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Tag: grief (Page 1 of 2)

The Death of Suffering

WARNING: This is deep and is about abortion. It is not a popular opinion.

“I chose to deliver Embree on April 25, 2016 via c-section. I chose late-term abortion. I did so because it was the only way I could hold my baby girl while she was still alive. It was the only way I could encounter her soul until we are together again in heaven. This is why I am PRO-CHOICE.” – Haylie Grammer

At face value, you might think that this woman had an abortion near-term but that’s not the case. She was 25 weeks. You also may have already seen this story as Haylie aborted her baby 4.5 years ago. Her situation is tragic, I don’t deny it. I do however, want to talk about it.

Her post is really about politics (which she admits) and it’s to garner your vote for the pro-choice legislators. Heck, it might even be about the Supreme Court Nominee, Amy Coney Barrett since the concern is she will help overturn Roe v. Wade but most likely this is about the presidential election. It’s quite suspect that this circulated during the last presidential election year.

Haylie tells her tragic story about how Texas forced her to have an abortion because the law would not allow an early induction. According to Texas law, there is no restriction on abortion if the baby has a severe fetal anomaly and/or the mother’s life is at risk. The ACLU for Texas confirms this. Nothing stated the need to wait until 27 week, although she could be referring to private insurance restrictions. This is most likely one of the determining factors for her choosing the abortion route.

Even in Catholic circles, there is disagreement on if what Haylie endured was abortion and those are the details I will focus on in this post because I am not so much interested in the terminology than what was on Haylie’s heart (in her own words).

The quote is above. She chose to have her baby early so that she could hold her baby while she was alive. She chose.

If you’re Christian, then you should understand that God has given you free will to “choose.” There are also laws or rather Commandments, that God has told us not to break. His command doesn’t say, “thou shalt not…unless you are suffering.” It certainly doesn’t say, “thou shalt not…unless the person will die anyway.” And most obvious, His command doesn’t say, “thou shalt not…unless the person isn’t perfect.”

All of us (whether you believe in God or not), were created by God in His image and likeness. Even the unborn were created in His image and likeness. We know that God knows the unborn because it was revealed in scripture. Psalm 139: 13-14 is one of the more popular verses in Sacred Scripture that shows us that God knows us before we are born.

I realize there is much debate on when “life begins.” Science says life begins at conception but medicine says otherwise, “at implantation.” I am not going to debate these statements. Here’s why, as Catholic Christians, we believe in science. Medicine can be manipulated, just as it was in this particular story.

There is also no question if Embree were a living person because her mother believed her to be and wanted to meet her soul on this earth. So the argument then turns to the fatal condition and mirror syndrome. She was told Embree was going to die. Embree would likely die in the womb. Haylie did NOT choose to end Embree’s life in the typical abortion fashion where the baby’s heart is injected with digoxin and then a dead baby is delivered, she chose early induction or rather, early c-section.

This is extremely tragic. As someone who has experienced the death of a baby in the womb and someone who assists families through such deaths as well as fatal diagnoses, I have a perspective many do not have. Not many people choose to get this close to families enduring such suffering.

The death of a baby in the womb is life-changing. Honestly, it doesn’t matter how early or late this occurs. Women have experienced extreme suffering whether the baby dies at an early gestation or full-term. We humans though, believe that the farther along in pregnancy a woman is, means the more love she has to lose and therefore, she will endure more suffering than someone who is in an early gestation (less time to love) but this is not the case at all.

Unfortunately, this is quite damaging to the families who lose children to miscarriage and stillbirth. With this logic, a young woman who loses her fiancé should grieve less than a woman who loses her husband after 40 years of marriage. It is nonsensical and would be damaging to the young woman.

I can tell you that ending the pregnancy early, will not lower the amount of suffering someone will have. They love the child already. We don’t love our children more and more each day they are with us, we just love them and it would break our hearts to lose them no matter what age they are. So instead of bringing in this human logic and trying to reduce a perceived amount of suffering, why aren’t we offering support to women and families enduring such a diagnosis?

I mentioned this to some friends recently and their response to this situation was “let the decision be made between the person, their doctors, without fear of persecution or stigma.” Well, that sounds good on paper but unfortunately, doctors don’t give all the options. Doctors are human too. Doctors have their own biases and opinions too. Doctors can also manipulate things without much repercussion.

Even though my maternal fetal medicine specialist knew I was pro-life, I was still encouraged to abort my 20+ week baby girl because there was a 2% chance the test I had was wrong and my daughter could have Down Syndrome. The whole reason I had the test was so I could advocate for my daughter, who could potentially have Down Syndrome or some other trisomy (even Triploidy since I already had a child with Triploidy). I wanted the specialists necessary for my child, not a judge who believed my baby should die because they weren’t perfect.

I know a family who suffered the loss of their son because a doctor purposefully allowed him to bleed to death following a routine surgery because the child “wasn’t perfect.” He was 8! It was a “medical error,” but believe me, this family knew the judgment against them for bringing forth an “imperfect” child who consumed medical services and did not live in the “normal” way nor would be a “productive member of society.” This is a horrible culture our society has created and supports.

But suffering is the big concern on everyone’s mind. Suffering MUST BE reduced or eliminated at all costs. Why have we become a society that doesn’t accept suffering? As Christians, it seems we have no understanding of the purpose of suffering and somehow believe that God should not allow us to suffer regardless of what we are doing here on earth. There is no suffering in Heaven. Are we living in Heaven?

