My HR Director Said Bereavement Leave Was Only For ‘Real People’

Trigger warning: pregnancy loss, stillbirth 

After my first pregnancy loss (an ectopic pregnancy that required emergency surgery), I took two weeks off work to recover physically and cry in the comfort of my own home. During that time, I called my company’s HR department to inquire about bereavement leave (because I really did not want to use a year’s worth of sick days and vacation time) and the HR woman said, “Well, bereavement leave is only for, like, real people.”

True story.

I was, in a word, dumbfounded. Then infuriated. I was already overwhelmed by the intensity of pain I felt for a child I had never met. Then, with one succinct sentence, this woman (who I had also never met) managed to completely invalidate the grief I was beginning to allow myself to feel.

Unfortunately, my experience is not uncommon. After Elizabeth O’Donnell’s daughter, Aaliyah, was born still on December 1, Elizabeth’s employer, the District of Columbia Public Schools (she’s worked as a teacher for the past 7 years), said they could not offer her paid family leave since she is only “caring for [her]self.” She went through 48 hours of labor and a surgery, during which she lost a liter-and-a-half of blood, but she cannot get paid leave, leave she would have received had her child lived. “Being ineligible for paid family leave when I indeed experienced the qualifying event of birthing a child made it feel as though my child never existed and that what happened to her, and me in the process, didn’t matter,” Elizabeth told me.

If “family leave” is only for parents bringing home a living baby, and “bereavement leave” is only for mourning human beings who die after spending time on Earth outside of a womb, then we need paid leave specific to stillbirth, miscarriage, and other types of pregnancy loss. It is too monumental of a life event—physically, emotionally, and often financially—to deny people this right.

It’s commonly reported that one in four pregnancies end in loss. With this rate, it’s safe to say that in a workplace like mine (with hundreds of people), at least one woman is going through pregnancy loss at any given time. For some, these losses are intense medical events, like Elizabeth’s. Two of my four losses were ectopic pregnancies, which posed a risk to my life—one required the aforementioned surgery, the other required a shot of a drug regularly used for cancer (because it’s good at killing cells). I had a “missed miscarriage” (the embryo had passed without my knowing) that involved bleeding for weeks before I was deemed unpregnant. And I lost my son, Miles, in the second trimester, which involved yet another surgery (and a whole lot of heartache).

Even if a pregnancy loss does not have serious medical issues, there are emotional issues to consider. According to the largest-ever study to assess the psychological impact of early-stage pregnancy loss, 29% of women who had experienced a miscarriage before 12 weeks or an ectopic pregnancy had posttraumatic stress one month after their loss. Approximately one in four women had moderate to severe anxiety, and about one in ten had moderate to severe depression. According to a 2016 review of the psychological effects of stillbirth, bereaved parents had significantly higher rates of emotional disorders including depression, general anxiety disorder, social phobia, agoraphobia, and anger, as well as a sense of failure, long-term guilt, symptoms of PTSD, and suicidal ideation.

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When my co-authors and I wrote “All the Love: Healing Your Heart and Finding Meaning After Pregnancy Loss,” we wanted to explore the devastation of pregnancy loss. For me, it was an attempt to make sense of my personal experiences, to answer a lingering question: Why is this type of loss so crippling? There is the loss of the baby, of course, along with the loss of the dream of motherhood, the imagined future; but there is also a loss of innocence, a loss of faith, a loss of control. These losses are compounded by society’s shortcomings when it comes to grief, in general, and pregnancy loss, specifically.

David Kessler, renowned author and founder of, has said, “We are a grief-illiterate society.” We want to fix things. We want to rush people past their sadness. This is why if you’ve had a pregnancy loss, you’ve probably been told, “Everything happens for a reason!” or “Just try again! One of them will stick!” Platitudes like this fail to acknowledge and witness the griever’s pain. It’s no wonder women describe pregnancy loss as lonely, despite the fact that millions of people have experienced it. When our core feelings are shut down (by platitudes or insensitive HR people or cold-hearted employers), we retreat, our grief complicated by the fact that others will not validate it, will not confirm it—and our babies—as real.

After each of my losses, nobody told me I was entitled to any kind of leave. So, when I ran out of sick days and vacation time, I came into work, often still bleeding during meetings and feeling like I’d been hit by a truck. I expended a lot of energy acting like I was fine because it seemed that’s what others expected of me. It was exhausting. Most days, I went to my car at lunch time to take a nap. A couple times, I curled up under my desk. These are privileges, I realize—the sick days, the vacation time, the car in which to nap, the office with a door. What about the women who don’t have these? What about women who must take time off unpaid? What about women who are on their feet all day, or performing physical labor?

It’s worth noting that some women may take comfort in the predictable and stable routine of the workplace after a loss. But many of us who return to work are not ready to be there. In her book about the loss of her son, Teddy, Elle Wright says, “The thought of going back, facing everyone…quite frankly made me physically sick.” Most of us have to go back though. Most of us have to do the best we can, while being painfully aware that, as Rebecca Dube writes in “Miscarriage at Work,” “U.S. workplaces have not caught up with the growing recognition that miscarriage is a loss that takes time to mourn.”

U.S. workplaces will not catch up to this reality unless enough people demand they do so. We are a country that cares about productivity and bottom lines. A woman sitting at her desk despite being in the midst of physical and emotional turmoil keeps up the appearance of productivity. But the bottom line is that her health should be top priority. The bottom line is she will be a better employee when she’s had time to heal.

There are other countries that offer leave to employees following pregnancy loss. In Korea, for example, women are granted maternity leave in the case of miscarriage or stillbirth, with the leave time based on the number of weeks of pregnancy. The leave is paid, and an employer is not allowed to dismiss an employee during leave. A policy like this needs to exist here. The fact that it doesn’t makes me question the common assertion that we are the greatest country in the world.

We don’t have to call it “family leave” or “bereavement leave” if those terms are indeed reserved for separate, rigidly-defined circumstances. This type of leave can, and should, have its own name. We can call it Pregnancy Loss Leave, or PLL. Better yet: Paid Pregnancy Loss Leave, or PPLL. Corporate America loves a good acronym. Whatever we call it, it needs to be readily available and easily accessible. And, ideally, it should be extended to the woman and her partner—because pregnancy loss affects both people. Currently, company and government policies imply that it affects no one. Currently, those policies reinforce the idea that people should suffer in silence. And suffer they do.

We need to do better—because women’s health matters, because each baby matters, because grief matters. A society is defined by its policies. If we want to promote empathy, as so many of us say in these trying times, we have to start with how we treat our people. We have to start with the policies that define our daily lives. Imagine a world in which we, collectively, embrace people who are grieving. Imagine a world in which we, collectively, say, “Take your time. Your pain deserves all the space it needs.” The greatest revolutions, as they say, start small.

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Chrissy Teigen Shows How Luna Is Honoring Her Brother Jack

Chrissy Teigen has Jack’s ashes at home with her now and Luna has her own way of spending time with her little brother

Chrissy Teigen shared a very personal, very sweet video on social media showing her late son Jack’s ashes and her daughter Luna’s precious response to them.

Teigen shared two videos, one showing a gift her daughter, four, left for Jack and another of her talking to him. They are equal parts heartbreaking and wonderful to watch. “im just thinking a lot about jack today. our house is very open about life, death, grief, everything really. we try to explain things well and answer every question imaginable in a beautiful, spiritual but literal way,” Teigen wrote. “I know this is a weird post but I just wanted to share these to always remember my incredibly empathetic little mini. life is infinitely better with her in it. I miss u, jack. we miss you a lot.”

