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Category: first trimester miscarriage (Page 1 of 7)

He Would be 6 Today!

I treasured you from the very beginning and prayed you would live but after learning about your condition, I knew God had chosen me to carry you your whole life! I was chosen for YOU, Gus. I knew your name from day one. I think I knew you wouldn’t make it but I had no idea how special you would be. So few babies with Full Triploidy survive. When they do, they don’t live very long.

But you had a purpose. Your life had meaning. You brought joy to us even through the grief. All your brothers and sister know you. We still talk about you and we have memories of you in our home.

All life has purpose, even the tiniest or smallest of babies. Even that little baby you may not want (I’ve been there), has a purpose and will bring you joy. We must give all life a chance. I would have been pressured to abort Augustus, in the same way I was pressured to abort my most recent daughter despite her being completely normal. I can’t understand why a child, who isn’t “normal,” isn’t considered precious and doesn’t deserve the same dignity as everyone else.

We must remember that all of us have a Creator who loves us and has a plan for us. It’s not predestination but we all have a plan that our God wants for us, just like our parents have a plan for us. We are free to follow it and we are also free to deviate from it. I could have easily aborted Augustus but even though he was never meant to live, his life was great! It was so short but he was so loved. He was loved his entire life, wrapped in the warmth of my womb, never knowing pain or suffering. He was MY Augustus Jude.

We love you Augustus Jude! “Happy Birthday!”

She Would be 11 Today!

It’s hard to believe I would have an 11 year old right now. A girl, approaching her teen years but I know if she was born, I likely wouldn’t have my other children. I think of her often still. I think about what she would be like and the things we would be doing together. Sometimes I think about the things we have missed but I try hard not to focus on that much.

The picture of my dead baby, which the doctors did not want me to have.

She had a purpose and she fulfilled it regardless of how tiny she was. Her life and death inspired so much in me. I wrote a book about her and her loss that has helped so many people. God can use everything for good and while I know her little life wasn’t what it was just so I could write a book, even the tiniest of babies not born can serve purpose.

I also began my bereavement ministry and supported other families through their own losses. In that process, I learned so much. I learned things that I didn’t want to know and things that were horrific that I didn’t know were actually a thing (like NICU nurses wanting to kill babies by stopping life support while their parents weren’t in the room), but I also learned so many good and amazing things like options that bring comfort and met people who really do care about miscarriage and stillbirth.

Ruby Josephine meant more than just the book, the websites and the services. She was my first daughter, a sibling desperately desired and loved, she’s present in our home in many ways, and will never be forgotten by us. Hopefully, the experience we had changed the way doctors do things when women experience pregnancy loss and I hope that her legacy continues even if I can’t provide bereavement services right now.

I just wanted to say, “Happy Birthday” Ruby. We love you!

Where Are My Babies? – Limbo

Many of you know, I’m in the process of completing my next book, “The Catholic’s Guide to Miscarriage,” and I have been researching many topics. The purpose of the book is not necessarily to bring comfort or closure to anyone’s loss. It’s a reference guide at best and may bring some comfort through knowledge of what to do and options a family has through pregnancy loss.

But I have a chapter entitled, “Where’s My Baby?” and I wanted to be sure I provided sound Catholic teaching because after all, this is a Catholic’s Guide. So where do miscarried babies go? Or rather, where do babies go who have not been baptized?

WARNING: This content may be disturbing to you. For further clarification, I recommend speaking with a Traditional Priest. You may also utilize the links below for assistance in understanding Limbo.

Five years ago I was assisting a Catholic client through her miscarriage. It was also about that time where I was undergoing a “reversion” in my Catholic faith. Although looking back at this, I wouldn’t call it a reversion per se; but more of a wanting to know my true Catholic faith. You have read about some of that reversion in my Traditional Latin Mass series and now I will go into more detail in this post.

While working with this client, I made the assumption she believed in what I believed, after all, she identified as Catholic. I realize this sounds odd but now I have full knowledge there are many heretical and Catholic hypocrites. The last few elections have certainly shown this but it’s important to note that she and her family were NOT one of them…I came to learn that I was. I wasn’t a democrat (Catholic’s cannot be democrats, FYI: This does not mean they are republican). She identified as a Traditional Catholic, something I would later identify as and it’s quite humbling.

While attempting to comfort her and her family through this pregnancy loss, I shared her baby was in Heaven. She graciously said her baby was in limbo. She did not “correct” or “admonish” me, she merely stated, “as Traditional Catholics, we hold to the long standing tradition of limbo. Not as a place of deprivation, but a place of complete and natural joy.”

Limbo? I had heard this term before from my mother. She described the miscarried baby she had as in limbo. I didn’t think much more of it because I had never heard teaching on limbo. Therefore, I surmised that limbo was one of the “old concepts” of the Church and just a theory. Time passed and nothing more was learned about limbo until about three years ago when I was learning about The Four Last Things. Limbo isn’t mentioned here but in my research about The Four Last Things, I learned about the four levels of hell.

Oh boy! What? There are levels of hell? I seemed to be on some sort of a quest. One topic lead to another, which lead to something even deeper and more difficult to understand or grasp. I began the Denver Catholic Biblical School in this time as well so I was on a fast track to learning the Bible and the Catholic faith.