Through suffering comes grace. We all must suffer and we all WILL suffer through the sins of our brothers and sisters (as well as our own). So I always giggle when I hear someone say, “their life and choices has no effect on mine.” On the contrary, the sins of this world affect us all. This is pretty deep and theological and most people will not take the time to learn anything about this.

So, would prayers have worked to save Baby Embree? Unfortunately, no one will know because the choice was taken away. God’s ability to provide grace on this mother and child, His ability to perform a miracle, the community’s ability to intercede in deep prayer for this child, was taken away.

Haylie used her God-given free will and took this matter to human hands. Of course, she says her in her own words that she hoped modern medicine and prayers would heal her daughter. As an outsider looking in, it would seem she carries a religious belief.

Embree could have received a miracle or should would have died. Death, as much as it hurts for those who love, isn’t the worse thing that could actually happen to us. That’s a physical death. The worst thing that could happen would be spiritual death (eternal separation from God). How does one experience spiritual death?

Rejection of God, aka breaking the Commandments.

Thou shalt not kill.

“But Embree was going to die anyway,” they say. Maybe, we’ll never know.

“But Embree wasn’t killed through abortion,” they say. Well, how do we know that her early delivery wasn’t responsible for her death? She was only 25 weeks. Many 25 week babies do not survive. Some doctors even refuse to provide any life saving care at this gestational age. The error isn’t that life saving care needed to be provided. It didn’t, but a delivery this early could have been responsible for her early death and of course removed any chance that further prayer would have resulted in a miracle.

“But the mother’s life was at risk,” they say. This is debatable. Swelling in the feet is hardly life-threatening. She says she was the size of someone who was 36 weeks pregnant so swelling in the feet at 36 weeks is normal. Haylie doesn’t disclose any other life-threatening issues except the statement about mirror syndrome. An extremely rare condition and while she fits the gestational age in pregnancy for this to occur, it’s unlikely she was experiencing mirror syndrome based on what she revealed. It seems the doctor was finding an excuse to allow this woman a c-section due to some law.

I was unable to find that information in the law. I don’t see anything about 27 weeks in the law at all. In fact, Texas law grants abortion for fatal conditions in the baby and/or threat to the life of the mother after 20 weeks. As stated at the beginning, it seems it might be a private insurance reason over Texas law. It was obvious a c-section was needed due to the tumor the baby had. A vaginal delivery would not be an option.

Someone failed this family.

Now for my Catholics who have argued that this was not abortion because the mother’s life was at risk and a procedure to save the mother is permissible during pregnancy even if the result is the death of the baby. You are correct. Fetal anomalies are not reasons for early induction though and I would argue again that this mother’s life was hardly at risk (based on the information given). It’s likely the doctor manipulated the swelling to justify an indication for such delivery. But, we must look to this mother’s heart.

I did so because it was the only way I could hold my baby girl while she was still alive.”

This mother did not want to deliver a dead baby. The only way to deliver her alive was to have an early c-section while she was still alive. Believe me, no one wants to deliver a dead baby. No one wants to carry a dead baby in their womb. It might be the journey God has asked of you.

I know this is heart-wrenching. I know that deep down many people know that this was wrong. I also know that many people believe this was an act of mercy. There is no such thing as “mercy killing” for humans though. We must always allow for God’s grace even in the toughest situations. God forbid someone end my life early because I have dementia and they believe it’s merciful to kill me (by refusing food, water, or worse, providing euthanasia).

Redemptive Suffering. Look it up. Someone doing this might have removed not only my redemptive suffering but their own! Suffering sucks. I’ve been there! I don’t want to suffer any more than you do. I’ve lost two children to miscarriage. I have experienced mental illness. I nearly died twice in 2017 and one occurrence came with a month of in-patient care for nearly complete organ failure. We’ve all endured suffering in some way or another.

That’s not what this is about though. We are in this world, but not of it. There is more to us than this little blip of time on earth. Life on this earth includes suffering. We cannot get rid of it and the more we try through these false acts of “mercy,” the more we will suffer…until the end. Only God can provide the mercy you are looking for.

We must offer up these sufferings to God. We must allow others to help us through that suffering. By allowing others to help us, we are allowing God’s grace into their lives and are allowing God’s grace to flow in ours. We are all connected.

To suffer means to become particularly susceptible, particularly open to the working of the salvific powers of God, offered to humanity in Christ. In him God has confirmed his desire to act especially through suffering, which is man’s weakness and emptying of self, and he wishes to make his power known precisely in this weakness and emptying of self. (SD 23)” – Pope Saint John Paul II (Salvifici Doloris)

Grieving Your Last Child

I thought I was done having children. I really did. After Gus died in 2015, we had decided that he would be our last. He was supposed to be our last anyway. He was supposed to be the child that brought three children to our kitchen table. I grieved his death but I grieved so much more. I had been down this path of grief once before but this wasn’t grief due to the death of a baby. It was the loss of not having any more children.

After our first was born in 2003, we tried for years to become pregnant again. We wanted to add another child to our family and I struggled immensely with the inability to become pregnant. After five years of trying (tests, acupuncture, chiropractic care, Mayan abdominal massage, supplements, teas, fertility enhancing drugs, and thousands of dollars spent), I gave up hope and began to grieve that I would no longer have anymore children.