In the video, Teigen showed a thoughtful tribute Luna left for Jack on top of the ashes, as well as a clip of her speaking to the ashes. Jack, Teigen and husband John Legend’s third child, was stillborn in late September.

“This is the cutest, most beautiful thing I have ever seen,” Teigen says in her first Instagram video, filming the box containing Jack’s ashes next to a teddy bear. “We just got baby Jack’s ashes back, so they’re in here for now with some blessed holy Thai string.”

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We are shocked and in the kind of deep pain you only hear about, the kind of pain we’ve never felt before. We were never able to stop the bleeding and give our baby the fluids he needed, despite bags and bags of blood transfusions. It just wasn’t enough. . . We never decide on our babies’ names until the last possible moment after they’re born, just before we leave the hospital.  But we, for some reason, had started to call this little guy in my belly Jack.  So he will always be Jack to us.  Jack worked so hard to be a part of our little family, and he will be, forever. . . To our Jack – I’m so sorry that the first few moments of your life were met with so many complications, that we couldn’t give you the home you needed to survive.  We will always love you. . . Thank you to everyone who has been sending us positive energy, thoughts and prayers.  We feel all of your love and truly appreciate you. . . We are so grateful for the life we have, for our wonderful babies Luna and Miles, for all the amazing things we’ve been able to experience.  But everyday can’t be full of sunshine.  On this darkest of days, we will grieve, we will cry our eyes out. But we will hug and love each other harder and get through it.

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She explained it was her daughter that brought the stuffed animal to Jack. “Luna put a little therapy bear around him, and the best part is, I came down and she gave him a piece of her favorite snack. A tiny piece of Pirate’s Booty,” Teigen continued. “I can’t… I don’t know, she’s amazing.”

In the second video, Luna sits next to Jack’s ashes and introduces herself. “I’m Luna. How you doing today?” she can be heard saying.

Teigen has been selflessly open about her pregnancy loss. She shared pictures from the hospital on the day it happened and penned an emotionally raw article weeks later describing what the couple endured. Teigen described the medical situation that led to the loss of their child after a partial placenta abruption wouldn’t heal and led to intense bleeding.

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I didn’t know how to come back to real life so I wrote this piece for Medium with hopes that I can somehow move on but as soon as I posted it, tears flew out because it felt so….final. I don’t want to ever not remember jack. . . Thank you to everyone who has been so kind. Thank you to the incredible doctors who tried so hard to make our third life a reality. Thank you to my friends and family and our entire household for taking care of me through all the adult diaper changes, bed rest and random hugs. Thank you John for being my best friend and love of my life. A lot of people think of the woman in times like this but I will never forget that john also suffered through these past months, while doing everything he could to take care of me. I am surrounded, in a human therapy blanket of love. I am grateful and healing and feel so incredibly lucky to witness such love.

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“Late one night, I was told it would be time to let go in the morning,” she writes. “I cried a little at first, then went into full blown convulsions of snot and tears, my breath not able to catch up with my own incredibly deep sadness. Even as I write this now, I can feel the pain all over again,” she wrote in part.

She also shared how much having Luna and Miles around in the days and weeks after Jack passed meant to her healing. “I find myself randomly crying, thinking about how happy I am to have two insanely wonderful little toddlers who fill this house with love. I smother them with love while they ‘Moooooooom!!!!!’ me. I don’t care,” she wrote.

It looks like little Luna is still taking care of her mama.

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It Only Took Seven Days For Me To Break

Trigger warning: miscarriage

How do you tell the world that you are broken and that you hope they don’t look at you with eyes that mirror the way you feel? How do you tell the world about one of your biggest failures and hope they don’t use that to define you? How do you tell the world that you are actually not okay, despite saying it for weeks? How do you process a loss when society tells you not to talk about it? How do you tell the people you love that there is nothing anyone can do to fix it? How do you tell someone you are actually the worst you’ve ever been?

The simple fact is — there’s no pretty way to do it. There’s no perfect way to say: I had another miscarriage, and it has broken me all over again.

But I did. And it has. And I am tired of pretending like I am okay for the sake of everyone else’s feelings. Because I am not okay and I don’t know when I will be, or IF I ever will be.

It has been an absolute whirlwind since I found out I was pregnant. In the span of seven days, I went from a positive pregnancy test, to a negative pregnancy test that was supposed to serve as a confirmation of the first, to a blood draw, to spotting, to outright bleeding, to a blood redraw, to confirmation that I was no longer carrying my child.

My emotions went from shocked, to acceptance, to excitement, to fear, to heartbroken and shattered. In seven days. One week. That’s all it took.

The weight of this miscarriage feels heavier than my first. Having Addison allows me the understanding of just what I’m missing out on as I process losing this baby. The love. The snuggles. The laughs. The feelings. The sleepless nights. The worry. The want to give them everything they could ever dream of. All of it. I am missing out on all of it.

And I have been in the weirdest mental state ever since because of it — balancing between anger, sadness, and numbness. All in a 60-minute span. Rinse and repeat, 23 more times.

Almost no one knows. I wish people understood the fine line I am walking without me having to tell them. I wish I could wear a shirt every day that says, “please be delicate with me, I am breaking” and not have to explain to everyone what it means. I wish someone would just wrap me up in the biggest hug and tell me I’m going to be okay, even if it’s a lie. I’m not saying the world should walk around on eggshells around me, but… I’m also not saying I wouldn’t kind of be okay with it either.

But somehow, the world keeps (unsteadily) turning, and I seem to be falling apart more and more with each turn. It doesn’t seem fair. None of this seems fair. How is any of this fair?

Is it because I wasn’t overwhelmed with joy at first? Is it because I went for one too many runs? Is it because I went bonkers nesting and did too much around the house? Is it because I lugged two bags of mulch when I should have just grabbed one? Or was it none of those things at all?

It eats me up inside to know that I will never know just what it was that ultimately led to me losing my baby.

How do you cope when you don’t have the answers? How do you mourn someone you’ve never even met? Felt kick or hiccup or seen smile or giggle? Never got to hold or name? How do you process all of these feelings and emotions when they continue to consume you so deeply, day in and day out?

Seven days. That’s all it took for my heart to completely shatter. To fall out of my body, onto the floor, never to look the same again. Seven flipping days is all it took for me to completely break. And I have no idea how long it will take to put this new version of myself back together again, but I do know it will be longer than a godforsaken seven days.

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What I Learned After My Daughter Was Abused By Her Nanny

Trigger warning: child abuse, sexual assault, detailed description of miscarriage

“Life’s not fair.”

“When there’s no wind, row.”

We’ve all heard the first saying before. I just recently heard the second proverb. The words that follow are personal and emotional; I believe the secret to success is how you view life.

Life’s not fair.

When I was six years old, I had a great life. We had an incredible house in Phoenix with a pool and a huge yard. I had my own room. For a six year old, life was good.

That was also the year my dad declared bankruptcy. As I kid, I didn’t understand what that meant. What I did understand was that everything that was mine and was my world slowly disappeared in the rear view mirror as we headed to California to start a new life.

If you haven’t been through a bankruptcy, I’ll share a little about the process from my memory. Of course, there is a lot of paperwork, but the unexpected part was the random guys that come to your house, touch all of your possessions and put a value on the life your parents had created. They put everything onto a truck and take it to auction for someone else to bid on. Your life is put on a stage and auctioned off. I watched this process through the eyes of a naive six year old and I watched a part of my dad’s self worth get auctioned off on those days as well.

When there’s no wind, row.