Fast forward to now and the research for my book. I reached out to one of the traditional Catholic priests I know for help. I knew Taylor Marshall had information on limbo but he was by no means and “expert” on this topic but I did search for more information on limbo written by him1.

His paper was helpful but I needed more; which is when I reached out to Father Nix. With his background and history, I knew he would be a great resource. I was also already aware of what my parish priests would say, “your baby is in limbo,” so I didn’t necessarily need to reach out to them. (I have since reached out to one of my priests and I was corrected – see below).

Father Nix provided me with a talk by Father Wolfe, FSSP on limbo2. I found this talk to be very enlightening. The topic of limbo has been addressed for centuries and while it’s one of those “old concepts,” I thought about when my own mother discussed limbo for her baby, I now realize that the Catholic faith IS OLD. Seems silly to say that but the Catholic faith is unchanging. The Catholics who want the Church to “get with the times,” are not Catholics. There is a Protestant church down the street for you.

The list of popes and church documents discussing this was astonishing! Some use the word limbo. Most reaffirmed that infants who die without baptism cannot receive salvation. I was especially intrigued by Pope Sixtus V statements in 1588 with regards to abortionists who should be sentenced to death, not merely for killing an unborn child, but also for damning these unborn babies souls and denying them the Beatific Vision (See Taylor Marshalls paper referenced below).

The timing of such statements by popes, saints, and councils are not without question, after all, such statements are usually issued for specific reasons attributed by societal considerations. Meaning, were these statements issued because society was denying baptism was necessary for salvation? Were parents delaying baptism for illegitimate reasons? That is research I do not have the time for at the moment but I am certain I will revisit this topic.

So the final verdict? Babies, including the unborn, lack reason so they cannot have a “Baptism by Desire.” This is why parents must present their babies for baptism soon after birth. Deceased babies cannot be baptized, so therefore, unborn babies who die in the womb cannot be baptized.

If baptism is required for salvation; which is Catholic Doctrine and scriptural (See John 3:5), then we must surmise that miscarried and stillborn babies would not go to heaven.

The concept is not hard to accept if you believe that Baptism is required for salvation; which, EVERY Catholic SHOULD believe because it’s been revealed through Scripture. Not to believe it, is called Pelagianism and is heresy. It is also heresy to believe there is no such thing as original sin.

It seems this might be a “cut and dry” answer, but it’s not; because of Matthew 9 – Jesus Heals the Paralytic. What could this healing have to do with where unbaptized babies go? It could have everything do to with the answer. In discussing this with a friend, who has also lost a son to miscarriage, he shared that vicarious faith saves. A new term for me to research = Vicarious Faith. It’s not an easy search.

Matthew 9, “they brought to him (Jesus) a paralytic.” The place where Jesus was teaching was so full, no more people could enter the area, so they cut a hole in the roof and lowered the paralytic. “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart my son, your sins are forgiven.” Jesus recognized the faith of those who brought the paralytic but did not recognize the faith of the paralytic.

This is vicarious faith. The paralytic was healed through the faith of those who brought him to Jesus. Is it then safe to surmise that a faithful parent would have brought their baby to be baptized and their faith in Jesus and the Sacrament of Baptism would be enough to save the baby from hell? I don’t know.

This is never-ending research. Research on one topic leads to rabbit-hole after rabbit-hole. All of which I want to research but lack the time. In researching vicarious faith, the following subjects also came up.

*Vicarious Faith
*Vicarious Suffering
*Vicarious Atonement
*Vicarious Intercession
*Vicarious Baptism

*I do not know what is Catholic teaching on these subjects so do not assume they are in-line with Catholic teaching. Some are Mormon, Wesleyan or Calvinist.

It is extremely difficult to believe that our ever-merciful God would damn an innocent child to hell because they lacked baptism. This is not a correct way of viewing this though. The nature of man did this. It’s a consequence of the fall of man. But why would an all-knowing God allow this to happen to unborn babies?

This is a mystery, likely not to be revealed until the end of time. Limbo is not a place of punishment but it is not a place where God is. I do not find comfort in this though, nor do I know anyone who would. I have found comfort knowing Jesus holds my children and learning that is likely not true is painful. But I entrust my children who died without baptism to the mercy of God.

Nothing I have found says that at the end of time, those in limbo would join God but nothing says they won’t. After all, those in purgatory will. At the end of time, all that is to exist is Heaven and Hell and if purgatory is a level of hell and all in purgatory will join those in Heaven at the end of the earth, why then wouldn’t those in limbo?

Limbo is tradition. Unbaptized babies going to heaven is liberal church teaching. It is a relatively “new concept” since the 1990’s. If unbaptized babies receive saving grace, what would the point of baptism be at all, other than initiation into the church?

UPDATE (11/23/2021): Then there is what my priest sent me. It was also very enlightening. He brings up a few points I have pondered yet failed to mention in this post. St. John the Baptist leaping in his mothers womb at the presence of Christ in HIS mother’s womb. This implies that Our Lord and Savior was recognized. Much can come from this revelation and I shall ponder it more. My thoughts will go into the book so I hope you’ll pick up a copy when it’s ready.

