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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!

When the mother is allowed to mourn

I have been quiet for a while. That’s what happens when you get busy raising three beautiful children. I got lost in that life and while I haven’t forgotten the two little saints I have in heaven, I haven’t been here to talk about them or share about loss in ways I used to.

Courtesy of Seattle Times

Today though, we are hearing about Tahlequah, the Orca whale who delivered a stillborn calf. I read the story about two weeks ago and watched the video but it was so incredibly painful. It was so painful to watch this mother mourn over her dead baby. It was also beautiful. This is what mourning is. She will let go of the physical body of her baby when she is ready.

But we, as humans, aren’t given this opportunity. And here, the world watches and waits. They mourn with this whale and they empathize with her. They want to see how long she carries this calf and they see all the other whales carrying this calf FOR the mother. Yet I am saddened that we, as humans, can’t give each other the same empathy and compassion.

Why is it that we can empathize with this whale but not with our neighbor?

It actually makes me angry to see how society is reacting to this whale and her mourning because women have their dead babies ripped from their arms, thrown in boxes and told they “don’t want to see their dead baby” every day! Sure, some hospitals allow time to grieve, a few hours, maybe even a day or so but then the mother is pressured to turn over her baby. She isn’t allowed to let go of the physical form of her baby when she is ready (that’s extremely rare).

Human families aren’t given all their options for processing their losses. They are told to move on, move past it, forget, this isn’t a big deal, it’s better not to look, you will forget faster if you don’t, etc. I have seen this countless times in full term stillbirth but much more in miscarriage (mostly because it happens more often).

Society doesn’t value human life. If we did, we would mourn with these families. We would carry them, we would even carry their dead baby for them (without judgment) if that’s what it required. But that’s not what we do. A few days, maybe a few weeks are given to mourn the loss of something so great and then they must move on.

Look, this whale mother is carrying around the physical form of her dead baby. This is just the beginning of processing the loss. Once she let’s go of that physical form, her journey continues. It’s not over for her and it’s definitely not over for humans when their dead baby enters the ground. What society is witnessing is a view that they would see in humans IF we were given the same opportunity, to let go of the physical form of our babies when we are ready, no matter what that looks like; and yes, that may mean taking our dead baby home and laying them in their crib (read Ghost Belly).

But if we did that, it’s seen as crazy. Society would tell you to seek mental health care or that the mother needs to be put in a psychiatric ward. Some doctors would medicate the woman or family for wanting or doing such a thing. You see, we aren’t allowed to grieve the way our whole body feels they need to grieve. Sometimes it takes a while to let go of that physical form. Not everyone is the same. I have seen mothers hold their little ones for an hour or so and then hand their baby over to the funeral home and it was fine. They were ready but I have also seen others who were given merely a few hours and told they HAD to give up their baby.

This is incorrect and completely wrong.

The nurse was uncomfortable, society was uncomfortable, but there was no real reason. Heck, I have seen nurses blatantly lie about why the mother needed to “turn over the baby.” “You’re holding up a room for a living baby to be born,” “the funeral home won’t come back another day,” “the autopsy can’t be performed after two hours,” “you’re baby will start bleeding,” and more.

I have also witnessed a mother hold her baby and keep her baby for days! A great hospital and great staff helped this mother and kept her baby in a state where she could hold and love on her dead baby until she was ready to let go of the physical form of her baby. I remember this mother distinctly saying, “It’s time. I want to remember her looking like this and not much different.” It didn’t make it easy to let go of her physical form but she was ready.

This is what we must provide families. We MUST give them all the time they need and desire with their babies. We must allow them to tread through the water, pushing their lifeless one, until they are ready. What hospital wants to support that? Do they want to spend the money on the mechanisms needed to provide such care (like the Cuddle Cot?) Or a special room, in a designated area to provide the care the family needs? It’s a RARE hospital to do that, but they do exist!

Mothers deserve to mourn their loss in the way they need to, for as long as they need to. It’s a lifetime of grief. Mothers who have experienced the loss of their child (through miscarriage, stillbirth, infant loss, toddler loss, child loss, adult child loss), will ALWAYS carry them. For now, we must carry them in our hearts.


