It’s one of the secondary losses we experience around pregnancy loss—we lose our baby and then we realize that talking about is taboo. Those closest to us may prove awkward in our company. We don’t know where to find other parents like us. All at once, this silencing shutters our stories, asks us to shoulder the pain in private, and leaves us feeling even more alone. Our own voice echoes until, in the safety of shared company, the others emerge. We hear about losses we never knew of. Or, we finally connect with those we did. Perhaps we understand the awkward silence because we once contributed to it. We didn’t know until now how much these experiences needed to be talked about.
Four years out from my back-to-back losses, I’ve heard this dialogue unfold time and again. “Nobody talks about it” about miscarriage. And then, “I didn’t know it was so common.” “I didn’t know this still happened” about stillbirth. And then, “I never thought this would happen to me.” When my son died, I couldn’t stop talking about it. Soon, I couldn’t stop writing about it; I still am. I credit this expression with my ability to soften the edges of my heart and to help others feel the same. In so doing, I’ve joined a large community in need of connection, and I know that the resources are in fact there. Desperate for them early on, I began compiling a resource page on my website. When I know or hear of someone who has lost, I send this page, hoping a book, an article, a video, or a blog resonates. As we all know, one loss story does not tell them all. From my vantage point, so many people are in fact talking and writing about our babies gone too soon. We are creating and posting and tweeting and capturing and documenting. In those ways, we are wrapping our empty arms around one another.
In the interest of celebrating this storytelling and all its forms, I wanted to share new resources I find particularly moving right now. They collectively disprove the old narrative and ask us to declare in image, in words, and in community: We are talking about it.
- As a psychologist specializing in women’s reproductive and maternal mental health, Dr. Jessica Zucker has been breaking the silence around miscarriage with the #IHadAMiscarriage campaign she launched after her own 16-week miscarriage. Her many publications (including as a Professional Contributor to PALS) and special line of pregnancy loss cards have brought solace to thousands of bereaved parents. Most recently, she has invited us to share our own stories via her Instagram feed. In 300 words and with one image, Zucker is using social media to normalize what so many of us already know to be normal. “This community is for you, for me, for all of us to experience support, connection, strength, hope,” she writes in her call for submissions. “To acknowledge the spectrum of feelings that accompany loss, grief, and maybe even trying again. Our experiences in pregnancy. Motherhood. We are all mothers of our own.” In the series, we experience a mother, forever changed, looking at a world equally so. We read her story, and we know that people who have never lost are reading too. It’s a powerful way to bring us all together. “I am adding stories from around the world to show that this happens everywhere and to promote connection among women who live hear one another,” she says. It’s already doing just that. Zucker is graciously accepting submissions.
- Three new books are helping to better canvas the range of our experiences.
- As part of writer and loss parent’s Lexi Behrndt’s On Coming Alive project, a companion book, On Coming Alive: Journaling Through Grief, offers inspiring words and writing prompts to guide the grieving process. The On Coming Alive movement as a whole launched earlier this year and is similarly dedicated to gathering stories. Its mission focuses on how we pick ourselves up after loss and trauma. Christian in inspiration, the site has a “common ground of compassion and love.”
- In moving prose, writer Mira Ptacin chronicles two kinds of child loss in her memoir, Poor Your Soul, deftly weaving the story of her own choice to terminate for medical reasons with that of her mother’s loss of a teenage son, the author’s brother. As I wrote in my review of the book for Literary Mama, this is the first book of its kind that chronicles TFMR. I know from my own effort to put such a story out into the world how slim the shelf is that offers tales of neonatal loss, let alone heartbreaking decisions such as Ptacin’s. We need not only to speak out, but also to read and support those doing so.
- As some painfully know, not everyone gets a rainbow. (My first PAL resulted in another loss.) While we are waiting, we feel the “invisible motherhood” Emily R. Long focuses on in Invisible Mothers: When Love Doesn’t Die. I remember how long those eighteen months between the death of my son and the birth of my daughter felt. Time didn’t just slow—it spun, turned inside out, became sludge. Layered leaves over winter sidewalks somehow gave way to summer shadows. I wished I’d had a book just for me during that time, when those I’d read ended with the arrival of a healthy baby. Thanks to Long, I am glad that mothers in that position may feel more seen as they wait, perhaps indefinitely, perhaps not. Long is offering a retreat this December.
- Finally, I must give thanks to you reading this as well as every member of the PALS community. This resource did not exist in 2012, when my grief was raw and acute. Nor in 2013 when I took my third pregnancy day by day and finally welcomed my first daughter. By the time I was pregnant with my second daughter, born this year, I was accepted into this rich community of mothers and survivors, professionals and supporters, and I leaned on it as I rode those anxious, hopeful PAL waves. We owe its existence to founder Lindsey Henke and the legacy of her first child, Nora. We also, I believe, owe it to the voices that have emerged around these losses, including on sister sites Still Standing Magazine and Still Mothers. We are a collective. There is work yet to do to include our loss and PAL stories in the larger narrative about bearing children, but today we are here and we are being heard.
These and other resources may be found here. What resources have most helped you? Please share in the comments.