The answer remains to be found. If you know it, share it.

1 The Doctrine of Limbo in Catholic Tradition by Taylor Marshall
2 Contra Sedevacantism & the Recent Document on Limbo by Father Phil Wolfe

How to Support Miscarriage or Stillbirth – A Doula’s Guide

Were you just told your client’s baby has died?

I get calls from doulas often telling me they just learned their clients baby died and they are heading in to support them. This makes me so happy because in the past, doulas have abandoned these clients for many reasons. Here is a quick guide on how to support your client.

The good thing is, supporting a family through the labor of miscarriage or stillbirth is not that different then supporting them through a live birth. The physical process is relatively the same so many of the skills you have will cross over. Use that knowledge. Below are some key points to focus on when supporting pregnancy loss.

  • Be compassionate
    • Do not bring your bias into this space. What is hard for you to see or hear does not mean the family doesn’t want to see or hold their baby.
  • Refer if you can’t do this
  • Create a sacred space
    • Bring out the mama bear in you. Protect them from hurt (having a separate room so they don’t hear the heartrate monitor in the next room or babies crying).
  • Separate the act of saying goodbye from saying hello
    • Many times staff are focused on the sadness of saying goodbye but there is also a hello. They are about to see the baby they have been longing for. Help them say hello. Focus on fingers or toes if other parts are hard to view.
  • Encourage
    • Skin to skin
    • Holding and photographs
    • Footprints and hand moulds
    • Bathing, diapering, and dressing
    • Reading a book to baby or dancing with baby (daddy/daughter dance)
  • It’s okay to cry
    • Crying is fine but do not cry hard. The family will stop grieving to support you. Do not take away from their grief.
  • Be there at discharge
    • Bring a teddy bear for them to hold. Empty arms hurt. Sometimes taking them a back way is more helpful. Check the hall for cheerful families and new babies. Try not to go by the nursery.
  • Help them say goodbye
    • Encourage a memorial service or funeral. A water ceremony might also be an option for them. Know their religious preferences and be knowledgeable about burial rites.
  • Follow-up
    • A postpartum visit is important. Bring food when you visit. They are going through the postpartum period (even if this was a miscarriage). Check on their physical changes as well as mental changes. Do not confuse grief with postpartum depression. Review their support system and encourage meals to be brought and tasks to be completed by others.
  • Remember their baby
    • Mark your calendar for one year from the date of loss with the baby’s name (if they had one) and send them a card. We are sometimes scared to make them think about their deceased child but they are already thinking about them. The first anniversary is very important. You are not hurting them by remembering.
  • Don’t forget self-care
    • Many doulas leave on a high, even though you are supporting a pregnancy loss. You will likely crash. The next 3 days tend to be the most difficult. Rest and lost of self-care during this time to renew yourself and be the best person you can be for your family. Let them know you will be going through some tough moments.

This isn’t an all encompassing list. It’s a start. You can do this. I know you are questioning yourself but you have so much in you that you can bring to this space. You know how to do this even though you don’t think you are the right person. This family needs you. Go…be there for them. You got this!

I Still Miss You

Nine years ago on Palm Sunday, I prayed a rosary for you with your daddy in the pews following Mass. We had never really prayed together before and certainly not at the church.

As we prayed, I felt that the prayers would lead to nothing. I was desperately trying to save you and it was likely the last ditch effort/appeal to pray to our Blessed Mother for you to stay within my womb and grow. Nine years ago!

Today is Palm Sunday, and as I adorn myself in red to symbolize Christ’s Passion, I can think only of the blood that poured out of my womb during your loss. We are friends with the people who sit in the spot where we prayed for you. We use to sit in that spot every Sunday until they began sitting there. It was a reminder, as if somehow, we were close to you.

This was probably the first Palm Sunday where I didn’t “think” of you before and during Mass. Obviously, I am thinking about you now and all that took place. I prayed for the bleeding to stop on Palm Sunday and it did. The next day, Monday, was blood free but Tuesday, well…Tuesday would change my life. Tuesday, April 14th, and it all changed.

Today is April 14th, so nine years ago, on April 14th, I felt your presence leave my body. I still wasn’t bleeding but you died. You died near 4pm that day. I distinctly remember it. I was in my kitchen and I felt a warmness come over me and your spirit flowed throughout my body, up through my head, and out. It was so distinct and I just knew you left me.

I called a friend immediately exclaiming you were gone and what had just transpired. She was hopeful. She told me I was probably wrong and just anxious but I knew. I knew with every fiber of my being you were gone, so I after I talked with my friend, I called the doctor.

I needed confirmation. I called and asked to push up my ultrasound that was scheduled for April 16th. They offered for me to come in the next day, Wednesday. I didn’t sleep all night. I was on the internet researching miscarriage and the next day, I went in.

The odd thing was, Joey was home that morning. He was six years old and wasn’t feeling well so he went with us to our appointment. While there, he began throwing up. I remember looking at the ultrasound screen briefly as they tried to find your heartbeat, knowing they wouldn’t. I felt sick.

He was there when the doctor told us you were dead. I don’t think he was sick, I think he knew what was happening. The nurses watched him for us so we could mourn. I wanted to have you removed immediately but they wouldn’t. We would have to wait.

