Pregnancy Loss Blog: Rowing Together in the Same Direction
Pregnancy Loss Blog by: Amy Liz Harrison
Losing a pregnancy is like a wave that hits you out of nowhere. One moment you’re playing on the beach, splashing around in the ocean, or laying peacefully alone or with others on a raft. Then suddenly, you’re knocked over and you can’t breathe. Before you know it, you’re struggling, near drowning, and screaming out for help. All you want is to escape this feeling of terror, desperately calling for someone to pull you to safety.
I personally survived two losses.In both cases I felt like my heart exploded into a thousand pieces of heartbreak. I had melted onto the floor with my first one. Moments later, I had to pull myself together because someone in the next room needed me. With the second loss, I was just sad and disappointed. My heart felt like it was anchored to the ocean floor.
Our society is slowly crawling toward waking up to the realization that miscarriage is a physical and emotional trauma that hasn’t always been treated as such. Personally, the only thing that helped me wash the saltwater out of my gaping wound was a series of intentional practices: rest, release, and cultivation of peace.
The death of an immediate family member warrants the ability to immediately be dismissed from one’s responsibilities so that we can attend to the physical and emotional needs of our families and ourselves. Our society makes other allowances without question for different personal emergencies. Yet miscarriage, the result of approximately 20 percent of all pregnancies, is one of womanhood’s most heartbreaking, isolating experiences.
Picking up right where we left off is the expectation and usually the choiceless reality of most women’s lives. No time to grieve, no time to process. Just enough time to repress the five stages of grief and wipe the tears away with the back of our hand as we attend to the next thing on the to-do list.
After my second miscarriage, I gave myself permission to stop everything and take time to grieve. I told my husband I needed to tap out, he was going to have to handle everything. (Picking a support person from the start is a helpful idea and communicate that they should expect to be on call for you just in case the unthinkable happens and you need them to step in and handle things.)
Many religions have periods of morning after a death. The gift of time is given after a loss. Time to begin the healing process, which surely doesn’t happen overnight, and may never heal completely. Resting below deck in the cabin, however, gives us a good chance of taking the edge off the pain.
Saying goodbye and pulling away from the shore is the hardest part. Our heart is lost, scattered all over the ocean floor. We women have had to try many different ways to remain afloat while our hearts are breaking. We find power in sharing our stories, and those communications of the heart become our life preservers.
Rituals of various kinds can begin to loosen the rope attached to the anchor which holds us down in our grief. Planting a tree, writing a goodbye letter, cutting a rope, letting a balloon float into the atmosphere…these are all examples of rituals that you can try. These rituals have been used for years in attempt to say a tangible, though unwanted goodbye.
You have every right to determine what you need for healing and follow the course down that stream. If it’s too much for you to care for your children and house, feel free to throw the white flag up and tap out. Remember, you are free to take a pass from anywhere else you may feel you have to paint on a fake smile. Maybe you need to observe what is serving you well at that moment and what is not. Maybe you need permission to choose some new ways to help yourself through the grieving process.
Be willing to accept help from your crew mates: let them bring you meals and coffee, allow them to do your laundry when they offer. Be willing to try new things: meditation, books, yoga. You don’t have to search for it, you just need to be open to it. One can never go wrong with keeping a bigger toolbox onboard, ready to draw from during rocky waters.
It’s alright to ignore your normal routine entirely. If you think about it, when someone goes to the hospital, you may not hear from them again until much later. Your health crisis is just as significant as any other. You have every right to not answer emails, to cancel on everything. It’s OK to do this, you’ve been through a traumatic experience. Just take it easy and take in whatever comes up as it comes up and decide if you have the strength to deal with it or not.
After you’ve given it some time, (to be determined by you and no one else, as long as your doctor gives you a clean bill of health) it’s important to get the circulation going because the movement of the blood will help the healing process. So, if you want to try again, by all means try again, and it’s OK to be scared when trying again- that’s normal.
That fear may or may not dissipate, but it’s a normal human emotion to be scared, especially after it happened the last time. Journal about how you’re feeling, talk about your process with your fellow crew mates, as many times as it takes. Get outside help and seek unconventional therapies. Try different combinations of the above.
The wave of miscarriage, the ocean of sadness and grief, the seemingly endless stretch of pain… none of it is a linear process, Personal to everyone, it’s a journey navigated through tough waters. It’s traveled by so many women, that waterway is practically paved. We’re stronger and faster when we’re together. We are becoming one in our shared experience of pain. Let’s climb into the vessel and working together provides us the opportunity to connect at the sacred space of self-care and support for each other. We’ll get there as one. We are building organic community by rowing together in the same direction.
Amy Liz Harrison is one of recoveries newest voices and author of Eternally Expecting: A Mom of Eight Gets Sober and Gives Birth to a Whole New Life…Her Own