We moved into a three bedroom house with my grandparents. I knew no one. My brother and I were sharing a room, and the house was too small for six people. I had to start a new school, make new friends, and I was so mad. I didn’t know what I’d done wrong or why my dad was so angry. My grandma didn’t understand me, and we fought all the time. I couldn’t hide anywhere because everywhere I went there was someone there. I felt like a visitor all the time.

But my grandma loved me. She loved me with everything she had. She was patient and kind and worked hard to figure me out. I fell in love with her. She took me line dancing and I watched her play tennis and she shared her love of the ocean with me. To this day her number is one of the only numbers I have memorized, and we lost her almost three years ago.

From that bankruptcy I, too, fell in love with the ocean. I got to spend five summers as a junior lifeguard. I jumped off piers, jumped off jeddies, competed against other lifeguards, learned to surf. I had strawberries that were still warm from the days sun. I met friends in Camarillo that I am still friends with today.

Life’s not fair.

After we had Olive, we knew we wanted to have another baby. When Olive turned one we started trying again to get pregnant. When the pregnancy test showed positive, we were over the moon excited. As all parents do, we started fantasizing about what this baby would be like and what names we’d choose. This pregnancy felt different than my pregnancy with Olive. I started to spot and I knew something was wrong. My OBGYN got me in immediately and searched for the rapid heartbeat we’d been used to hearing. It wasn’t there. He looked at me with knowing eyes and informed Josh and me that my body was experiencing a miscarriage. He explained that the experience varies from woman to woman, but I could expect cramping and discomfort and continued bleeding. He assured me I had done nothing wrong. This just happens sometimes.

We left feeling numb. Well, numb except for the pain from my body contracting as if it were in labor to get our sweet lifeless baby out of my body. The pain was extreme, and felt like insult to injury.

My husband thought it would be good to get us out of Flagstaff for a day. We loaded Olive into the car and headed down the hill to Phoenix. The pain got so bad I made him stop at Sunset Point. I ran to the bathroom, not knowing what was going to happen next. I was not prepared for those next 7 minutes. If my doctor had taken me aside and said, “Hey, this next part is going to be messy and awful, but you are not going to die and you will get through it,” I may have been ready. But in that stall at the rest stop at Sunset Point, I was alone and bleeding everywhere. This is graphic, and I get it, but I don’t fully understand why there’s so much shame and secrecy around miscarriages. Maybe my story will help someone.

I don’t know if my experience is abnormal or completely normal. I sat in that cold and sterile stall in pain with blood everywhere. I was scared. I was humiliated and the poor women waiting to use the stall were impatient.

What isn’t shared is that you also know when the cell mass that was your baby passes from your body. And it’s just as heart wrenching as you’d think. I don’t know how long I spent in that stall. I tried cleaning up with the sandpaper toilet paper, but in the end it looked like a bloody scene from a horror movie. I was covered in tears and blood and, as I washed up the best I could and staggered out of the bathroom, my husband ran to grab me.

He held me and then put me in the car. We drove the rest of the way in stunned silence. Each processing what had happened and what our life would be like with just our funny girl, Olive.

The other thing that isn’t shared is that your body doesn’t just stop producing the baby hormones, so I was depressed and hormonal. Time passed, and we tried again. The doctors put me on special hormones that really took my “crazy” to a whole new level. I remember calling a friend to share how I felt and her response let me know just how crazy I’d become. She asked point blank, “Stef, like crazy you-want-to-hurt-yourself crazy?” I hoped it would all be worth it, but her question and genuine concern made me question everything we were going through. Was this worth it all because we wanted another baby so badly?

But it worked! I got pregnant again, and all of the emotions came back, but this time fear returned as well. We lost that baby too. I remember one of my colleagues calling to offer condolences, but he also asked why it was that I couldn’t just go back to work? He couldn’t understand why I’d stay at home for a couple days if I already knew we’d lost the baby. He thought I was tougher than that. (Those were his words.)

When there’s no wind, row.

So that was that. We had our baby girl, Olive. She was funny and smart and kind. We started looking into fostering kids and adoption. A dear friend of mine was having fertility issues and I was able to be present and supportive 100%. When we spoke, we spoke from a place of common emotions and experiences. I was able to reevaluate and spend my time with Olive and Josh, and I threw myself back into work. My office became wildly successful. We created a new vision of our life and what our family would look like.

I know this is not how all miscarriage and infertility stories end, but ours had two happy endings. We finally did get pregnant and I carried Daisy full term and six months later we got another unexpected surprise when we found out we were pregnant again with Ebbe. Our kids have all, at different points in their life, asked Josh and I about their brothers. Olive told us a beautiful story about her little brother and how sad he is that he’s not with us, but how happy he is now. These stories could just be children’s imaginations, but we choose to believe they are stories about our lost babies and that they are still part of our story.

My story ended well, and I am not saying even for a second that if you put your head down and just work through the pain you will get a baby in the end, but I am saying adjusting your vision of your life and finding a way to serve others offered me the closure and strength I needed.

Life’s not fair.

We had a terrifying and beautiful and spectacular surprise baby. She was our third daughter. She was born with a smile, and that smile rarely leaves her face. She changed our life and all of our plans. We hired a nanny to help us with our daughters while we ran our businesses.

We were out of town training other advisors and we left our innocent and precious children with the nanny. We were gone for 4 days. When I got back to my kids, I knew right away something was wrong. Our youngest, Ebbe was three months old and her head was swollen on one side. I immediately ran to hold her and asked what had happened.

The nanny dismissed my concern as nothing. She added maybe Daisy hit her with a book.

I knew that wasn’t what happened.

Sweet Ebbe was lethargic and melancholy. She wasn’t herself, and I was desperate to figure out what was wrong. I called our doctor, she assured me that if she wasn’t vomiting or screaming she was probably fine. Her sisters, Olive and Daisy were quiet and different, too. I kept asking if something had happened, and neither would answer.

It was Sunday night. It had been two days since we got back, and the older kids had started to return to normal. We were eating dinner, and I was holding Ebbe while Olive started sharing stories. She told us a story about Ebbe sitting on the counter and being pushed off by T-Rex (she’s a huge fan of dinosaurs and dragons). In her story, Ebbe fell off the counter and landed on her head. When I started to ask more questions, Olive clammed up. Josh and I exchanged looks of terror. He called the emergency department, and they again assured us that if she was not vomiting and screaming she was probably okay, there was no need to bring her in.

The next morning Olive woke me, she had to tell me. On Wednesday, while we were gone, Ebbe had vomited and screamed all night. That’s when it all clicked. The nanny had said the kids were busy playing Wednesday night and that FaceTime would be too hard for them. She said she’d send text updates. How could I have missed it?

I drove Ebbe and Daisy to the doctor and Josh dropped Olive at camp and met me there. As soon as the doctor saw Ebbe, our lives changed dramatically. The police and department of child safety were called. We were instructed to get Olive and bring her to the doctor’s office because they needed “eyes on all three children.” They rushed Ebbe in for X-rays and it all became an out of body experience. Ebbe had suffered a full cranial fracture. Her brain was swelling and there was no way to know the full extent of the damage.

Josh and I were guilty until proven innocent of child abuse. All of the girls were X-rayed, physically inspected, and interviewed without us to look for signs of abuse. Ebbe was admitted to the hospital and I was not allowed to hold my daughter unless a staff member was present.

When there’s no wind, row.

As our world crumbled, we worked to rebuild our life. We were given an opportunity to reevaluate our priorities. We decided we wanted to raise our kids, we wanted to be present for these fleeting, precious years. As a family, we decided to change our schedules. My husband and I cut back our hours to part time. We each spent a half day with the kids. We were there for firsts, we got to experience the good days, the bad days, the highs and lows. My kids got to know their parents and we got to know them. We had park days and crafts and daily walks. We had laughs and games and hugs and tears. In the end, Ebbe was okay, the department of child safety allowed us to keep our kids, and we were given the opportunity to be present for our girls during their preschool years.