At the time, it was horrible waiting. I was offered nothing for my anxiety and inability to sleep. I just had to suffer. I couldn’t live with a dead baby inside me. It was horrific. There was just something strange about having a corpse in my womb. It seemed like no one cared and no one understood.

A corpse…was in my womb!

I can’t believe it’s been nine years. It’s hard to imagine what life would be like if you had survived. I am sorry that I didn’t try harder. I don’t know if it would have changed the outcome but there was more I could do. I know now but it’s too late. I will continue to pray for you and I hope to be reunited with you in the end.

My love…Ruby Josephine.

Don’t Talk About the Baby – Review

It’s a crowdfunded movie that I financially supported. I anxiously awaited the release of the movie after several years of spreading the word about this much needed movie. My hope was that it would break the stigma and silence on pregnancy loss. I was thoroughly disappointed and completed shocked with what I saw in this movie.

It started out well (for the most part). The woman who shares about her daughter was moving. She brought me to tears with her story and I could relate on many levels with her and I was in awe over her mothers intuition. She opens the movie but her full story begins mid-way.  You will see her throughout the movie. I seriously just wanted to hug her.

The first portion of the movie addresses miscarriage. Families share stories of miscarriage and I was so glad they shared about blighted ovum and chemical pregnancy, two forms of loss so often overlooked. The female doctor who speaks is very well versed and I felt she was an excellent resource and empathetic as well as compassionate to her patients.

But that beginning portion began to become concerning for me. They discuss IVF; which to the secular world is fine but as a Catholic, this really bothered me. At no time was faith brought into this and while that wasn’t the point of the movie, religion was not a topic discussed yet is a primary force in the majority of families. In fact, MANY of them wore crucifixes or crosses. These were obviously chosen individually for the interviews.

While IVF was discussed as an option, the way it was presented was almost like an advertisement. The IVF message: The best way to achieve a genetically perfect child, especially for older couples is to utilize IVF. This is my paraphrasing, not the movie but what they didn’t talk about were the losses in each of those IVF trials. The babies who are genetically imperfect that are killed (discarded) in the process. I felt the male doctor really pushed for IVF and gave very little information about the real statistics on IVF.

It lines his pocket financially but the parents lose financially, emotionally, and physically and can leave them in utter despair if they aren’t lucky enough to conceive and carry to full term. The movie did nothing to touch on the fact that IVF increases the risk of stillbirth. This movie is about stillbirth so shouldn’t that have been addressed if you are putting this out there? I suppose IVF can help with creating a genetically perfect child to reduce the risk of miscarriage due to chromosomal abnormalities but then the family is left with a higher risk of stillbirth. I felt like this part of the movie could have been left out. Why discuss IVF at all unless we are talking stillbirth??

IVF is not the only option for older couples or couples struggling with infertility. And before anyone begins to crucify me as ‘not understanding infertility,’ I implore you to read my blogs. I suffered with infertility for over 20 years. It took 3.5 years to conceive my son and 10 years to conceive another living child (Ruby came after 6 years of infertility treatments). I could completely relate to those who had experienced pregnancy loss and those struggling with infertility although I have living children so not all aspects were the same.

I know a movie can’t possibly cover all the pieces of loss, types of loss, and be completely inclusive especially when we bring religion into it but the inclusivity this movie attempted to achieve, deviated onto a path I cannot support. It feels sinful and had I known where this movie was about to go, I would have never supported it.

Abortion. The movie segue’s into abortion. First and foremost, abortion IS a loss. While there are women who utilize abortion as birth control and have no problem with this nor feel any loss from it, there are many women who choose abortion because they believe it’s their best option to reduce either the suffering of their child, their own suffering, or to save their own life.

The woman in the movie described her abortion as medically necessary. The doctors presented her with “your child is suffering inside of you” and your child will gasp for breath, be in pain, and suffer if he is born alive. This mother, like any mother, would never want suffering for her child. Not once though, did the doctors explain the suffering her son would experience from the medication they injected into his heart to stop it.

If this child was born alive, the doctors could have reduced his suffering by giving him medication. But honestly, gasping for air doesn’t always necessitate suffering. I watched my grandfather-in-law die and I have watched multiple babies die. While gasping is uncomfortable for us to watch, it doesn’t necessarily mean there is suffering. But I digress.

I felt this mother was presented with little choice but to follow the doctors recommendation to abort. No where did they offer her comfort care for her very loved child. No where did they offer her support to carry him to term. No where did they offer her any choice but to end her son’s life because he “had no brain function outside her body.” THIS, is where the movie could have helped the medical community and parents enduring fatal diagnosis. Instead of helping a family through that fatal diagnosis, they want to end the life early. Why did they have to normalize abortion instead of carrying to term? Maybe the movie addressed it? I stopped the movie at this point (I did watch the rest the next day).

I feel sick that I supported this movie financially and I was blindsided by it. Had I known they would include such a story, I wouldn’t have opened my check book.

Here are my thoughts after finishing the movie.