This was such a different kind of grief. I literally had to change my focus in life from wanting to become pregnant and have a baby to raising the child I had as a single child and working on my career. Just as I had, I became pregnant. Just as I was about to begin my police career, I found myself expecting a child. Switching gears again was so difficult and I wasn’t happy about the pregnancy at first. I share this in depth story in my book All That is Seen and Unseen; A Journey Through a First Trimester Miscarriage.

Somehow after we lost Ruby, my body became fertile and I now had a hole new journey on my hands. Practicing NFP according to the teachings of the Catholic Church in order to space my children and/or prevent further children. Let me take a moment here to explain that NFP is not another form of birth control. To properly use NFP, a couple must discern each and every cycle whether or not to give in to desires and potentially create life. Sex is designed by God to be both unitive and procreative (there are a few other reasons such as purity as well). A couple must give everything to each other and that includes their fertility. To remove either of those pieces, is to sin.

But this post isn’t about NFP or the Catholic teaching. It’s about grief specific to no longer being procreative. It’s about all I feel like I am losing out on and things I will miss. It’s about learning to let go of future children, even though right now, my family feels complete.

The pregnancy with my last baby was difficult. Wrought with nausea, exhaustion, anger and irritability (first trimester only), tests, more exhaustion, physical pain, and when the baby was born, I developed a fatal condition (postpartum pre-eclampsia) which I survived, obviously. In addition, postpartum depression was/is alive and well. My age is also a very big concern and was the driving factor in some of the conditions above. Another baby should not be considered. I am not sure I will survive.

So I find myself grieving once again. I don’t want to grieve this. I already had but let’s put it out there.

Here are some of the things I grieve:

Never having sex again during the God-designed, most desirable and pleasurable time of my cycle.
Never again experiencing the excitement and joy from a positive pregnancy test.
Knowing that we created a new life.
Sharing the news that we created a new life.
Feeling the “superpower” of creating new life.
Seeing the new life on an ultrasound (oh, that beating heart!).
Watching my belly expand and nourish a new life.
Reveling in the joy my husband and children have when we are growing new life.
Anticipating the new life’s arrival.
Looking down in the shower to see the massive belly, feeling it, rubbing it, etc.
Loving my body, feeling like a true woman, the essence of femininity.
Feeling the first flutters and then kicks.
Birth, yes birth. I feel like I finally have this down and the last birth was just fantastic.
Making milk – being the only person providing the nourishment.
Raising the baby

There are things I won’t miss:

Progesterone supplementation (shots or pills)
Test, after test, after test
Anxiety that this baby will die too
The baby jumping on my cervix
The pelvic pain
Not being able to roll over in bed
Doctors appointments
Recovering from birth
Night sweats
Baby Blues
Postpartum Depression

But mostly, it’s really about the fact that I will no longer create life. I am old. I shouldn’t. We shouldn’t. It’s not mentally or physically healthy for us or the family. So I grieve. I grieve for my empty womb. A womb that is just beginning to fill with cobwebs and it will remain that way, for the next 40 years or so of my life. My womb will never hold new life again.

I am not sure if my husband grieves. He might, but I don’t imagine him grieving the fact that he will no longer produce more children. Well…at least we *think* we won’t. Neither of us have done anything like birth control or sterilization in an attempt to prevent creating new life. At this point, we rely on abstinence and THAT SUCKS!

I will process through this grief just like I always have, but the grief resurfaces. There are triggers. The biggest being my bathroom. Anytime I see myself naked in the mirror and long for the big, round belly or anytime I am in the shower and look down to see flab instead of round. That big, round belly means so much. As I said before, it’s the epitome of femininity. Maybe that’s what I will miss the most?

Comparing Loss Serves No One

“Comparing Loss Serves No One” was originally published on December 2, 2015 at Doula Spot.

October 15th Miscarriage VigilRecently in a group, bereaved mothers were comparing the pain they experienced based on the age of their baby. One woman shared she had miscarriages so her pain could not be nearly as painful as a friend who had lost a baby at full term and the friend who lost her baby at full term could not possibly be in as much pain as the person who lost their baby at 2 weeks old. Even with those comparisons, another mother stated that the pain of losing her 24 week gestation child could not be as painful as someone who lost their living child.

The common denominator here is grief, the grief one experiences from a loss; however, there is a societal perception of the pain and grief one might experience based on the longer a person is alive, the more grief that one might experience. Here are some examples of what I have heard or seen regarding grief and pregnancy loss.

Women are told:

They should have nothing to grieve for the baby lost early (before she had a chance to love it).

The baby wasn’t born alive so why is she sad?

It is belittling to mothers who have lost living children for women to grieve a baby who never lived (the perception being that a baby in the womb is not living).

A miscarriage is not the same as losing a child.  

Then there are other comparisons:

A mother who birthed her stillborn baby through her vagina will experience more grief than a mother who had a c-section (as if she was somehow “spared” by not having to deliver vaginally).

These are comments and comparisons I have heard but what purpose do they serve?

Society allows and accepts a family’s grief for a baby or child who passes within the first year of life and beyond because there is a physical body with which they can see, touch, smell, and hear. We also see acceptance and validation for the grief within our own federal guidelines of FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act); however, there is no time allowed to grieve the loss of a baby not born alive. This gives society the perception that born alive = worthy.