I have shared before the grief and depression are two very different things. In that post, I shared that antidepressants cannot “fix” grief because grief is not a chemical imbalance. Grief is someone we all experience in one way or another and it is something we must experience in order to move forward. Grief sucks, no doubt. It’s not easy to move through grief. We want it to go away so we can get back to “normal,” but there will never be the same “normal again.

Recently, a friend posted that she was upset with a friend who committed suicide. She shared an article about this person and how she felt it was selfish of her to kill herself. She shared that this person was loved so deeply and she couldn’t understand why her friend didn’t know or couldn’t see the love that others had for her. Depression sucks.

Grief can move into depression. Watching for those signs is important. I know that I moved into depression and most of that came from the fear during my pregnancy after a loss and becoming a new mother after 10 years with just my one child. That child was fully independent, leaving me with time for myself (which is ever-so-important as an introvert) and we were enjoying the life that comes with an older child. We knew that bringing a new baby into this mix could be cause for concern regarding my mental health and we did what we could to ensure I would be okay but alas, I still fell into a depression.

I am writing another book on my pregnancy after a loss and the fear and guilt I felt after he was born. It was such a weird place to be. Wanting him to survive, loving him as much as I could yet remaining distant because I just knew…he would die too. Nine months into his life is when I began to accept that he was staying and I might be able to enjoy him and raise him but the damage had been done and now that he is approaching three, I think that we are finally starting to repair our relationship between mother and son (assuming it’s repairable). You will have to read the book if you want to explore what I am talking about.

But I had to share my response to my friends’s post. If you have never lived in depression, you likely will have never felt or experienced what I shared. And of course, your depression will be different from mine just like your grief experience is different than mine. Let me give you a bit of background on when this came into my life. I assure you, I am no longer in this dark place. So much has changed but I was hit rather hard with several life changing events and with the unresolved depression, I was in a place that shocked me to my core and this experience brought me to seek help.

depressionTo the person living in the depression, it’s nearly impossible to break from those chains. Feelings of worthlessness are hard to combat even when people on the outside say wonderful things. It’s so internal, it’s not broken into easily. She is right, it’s like a white noise inside. A near constant state of emotional pain where everything in your mind is telling you “no one cares,” “you are a piece of crap,” “you’re not worthy.” The emotional pain turns into a physical pain.

Anxiety can also come when you are fighting what your mind is telling you. “I am good,” “I am worthy.” and then another attack comes from someone you trusted and the mind overcomes you and you don’t even realize you are so deep in depression until one day, you stand at the top of a bridge and think about jumping. Headfirst…so you will do it right. Headfirst, hoping you won’t feel any pain as you take that last breath. The cars are driving by you and they have no idea what you are contemplating but you are very aware. You know you stopped on this bridge because there is lots of traffic and where you will land will bring a passerby quickly. You feel every car that is passing you by and inside, you are desperately hoping someone will notice you and ask a question. It will stop you…but they don’t, so that means you are worthless. Because not a single car honks, stops, or notices. Somehow, you just keep walking…

What to Consider if you’re Experiencing a Miscarriage

This article originally appeared at The Mighty on January 28, 2016.

1 in 4 women will experience a miscarriage. Most commonly, miscarriage occurs in the first trimester; however, miscarriage can occur up to 20 weeks. After 20 weeks, a pregnancy loss is called a stillbirth, which occurs in 1 in 160 pregnancies. Women are often left to navigate their miscarriage on their own or with minimal support. Here are 18 points to consider during your miscarriage.

