for being sad, angry or down.

i was diagnosed with an ectopic last week (after a miscarriage last summer). Went from being thrilled that I was *finally* pregnant again to being angry, heartbroken and scared of the thing growing in my tube in the course of a few minutes. Not to mention, the anxiety for the future...can I afford IVF? Will I have another ectopic if I try for natural? Horrible, all of it.

In the days since, the friends that have made me feel better are the ones who don't offer much of an opinion or advice. i seriously don't need to hear about the benefits of yoga or acupuncture right now. not the time.

Heat Signature

Whoops, guess who made the mistake of reading this AND all of the comments while eight weeks pregnant and previously experienced two miscarriages last year and is now using all of the tissues (sorry everyone).

I had a really hard time allowing myself to grieve the two miscarriages because they were both around eight weeks and I was like, "Just move on, dear. You shouldn't have gotten so attached in the first place (which in retrospect is a really sad and not-great way to treat yourself)." But then because I never really processed any of that I kept downward-spiraling until I wound up in a crisis unit last November.

So now I'm taking this pregnancy day by day, anxiously examining the toilet and my underwear for blood every time I have to use the bathroom (which is a LOT), but also trying to be much kinder to myself.

Thank you to everyone who shared, and especially to Ms. Gabert and the Hairpin for publishing this. It means an awful lot to me, and I am so sorry to everyone who has lost their babies. Please take care of yourselves, all of you.

oeditrix

Thank you for writing this. My thoughts are with you and your husband. I have two dear friends who both lost babies at 24 weeks. They both expressed that it was very difficult to know how to mourn at that stage - they felt that it fell somewhere in between miscarriage and losing a child. Both held memorial services, but expressed confusion about how much grief they were "supposed" to be feeling, and experienced guilt at feeling too much or too little or the wrong kind. One of my friends was in law school, and was anxious about having to explain why she wasn't pregnant anymore to her casual acquaintances - it's the kind of news that nobody knows whether or not to share. Both of my friends eventually went on to have another child, but one has told me she will always mourn her first daughter. I think no one who hasn't gone through it can understand.

giglet

My mom lost a baby at 36 weeks, much in the way you described. Sudden cramps, no clear resolution. I was 16ish. We never talk about it but with each passing year towards adulthood I realize more and more how incredibly awed I am that she passed through that experience and stayed sane.

*hugs* Thank you for writing this, my thoughts are with you and you're right, it's one of things no one - even families - talk about it. It's just ... too hard.

CrescentMelissa

Thank you so much for sharing this with all of us. My best friend had twins at 24 weeks that were stillborn. She wound up getting pregnant a few months later and had a beautiful little girl. Hugs to you Jenna!

miwome

Miscarriage and stillbirth stories always completely destroy me. I think it's so important and positive for these stories to be told and shared and understood. Thank you.

Gotta go find my tissues now, due to all the well-written dust in my eyes.

Gilgongo

Thank you for sharing this! I lost my baby at 23 1/2 weeks. Devastating. I almost died, too. This was 5 years ago. I spent the next 2 years desperately trying to get pregnant (ironically, my first was an accident. Go figure). When I finally did, I refused to let my previous experience freak me out as much as I could, and I ended up having a beautiful pregnancy & super healthy (and amazing) daughter. I didn't really feel "healed" until I had her.
I find one of the hardest parts about having had a stillbirth is feeling like I'm not supposed to talk about it. I don't want to freak people out! Especially pregnant women!! But, it was a major thing that happened to me, and yeah... I want to talk about it sometimes. It was weird, after my stillbirth but before I got pregnant again... people would talk about their pregnancies (morning sickness, etc...) and I felt like I wasn't "allowed" to comment. Because then I'd have to get into it. "Oh? How old is your child?" Me: "Well, actually, I had a stillbirth." Cue the looks of horror/pity/worry about their own pregnancy. It still happens. I have to stop saying myself from saying "With my FIRST pregnancy..." and just meld the two together. I still think about my first son. The pain fades, but it's still there. And, yes, I was surprised (and grateful) by how many people I knew came out of the woodwork to tell me about their own miscarriages/stillbirths!
Thank you for writing this article.