When grief is compared or challenged based on the gestation/age of a baby, it can make women feel they are not worthy to grieve for their baby not born alive; whether they were born in the first trimester or later. It can make women feel ashamed about their very real feelings. Not all women will feel grief from a miscarriage and while that’s okay, it’s not helpful for one woman who was not hurt by her miscarriage to say to another woman “What’s the big deal?” It’s a big deal to her and she deserves support.

Women should be allowed to grieve without shame just as they would grieve for the loss of their parents. Although I have seen people make others feel shameful for grieving the death of their aged parents (because they lived a long life, their death was expected).  Does a woman who just married her boyfriend of six months have the right to grieve? After all, she didn’t know him that long and if the basis for grief is length of time together (as some people have suggested), then she shouldn’t grieve nearly as much as a woman who lost her husband of 15 years. When approached from this angle, it doesn’t make much sense to associate time together with how much grief should be expected or experienced.

MiscarriageValidation that the grief is real and that they are worthy to grieve starts with us (society); sharing our stories of loss, and encouraging society to recognize that the grief from miscarriage exists. For many women, the moment they see the positive test they begin imagining all they will do with their future child. All those hopes and dream disappear in a fleeting moment, a flicker on an ultrasound that diminished too quickly, a kick or punch which faded away, a breath that emptied too soon. All are worthy of grief and mourning.

Shaming the grief experience by comparing grief experienced from pregnancy loss further silences this common experience and forces many women to hide. I remember feeling shame. It manifested in feeling foolish for grieving something I never had (a living baby); feeling silly for grieving a baby I couldn’t hold or see in their full form. I saw my baby on the ultrasound and I saw my baby’s heartbeat so I knew she was real but she was not real to many others. I also felt shame when I was excited to be pregnant and had a new life within me, though a fragile one, and announced it to the world only to have to tell everyone that the baby died.

Many women continue to feel more shame when they choose to hide their pregnancies until much later. Just because a woman doesn’t announce her pregnancy early, does not mean she is living in shame but some do. I have a friend who has already told me that should she become pregnant again, she will not announce until later…much later.

She does not want to have to tell people her baby didn’t make it, like last time. Months after her miscarriage, she is still asked about her pregnancy or what happened which adds to her silent pain; a pain that she carries but doesn’t allow the world to see. Her ‘status’ updates are make believe; pretending nothing ever happened. She buries her pain deep within her but still knowing how far along she would be.

Even I didn’t realize that she had the same thoughts as I do. We would have been pregnant together. We would have been due within one month of each other. I would be 38 weeks with a very ripe belly. My breasts would be preparing to nourish the child within me. I would be making frozen meals and completing the final tasks to bring home a new baby.

I would most likely be sharing with her all the things I have been doing to help her prepare as well; hoping she didn’t make a mistake or forget something I may have. We would be talking about names. And after our babies were home, we would be sharing milestones. Instead, we share death. We share our experiences of miscarriage which were very different yet the same; her entry into the silent club of pregnancy loss and my mentorship of having been through it…twice.

We do not know what is inside of someone else’s mind. We do not know what their experience of pain is. We cannot possibly comprehend someone’s grief based on society’s opinion, our personal opinions, our personal experiences, the experiences of others, etc. The pain and grief a person carries is their own. They may not fully share that pain with you either. Even if we know they had a loss, they may still remain silent which in turn, makes us feel they are “okay.” They might be okay or they might be deeply struggling.

When we know someone has experienced pregnancy loss, the most we can do is offer support. There are many ways to do that. Books and websites are dedicated to supporting families through loss. What we cannot do though, is much for the internal grief they will inevitably experience. We cannot speed up the grief journey; we can only walk with them through it.

Accompany one another with mercy. – Pope Francis

The length of someone’s life, the size of their body, the condition they are in, and the circumstances surrounding their death do not make grief more or less worthy. Grief is grief and is a person’s own journey. Please support them and others through any grief they are experiencing. Most of us have no idea if one experience hurts more than another experience. Can we stop comparing and just support?


On this day, May 11

Memory Box for Miscarriage - Erika Zane PhotographyLast year, he was born on May 11. Silent and still on the ultrasound just days before, we knew his birth was inevitable. It was devastating. Our 4th and thought-to-be last child, gone so quickly. We were so excited to be pregnant with him, naturally and at our age. It was a miracle. But he was not to be. He was not to live on this earth, just a saint in heaven.

That’s what today represents for me. It’s Augustus’s (AKA Gus) anniversary. Today doesn’t feel much different, other than I know how I was last year and all I was enduring physically and emotionally. I think today feels mostly normal because Gus is in my life every day. The entire family talks about him and shares about him.  His candle sits on our table next to Ruby’s and his memory box (which you see to the left) is in our dining room.

Facebook has a timeline memory feature that can be so very cruel when it reminds you of events such as miscarriage, stillbirth or any loss really. When you least expect it, a memory appears. On May 11, 2015, I didn’t post anything about delivering Gus. I was very quiet about that particular day. So I imagine tomorrow my memory reminder will show information about our loss.

I was specifically quiet on Facebook that day. I needed one more day of the world thinking I was pregnant. One more day of me feeling like I was pregnant even though my body had birthed already our baby. So instead of a sad memory appearing in my Facebook Memory Timeline, I saw a post from May 11, 2011.

It was a simple post:

I actually helped save a life today and the person is extremely thankful. I feel amazed to be a part of his life.