  1. I need to decide on my plan for my miscarriage. It is okay no matter what I choose because I have researched my options and trust my intuition. I know what is right for my body, for me mentally, and for my family.
  2. Researching my options is important. I can read about miscarriage options or download the Miscarriage App. I realize that I don’t know everything there is about miscarriage and my care provider may not be aware of all the options available to me.
  3. I should discuss this plan with my partner and family (if age appropriate). I know that checking in with them is important so they can share what may be important to them during this difficult time.
  4. I should seek spiritual/religious guidance; just to be sure I have taken care of any spiritual/religious needs or requirements of which I am not aware.
  5. I will need a plan for my baby’s body. No matter how early this pregnancy was, I still need to decide what I want to do with their body or remains. It’s okay to flush if that’s what feels right but I can also place my baby in a storage container and put it in the refrigerator until I have found the perfect option.
  6. I know I must begin the experience of miscarriage. If I have chosen medical or surgical management for my miscarriage, I know when things will likely start and end but if I have chosen for things to start on their own, I need to be patient with myself as my body prepares in its own way for this experience.
  7. It’s okay if I feel relief. This is normal and many women feel this way. This doesn’t mean I didn’t love my baby or pregnancy, it’s just relief that this part is finally over and I can begin to move forward again.
  8. I should plan for my physical and emotional recovery. I will need pads, tissues, and time off. I should write down a list of tasks which feel hard for me to complete like meals, doing dishes, walking the dog, and time alone to grieve. I know these are important to me but they feel overwhelming and I need someone to take these tasks on for a while.
  9. It’s okay to need help from others; many women do and it doesn’t matter how early or late the loss was. Support is crucial.
  10. I will allow myself to accept help from others.
  11. I may need to explore outlets for my grief such as writing in a journal, listening to or creating music, crafting, volunteering for a pregnancy loss organization, pumping and donating my baby’s breastmilk, or other healthy outlets.

    You'e gone (Miscarriage)

  12. I will have moments and days where I don’t feel sad. It’s okay that I don’t feel sad all the time. This doesn’t mean my loss doesn’t matter. This also doesn’t mean that when I am really sad after a period of being okay, that I am depressed and need to be saved. I am just having a hard day or moment. Grief has no timeline and doesn’t look the same for each person.
  13. Even though my husband, partner, or children seem to be “normal” or look like this loss doesn’t matter, that doesn’t mean they don’t care and aren’t sad. They have a different way of navigating through their grief. Their way doesn’t have to be my way.
  14. When I feel upset about the way my husband or partner is responding to our loss, I will communicate with them. I will share how I feel, as best I can, so that we can talk openly about our loss.
  15. People will make hurtful comments believing they are helpful. I do not have to be “fake” and smile at these comments, I can choose to say something if I feel the need.
  16. I may lose some friends. It can be really hard or very easy to walk away from them but I need to do what’s best for me and that’s okay. I do not have to hang on to friends who are toxic to me.
  17. I will gain new friends. Some of these friends will become friends for life. Others will be here for moments and that’s okay. These new friends do not have to be friends for life.
  18. I will survive this. Life may look very different and that’s okay. I am different. It’s okay to let others know that I am different.

Supporting Birth and Death

TreeMy blog has been quiet these last three weeks. I have been consumed with the death of my grandfather-in-law. Right before Christmas, grandpa became sick and was struggling. Grandma, has been in chemotherapy for ovarian cancer and we discovered that despite months of treatments, the chemotherapy did not work and she was given a short period of time to live. They had been married 66 years when Grandpa departed his earthly life on January 18th.  I want to take a few moments to share with you my calling.

After I miscarried Ruby in 2010, I was called. I felt a pull within me to stop working and be with my family. This was a difficult pull to understand as I had been working diligently for nearly 12 years to become a police officer. I had finally accomplished the task only to feel pulled away from it. I couldn’t describe the pull, I just knew I wasn’t where I was supposed to be. So I left. This also coincided with a new pregnancy. A pregnancy wrought with anxiety and fear that I too, would lose the new life within me.

Following his birth, I was called.

I felt deep within me that I needed to help women through their miscarriages and also through stillbirth. It was a strange feeling and one that I couldn’t understand. How could I possibly support women through such devastation? I needed to learn more so I could fully understand what that might look like so I did. I received training through Stillbirthday. I felt more prepared to support families through loss but never intended to actually use the training.

But I was called.

The phone rang and I was asked to respond to the hospital. Someone I knew had lost their baby and they needed support. I was surprisingly calm and experienced excitement. While there was great grief and despair that day, the family took great comfort in knowing they had a “person.” Their person, who could support them throughout the entire process. I left with great peace, knowing this is where I was supposed to be.

I am called.

I have been serving families for a few years now in this capacity and also publicly speak on the topic of miscarriage, specifically, first trimester miscarriage. I feel the most calm and most holy when I am doing this. It feels like God’s work. I was called.