Life’s not fair.

I was in high school in Durango, Colorado. I’d moved there when I was halfway through my freshman year. I was shell shocked. I was an outsider, and most of the people I met had known each other forever. Lance was one of the first friends I met at the school. He was kind and sincere and funny. He was desperately in love with one of the girls in our class, and I’d listen as he’d share how they had interacted that day. He’d wait with me after school everyday until my parents came to pick me up. He made me feel less alone in that small mountain town.

My aunt and uncle had paid to get some pictures of me taken, and Lance had asked to see them. He asked for a few and talked me into being brave enough to share the pictures with other people at the school. On this particular afternoon, I had given him the photos and he was busy telling me all about what he and Christy had talked about that day and what he planned to do the next day to get her to see him as more than just a friend. We joked and laughed like any other day. My dad picked me up, and Lance and I hugged and said good bye.

That was the last time I would ever see Lance. I was asleep in my bed, it was late, and the house phone (the only phone that existed at that time) woke us all up. It was for me. My friend Sandy was on the line and she was crying. I was able to understand “drunk driver,” “Lance,” and “dead.”

I was inconsolable. The next few days were a blur of tears and heartache. Lance’s mom handed me an envelope at one point and explained she thought I’d want the contents back. She went on to share that the emergency personnel said they were with Lance when they arrived on scene. I opened the envelope to find my photos, covered with blood.

When there’s no wind, row.

Lance’s death brought me closer to his circle of friends. His passing gave me lifetime friends because his death left a hole in each of us. His passing showed me how precious life is and how little time we really have with people. Lance taught me to love the people in your life and to make sure they know they are loved. Lance’s death changed my perception of life, my perception of Durango, and showed me how our preconceived ideas about people can be completely wrong. Lance taught me to love unconditionally and to see the good in people.

Life’s not fair.

This one’s a scary one. I shared this story with a few people and it’s still terrifying to be this vulnerable. Maybe one day I’ll get the guts to share it without my safety parameters. Until that point, I’ll share this. I was raped during my first month in college. It was awful and terrifying and isolating. I told a total of two people. One told me I was a liar, the other was so shocked, she did the best she could to comfort me, but did not have the tools to help me cope.

I shut down. I withdrew. I slept a lot. I stopped eating. I stopped going to class. I cried. I didn’t tell anyone else.

When there’s no wind, row.

But I moved on.

I eventually started to get up and shower. I started going to class. Life became normal again. I tried to forget it ever happened. I had incredible men come into my life again. Each of them helped show me that not all men just take what they want.

I learned my worth. I learned that one night does not define me. I was so fortunate to have people come into my life and love me. I realized that it was not my fault. I learned to laugh again. I learned to open up and share more of myself again.

Life’s not easy. Life’s not fair.

But when there’s no wind, you row.

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I Had An Ectopic Pregnancy — But I Didn’t Even Know I Was Pregnant

Confusion. Shock. Grief. Sadness. Heartache. Fear.

A whole bunch of feelings that were neither expected nor invited to show up on an ordinary Wednesday morning. It was the week of spring break and my husband had taken the day off work. He was in the kitchen cutting sweet pastries from our favorite bakery into tiny bite sized pieces for our three kiddos who were eagerly ready for a day of “family fun.” They’d been looking forward to this day all week and while they were starting their morning in the very best way, I was hiding in the bathroom.

I had been on the phone with an OB nurse explaining that I’d been fighting menstrual cramps since Saturday and I had reached the point in which they were literally bringing me to my knees. I hadn’t slept well the night before and despite numerous warm baths, Tylenol, and heating pads, the pain was just no longer something I could tolerate. As I spoke with the nurse, I admitted feeling guilty and even a little embarrassed for being a 31-year-old adult female calling to complain of cramps. I mean, c’mon, I should be able to toughen up and handle this, right?

I didn’t know.

The nurse listened and talked through my symptoms for several minutes. She gently asked me to take a pregnancy test — you know, just to rule things out. “I know I’m on my period. I’m not pregnant,” I told her. Still, she encouraged me to take the test, “Just as a precaution. Go ahead and take it. I see the doctor coming down the hall so I’m gonna talk to him real quick and call you back.”

Fine… I peed on the stupid stick. I sat waiting for those single lines to confirm what I already knew and moments later, the nurse was calling me back. “It’s negative,” I told her. “There are only two lines.”

As I listened for her response, I glanced down and noticed another faint line slowly emerging. “Wait a minute. No, there’s another line showing up. Wait, there’s definitely a plus sign showing. Oh my God, I think I’m pregnant. Am I really pregnant? What does that mean?”

I didn’t know.

I yelled for my husband and burst into tears. I showed him the test and we stood together, looking at this little stick that had always been something that brought us happy and exciting news in the past. I had never even considered that a positive pregnancy test could actually indicate a very negative outcome.

I simply didn’t know.

The nurse was gentle and careful with her words. She told me that I needed to come in to be evaluated. I prepared myself for some very difficult conversations — to hear that there was no heartbeat and to be given confirmation that this unexpected nightmare was in fact, reality. I told my husband to stay home with the kids while I went in to be seen. I don’t know why I didn’t push for him to come with me. In hindsight, that was weird. But in the moment, I was in shock. And I was scared.

And I just didn’t know.

I arrived for labs and ultrasound and was immediately called in by a tech. I still remember her face. She had those eyes. You know, those sympathetic, sad puppy dog eyes. I told her it was okay.

“I know why I’m here…. Please just be honest with what you see.”

I didn’t know what else to tell her so I got undressed and laid in the chair. I was cold and uncomfortable and doing my best to get through this inevitable nightmare. The tech told me that she saw fluid. A LOT of fluid. There was nothing in my uterus.

“Have you ever heard of an ectopic pregnancy?” she asked. She told me that she needed to call my physician so that he could talk to me. As she left the room, I grabbed my phone and quickly Googled, “ectopic pregnancy.” I took a quick screenshot and sent it to my husband with the message, “This is what’s happening. I’m waiting on the doctor now.” I had no other information, I didn’t know what an ‘ectopic pregnancy’ was, and I didn’t have time to let Google do any more research for me.

I didn’t know.

The tech returned and explained that my doctor probably wanted to speak with me in his office, rather than in ultrasound so I grabbed my things and she walked me down a back hallway to a room labeled, “Education.” Seconds later, a nurse arrived telling me that we needed to go downstairs to the ER. Okay, at this point, I was just going through the motions. I didn’t know why I was being moved from room to room. I had no idea what was going on. I was still in shock.

And I still didn’t know.

The nurse took me directly to patient registration. As the receptionist asked for my license and insurance card, I heard my phone ring. It was my husband. I hadn’t talked with him since sending that quick text earlier in the ultrasound room. “Do you mind if I take this,” I asked the receptionist, and without even giving her a chance to respond, I put the phone to my ear and answered.

I heard his calm voice ask, “Hey, how are you doing?”

“I don’t know. I have no idea what’s going on.”

“Okay, well, I just got off the phone with the doctor and I’m going to get there as soon as possible,” he reassured me.

“Wait. What? I haven’t even seen the doctor yet!? Why did he call you?”

“Kayla, you’re getting ready to have a procedure…”

“WHAT!?!” I interrupted him again, bursting into tears. “WHAT is going on!?”