It was a chilly morning that day; cloudy and rainy. I was managing the security department at my local hospital that day when I received a call there was a “crazy man” rolling around in the grass in the front of the hospital. Me and another officer went out looking for him. I ran out without a coat, as did my partner. Neither of us could find him and if I recall, my partner returned to the building to get his coat.

I found a man inside a car near the grass. He was hanging out his door but trying to start the car. He was wet and looked disheveled. I asked him if he needed help and he said he was trying to start his car but his speech was slurred. He didn’t look like he felt alright so I asked him to get out of his car and come in to be checked out.

He complied fairly easily but he seemed confused. As he stood up, I realized he was wearing only one slipper. He was also a very large man. Most likely 280lbs and about 6’5″. This was not a man I wanted to fight with but that was what was about to happen.

As I talked with him, he kept walking away. He would stumble as he walked towards the grass. I kept asking him questions but his speech was jumbling and he wasn’t making much sense. When I placed my hand on his elbow to try to direct him, he pulled away and then turned towards me and got in my face. He became aggressive. I contacted dispatch to call 911.

As I attempted to hold him off from hurting me, my partner arrived…just in time. He himself was big and burly and could stand up to him. We both were holding him back and trying to get him to calm down and just talk to us. Finally, I yelled at him, “WHAT’S YOUR NAME?”

He looked blankly at me. He stopped fighting and just looked off in the distance as if he was scared because he could not form the words. I then called 911 and told them to send rescue. This man was having a medical issue. He was not drunk, he just couldn’t be. Something else was going on with him.

As I hung up, I could hear sirens. The police quickly arrived and helped us to get him under control and into custody. The ambulance arrived and assisted him into the truck and drove him to the emergency room. When he arrived, his blood sugar was 22 and it was dropping. Due to the cold temperature, his body was burning off more and more sugar and he was close to having a seizure or entering into a coma.

The hospital administered sugar and instantly this man came back to life. He was such a gentleman and apologized. He explained that he had just seen his doctor and was heading back to his house in the mountains but when he got into his car, he blacked out. He didn’t remember any of what had taken place. He was grateful we found him. He was admitted to the hospital for over a month and I visited him nearly every day I worked. He was such a pleasure and I wished him the best.

I hope he is still alive and well today. I know he had many medical issues that needed to be addressed. I remember that day like it was yesterday. Just like I remember Gus’s birth like it was yesterday. With Gus, the medical staff treated me kindly and were so empathetic to my situation. My husband was there and was so loving and supportive. It was a sad day but we made the best of it.

So today, I want to remember the life I helped save instead of feeling sad about Gus. I feel sad about Gus often, wishing he was here yet accepting that he is not and that I was chosen to carry him…even if for a short while.

If you have experienced a pregnancy loss and had talked about your pregnancy on Facebook, maybe even announced a pregnancy on Facebook, I recommend turning off Facebook memories. I researched “How to turn off Facebook Memories” and found the answer. Visit your newsfeed or “home page.” On the left side of the screen, scroll down to “Apps.” It will be the section under “Friends” but before “Interests,” at least that’s how it was on my screen.

You will find something called “On this day.” Click on that and you can make changes or turn off the notifications. I hope this helps and alleviates some of the cruel reminders that Facebook will notify you of.

Antidepressants for Pregnancy Loss

Antidepressants are being prescribed by obstetricians to women who have experienced a miscarriage or stillbirth. Several of my clients have left the hospital with a prescription for an antidepressant and a few have questioned why. I have been scolded for my stance on this and told that prescribing antidepressants is very productive and should be a standard of care for all women.

I realize this can be a controversial topic and by no means is this post meant to offend women who were prescribed and took an antidepressant following their miscarriage or stillbirth. Many of my clients take antidepressants and some feel better doing so. This post is meant to bring awareness to why this may not be the best idea and why prescribing antidepressants for pregnancy loss should not be a standard of care.

When talking with some of my peers, some believe that women need an antidepressant for grief, that the loss of a baby requires medication. But why? Why would an antidepressant be needed for something that is considered normal? It’s a stigma and one that needs to be broken.

Let’s talk about what an antidepressant does. Antidepressants affect the neurotransmitters in the brain. Basically, the brain chemicals may be out of balances and an antidepressant can assist with balancing those chemicals. It changes the mood in the person but grief is not a chemical imbalance. Grief is a reaction, most commonly occurring from the death of a loved one. So if grief is not a chemical imbalance, why prescribe a medication that modifies the chemicals in the brain? Grief symptoms can mimic depression but this is where the psychotherapist or psychiatrist comes in.