Then grandpa got sick and I was called.

I sat next to his hospital bed on Monday, January 18th. It was about four in the afternoon. Calls to hospice revealed that they would not be able to assess him until tomorrow. I hurt. I felt a deep hurt inside. Something wasn’t right and I wanted him to go home. There was no forcing hospice and as I sat in my uncomfortableness, words came out of my mouth.

“I am going to stay with him.”

Shocked that I just made this statement, I began to cry. I do not like to cry in front of people but I did.

“He will not be alone,” came out next.

I was on autopilot. Something had overtaken me.

I was called.

Knowing where I needed to be, I departed for my home. Hubby settled in with the kids as I grabbed items I felt I would need and I returned to the hospital to sit by grandpa’s side. My attempts to focus on writing or reading were futile. They felt wrong and I stopped. I had turned on music for him and released some essential oils in the room. I dimmed the lights and shut off my computer. Then I did something I rarely do. I sat.

It’s hard to turn off my mind but in those moments, it came easy. I just sat.

Grandpa passed.

I knew the moment and I have the entire account written but that’s not what this post is about. I have been called. This feeling is indescribable but some parts of it I can describe. It’s an urge, a yearn, or a pull. The call. I might also describe it as a sense of something overtaking your normal responses and giving you a different response. It’s not a response of regret or fear but you just do it. It happens and you don’t know why. The “why” may be revealed and it may not be but it’s there.

It’s hard to listen to the pull. One might fight the pull. The first calling took me two years to stop fighting and succumb to it. When I finally did, I felt peace. I feared supporting families through loss but there was a call. It took me nine months to succumb to that call. When I was called to witness my grandfathers death, it took me one second to succumb to that call. It just happened.

I never imagined I would support death in such a way (the death of a baby or the death of a loved one). After my first son was born, I was called to support women through birth and did so for five years as my only occupation (other than being a mother). I do not know why I have been called to support birth and death but there are similarities. Both are rites of passage. Both are transitions. Both can be scary, full of anxiety, fear, love, trust, faith, hope, and both need support.

There is rarely a time in our lives when we are alone but we are not alone at birth, ever. The mother is there even if no one else is there, the mother is. No baby is born without their mother. Why then, when making the transition to death, should we die alone? Dorsie didn’t die alone. I wasn’t going to let him. I would have stayed all night and I contemplated that and how it might happen. There was I time I felt like I should leave. A panic of sorts where maybe he wanted to die alone but I stayed. There was a pull. My body was forced to stay in the chair even though my mind was racing on if I was the right person or the person he would want there.

I stayed though…because I was called.

Miscarriage Series – Hand and Stone Spa

Hand and Stone SpaHubby scheduled me a massage at Hand and Stone Spa. We are both members there and have really enjoyed the services they offer. It was Sunday, the Sunday after Mother’s Day and we were headed to his mother’s house to celebrate Mother’s Day. Last Sunday was ruined by snow so we were doing a “re-do.” Hubby had visited the spa that day to pick up a gift certificate for his mother. While there, he thought he would be nice and schedule a massage for me the next day.

I hadn’t been out other than doctor’s appointments since the loss and this would be a great way to get me out of the house. It would require some coordination, as I would have to drop Timmy off at day care but this would get me out and help me make “moving forward” steps. I was excited, yet scared. I mostly looked forward to the relaxation I would get.

Hubby asked if I wanted to schedule an appointment with my regular therapist. I told him I didn’t want to see her and to schedule me with someone new. I didn’t want to see her because we have quite a connection and I felt it would be too emotional for both of us. Really, I felt like we would both spend the hour crying and that I wouldn’t leave relaxed so he scheduled me with someone new. There were no issues with him scheduling the appointment.

The next morning, I got Timmy ready for day care. He HATES day care and usually cries when I drop him off. This is just a drop-in center and he has never been there longer than three hours but he has an attachment to his family and this is very hard for him. I struggled with the fact that I was torturing him that day just for me to be spoiled but I pushed through. I needed this and I would be better for it.