I looked at the receptionist and before she could even muster a response, another nurse arrived to take me into a prep room. I listened to my husband on the other end of the phone, “Everything is going to be okay, Kayla. I am working on getting someone over here to watch the kids and I will be there as soon as I can. I love you.”

Why did my doctor call my husband before even talking to me? What procedure did I just register for? Who was going to be home in the middle of the week to watch our kids?

I didn’t know.

I blindly followed the nurse and was greeted with two more as we entered yet another room. They told me I was getting ready for surgery. They apologized for the chaos and confusion and rush but also explained that all those things they were apologizing for were necessary. “This is an emergency, Kayla. This is a life-threatening situation and we are going to be moving quickly.”

She explained that an ectopic pregnancy is when the fertilized egg does not make it into the uterus. Instead, it gets stuck implanting into the fallopian tube. Based on the ultrasound images, it looked like my fallopian tube had ruptured and I was now bleeding internally… and possibly had been since Saturday when I had first assumed that I was on my period. Before I could even start to process what the nurses were telling me, the room filled with staff helping me undress, start an IV, put on compression socks, draw blood, gather my belongings.

Another nurse came in and began discussing bereavement options and available support. There was a nurse documenting on her computer. There was an anesthesiologist introducing himself. There were papers to sign and questions to answer and so many things happening at once. It was blurred chaos. It was uncontrolled chaos. It was too much. I had no idea what to do.

I later found out that my doctor, who I still believe is the best OB/GYN on the planet, had been busy in the background the entire time — trying his best to surround me with the support he knew I would need before all this chaos ensued. He had been preparing my husband. He had been preparing himself. He had been doing his job. He knew it was going to be a lot and more than I could bear alone. He had called my husband before seeing me because he knew this was not something I could process on my own. He knew I needed the support. This had gone far beyond a “tough conversation regarding a failed pregnancy” and my lack of understanding as to what was happening wasn’t the fault of any of the staff around me. The nurses were all doing their best to get me ready. They were doing their jobs. They didn’t know. And you know what?

I didn’t either. I didn’t know.

I felt overwhelmed, like I couldn’t breathe. I needed to clear the room. I mustered every polite bone in my body and looked at the bereavement nurse first, firmly telling her, “I need you to stop talking to me about this. I need you to leave.” The room suddenly grew quiet. You guys, these nurses were compassionate and caring and doing a great job but I needed a moment. I needed space. I needed to find a way to breathe.

Within moments, the room emptied. Everyone had left except for this very sympathetic nurse who was left standing at her computer. “Oh sweetie, I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I know this must be hard for you.” I shook my head and apologized for being such a mess. I closed my eyes, wiped my cheeks, and pulled my knees to my chest.

I took a deep breath and looked back at the nurse with tears in my eyes, I asked her, “Will you just stop what you’re doing and pray with me?” I didn’t know what else to do. So right there, in that big, scary moment, that sweet nurse did exactly that. She sat down on the bed, wrapping both her arms around me, and while I sat there sobbing, she prayed. She prayed for my health. For understanding. For comfort and consolation. She prayed for the doctors and nurses. She prayed for their knowledge and expertise. For their ability to take care of me and get me through this tough moment. She prayed for the baby. The baby that two hours ago, I hadn’t even known existed. And it was in that moment that reality hit. I choked back my emotions and asked her quietly, “

I don’t understand. How far along am I? Is the baby alive?”

She looked at me, this time with tears in her own eyes, “No sweetie, a baby can’t survive what has happened. And this is why you’re going into surgery. You too, are at risk and we need to take care of you right now.”

You know that feeling when a parent sees their baby for the first time? That feeling of overwhelming love and adoration and joy for a child they’ve only just met? It’s indescribable. And it’s the most accurate way to describe what I was feeling in that moment, except opposite. I felt like I had spent the last two hours moving through a storm of chaos with whirling winds, pouring rains, powerful thunder and scary lightning and all of the sudden, everything had stopped. Everything was calm and I was suddenly filled with this fierce, overwhelming, and profound sadness. I was sad for the final realization that somehow, sometime, some way, human creation had failed. I felt like I had failed. I felt like a piece of motherhood had been stripped from my identity.

The rest is a blur.

I woke up from surgery with my husband by my side. He had rushed through the hospital door only moments after I had been wheeled into the surgery room. We had missed seeing each other by a few minutes but he tells me that my doctor had warned him over the phone that he wasn’t going to wait. “I’m not gonna be able to wait on you, Jeremy. But I promise I’m gonna take care of your wife.”

I had three little incisions — one on my belly button, one below my belly button, and one on my hip. They told me they had removed my right fallopian tube. They told me that I could still conceive if we wanted to try again. They told I needed to take it easy and that it was okay to cry. They told me there were services and support groups available if we needed them. They told me that my husband and I needed to talk together to make a decision regarding we wanted to do with the remains.

Big stuff, right?

Big, awful, painful, scary, heartbreaking stuff.

So why am I sharing such a personal story? Why am I writing about such a private and traumatic moment? Why do I feel the need to expose the world of social media to such a sad moment in my life?

Because I am a writer and I have a story to be told. Because I am a verbal processor. Because right now, I feel empty and my only coping mechanism is to sit in front of my laptop and translate my heartache into written words. Because I hate to admit that I know there are countless other women who can relate and recall the very same feelings I’m feeling now. Because I want those women to know that they’re not alone. Because I also want the reassurance that I’m not alone. Because my heart aches and my body hurts and I need to talk about it but I’m at a loss for spoken words. Because the loss and grief are real. Because something failed in those first few weeks of creation. And because I lost a baby and that truth hurts me the most.

On March 27, what I assumed was a “hard” period turned into a surprise pregnancy. That surprise pregnancy turned into a devastating miscarriage. That devastating miscarriage turned into a life-threatening situation and an emergency surgery. That emergency surgery turned into a whole bunch of heartbreak with grief counseling and bereavement discussions and a day filled with uninvited and unexpected chaos and sadness and pain.

1 in 4 women experience loss.

I am now part of the 1 in 4.

And now… I know.

One last thing: according to that statistic, 25% of women have experienced loss. This is not uncommon, folks. This is happening every day and, oh, does it hurt. Do you know a friend or loved one who is part of that statistic? Maybe it’s you who can relate to that awful number. I pray that’s not the case. But here’s my point: before this week, I had always tried my best to understand the sorrow my friends felt with the loss of a pregnancy. I had always tried to walk with them through the survival of a nightmare I never fully grasped myself. I was a friend who saw their heartache and wanted more than anything to remove their pain, but never knew what to say or how to do it.

After a week of resting and recovering and basically taking each day by the hour, here’s what I think I know: I think there is nothing that can ease our pain. There is nothing that will “fix” our sorrow or “make it better” for our friends or ourselves. Bad things happen every single day. They happen to all of us, this is a guarantee. So while our stories of loss may be different, our details different, our experiences and reactions different, we share the same pain and that pain offers connection, in the most authentic and unfair way.

I don’t know why miscarriage or pregnancy complications happen — to me or anyone for that matter, but I do know it won’t help to direct our anger at asking questions regarding why. So right now, I’m leaving that alone. Right now, I’m focusing my energy on giving myself permission to feel my feelings. I’m taking it easy.

Beyond those things, here is what I’m hoping… I’m hoping that maybe as the pain softens with time, I’ll be able to use this awful experience to help others get through the same scary, awful heartache. I’m hoping that maybe I’ll be able to offer some stronger empathy, deeper compassion, and better consolation to those hurting. I’m hoping that maybe I’ll be able to use my story to replace someone else’s feelings of guilt and fear and loneliness with understanding, reassurance, and support.