  1. Are antidepressants appropriate for grief alone?

    I did some research on this topic to include talking to local therapists who specialize in pregnancy loss. Antidepressants should be utilized in conjunction with psychotherapy and should only be prescribed for depressive reactions to bereavement. This article at GLOWM states, “When medications are required, there is often prior major depression, serious personality disorder, or a history of trauma rather than solely a severe reaction to perinatal loss.” 1DSM-V states that ordinary grief is not a disorder and does not require professional treatment (therapy). 2 “Furthermore, contrary to insistent cries of alarm by some, “treatment” of post-bereavement depression need not involve antidepressant medication, except in the most severe cases.” So even the DSM-V does not believe that grief alone should be treated with antidepressants. The DSM-V allows access to treatment options even with a recent loss but that does not mean everyone should be treated with therapy or antidepressants. In fact, the article at GLOWM by Leon, I., states “The majority of couples appear to adapt within two years without psychotherapy, indicating that recommending extended counseling for all couples experiencing perinatal loss is unwarranted183 and may be detrimental based on findings challenging the universal benefits of grief counseling.70, 87

  2. Should the  obstetrician prescribe antidepressants for pregnancy loss?

    The consensus among some local psychotherapists who specialize in treating patients experiencing pregnancy loss is NO. Psychiatrist should manage and monitor a patients antidepressants as they are the experts or rather, the specialty for mental health, not the obstetrician. A patient who is prescribed an antidepressant for grief alone may not be monitored appropriately and according to the articles above, patients should be receiving psychotherapy when they are taking antidepressants. This is because antidepressants alone cannot “fix” the grief or depression. Antidepressants and therapy should be used together.

So the question remains, how should grief for pregnancy loss be treated? With compassion and empathy. The grief journey is one that needs to be experienced in order to get through it. It should not be suppressed. We know that grief is normal and it is even healthy. The family enduring the grief should find a supportive and empathetic bond, free from the boundaries that society places on how long they feel the family should grieve.

There is no timeline on grief. It changes and morphs. Families will learn to live with the pain but it may never disappear; their child will never be replaced by another child and they will not forget. Friends and family can be extremely helpful on the grief journey by providing support (meals, childcare, taking care of chores, etc) and not imposing their beliefs on the family. Helping the family know what to expect is also important and this can be achieved by hiring a bereavement doula or loss doula.

Am I saying that antidepressants should never be prescribed following pregnancy loss? Absolutely not. For grief alone, the consensus is that antidepressants should not be prescribed at time of discharge. Without proper follow-up and monitoring, there is no way to know if the medication needs to be adjusted or stopped altogether. If the obstetrician believes that there is an underlying condition or mental health disorder which requires an antidepressant, the patient should be referred to a psychiatrist and begin therapy. Referral to the proper medical profession is imperative.



Erich Fromm


1. Leon, I, Glob. libr. women’s med., (ISSN: 1756-2228) 2008; DOI 10.3843/GLOWM.10418

2. Pies, R.W., Bereavement and the DSM-V, One Last Time., December 11, 2012

Loss Mothers Come in All Shapes and Sizes

Hummingbird - Loss Mother

This is a loss mother. Can you believe it? This tiny hummingbird is a loss mother. She herself, is about the size of a 12-week fetus (aka baby). The egg which contained her baby, was the size of a kidney bean or an 8-week embryo (aka baby).

Here she is, sitting on her nest. The egg beneath her hatched the day before. But she is not there keeping a tiny baby hummingbird warm. She is grieving.

Hummingbird Nest with Egg

Here is her nest. I captured this photo as she fluttered about above me ensuring I wasn’t going to damage her nest or egg. It’s a beautiful nest. She created it so carefully. This nest took her between 5-7 days to create. It is meticulous just like the nests we humans create in preparation for our own baby’s arrival.

This mother chose what she thought was a perfect location for her nest and baby. It is definitely inconspicuous and not an easy nest to see but once you notice it’s there, you can easily find it again and again. We have been waiting her baby’s arrival as much as she has.

She has fought off other birds, such as the robins who have a nest in the same tree, just several feet above. I have watched her fly at them in attack mode as the robins came near her nest. I worried for her, that the robins would make her newly hatched little one a feast for her own babies.

I don’t know what happened, but her little baby died. She still sits on her nest however. She has all day. We found her baby yesterday on top of hubby’s car. It was not a pretty sight to see. It was sad.

But she still sits. Why?

Hubby doesn’t believe she is grieving. He must feel she is so stupid as to sit on an empty nest. I am not angry with him. Maybe just a bit frustrated that he would think this living creature doesn’t realize that her own baby is gone.

But she still sits.

She sits because to move is too painful. She sits because if she moves, she will lose warmth. She will lose the scent. She will lose what she remembers of her baby.

She sits because losing all that she has left of her baby is so excruciating that her wings may not carry her and she too, will fall to her death. She sits because she is scared. She sits because she wants to remember. She sits because she doesn’t want to forget. She sits because she has no strength.

She sits.

She sits.

She sits.

As I walk by her, I wonder how long she will sit. Should I shoo her away? Should I force her off the nest? Should I yell at her? Should I tell her to find another nest to sit on? Should I tell her she can try again? Should I tell her at least she knows she can lay eggs and hatch a baby?


Should I let her sit?

Should I let her sit until she is ready to move again? Should I sit with her? Should I offer her something to eat? Maybe bring a feeder closer so she doesn’t have so far to go? Should I tell her she will be okay? Should I tell her it’s okay to be sad? Should I tell her I am sad with her? Should I hold her (by the way, it’s illegal to hold a hummingbird but this is an analogy)?

I shall let her sit.

I will watch her. I will make sure she gets up to eat. I will make sure she doesn’t sit so long that she rots into the nest she struggled to create. I will make sure she carries on. I will make sure, I will make sure, I will make sure.

You see, it’s okay for her to sit in her grief. She is not depressed. She is grieving. She has every right to grieve for her baby. She has every right to be sad. I have no idea how long she will be there. She could move today. She could move tomorrow but one thing is for sure, she WILL move.