As we drove to daycare, I chatted with him as he sat in the back seat. I explained he wouldn’t be there long and that we would spend plenty of time together at home afterwards. As I pulled into the parking lot, my phone rang. I couldn’t answer it, I had to let it go to voicemail. My massage was at 10:00am and it was 9:50am. I was just down the street from the spa but I was still in a rush. I had never seen this massage therapist before and I didn’t know if she would need me to fill out a form for her.

I dropped Timmy off at the center. Surprisingly, he wasn’t crying when I handed him off to the staff. I rushed out quickly. I was glad but I didn’t want to get too emotional. If anyone looked at me funny for any length of time, I would break down and cry. I felt so fragile in these days. Hubby had returned to work and I didn’t want him there. I wanted him home with me and that was traumatizing to me.

When I returned to the car, I listened to the voicemail that was left for me.

“Hi Elizabeth, this is Allison at Hand and Stone. I see you are on the schedule but your record shows you are pregnant. We cannot massage you until you are at least 12 weeks pregnant. You will not be receiving a massage today.”

That was it. I tried not to cry. I was angry. The message was so cold. Didn’t this person understand that I wouldn’t be trying to sneak in a massage? Why was her message so cold?

I called back. I spoke to the receptionist, “Hi, I have a massage with Allison in a few minutes. She just called to tell me that she wouldn’t massage me. While I understand why I can’t be massaged until I am 12 weeks, I am no longer pregnant. I had my baby last week.”

The receptionist didn’t say much. She just told me that I could still get a massage. I made the assumption that in the five minutes it takes me to get there, that she would have talked with Allison, the massage therapist, and I would go straight to a room.

When I get there, I am not checked in. The receptionist is busy so I take a seat in the waiting area. I am trying hard not to break down. A massage therapist comes out with her client. She is at least seven months pregnant. I would describe her as “very” pregnant although there is no degree of pregnancy. I kept saying to myself, “Please don’t let that be Allison, please don’t let that be Allison, please don’t let that be Allison.”

I heard them talking and learned her name was Monica. “Whew, that’s the other person I could have had a massage with. I am so happy I won’t have her today,” I thought to myself.

Ten minutes later, I am still sitting in the waiting area. No therapist has come out to see me. I watched as the receptionist ran to the back. A few minutes later, she returned. The pregnant woman followed her and started walking towards me. My heart began to beat fast. I could feel it in my chest.

I felt my hands get sweaty as Monica reached her hand out and said, “Elizabeth?” I reached out and shook her hand out of habit.

“I will be your massage therapist today,” she said.

I immediately looked towards the receptionist and said loudly, “What happened to my scheduled therapist.”

The receptionist (who I later learned was a manager), had that look on her face. You know, the “deer in the headlight look.” She just stood there. She said nothing.

Monica told me that Allison wasn’t available and she would like to talk with me privately. I followed her into a room. She took me into the first room behind the waiting room and shut the door. She said, “Allison doesn’t feel comfortable massaging you.”

My heart sank again. “What? Why?” I thought. “What is so wrong with me that she wouldn’t massage me?

Monica continued with, “We talked with your regular therapist Erika and she said that you were eight weeks pregnant last time you saw her, is that right?”

I couldn’t believe what was happening. I felt like I was on trial or something. The reason I felt like this was because I saw Erika the day I peed on the stick. I knew she wouldn’t massage me if I was pregnant but I was really hurting and needed the body work. Nothing was confirmed by a doctor and the line on the pregnancy test was very light. After the massage, I told her I thought I was pregnant. I know she was scared but I told her it was all okay and it would be fine.

I felt mistrust. I felt like these therapists had been talking behind my back about my care. What else had they been talking about? Was my medical information private?

I couldn’t bear to be in the room any longer. I don’t remember what Monica said after that, I just ran out of the room. I moved as quickly as I could. I heard her talking behind me. I heard her say, “I would like to talk with you.” She sounded genuine but all I could feel was mistrust, anger, disappointment, and extreme sadness that I lost my baby and couldn’t even get a massage.

I yelled, “No!” And continued to run out of the building. I got in my car and just started bawling. I don’t even think I had been breathing. I felt so out of breath and just let everything out. I immediately called Hubby. He didn’t answer but I left him a message. I am not sure if he understood any of it because I was crying so hard.