C_Webb

I wish more women shared these stories, not just so that we have a sense of how often it happens, but also to show that the grief may be life-changing, but not life-ending. You're brave and brilliant and I hope you will make some amazing new people, very soon.

tiptoemammal

I cried while reading this; my heart goes out to you and your family. Thank you for starting the conversation.

Myrtle

A dear work-friend and his wife were looking forward to their first baby, when his wife got sick and was hospitalized. We were getting updates that she was worsening and went home with heavy hearts. Another co-worker told me later that he'd lit a votive candle to pray, and the candle'd gone out, which told him the news. Our friend's wife died that night but the doctors were able to save the baby. My boss came into my office the next day to tell me the baby only weighed five pounds and all I could think was he weighed the same as half a bag of sugar. The baby lived and he and his dad went home. Heartbreaking, even now.

Madeleine Wrubleski@facebook

Jenna and Dave... My heart goes out to you! It did from the very beginning of your journey when I first learned from my wonderful daughter that something was wrong. I was brought to tears... remembering my own dear mother's past recollection in a similar situation. Her baby was brought nearly to term when the same thing happened to her. "Back in those days" situations were often unavoidable ~ like the freak winter blizzard that hit, leaving my parents hopelessly stranded twelve miles from the nearest hospital. Even when they had a sickening feeling that something was wrong... they were prisoners of the storm and could not venture out of the yard. My mother delivered - stillbirth... My mother had two wonderful, uncomplicated pregnancies with natural births... then... several complicated pregnancies leaving a gap of five years between my two siblings and the next three of us. My parents did not give up. It was through shear determination and God's will that we were all given the chance to breathe air. I too was devastated after a first miscarriage and left wondering if I was to follow my mother's footsteps. I did go on to have three amazing children! Jenna, I wish to thank you for your well-written piece!! It is so true that death is a difficult subject to approach especially when a soul is supposedly at the beginning of life, not near the end of it. I know that you are a strong, determined lady and that you and Dave will one day be blessed by the hand of God who will entrust you and Dave with that little life, fully submerged in the warmth and embrace of your arms and all of your love that you can possibly give to him/her! God Bless... <3

vomiting

This was such a touching story. Thank you so much for sharing the story of your son's brief life. I'm grateful that the nurses were honest with you, too.

Best of luck for conceiving whenever you feel ready to try again.

Heather Stephens@facebook

I just had a stillbirth on jan.16 at 41 weeks and some days..i was due to be induced just two days after. Its cruel being made to stay on the maternity ward and hear the crying babies..its also cruel to force a woman to birth her stillborn child. I ended up in csection anyway but he was gone before they ever induced me..no heartbeat..waiting and hoping..same despair. I did a little research once i got home and found that stillbirth is actually more common then sids. its not this rare thing which is varified by the people that indeed do come out of the woodwork with their loss stories. But even doctors don't talk about it. the word stillbirth or risk factors for it was NEVER a discussion i had with a doctor. It's devasting. The whole thing..the circus that happens around you those things that happen that you will never get over and will in fact haunt you forever..the feeling that you let everydown..even your child because you couldnt get things right in the end. I found that spending that time with our son Liam helped me a great deal. I'm still a wreck. I still have my days but i wouldnt trade one moment with my son or one moment of carrying him. I comfort myself with the thought that he went from only knowing love to God's arms and that he will never know hurt or pain. But it doesnt make it hurt less that I can't hold him or kiss his face just one more time. There is nothing to say to make it better...this i know. But if i could hug you i would...and i pray for your healing as i seek out my own. Thank you for sharing.

sevanetta

@Heather Stephens@facebook jeeeeeeeeeeezzzz I'm sorry for what happened, Heather. hug hug.

Jenny123@twitter

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rubyslippers

Thank you for so much for sharing. Every loss is different but this is so especially heart-wrenching. Your baby boy didn't have much time but is clear that he was so deeply loved by you, his father, and your families. That is one beautiful gift that you were able to give him.

Zeki Yol@facebook

great work, thank you. i always follow web sites. thanks for sharing. Fıkra .

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