By: Daina Sparling
I have a pin on my spring jacket. It’s a small black ribbon, with a set of tiny silver footprints.
It signifies pregnancy loss.
Four years ago this March, my husband and I lost our first child. It was one of the most difficult things that we have ever gone through as a couple, and the worst loss I’ve grieved as a mother. Every spring, when I pull out my raincoat, I’m brought right back to that time.
It was a warm day, and I was on my way to the obstetrician for my first appointment. In a few short minutes I’d hear the long awaited sound of my baby’s heartbeat. I was just over three months’ gestation, and after some initial illness had started feeling quite well again.
I remember everything about that day; the outfit I was wearing, the pretty black flats with colourful wool flowers, how I looked around the room filled with pregnant women and how I felt a kinship with these strangers. After a long time trying, my husband and I were going to be parents.
I awaited the doctor with anticipation, and when he arrived I chatted excitedly about my pregnancy. As I lay on my back, positioned to hear a heartbeat, I dared not move a muscle and chance disrupting the Doppler. But my stillness didn’t help. Undeterred, my physician brought out the portable ultrasound to get to the bottom of things – I have a little extra padding around the midsection (don’t we all!). Perhaps that could have been the culprit keeping me from hearing my miracle – but after the ultrasound, we still heard nothing. Now upstairs at the ultrasound clinic, I lay on the table, staring at the flowers on my shoes, and knew the truth in my heart. My baby had died.
“Missed miscarriage” is the term used to describe what happened to me. My baby had died in utero, but my body had failed to miscarry. In shock, my husband who had since arrived, and I returned home. The clinic arranged a D&C, one of two I would undergo, to remove our child from my unwilling body.
My journey of loss, grief, and healing continues, but can be saved for another day. Instead I say this. Your loss is real. Even if you’ve never held your child in your arms, smelled their sweet baby skin, stroked their cheek. Even though you have no body to bury or ashes to spread. Pregnancy loss is both about the physical loss of a child, but also about the loss of the hopes and dreams associated with that pregnancy. It’s about the box of small clothes stashed away that will never be used by their intended recipient, about the maternity things pushed to the back of your closet. It’s about un-telling people that they will be grandparents, aunts and uncles. t’s about the pain you feel when you wear a pair of pretty shoes that have too many memories associated with them.
I was so fortunate to receive care I did at the Early Pregnancy Loss Program at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women. These incredible nurses walked me through my surgical procedures and walked with me afterwards as I coped with my loss. They gave me a small pin for my lapel that reminds me that I am now a mother of three, even though I hold only two children in my arms. I cannot stress how important it is to both acknowledge your experience and to seek help if you need it. Your loss is real. Your journey is important. You are not alone.
Daina is wife to Darryl, mother to Jacob (2 years) and Audrey (3 weeks) who lives in Edmonton, Alberta. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends and looks forward to the day where she can once again have more than 3 hours consecutive sleep.