I pulled into a parking lot across from the daycare and just cried as hard as I could. I couldn’t believe this. I took Timmy to daycare and ventured out to get a relaxing massage and this happened. I was on trial. I couldn’t get a massage and I lost my baby.

After I calmed down, I went to pick up Timmy. Later that day, I was able to talk with Hubby and I explained I needed him to call Hand and Stone and ask what happened. There is no way I can talk to them right now and I am not sure I want to go there again. I told him I wanted to file a complaint with the state about their treatment. I felt discriminated against because of my medical condition (pregnancy loss). I have no idea why Allison didn’t want to touch me. I felt like I had boils all over my body!

Hubby was great and told me he would call them right away and call me back. When he called me back, he told me that the manager, Amanda, was lost for words. He told me that she was very sorry for what happened and wanted to make things right. He said that she wanted to talk with me but wanted to give me time to recover. He gave me her number and told me that I could talk with her or we could go in and talk with her together. Hubby even offered to call her again later on my behalf.

I needed time. It would be hours before I called her back. When I did, she didn’t answer her phone. I waited an hour and called the actual Spa. I was transferred to her. I spoke with her for about an hour. She was definitely at a loss for words. She sounded very sincere and upset about what happened.

She relayed that the therapist should have never contacted me in the first place. She said that Allison is “set in her ways” and can be difficult. She said that they should have talked with their manager and the manager should have called me to ask questions. She also told me that the therapists shouldn’t have talked about my care but that Erika and Monica were friends so that’s why there was conversation.

I told her about my distrust and how upsetting it was that a pregnant woman was sent out to talk with me. I talked with her about what they needed to do for women experiencing pregnancy loss. I gave her the exact words that should be said when someone schedules a massage before 12 weeks and their chart shows they are pregnant. I talked with her about how no studies show a correlation with massage causing pregnancy loss in the first trimester. I even talked with her about training for the staff.

She offered an 80-minute massage to me. She really wanted to keep me and my family as members. I told her that we felt like leaving and never coming back. I talked with her about how I wanted to file a complaint with the state as well. I felt like she was being genuine though and accepted her offer with a few conditions.

I explained that I needed a therapist that wouldn’t stop if I started crying during the session. She gave me a recommendation of a therapist and stated this person was great. I told her that I needed this therapist to know that I had a pregnancy loss and not to ask me questions about it or talk with me about it. She stated she would talk with the therapist before I came in.

I also asked her to talk with Erika as I felt that Erika was probably hurt that I didn’t schedule with her. I explained to her why I didn’t schedule with Erika and asked her to talk with her. She told me that Erika felt responsible as if her massage caused the miscarriage. I explained that I hadn’t seen Erika in two months and there was no way her massage could have caused this miscarriage.

Amanda gave me her personal cell phone number again and told me to text or call it to schedule the massage. I felt confident she would take care of these issues for me. This was a Tuesday. I scheduled a massage for Saturday.

I was very disappointed when nothing had been passed on to my massage therapist and Erika. When I went in for the massage, my therapist asked me how I was doing. I assumed she knew what happened so I responded with, “I am doing as well as expected.” When she placed her hand on me and asked me what was going on, I immediately changed my tune and told her all was well. It was apparent she had no idea.

When I checked out after the massage, Amanda was there. I asked her if she had talked with Erika. She said she had not. She apologized and said she would take care of it right away. I felt more distrust. It was very important to me that she talked with Erika right away. She even said she would do it on Tuesday. Erika had been worrying for days about what happened when she didn’t have to be. I was upset and disappointed.

The massage was great and I was very happy to be accommodated but there were certain needs that weren’t met. I think Hand and Stone Spa failed miserably with my personal situation as well as my pregnancy loss. I really hope that Allison was reprimanded for the treatment (or lack thereof) that I received as well as for not following policy. I fear that wasn’t addressed either considering none of the other issues were addressed.

Amanda had said that she talked with her district manager and corporate about what happened. Did she? I think that may be my next step. Honestly, I hope Hand and Stone Spa sees this blog. They could use some training on pregnancy loss and how to help women through this. There is a market for massage following pregnant loss. Massage is very important to the healing process but there is no healing when a woman is treated as I was. There is more trauma. If there is a next time, I will use the massage therapists on the provider list at Dragonflies For Ruby.

