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  • Writer's pictureSarah Dunn

Miscarriage is Birth

I am currently in the beginning stages of becoming a bereavement doula through the organization StillBirthDay. One of the things that I love about the program and the organization as a whole is their philosophy of birth. Whether a baby comes into the world healthy at term or with no heartbeat at 6 weeks, they say that a mother has given birth. According to StillBirthDay, whether you experience spontaneous miscarriage (I.e. without medication or medical intervention) or you deliver via C-section, or have an induction or D&C, you have given birth.

I wish I had come across this idea earlier in my pregnancy loss journey. I experienced a missed miscarriage at 8 weeks gestation, which means that my baby died in my womb, and my body had not yet recognized that he had passed and/or had not yet begun the process of emptying the uterus. I was given 3 options: 1) wait and see if my body begins the process on its own, which could take an indefinite amount of time and would require frequent monitoring and labs to ensure that I do not develop an infection. 2) take medication that would cause my cervix to dilate and essentially “induce” the baby. 3) Have a D&C (dilation and curettage), which is a medical procedure that may or may not require general anesthesia (mine did) and involves a surgeon using surgical instruments to clean out the uterus.

I opted to have a D&C for a number of reasons, and I do not regret it. However, I do sometimes find myself wondering what it is like to experience the full process from start to finish. I have heard from other loss moms that they experienced contractions and even a condensed version of labor. The pain they experienced was very much like labor, and indeed it was labor. Though every story is different because every body is different, generally speaking, it is a biological process that follows a somewhat predictable pattern. Like labor, there is often a gradual (though significantly shortened) buildup, a “peak” of sorts, and then a distinct moment where the worst of the (physical) pain is over. Depending on gestational age, parents may choose to hold their baby, and some may choose to bury their baby and/or have a funeral. 

I have experienced moments of grief or trauma that at the time I wished were nothing more than a bad dream. I just wanted the unpleasantness to go away. When it comes to my miscarriage, though, the opposite is true. I sometimes have to remind myself that it was all real. I really was pregnant, and I really did lose my baby. We saw a heartbeat on a monitor once or twice, but it was still largely theoretical at that point. There was no other evidence of a baby - no pregnancy symptoms, no growing belly. I was put to sleep for the procedure and woke up cramping and bleeding, but largely the same. There was no tangible proof to validate the pain I was experiencing, which is why I sometimes wish I had experienced a spontaneous miscarriage. I do not want to invalidate the experience of those who did have a spontaneous miscarriage, as if it were somehow easier to bear. In fact, I used to feel that my experience was less valid because I did not experience the process of labor and birth. I felt like I needed to qualify my loss or justify my grief.

Coming to a new understanding of birth has led to a paradigm shift, which has allowed me to see all losses in a different light. No matter how it happened, we all have experienced birth. Loss moms who never give birth to a living child have still given birth. We have all labored with our blood, sweat, and tears. None of us survive unscathed. Viewing miscarriage as birth allows me to shift my focus from validating my own loss to healing from it and moving forward with it. Birth is an experience that changes our body, our brain, and our hormones. No part of who we are is untouched after birth. Our bodies will heal, but we will never be the same.

March 2nd is the anniversary of the day that we learned Samuel’s heart stopped beating. Today, March 5th, is the anniversary of my D&C. By StillBirthday’s definition of birth, March 5th is his birthday. My sweet baby was born right into the arms of Jesus, and he has only ever known love, whether in my belly or in the presence of his Creator. I hope you will join me in wishing him a happy fourth birthday in heaven. 


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