The post I Had An Ectopic Pregnancy — But I Didn’t Even Know I Was Pregnant appeared first on Scary Mommy.

What I Learned From My Pregnancy After The Loss Of My Son

Trigger warning: pregnancy/child loss

Being pregnant after a loss is simply different – physically, emotionally, mentally.  As someone who takes great comfort in being prepared but also has been raised to believe in optimism, those two sometimes felt at odds with each other. After we lost our son when I was 22 weeks pregnant, we didn’t know if we’d be able to have another baby, especially as we dealt with multiple early miscarriages.

When we found out we were pregnant again, this time with a viable little embryo and a strong medical plan of care that would keep him growing, I found there was a learning curve the entire pregnancy, a constant balance between bracing yourself and letting hope in.

Some observations of what felt different:

1. Planning

I realized I was putting off small, specific tasks, to-do’s or “official” plans. Before our losses, a positive pregnancy test was a total green light. I would write ahead in the calendar how far along I’d be each week all the way to the due date. Something in my Type A mama brain loved to see it all laid out and reaching the next milestone week after week.

When we lost our baby, Abram, I remember seeing what week he should have been the many weeks after. Each number naively written in the top squares of the calendar before we found out something was wrong, before we delivered and held him, before we had to say goodbye when we had barely said hello.

Writing things down felt scary this time. I wouldn’t even sign up for the usual weekly updates online that I had done with the others until several weeks in, because I was afraid of having to un-sign-up again. None of these little things made our grief that much worse after; they were just specific small reminders of what would not be, an unexpected stinging in a raw heart, and I didn’t want them to blindside me again.

It took me until Week 28 to write down the remaining weeks in my planner this year, and after that seemingly “big” act, I had this flood of planning, writing lists for each month, creating a little registry of items we needed, picturing ‘normal’ life and routine with a baby, actually worrying about how we’d handle three children in our home. It felt so good to hope unabashedly. Holding back isn’t exactly my nature, and I don’t think I realized how much I had been holding in a breath, waiting until “the next ultrasound” just in case, month after month.

2. Big Sister Prep

Our daughters were a great reminder of perspective. We told them there’s a baby in Mama’s tummy early on, but even with them, it took several months before they moved past “Is the baby’s heart still beating?” or “Is the baby growing?” I found myself wanting to finish every statement of hope with one of caution, and every statement of caution with one of hope. I didn’t want them to be worried; I didn’t want them to be blindsided.

We tried to just let them lead, answering the questions they asked. They also have a less hesitant hope that I find myself so grateful for. When they talked about what they wanted and imagined, we were right there with them saying “Us too!” I don’t know if there’s a right way to navigate these conversations with kiddos, but I think there being conversations is the main thing.

3. Due date

After several months, people began stopping me in public to ask about my due date. Typically, I was chasing after the kids or concentrating on them not acting like hellions in public, so it always took me a second to figure what the heck this stranger was asking me (during which a brief flash of panic crossed their face wondering if, in fact, the large watermelon-like shape on the front of me was a baby).

Once I realized they were asking me when the baby was coming, I normally stuttered for a few seconds before saying, “Hopefully end of September-ish.” The grocery store with a total stranger is usually not the time to get into the fact that the entire pregnancy, the due date seemed very, very, very far away and something I was afraid to attach myself to, and week after week, we were just trying to get to a viable baby that had a chance of living.

4. Baby’s sex

We truly did not care if this baby was a boy or a girl. When we said we just wanted a healthy baby, we meant it 100 percent. I imagined both with love. Our daughter did tell us, “I hope it’s a brother. Because we had a brother, but I also want a real baby I can hold that is a brother, that we can play with.” Leave it to a 5-year-old to name exactly how you feel.  There was a hole where the idea of a little brother gaped, what it would have been like to have a little boy in our house … part of me certainly hoped we would get a second chance. Not to fill the hole, but to change its shape a bit.

5. Symptoms

Every pregnancy symptom that is cause for complaint is actually a cause for thankfulness. Hurray puke! Hurray sore feet! Hurray huge awkward belly! Hurray Things They Don’t Tell You About Pregnancy! While throwing up every time I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich wasn’t pleasant, it meant my hormones were doing what they were supposed to, and I was thankful.

6. Preparing

The “nursery” was a very unsure, in-between space for over a year after our youngest moved to her sister’s room. Once we felt more sure that we’d be coming home with a baby who needed a nursery, I felt torn between being afraid to jinx it and wanting to celebrate. Luckily, we had great family and friends, several of whom have lost babies too, who simply said, embrace hope. Go for it. Plan the nursery. Look at the baby clothes; sort those sizes while you “aww” over the little outfits. Make a list of things you need. Decorate for your little boy. After a while, I’ve realized it’s not like I hadn’t started hoping and imagining anyway. There’s a certain relief in the permission and act of letting it in. Sometimes a small trickle of hope, sometimes huge waves of excitement.

7. Check-ups

Our OB practice handled the complex emotions beautifully. They explained when we needed extra explaining; they reassured when we needed extra reassuring. They understood worry and joined in celebrating good news and never made us feel crazy for coming in for a heartbeat check. An environment like this makes such a difference.

The ultrasounds often made me think of our son we lost. That’s where we got to see him moving, wiggling, sucking his thumb, turning, kicking. I will also never forget seeing him on the screen that day he died, as our ultrasound tech and midwife cried with us, confirming what we already knew. He was so still. It wasn’t a surprise that morning, but it was the day our hearts broke in ways we’d never imagined. That screen is how we knew our baby was gone.

Fast forward to our following pregnancy, also a boy. The day of the glucose test, I hadn’t eaten much at all, thus he was moving much less than usual. I can’t tell you how fast fear flashed through every bone in my body until the tech showed the heartbeat and got him wiggling again. The surges of relief are huge — every heartbeat, every ultrasound. Even on ordinary days, I wouldn’t realize I was worried until I felt that kick or movement and let out a sigh of relief. I’d flashback to when Abram stopped moving, even for his beloved Ben and Jerry’s, the night my husband and I sat in bed and knew he may have gone. There are continual flashbacks one has to talk oneself through.

Our third baby, Abram, was stillborn at 22 weeks and was only 8 ounces. He was even smaller than his gestational age due to intrauterine growth restriction. Because we learned so much from his pregnancy, our care team of physicians and midwives knew the route of care that would make our next baby healthy. Which meant he was big; he was healthy. He was viable. There were many emotions with this. Mainly: Joy. Joy. Joy.

Our baby was okay. I also noticed that sadness and guilt snuck in when we were relieved and happy for such different news, like we were betraying Abram for being happy. Sometimes, one forgets that grief still hits. One day it hit me right after we sorted some items in the nursery, and the tears just started pouring. I didn’t realize I could be so thankful for the baby growing in my belly and so heartbroken to have lost Abram in all the same moment. Sometimes joy and sorrow lean on each other, sharing a space, and an understanding that this story has many threads woven into it that all matter.

We had our fourth baby, a healthy little boy who is now almost four months, who has currently discovered his toes, refuses to go to sleep until midnight, and grins every time his sisters play patty-cake. He is his own person, but he also carries part of his brother with him, I know. We all do.

It’s work to process while you’re pregnant after a loss. There are many times to be patient and kind to yourself while you learn to heal and celebrate at the same time. You have to sort through the anxiety regularly.  But there is this river of hope, if you can find it, ready to wrap its waters of good around you. Because there is good in every thread of our stories. And I suppose that’s what I’ve learned the most.

From the beauty in Abram’s story, from our girls’ beautiful perspectives and funny ways, from the rolling flips of a growing baby, from my husband’s quiet strength, from my own love for all of them, from our village that holds us…. I have learned that at the end of the day to let hope in. Let hope in.