I realized this morning that by writing what I have, I am alienating the grief of those who chose to abort their baby. I needed to sit with that statement for a while because alienation is not ever something I would want for those families. I think they feel it enough from the community despite the acceptance of abortion. I am upset that the woman in the video was manipulated by medical staff into thinking that her only option was abortion. I listed other options above. Difficult options. It’s not easy to carry a baby inside you that you know will die inside or at birth but I believe that’s what we should promote. Why?

Because I have had so many mothers who chose abortion for their terminally ill babies who carry immense guilt that they chose the date of death instead of allowing the inevitable process. Many regret the time they lost by choosing abortion. They struggled on choosing the date of the abortion because they didn’t want to become more attached but they didn’t realize how attached they already were. Does every woman or family fall into this? No, but hearing the stories of those who do is gut-wrenching.

I did not want to support a film that would normalize abortion. I am ashamed and this is my public confession. I didn’t know that Ann Zamudio would bring the normalization of abortion into the film “Don’t Talk About the Baby,” and I can tell you that there are more people upset by this than are coming out to say so. But as a Catholic, I can’t keep quiet about it because I don’t want to bring scandal. I didn’t know and I wouldn’t have supported it if I did.

I know many will not agree with me and that’s okay. You are also entitled to your opinion. I won’t berate you, don’t berate me. This is not my judgment against you. I have not stated anything about judgment. This is my opinion. If you are struggling with the words I wrote here, I ask you to explore why. I won’t open comments on this post either because this is very controversial but if you want to engage in open, non-hateful dialogue, you can contact me through the page.

I finished the movie this morning hoping that it would get better, but it didn’t. One of the professionals, kept saying “fetus.” STOP it already. The movie wasn’t called “Don’t Talk About the Fetus.” It made me sick every time she tried to dehumanize the baby by calling it a fetus. I lost all respect for her.

I think the movie is important. It helps shed the light on the stigma of pregnancy loss. It shares the shame associated with it and the silence as well as why there is silence. There are some good resources shared as well and the bereavement doula featured has excellent ideas. Boy, do I wish those ideas would come to fruition all over! She was spot on but I am sure I felt that way because those are the same things I have been screaming for the past 8 years.

Boy, 8 years. That hit me writing that. Ruby would be 8 next month. I can’t believe it.

While I disagree with some of what was presented in this movie, it’s not enough for me to say I wouldn’t recommend it. What I DO want people to know is that the directors placed abortion in here and not all loss mothers can or will relate to that specific topic. In addition, I know many have and will find it offensive. Proceed with caution when watching “Don’t Talk About the Baby.”

As a side note, I thought “Return to Zero” was much better.

New book announcement

I have been contemplating for quite sometime, turning my bereavement ministry over to my faith. At last year’s October 15th Candlelight Vigil and Remembrance Event, I really felt a draw to make Dragonflies For Ruby a Catholic ministry. I have supported people of many different faiths and spirituality and I would never turn anyone away regardless of their faith but I have a desire to really focus on the Catholic side of supporting Catholic women and families through miscarriage, stillbirth, and child loss.

Catholics are pro-life. I am pro-life yet there is a problem in the Church. Women experiencing miscarriage and stillbirth are given very little support from their priests, pastors, and bishops as they navigate their loss. I was very fortunate to have a priest educate me on the importance of my baby’s life (no matter how short) and celebrating that life. His name is Father John Paul Leyba (formerly the parochial vicar at Our Lady of Loreto Catholic Parish and now Pastor at St. Frances Cabrini in Littleton).

I wrote about him in my book, All That is Seen and Unseen; A Journey Through a First Trimester Miscarriage, even placing my personal conversations and letter to him in the book. Father John Paul encouraged me to pray about the sex of my baby, name my baby, and celebrate. When we lost Gus, my Pastor, Monsignor Ed Buelt at Our Lady of Loreto, encouraged us to have a commendation ceremony. It was so beautiful and healing to have this and I want more Catholic’s to know about this option.

But even more so, I would like to share these resources with many Catholic women and help them navigate their miscarriage, knowing the teachings of the Church so I have started a fourth book! It is tentatively titled, The Catholic’s Guide to Miscarriage. The book will contain scripture verses and information from the Catechism as well information that’s out there on how to handle miscarriage according to the Catholic faith. Of course it will have the medical aspects of miscarriage in it but it’s a guide and hopefully will serve as a wonderful resource for Catholics and clergy.

So stay tuned! I am hoping to release the book before the end of the year but I will be seeking endorsement from the Archbishop of Denver so it may take longer. Prayers that the book comes along easily and receives Catholic endorsement and prayers for Dragonflies For Ruby as we make the transition to a Catholic faith-based organization!