If you have experienced pregnancy loss, massage can be an integral part of your healing. It is important to find a caring and compassionate therapist. If you are in the Denver Metro area, I have recommendations. If not, ask some of your pregnancy loss friends and family member who they might recommend.

– Breaking the silence of First Trimester Miscarriage

Miscarriage Series – The Name

I have been thinking about what to name this child. This child must have a name. I felt Ruby was a girl from the beginning. We wanted that confirmed through testing but Kaiser messed all that up and discarded Ruby’s body like trash. It is imperative this doesn’t happen again. I want to follow this baby’s remains to and from the lab. I know that isn’t possible.

We have been praying daily that we get the results we desire before the naming ceremony. I especially want to confirm the sex of this baby just because I want to give this baby their proper name. I have names picked already and I will be really confused if this baby turns out to be a girl because the name Gus has been calling to me throughout the pregnancy.

There were at least three different times I can think of where this name called to me. I will definitely name this baby Gus if we learn he is a boy. He will be named after St. Augustus or St. Augustine. I prefer Augustus just because it sounds more masculine. I have no idea what his middle name will be.

The name Charlotte is what I have chosen for this baby if she is a girl. We will call her Charley after our friend Charles Owens who died in May 2008. I imagine him holding this baby for us in heaven. We are actually going to visit his grave in a few weeks which makes this a bit more surreal. I also do not know what her middle name will be.

SSGT Charles Owens (Chuck Eddie)

I know that naming a baby this early doesn’t make sense to some. I know many people that choose not to name their baby, even if they find out the sex. Some feel like it’s wasting a name. I don’t feel that way and I wish other people didn’t feel that way either. I mean, if this child was born at 36 weeks, would they not give them a name then either? I know this is a personal choice and it’s so hard to decide but with the name Gus, I just knew.

I wonder if other families have the name chosen this early or some names they would pick through and just decide not to use them? I know this is something I have been working on with loss families and I hope I can help them name realize they should name their baby. It actually brings so much comfort and we can talk about the baby in our daily lives so much easier.

I love being able to refer to Ruby as Ruby vs. the baby. Now that we have two losses, “the baby” wouldn’t make much sense. Which baby? Maybe people with multiple losses say, Baby #1 and Baby #2. I know when I host the candlelight vigil most of the babies have names but sometimes we get Baby #1 and Baby #2. It’s not often though.

Either way, this particular baby will be dignified with a name and we can’t wait to call him or her by the chosen name. What do you think about naming a baby born in the first trimester?

– Breaking the silence of First Trimester Miscarriage


World Doula Week 2015

Bereavement doula, world doula week

It’s World Doula Week 2015

This is a week that honors doulas everywhere and while most people think of the traditional doula (labor/birth doula) only during this special week,  there are many other types of doulas out there. Each specialty is unique and doesn’t just serve pregnant women delivering living, healthy babies. How many types of doulas could there be? Let’s explore:

Labor/birth doula

Postpartum doula

Antepartum doula

Bereavement doula

Abortion doula

Sick day doula

Full spectrum doula

Death doula

These are just a few. It’s not an all inclusive list. Personally, I think it’s amazing that there are so many specialties under the name “doula.”

I have been a doula since 2004. I started out as a “traditional doula” assisting families through live birth outcomes. I served two families through a fatal diagnosis during that time but their babies were born alive and one is still living despite his prenatal fatal diagnosis. I never gave much thought to serving families in any other capacity.

It wasn’t until I lost my daughter in 2010 that I began to change my “specialty” to serve families through the loss of their baby. It takes a special person to take on the work of a doula and even more special I think, to take on the work of assisting families through such a devastating experience. This is not to say one specialty is more superior then another, just that it takes a special kind of person. And this is why you see a picture of a lit candle in between three unlit candles, instead of a doula’s touch on a laboring woman. My ministry serves the 1 in 4 women who will experience a pregnancy loss.

As a Stillbirthday birth and bereavement doula, I have training in both live birth outcomes and giving birth to death. I assist families in seeing bits of happiness in what is a very scary and sad time.  As the family prepares to birth a baby who has passed, they are simultaneously choosing a final resting place for their baby’s body.  As the family greets their little one who they will never hear cry, they are choosing a final outfit not a going home outfit.