Just let it in, and the rest will unfold.

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What You Don’t Know About The Angry Woman In The Coffee Shop

Trigger warning: child loss

I just wanted a decent latte. I wanted to leave the house for a little while. I just wanted a “break.” So when I saw you walk in with your stroller and I hung my head, I know you saw my disparaged face. I saw you struggling to get your stroller and newborn through the door – I didn’t offer to help or hold the door open and I secretly wished you would have forgotten something and would need to leave.

I saw the look of panic on your face when your baby started to cry – I panicked too. I saw your face as you watched me wince and look away when you took your baby out of the carrier. I’m sure my response added some anxiety as I continued to look away and avoid you all together. We are both moms, we should be in this together – at the very least I could have offered you a smile. I remember the newborn phase and how hard it is.

Today was my first day out of the house without a doctor’s appointment, therapy appointment, or drive-thru run. Today was an exercise prescribed by my therapist to try and have some normalcy back in my life again. Today I took a shower and put on pants and a bra – all in the same day.

Today, it has been three weeks since I lost my son… He was born perfect at 30 weeks and 5 days. Perfectly silent with no heartbeat and no reason why he shouldn’t be here today.

Today I saw you and your crying baby and it was like a horrific slap in the face by the universe that on my first attempt to “do real life” again, I was met with your perfectly healthy, crying baby. I cringed and looked away because it hurt. Not because I am a terrible person who hates babies. Quite the opposite. I am grieving my baby. I am grieving his cry I never heard. I am grieving those moments of struggling with the stroller. I do not wish this upon you, this is a club no one should have to join. But I wish my outcome was different.

My son never took a breath, but he was a wise teacher and I have been fortunate to learn great lessons from him. The lesson that struck me here was that we don’t know what people are going through and you really don’t know anyone’s story. It would have been easy to brush me off as a total B.

In reality, what may have appeared to be a woman who hates children was a woman who just hates that her child is no longer alive. I have known a pain I never thought possible, and that pain can make you see, feel, and believe all kinds of things. But I also now know a compassion I didn’t know possible either.

Maybe I didn’t have it for the new mommy getting a latte because my pain was too fresh, but that day my son taught me a lesson. If I could see that new mommy now, I would tell her she’s doing a great job. And maybe if she knew my story, she’d tell me I’m doing a great job too.

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My Child Was Stillborn, And I Will Never Be The Same

Trigger warning: child loss

On June 1, my son Orion David was born. His heart had stopped two days earlier. I was 34 weeks pregnant. The details of those few days will forever be ingrained into my brain, but I’ll start more at the beginning of his life…

This was the second baby for my husband and me. We were so excited, had planned it perfectly, and I became pregnant immediately. We were elated. Time went by quickly as I chased around our 4-year-old son, and soon I found out we would be having another little boy to chase.

My pregnancy was completely normal. I felt pretty much the same as I did with our first son, but Orion had his own special energy and routine. He had certain times he moved every day and certain times he slept. I felt his patterns and had them memorized. Every night after dinner he would go wild. Spinning, kicking, punching. I imagined he was laughing at the acrobatics he could perform as his brother, father, and I would stare at my ever-moving belly.

So at 34 weeks I laid down one night and realized he wasn’t moving like usual, or even at all. I poked at my belly, saying, “C’mon lazy bones.” Curious that his normal routine wasn’t happening, I woke up the next day in a panic, realizing he wasn’t waking up with me.

I called my OB right away, and he asked me to come in. “No big deal,” he said, “Let’s just do a nonstress test.”

I calmly went into the office. I was alone — I told my husband I was probably worried over nothing.  I laughed with the nurse who made jokes about him being in a silly position when she couldn’t find him. I heard the whispers from the hall before the doctor came in and started the ultrasound. I stared helplessly at the screen, knowing even before he told me. My baby’s heart had stopped.

My doctor took a deep breath and said the phrase you’ve all heard or said, “I’m so sorry.” I felt myself shatter right there in his office, and for the next however many minutes, he held me as I sobbed. In those moments, I was not a patient and he wasn’t a doctor — we were both just humans. I will always be grateful to him for that.

My husband met me at the hospital. He needed to see the ultrasound to confirm, whereas I couldn’t watch it. We squeezed hands in silence as they checked us into the room of the maternity ward where sadness happens. Where death is brought into the world rather than life. Where a white rose is hung ever so carefully on the door to warn everyone of the room’s contents. The room that’s just far enough away from all the happy, smiling, ecstatic parents and new baby cries.

We were told, “I’m so sorry for your loss.” We were handed pamphlets and folders. This was the first time I saw or heard that word — stillbirth.

The nurses were patient and kind. They were not patronizing, and they followed my lead for how I wanted to be treated. These nurses sat and held my hand when my husband left the room so I wouldn’t be alone. They let me tell jokes, they let me scream, they let me cry. They cleaned up my face, my vomit, my blood. They were everything for me.

There were three of them. One nurse when we checked in, one through the night who was particularly nice about my morphine (don’t worry, doctor’s orders), and one who dealt with the brunt of my worst the next day when my son was born.

I was in labor 18 hours. 18 hours to meet my beautiful son, Orion.

It is in a moment like that, when your child is being born still, that you realize how profound and, yes, deafening, silence can really be. As I felt him leave my body, that is what I heard. Silence. Complete silence.

We had gone from the chaos of my screaming, the nurses and my doctor coaching me, my husband comforting me to… silence. My nurse told me she would clean Orion up and put a blanket around him and bring him to me. My doctor kissed my forehead and told me he was beautiful, and to just try to breath. They warned me that my son would have “some sunburn spots” as they put it, and that he would look slightly discolored. But he had beautiful curly hair, and chubby cheeks.

Every word was spoken in a loving way. In a human way. The nurse brought him in to me and I admit, I was terrified. She said take as much time as you need. She placed him in my arms and suddenly the only people in the room were me, my husband, and Orion. I’m not sure how much time passed. It could have been seconds, or hours, but it was most certainly not enough. Not when I had planned on a lifetime.

As I held him, his nose started bleeding. I did not know this could happen, and I panicked. I called in my nurse. She brought Orion and my husband into the next door room. She explained what a cuddle cot was and said we could visit with him until we were ready to go. My doctor said I could be discharged around 6 hours after birth. We spent as much time with him as we could. We kissed him everywhere, memorized his perfect features, told him about his family, and told him how loved he would always be. I  forced myself to leave. To leave him without him.

It had been exactly 48 hours since I realized he wasn’t kicking me.

There is a quote about being a bereaved parent. It says, “The hardest thing I’ve ever had to hear was that my child died. The hardest thing I’ve ever done is to live every day since that moment.” That is beyond true. While the first month was torture, I have now just hit the three-month mark since my son was born, and I have become a different version of the woman I once was. I will now always be a little bit sad. I will always be more worried, more cautious.

I will have a hard time every holiday, and especially every June 1st as we celebrate my son, Orion. I will be happy and enjoy my life — but something, someone, will always be missing. I will need a huge amount of support and love. And I will need constant reassurance.

I make no apologies for this version of myself. It is who I need to be to move forward, and how I am healing myself. What happened to me makes some people uncomfortable and sad. I have become “the woman with the dead baby” — “marvel at how she talks and walks just like us.”

And yes, you should marvel — because I am strong. I love fiercely. I will not let my grief for my son consume me but, instead, I will let my love for him do it. I will speak about and for Orion. I am his voice now. I am surviving every parent’s nightmare.