Miscarriage and the Flu Vaccine

Several mainstream news sources, to include USA Today, have recently posted articles on miscarriage and the influenza vaccination. Newly pregnant mothers want to know, is the flu vaccine safe in pregnancy? The flu vaccine is recommended for all pregnant women and women are told there is little to no risk in receiving the vaccination during their pregnancy. Yet many vaccinations haven’t been tested in pregnant women. 1 in 4 miscarriage

So let’s talk about it. This is the recently published study by the CDC that shows an increased risk of miscarriage after receiving the influenza vaccination containing pH1N1. The 2017-2018 influenza vaccination looks to have this virus in it. Here are the three viruses for this season:

  • an A/Michigan/45/2015 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus (updated)
  • an A/Hong Kong/4801/2014 (H3N2)-like virus
  • a B/Brisbane/60/2008-like (B/Victoria lineage) virus

The risk of miscarriage was only looked at for the 1 – 28 days following the vaccine and the woman had to have received a prior influenza vaccine which contained pH1N1 as well. The 2016-2017 influenza vaccine contained A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus (I am only listing H1N1).  While the study authors stated that it cannot establish a causal relationship, the association of receiving the flu vaccine during pregnancy and having a miscarriage (SAB) was significant.

What we do know is that pregnant women ARE at a higher risk of contracting illnesses during pregnancy and the flu is one of those illnesses. I used to receive the flu vaccine but as I have aged, I have become allergic to the ingredients in many vaccines. Even if I weren’t allergic, I personally would not receive the flu vaccination, or any vaccination for that matter, during pregnancy. I was pregnant this year and in February, I contracted Influenza B. Not a single person in my family was sick or became sick. I was miserable and I did what I could to protect my baby.

I am not certain where I contracted Influenza B but I do work in a hospital so maybe that’s where I picked it up. My symptoms did not present normally. I did not have a fever at all but I felt very sick, headache, muscle aches, heart palpitations, and I felt like I was struggling to breathe. I put off visiting the ER, mostly because my husband did not want to take me in the middle of the night. In addition, we knew the visit would be costly and that is always a consideration.

It was not easy waiting through the night not to be seen. I couldn’t sleep and honestly, I wanted to be put out of my misery.  Instead of going to the ER, I asked for a walk-in appointment the following morning. When I arrived at the clinic, the doctor was upset I was there and not in the ER. While my oxygenation was fine, I was clearly struggling to breathe. Their concern was that I had been breathing rapidly (over 33 respiration’s per minute) for more than 12 hours and my body would give out and I would “crash.” That was their nice way of saying, die.

I felt absolutely awful but I wanted to avoid the ER so I asked for any testing or procedures they could do in the office. They said they couldn’t test for the flu in their clinic and I would have to go to the ER for that, but they would give me a nebulizer treatment and see if that helped. I did not want to take any medication during my pregnancy but I needed some relief. I was convinced to take the treatment in hopes that it would help and I would avoid the ER.

It did nothing, so we were sent to the ER. I again received an ineffective breathing treatment and was sent home. I was told my blood labs were normal and that my influenza test hadn’t come back but they would call if it was positive. They had no explanation for my illness, other than I must have a bad cold (even though I wasn’t congested at all) and because I was “old” and pregnant, I was responding harshly to the virus. I later learned that my labs were not “normal” but the doctors didn’t believe my labs were indicative of anything.

During the 15 minute drive home, the doctor called my husband to confirm that I had Influenza B. I was surprised they didn’t admit me as my respirations were still horrible but they sent me home with Tamiflu. I hesitated to take the medication. There are no studies of the use of this drug in pregnant women but I needed relief. In addition, I had been symptomatic beyond the 48 hour window for the effectiveness of this drug.

I conducted a little research before consuming the drug. I had immense anxiety over this. I was well into my second trimester and  was passed the gestation where the defects could occur. There were three babies whose mothers had taken the drug who had defects (although some babies were aborted but according to the study, this was not statistically significant). 24 hours after taking Tamiflu, I began to feel relief. By 72 hours after Tamiflu, I was feeling well although exhausted.

I worried throughout my pregnancy that I somehow hurt my baby from the Tamiflu. Only time would tell and a future ultrasound did not show any defects with her heart. Once she was born “normal” I felt okay about taking Tamiflu although it’s still possible she could have been affected but we won’t know until later in her life. So far, all is well with her.

Despite the CDC study, women are still urged to get the flu shot in pregnancy. Why? The reasons cited are to reduce hospitalizations due to complications from the flu, morbidity and mortality, and to pass on antibodies to the unborn baby. This study shows that the influenza vaccine in pregnancy is 91.5% effective in preventing hospitalization of the infant in the first six months of their life (this does not say the infant does not contract influenza). I am sure my daughter has antibodies for Influenza B since I had it.

So what should a pregnant woman do? There is clearly a relationship between miscarriage and having received the influenza vaccination so it would be up to the woman to assume the risk. Do the research, make the decision. I don’t ever recommend just listening to a doctor. I want to be very clear in what I am saying; the doctors recommendation IS important; however, it should not be the only deciding factor. If a woman receives the vaccination and then miscarries, how would she feel knowing that ?

I know I would never forgive myself so I choose not to receive vaccinations during pregnancy and most especially during the first trimester. Only you can decide if it’s right for you. As someone who has experienced miscarriage twice, I worry so much during subsequent pregnancies about losing the baby and anything I can do to reduce that anxiety is helpful. Once the baby is born, I know there are many things I can do to help keep the baby healthy and I follow all those precautions and recommendations during such a fragile time.

Making the decision to receive or not receive the flu vaccine is difficult. There seems to be good research out there to help make an informed decision, although much of it is irrelevant if the baby does not make it to term if the flu vaccine causes miscarriage.