Bereavement doulas have specialized training not only on the birth portion of the bereavement work, but the postpartum portion as well and helping the family walk their journey to a new “normal.” There will soon be Postpartum Bereavement doula training which will specialize in the postpartum work and healing with a grieving family.

So while we are all saying thank you to each other for serving as doulas, remember that we each have specialties that make us unique. The services we provide are unique. We each have something unique to offer our families no matter which way we serve them.

Welcome to World Doula Week 2015. It’s a celebration of the uniqueness we each possess and the “melting-pot” we doulas are.






4 years without you.

Today is the four anniversary of your due date. If you had been born alive, we would be celebrating your birthday today but you died and you are not here on earth with us. We were talking about you this morning. I was telling your daddy that I couldn’t believe we would have a four year old little girl running around. How amazing that would have been?

Your garden angel statue is still in the dining room. We have your garden partially complete. I know I will finish it in the spring but honestly, I kind of like having you there. It’s like you are always in our home. It’s like you are actually here. Timmy likes you too. He frequently taps you. He has just started kissing things and I imagine he will be kissing you soon.

We tell him about you, but he hasn’t said your name yet. I am buying a book that will help us tell him all about you. I can’t wait to read it to him but as I think about this, I begin to realize that I don’t think he would be here if you were here. The last few years I have tried to embrace your loss and all I have learned from it.

I am in such a new and different place since you have been gone. I really enjoy where I am and what I am doing and I have you to thank for that. I also believe that you brought us Timmy. We truly believe the Angel Kiss on his forehead is your mark on him. You are our little intercessor in Heaven and it’s very comforting to know that. I am beginning to imagine you much older now that a little baby.

I re-read our letter last month. It was comforting to hear those words. I am so happy that it was written.

Daddy still cries for you. I know he cries because of the work I do but he cries for you when we talk about you and at your memorial. Would you let him know that it’s okay and help him wipe his tears?

We love you Ruby for all that you are and all that you were. Thank you for watching over us and especially over Timmy. You are his guardian angel.

The Girl With Auburn Hair – Elizabeth Petrucelli

I saw you in a dream,
My girl with auburn hair.
Your eyes were blue,
And skin…fair.
You laughed so sweet,
As you looked at me.
On a warm summer day,
On the green grass.
The gentle wind blew your hair,
While you squinted your eyes.
Someday we’ll finally meet.

Ruby Josephine - All That is Seen and Unseen - Image by Joanne Eberstein


I still see you in my dreams…




– Breaking the silence of First Trimester Miscarriage

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Babies Die and We Don’t Know Why

Babies die and we don’t know why (most of the time).

I did everything right in my pregnancy so why? Why did he have to die?

Would it make more sense if I had something to blame? Spicy food, too much exercise, alcohol, smelling smoke, but alas, there is nothing. Not one thing I can pinpoint as to why he died. I didn’t do anything wrong that I can think of but there HAS to be something.

He was perfect in every way. He didn’t look like there was anything wrong with him but maybe there was? Maybe something inside him was wrong. Something we couldn’t see on the outside.

There just has to be something wrong. There needs to be an explanation. Babies just don’t die.

Was it the placenta? Did it stop working or tear?

I felt him just hours before. I left to go to the hospital because I was in labor. I knew I was in labor and I was excited even though I was scared. I knew I would be bringing home a baby to hold and love. I was excited about the sleepless nights and the laundry changes.

But now, my sleepless nights are caused by nightmares; hearing a baby crying (yet I never heard his voice), seeing his face over and over, reliving those moments of when we were told he no longer had a heartbeat. His laundry and furniture are collecting dust. Not because we chose to have him in our room with us but because we had to bury him. He will never use all that we prepared for him.

I will never see his face without noticing his black lips. I will never know what his voice sounds like or what his breath smells like. I never even saw his eyes open. I wonder what color they would have been?

I went to the hospital to have a happy day, instead, I had the worst day of my life. Why oh why did he have to die?

Written by Elizabeth Petrucelli, following the loss of Baby ____.

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