So I just want to say to you, nurses, doctors, social workers…  you become part of these worst nightmares, and I’m sure you are just as sorry for that fact as we are. It requires incredible courage to walk into those rooms with white roses on the door, to have patience and empathy for the mom screaming at you when she really wants to scream at God, and you squeeze her hand and tell her that her child is beautiful. The gravity of what you do should not be taken lightly. And luckily, most of the time it isn’t. I cannot begin to fathom how difficult it is for you to be a part of this for us, to guide us through.

I know that you have to keep your work and your life separate. That you can’t take work home with you, that you can’t carry home the baggage of our losses — and how could you? But if you could just take home and carry one thing for me and for my son Orion, it would be compassion and love. It would be to see us mothers for our strength and our children for their beauty.

Please continue to be patient and kind. Please walk with us through the worst day of our lives. And please, welcome us back with reassurance and open arms if we do return from the storm to have our beautiful rainbows. We need you guiding us, every step of the way.

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I Had A Miscarriage 19 Years Ago, And I’m Still Grieving

Trigger warning: miscarriage and stillbirth

Nineteen years ago, I bought a down comforter and yellow duvet cover. I wanted my bedroom to be bright, hypocritically cheery even, so that when I came home from the hospital after the scheduled induction, the natural light and yellow accents might help me get out of bed in the morning.

Natural light. Such a silly thing to focus on, but that’s how I got through that day. I was angry. I was scared. I hated myself. I wanted to die.


The number of weeks I was pregnant. Roughly the number of hours that passed from finding out my baby died in utero to when I delivered her.


The age my daughter would be today.

The books don’t prepare you for what could happen. They’re all about snakes and snails, sugar and spice, and everything nice. They touch on the fact that 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage, that it’s usually due to a chromosomal abnormality and so common most women have one, many before they even find out they’re expecting. It’s all clinical sounding. I should know as I became a voracious researcher of miscarriage, pouring through what research I could find. Maybe I was trying to justify why it happened to me. What I had done wrong. Where I had failed. I wanted, needed, to stop it from ever happening again.

Unfortunately, for me, miscarriage happened in 1 in 2 pregnancies, and hearing how common it was didn’t make it any easier. Being knowledgeable about it didn’t keep it from happening again. And again.

I rarely talk about my miscarriages. In fact, most people who know me have no idea I’ve had one, let alone three. My first pregnancy ended at the start of my second trimester. Fetal demise, they called it. What an awful term. To this day it makes me cringe, even more than photos from when feathered bangs were actually cool. My fifth pregnancy ended early, at six weeks. My second pregnancy ended nineteen years ago. It’s the most raw, and to this day, painful. I have no intention of sharing the intricacies of those horrible hours in depth. Those details are private, as is her name.

In many ways, I don’t believe I’ve earned the right to mourn publicly. Although she was stillborn, she doesn’t have a grave site to visit and my memories of that day are faded at the edges, partly because of the shock I endured, and also the guilt I’ve carried with me since. The only photo I have of her is a fourteen-week ultrasound where I still recall the tech commenting on how active she was. Losing her remains my unspeakable tragedy, a darkness that was so deep I felt like I was descending into the ocean past where any light can permeate.

But with every darkness, there is light. At the time, I didn’t know if I’d ever find it again, but it’s here — in my social justice driven daughter, my son whose ability to overcome adversity inspires me every day, and my youngest who brightens every room she walks into. It’s in my husband who held my hand on that day and didn’t say any of the words that people used to justify our tragedy, well-meaning as they were. Because at the time, I didn’t want to hear them.

If you’ve experienced miscarriage or stillbirth, whether it was a month or thirty years ago, I’m so sorry. I’ll say no more than that because those are the only words I wanted to hear. For me, it wasn’t the loss of a dream and it wasn’t going to be okay. I didn’t want to hear that I got pregnant once so I could do it again or that she was better off having died when she did because she would have been too disabled to live. It didn’t feel like a blessing to lose her, and disability or not, I loved her.

Please don’t feel sorry for me. I’m not asking for sympathy. Instead, hug someone who needs it. Be welcoming and have compassion for those looking for a better life. Forgive. Be kind. Be the person that I wanted to be for her. Have faith. Have hope. Love.

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This Is What It’s Like Before The Rainbow

I am a wife.
I am a daughter.
I am a sister.
I am a teacher.
I am a colleague.
I am a friend.
I am not a mom.

I almost was once. I thought I would be. But 8 weeks later, I wasn’t anymore.

They say 15-20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. That they’re fairly common, but people don’t really talk about it. I don’t know a lot of people who have had miscarriages, but most of the stories I’ve heard are told months or years later, after the person has a new, healthy baby.  I’ve heard it’s devastating and terrible, and then eventually you have a “Rainbow Baby,” and though you never forget, it gets easier.

But there’s a part of miscarriage before it gets easier. The part when you only have loss and there is no healthy baby. The part when people don’t know what you’re going through because you weren’t far along enough to tell them, but you feel like the whole world should stop and everyone should be in mourning because what you started planning for your life got flipped upside down. The part where you’re drowning in the deep end.

The things people don’t talk about…

How the whole 8 weeks of pregnancy was so riddled with anxiety about something bad happening that when it started happening, it felt like you already knew it was coming.

How people will try to comfort you by saying that some bleeding is normal and natural, and you’ll nod your head and try to accept that even though you know something is wrong.

How you’ll pray so hard that it can stay, but you’ll tell your baby that if it needs to go, that’s okay.

How, when it starts happening on a Friday, you can’t talk to a doctor about it for 3 days because the office is closed.

How losing that pregnancy is both emotionally crushing and also the most physical pain you’ll experience up until that point.

How you know you can’t handle saying the words in person, so you call ahead to your doctor to let them know what is going on so they don’t greet you like they would someone who still has a healthy baby inside them.

How the doctor will minimize the circumstances, and you’ll know that it’s because she has to deliver this news a lot, but she doesn’t understand that your only pregnancy ending isn’t minimal to you.

How they’ll leave the sonogram screen on so you get to see with your eyes how empty your uterus is now.

How everyone at the doctor’s office will give you sad eyes as you get your blood drawn and pay for the worst appointment ever.

How you’ll bleed for weeks following that appointment. A constant reminder that you’re no longer growing a life.

How you’ll have to tell the few people who knew about your pregnancy that it’s no longer going to result in a baby.

How you’ll put the celebratory baby clothes people bought for you in a hidden place because you’re still hopeful for a future, but you don’t want to see them again until then.

How you’ll sign up for that thing months from now that you thought you would have been too pregnant to do.

How people you didn’t tell will ask how “trying to get pregnant” is going, and you know it’s not their fault because they don’t know, but you feel a little dead inside every time you have to say “still trying.”

How, weeks after you thought you were done grieving, you’ll receive a bill for an ultrasound from your doctor’s office and get to relive the experience all over again.

How you’ll hear stories about or get to meet friends’ new babies that you thought your baby would grow up around, and even though you’re so happy for them, it will feel like a knife to the heart.

How fearful you’ll be of potentially getting pregnant again because the only experience with pregnancy you have is loss.

Miscarriage is fairly common. And people don’t usually talk about it until they have their “Rainbow Baby” and can tell you there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. You don’t hear about the loss and the grief without the silver lining. But for people who experience miscarriage, there’s a good chunk of time where you’re wading in the mud. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. There is no silver lining. It’s just loss and fear and anxiety and grief and heartbreak at the most unexpected times. It’s extra baggage that weighs you down that you can’t seem to ever set down, no matter how distracted you keep yourself or how optimistic you feel about the future.

Maybe someday there will be joy and celebration and a “Rainbow Baby.” But today there is only loss.

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