How to Prepare for Your Miscarriage

miscarriage in ultrasound roomYou’ve just been told that your baby/pregnancy isn’t viable, that there is no longer a heartbeat, or that you will be miscarrying; so what do you do now? Chances are, you were sent home with medication to induce the miscarriage or told to just go home and wait it out but do you really know all that you need to prepare for? Probably not.

Here is some practical information on how to prepare for your miscarriage. This is information you would likely never hear from your care provider.

Step 1. Before you leave the doctors office, ask for the following (if you have already left, you can call them or send someone back to their office).

  • A list of warning signs.
  • Induction medication instructions, warning signs, and how long it may take to work.
  • A miscarriage kit (strainer, gloves, saline solution, container for remains/baby).
  • Pain medication (prescription in hand or actual pills).
  • A sleep aid (if you feel you will need it).

Step 2. Prepare your home by setting up the bathroom for the delivery process. Purchase a miscarriage kit. If you don’t have time to purchase a kit, use the information below to prepare.

  • Have the strainer in the toilet (for every use)
  • A container to place the baby/remains.
  • Saline solution (for preserving and viewing the baby).
  • Gloves on hand in case you feel like you need them (it’s okay to touch the baby/remains without gloves).
  • Towels/wash clothes for cleaning up.

Step 3. Prepare emotionally.

  • Talk with others who may have miscarried.
  • Share your feelings with your partner and ask him how he is feeling/doing.
  • Books are an excellent way to learn what others have felt and they can help validate your own feelings. It’s Not ‘Just’ a Heavy Period; The Miscarriage Handbook or The Miscarriage App, can be very helpful.
  • Join an online support group and ask others about their experiences.

Step 4. Have someone with you. You should not miscarry or deliver your baby at home alone.

  • Your partner or husband should be with you. If they are not available, a friend or other family member should be with you.
  • Hire a professional such as a bereavement doula, loss doula, or perinatal loss specialist who can mentor you through this process.
  • Ask if you can be induced and deliver in the hospital. For miscarriages beyond 10 weeks, this can be a very viable option. I recommend that all my clients deliver in a hospital when they are between 14 – 20 weeks.

Step 5. Consider testing. Doctors speculate that miscarriages are caused by genetic abnormalities but with so few women testing (only 13% of stillborn babies receive an autopsy), we just don’t know for sure if there is something you can do to prevent a miscarriage.

  • Ask your doctor about the Anora Miscarriage test kit by Natera. This is a test on your baby’s remains and may give you some answers such as sex of the baby and the baby’s condition/chromosomes. For baby’s between 16-20 weeks an autopsy may also be performed.
  • Ask your doctor to run blood tests on you which may reveal conditions like MTHFR and other antibody/antigen issues which could cause miscarriage.
  • In a future pregnancy, consider progesterone testing to ensure your progesterone is at the optimal level for carrying a baby. This test should be done as soon as you become pregnant and monitored during the first trimester.

Step 6. Decide the final resting place for the baby/remains. You have many options available to you.

  • Flushing (accidental or purposeful) is one option. If you feel guilt over flushing or would like to honor your baby, you can perform a water ceremony for miscarriage which can help to release some of the guilt and/or honor your baby.
  • Burial (at home, at a cemetery, or other location). Be sure to check the local laws on home burial or burial at any other location other than a cemetery, you do not want to break local ordinances and laws. Burial at home is not usually recommended in the event that you might move. Some families choose to bury a tiny baby in a pot and plant a tree which is portable in the event of moving. Many cemetery’s offer communal burial or plots for miscarried babies and many are free. Be sure to inquire.
  • Cremation. You will need to work with a mortuary or crematory for cremation if you are not utilizing the hospital cremation process. Please note that most hospitals cremate all biohazard together and that includes the baby/remains. You will also not receive any ashes back with hospital cremation/disposal. Many mortuaries and crematories will conduct the cremation free of charge. You might even be able to include special blankets or notes during that process. Be sure to inquire. With very early babies (13 weeks and earlier), you may not receive any ashes back.

Step 7. Create memories. Yes, there are ways to create memories, even for early miscarriages.

Memory Box for Miscarriage - Erika Zane Photography

  • Pictures can be taken of your very tiny baby either professionally or with your phone.
  • Smells and scents can help you remember. Lavender is a very common scent used to help relax but it can also be used to help you remember. You may not think you will want to remember this experience but many women do.
  • Name your baby. This can be very beneficial in validating your baby’s existence. It’s not something everyone does but many women enjoy naming their baby, even if they call their baby “peanut” or Baby (insert last name).
  • Miscarriage AnnouncementMementos don’t have to be elaborate. If you have a larger baby, you can try capturing handprints/footprints but with smaller babies, you will need be a bit more creative. Examples of mementos are sympathy cards, hospital admission bracelet (from you), remembrance jewelry, breastmilk pendant (if your milk came in), cord keepsake, blanket (with or without baby’s name on it), plant a tree, plant flowers, make a donation to a charity,  etc.
  • Create a miscarriage announcement.
  • Attend annual events such as a candlelight vigil or remembrance walk. You can find local vigils and events here.

Step 8. Move forward.