No one knows how long this will take. Not even her. She doesn’t know how long she will sit in this place but she knows that in this moment, sitting is all she can do. Sitting is keeping her alive. Sitting is helping her to remember.

So she sits.

– Breaking the silence of First Trimester Miscarriage

Miscarriage Series – Day 3

I wake very early on this Saturday morning. My husband is working today and his retreat from the bed wakes me. I feel I cannot sleep there without him. I toss and turn a few times to no avail. I see flashes of light coming through our bedroom windows followed by the sweet rumbling of thunder. Our windows, which are normally open, are closed this morning. A fitting response to how we are feeling.

I can’t hear the birds chirping. Are they grieving with us?

I get up to use the restroom and I can hear the pitter patter of rain drops on our roof. Through the bathroom window, daybreak is just beginning. Though cloudy, I still feel my body waking from the impending sun. It’s a primal response. There will be no returning to sleep now.

I look at the array of vitamins and supplements on my bathroom counter.

“Fuck you supplements!” I think to myself.  “You are worth nothing now!”

Expensive supplements I had been taking in order to give this baby the best chance at life, reducing the incidence of neural tube defects and hopefully, a tongue-tie. These supplements contained folate instead of folic acid which I have read is way more effective than folic acid especially if there is some connection with MTHFR. I stare for a moment and wonder if I will take any of them today.

I drink a sip of water and turn quickly away from the sink. “OUCH!”

Round ligament pain. This cuts me pretty deep, not just physically, but emotionally. This pain needs to go away. It’s a useless pain, merely serving as a reminder that this baby is dead and no longer growing. My womb no longer needing to expand to make room. It’s truly a painful reminder of what we have lost and the labor pain I will endure shortly.

One last look in the mirror before retreating to the kitchen.

“You are so ugly,” I tell myself.

I cut my hair off last night and the stylist cut it way too short. It’s awful and compounds my pain. I hate my hair and I hate my life right now. I am giving myself permission to hate myself. I know it won’t last forever.

I make breakfast and sit at the table to write. It seems that’s all I can do right now. Write, write, write. I wondered how much crying I would do today? My husband gives me a kiss, thanks me for making breakfast, and leaves for the day.

It’s quiet in the house. I am enjoying no interruptions by the kids and stare out the window on this cold, rainy day. I can hear a few birds chirping and I think about how tomorrow, the view from this window will be different. We will be blanketed in white snow on Mother’s Day.

Oh no! It’s Mother’s Day. This is going to be a crappy Mother’s Day.


I text my mother-in-law about the boys. I was supposed to teach today and they were going to spend the day with her. Her response was that she wasn’t even home but I could drop the boys off. They would have to be picked up before 5pm. Dropping off the boys wouldn’t have been a big issue but picking them up was too much for me. When people ask how they can help, really, one of the best things someone can do is to just DO. Come get my boys or offer to bring them home. Bring us food or come in and do the dishes.

The thought of dropping them off and picking up was too exhausting so I back out. I need to be catered to right now and to bring the boys over myself, makes me feel guilty. It’s strange but I can’t do it. I spend the rest of the day sulking, wishing I could sulk alone.

 – Breaking the silence of First Trimester Miscarriage




Breaking the Silence of First Trimester Miscarriage

So, what does this picture of the name Timmy on the door to his room have to do with acceptance? I realized several weeks ago that my house is virtually empty of anything representing Timmy. Why? Am I too busy? Is this second child syndrome? Am I afraid? I don’t know. What I DO know is that I have a wall FULL of family photos and not one of them includes Timmy and he has been in our lives for 9 months (outside the womb).

One day last week, Timmy was sitting on the floor in the upstairs hallway and he was looking at Joey’s door. Joey’s door has the name “Joey” on it in big, colorfully painted wood letters. They aren’t the original letters for his door. I made those years ago out of smaller letters but when Joey was about 4-5 years old, we made some new ones and he assisted in painting them and decorating them.

Timmy looked at Joey’s door and looked at his door. Did he notice there was nothing on his door? Did he realize that there was a difference? I am not sure, but I certainly noticed. Then, as he crawled through the hallway, he was looking at all the pictures on the family wall. Was he searching for a picture of himself? I am not sure, but I certainly noticed there wasn’t anything of him on the wall.

I have pictures of Joey as a newborn, infant, toddler, and years on up but nothing of Timmy. Well, I think the pictures of Joey stop around age 6 so it looks like I need to update some of those as well but Joey is splattered all over the house. Timmy…is nowhere to be found.

So I fixed that today by ordering some photos and putting these letters on his door. I will hang the pictures this weekend so Timmy has more of a physical presence but deep down, I wonder if I haven’t accepted him into the family. I wonder if my fear of losing him has kept me from placing reminders of him everywhere. It’s as if he died and I have no real reminders, it won’t hurt as bad…YEAH RIGHT! Silly brain for trying to cope that way.

I am glad I fixed it. As soon as I hung the letters and Timmy woke from his nap, I showed him the letters on his door. He flapped his arms by his side and laughed. Then he reached and grabbed for his letters. It was as if he knew and he was excited to have his own letters. It was as if he knew he was accepted. His mother has finally accepted that he is here, he is hers, and he is a welcome member of the family. Acceptance.

– Breaking the silence of First Trimester Miscarriage

You are NOT alone! You are normal!