  • Understand that moving forward is not moving on. It will take time for you to feel like you can move, let alone move forward. Take your time moving forward.
  • Seek a support group or one-on-one mentoring/counseling.
  • You will likely never return to “normal” but will learn a new normal.
  • There is no timeline on grief. Some people move through grief quickly and some move through grief more slowly. There is no right or wrong.
  • Purchase a recovery kit.
  • Grief is not depression.

Photo Credit: Dravas Photography

Photo Credit: Dravas Photography

Having a miscarriage is not easy, even if you might not have wanted the baby. It is emotionally and physically draining yet we are led to believe that this is an easy experience and it’s “no big deal.” Many women are confused when they are hurting yet are not treated as if this is a hurtful event. With the information above, women will understand how to prepare for your miscarriage. They will feel empowered and validated and will know they have options.

Miscarriages are NOT Heavy Periods

miscarriage in ultrasound room“Miscarriages are like heavy periods.” I don’t understand where this phrase comes from at all. After diagnosis of a miscarriage, many women hear the words, “It will be like a heavy period.” Sometimes the medical professional adds, “And you might see more clots and pass tissue.” There is rarely mention of pain or contractions. Do doctors not understand that some women do not cramp at all during their periods? So now, when a woman who wouldn’t normally cramp during her periods, experiences this crampy feeling, what are her thoughts?

Let me explain. I teach childbirth education classes and we discuss contractions, pressure waves, etc during the childbirth preparation. I prefer to relate the pain of contractions to something they have felt before, menstrual cramps, diarrhea cramps, ovulation pain, etc. It can give a general idea on where they might feel contractions. I also explain that these are functions that do not mean something is wrong.

Because nearly all the experiences of pain we have are signals that there is something wrong.

So, pain = something is wrong.

In the case of menstrual cramps, contractions, etc, pain is not a signal that something is wrong but we don’t typically think of it this way and again, a woman who doesn’t experience menstrual cramps will be confused about what is taking place in her body. So now, this woman begins the miscarriage process and she is cramping (contracting) and now, because all her prior experiences of pain signaled something was wrong, she will likely think that something is wrong. And fear sets in.

Now the woman has fear in a very emotional situation where she is already deeply hurting. When you put physical pain together with emotional pain, the combined pain is off the charts. It can be too much to manage at all.

Now imagine that the medical professional explained the process a bit more. “You will likely bleed heavily, pass clots and tissue (grey, pink, and red), you may see the baby in full form or partial form, and you will likely experience cramping or contracting. If the pain is too unbearable, you may take this medication I have prescribed to you.” Then they add some warning signs, “If you bleed through more than 1 pad an hour, please contact us, if you pass any clots larger then the size of an egg/plum call us immediately or head to the emergency room, and if you see the baby you may put the baby in a bag or box and place them in the refrigerator and then call us.” Then they add even more, “You may begin bleeding more heavily after you pass tissue and this can be a sign of retained tissue. Keep an eye on this and if you feel faint, dizzy, lightheaded, or nauseated please go to an emergency room. If you pass out, someone needs to call 911. This means that you should not miscarry alone and someone should be with you at all times.”

WOW! That is one awesome medical provider!

Knowledge is power and this woman would feel much more confident in her experience even though it is sad and emotionally difficult but at least she knows what is normal and what isn’t. This helps reduce fear and empowers her to take control.

woman-grief-3-labeled-for-reuseBut, miscarriage is treated just like a period. Women believe that “it’s no big deal.” That all the contents that emerge from her are to be flushed or discarded and when the gravity of the situation takes over, she is confused about why she is so sad and if she is worthy of grieving.

She is then silent about her experience and becomes shameful. She fears telling anyone because miscarriages are “like a heavy period” so what’s the big deal? Yet she mourns. She yearns for her baby. If she was in her second trimester, she may have held her baby (some can do this in the first trimester), she may have weeped over her baby and repeated to her baby over and over that she was sorry.

Yet miscarriage is like a heavy period. Society thinks, “Why is this woman so distraught, it was just a heavy period!” These experiences just irk me. This is not okay. Women ARE worthy of grief. Miscarriages are NOT like a heavy period. About the only time a miscarriage would be “like a heavy period” would be if it were to happen extremely early within the pregnancy, often so early the woman may not even suspect she was pregnant. This would be before 5 weeks of pregnancy. Miscarriages after 5 weeks would likely be more painful.

It's Not "Just" a Heavy Period; The Miscarriage HandbookAll of these reasons and more are why I wrote the book, “It’s Not ‘Just’ a Heavy Period; The Miscarriage Handbook.” Women should have the information they need to make the best decisions they can when they are miscarrying. They should have the knowledge needed to feel empowered with their choices which helps reduce trauma and improves their coping as they grieve.

Why are so many medical providers causing more emotional trauma and hurt by dismissing this experience as a heavy period? We MUST change this! I want to mention a recent movement in the US to help change this. It’s called Don’t Talk About the Baby. I hope you will join me in supporting them so that this movie can come to fruition. We must stop the medical community and society from telling women miscarriage is no big deal. It is a big deal.

Breaking the silence of first trimester miscarriage.

For Gus

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