Sun shines again after pregnancy loss. All That is Seen and Unseen; A Journey Through a First Trimester MiscarriageI learned today that I am NORMAL! I am NOT alone in my feelings about my new baby following my pregnancy loss. It was so comforting to learn that. I had the feeling that my emotions were normal but I really needed to hear this. Did you know that if you have experienced a pregnancy loss and give birth to your rainbow baby that it’s normal to feel like you will lose your baby? That it’s normal to be scared that your baby will die? That it’s okay to feel these things?

I wasn’t sure. I second guessed and thought that I was beginning to go crazy. After all, my rainbow baby is here so why do I still get anxious and worried about losing him? I have lost. If you are reading this, you may have lost too; and you may have some of the same feelings.

I expected some anxiety and I don’t feel like it’s consuming me at all but it started to worry me, especially when I began to cry and beg my baby not to leave me. As if he has some control over this. As if I have control over it.

I learned that night time is one of the most common times to feel this way. I learned that it’s normal because this is a vulnerable time. Both of us are sleeping and there is no way to prevent something bad from happening while we are in a deep slumber. It’s okay. I am okay. WE are okay.

– Breaking the silence of First Trimester Miscarriage

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The annual Walk to Remember

Ruby Josephine's Balloon TagOn September 28, 2013, we attended the annual Walk to Remember. This has become our annual memorial remembrance for Ruby Josephine. I dreaded the early morning wake up and rush out the door but I really wanted to attend. There was a moment where I felt like backing out but I am so glad we went.

I got up super early and made breakfast for my sleeping family. It was very nice having the quiet house to myself while I prepared for the emotional morning. As breakfast was baking in the oven, I took to my pump so I could be sure I had enough milk for Timmy the entire day.

We needed to be at the park before 9:45am so I woke Jason just after 8am. From there, we pretty much had to rush to get out the door in time to make it. We had a 45 minute drive ahead of us. I ensured all was packed, including three bags of breastmilk (about 1 gallon) that I was donating to a woman in need at the end of the walk.

Joey got up just a few minutes before we had to leave and didn’t complain once. I was very happy about that as I usually get some flack from him when we have to wake up early. Timmy got up and dressed with me just a few minutes before Joey got up. Timmy was his usual happy and smiley self. We are truly blessed.

We made it to the Walk in time for me to be dropped off at pre-registration and get us registered. Jason went to park the car while Joey, Timmy, and I waited in line to get our balloons. We were meeting some friends there. She is the blogger for Moonbeam Lullabies. We attended the walk together last year as well.

Jason parked the car and met us in the line for balloons. It was a really long line and didn’t seem nearly as organized as it was last year. I asked Jason if he wouldn’t mind getting the balloons while I found our friends and waited with them. It seemed so rushed. I was beginning to regret showing up so close to the event time. I really would have liked to take my time. I found them on the east side of the stage and waited for Jason and Joey to return with the balloons.Elizabeth Petrucelli with Rainbow Baby

I talked with my friend and cooed at her rainbow baby as well while I waited. Soon, Jason and Joey returned with four red balloons. We always have red ones to symbolize Ruby. There would be one balloon for each of us.

As we stood there, placing Ruby’s tags on the balloon, the song Held, by Natalie Grant was broadcasted over the speakers. I told Jason this was the song that I listened to endlessly after we lost her. You can read about the song here. I wasn’t prepared for what happened next. I began to hear Jason’s nose running. Was he crying or just trying to clear his nose? It only took a few seconds for me to realize that this was just as emotional for him as it was for me.

I had been trying so hard to be “strong” and not cry this year but I couldn’t keep it in. I held the balloons as he placed the tags on each one of the strings. As soon as he was done, I just hugged him and held on while the rest of the song played. We both cried together, knowing what we had lost. Missing what we had lost. Yearning for what we had lost.Ruby Josephine's Memorial Balloons

As the ceremony continued, we waited patiently for Ruby’s name to be read. Once it was, we released our balloons. Four balloons lifted high into the sky. We watched as they swayed from one side to another. In between names, there was silence but the silence was filled with the fluttering sound of balloons. There was a breeze that morning and balloons bounced into each other. It was very beautiful. Jason and I held each other as we imagined the balloons rising into the Heaven above to greet Ruby and let her know how much we loved and missed her.

After all the names had been read, we walked around the lake at Clement Park and then had lunch with our friends. The Walk to Remember symbolizes so much for us. Not only is it a day to memorialize and remember our own lost daughter, it is a day of celebration for the new life that was growing inside me on the same day in 2012. We celebrate the discovery that we had been blessed with our rainbow baby. That blog post can be found here.

Childless ParentsThere is one thought that Jason made to me that really made me sad. It was his statement and thoughts about childless parents. Childless parents are those that have lost children but have no living children on Earth. Our hearts wept for these parents. Parents who either were blessed with a whisper of a moment with their child or those who never held their child’s hand. Jason could seek refuge for his pain within his own children; feeling blessed that he has someone on this Earth to love and hold but childless parents don’t. My heart still aches for them. I do not know if the couple shown here were childless parents or not but I was drawn to them several times that I HAD to take a photo. I do not know who they are.

If you have never attended such an event, I highly encourage you to do so. There is so much love and support no matter when your loss was. If you never named your baby, you can simply have your baby’s name read as “Baby (insert last name).”  There were many people there that did that. We will be attending next year’s Walk to Remember. I will have my book on display in the Bereavement Pavilion again. I hope to see all of you there!

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