Reframing Miscarriage as a Birth Process – A Photo | Indie Birth

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Reframing Miscarriage as a Birth Process – A Photo

August 19, 2015

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I didn’t write much about my second miscarriage in 2013, a few months after the first miscarriage, and a few months before getting pregnant with my daughter Celosia. Two years later, I still found myself thinking about it, and was looking to see what if any photos I had saved, and came upon one that I really wanted to share (it’s below the story, and it’s graphic, so beware!).

I was anxious about the possibility of another miscarriage, but after passing the point when I Had the first one, and having some mild morning sickness I was feeling much more confident. But alas, I started bleeding at 10 weeks as we drove out of Duluth (literally at the first bathroom break) to move back to Arizona. I had to know what was going on so we stopped at a hospital in Iowa once it was clear that it was more than spotting, and I had an ultrasound which showed no heartbeat and the baby measuring weeks behind where it should have. We drove as far as we could before getting a hotel for the night, and I thought maybe I would pass the baby there. I didn’t, so we woke up super early and drove the entire next day (like 16 hours) to get to the studio we were going to be living in again in Sedona. I was really afraid I would pass the baby in rush hour traffic in Albuquerque or on the side of the road somewhere, so I was so grateful to get home where I would be more comfortable (Wednesday night). Then the bleeding continued to be pretty light/mediumish and I was getting frustrated that nothing was happening. I tried cottonroot bark but it didn’t seem to do much. Saturday afternoon I started cramping more and bleeding more heavily though, and was glad that it would hopefully be over soon. The cramps were much more painful than my first miscarriage, and I totally went into labor land. I tried easing the pain in the shower but found myself on the floor of the tiny shower on my hands and knees begging for it to stop. I asked my husband to rub my back with the shower door open, getting water everywhere, and that sort of helped, but it was still pretty intense. I got out and dried off, and then I was sort of squatting over a bowl and leaning on a footstool. I felt the baby coming and sure enough, birthed the whole gestational sac into my hands, followed by a good amount of blood. I had a similar experience to the first time, feeling sort of loopy and in a trance for a few minutes and then turned my attention more to myself to make sure my bleeding was ok. I was still really crampy, sort of shaky, and felt like there was likely more to pass, so I went and took a bath. The details are hazy but I think this is when I passed a large clot that had some membranes wrapped up in it, and the placenta was likely wrapped in it too (I didn’t see a clear placenta so went in later the next week to get an ultrasound to make sure everything was out; so in retrospect this is what I think probably happened). I was a little worried about my blood loss but got in bed and my husband made some food and drinks for me. I asked him to ask me how I was feeling frequently in case I took a turn and didn’t notice myself. The bleeding slowed after the first hour or so and I was extremely tired.

My emotional response to this loss was really different than the first time. I was very angry, and sort of manic. I thought about packing my bags and leaving the country without telling anyone. I thought about getting a random job since I didn’t think I’d be able to continue doing birth work. I got a Curves membership and went once or twice a day religiously for awhile and made friends with strange old women. All in all it was not good, and I probably could have used more professional help. The therapist I saw sucked though and I felt really demoralized about finding anything helpful. So like most people, I just struggled through in my own, sometimes ungraceful, way (and continue to).

But the photo. So I didn’t think anything of this photo at the time, but with some time and space since the loss, it really struck me as something to be shared as we try to bring light to this area of reproductive life that is so often hidden away. There are more stories being shared and a few photos here and there, but I haven’t seen many, at least not of earlier losses that captured the essence that miscarriage IS birth. Some women may feel physically and emotionally fine afterwards, but most don’t. Even when there is no baby to see, most women do not experience a “heavy period” as so many care providers misleadingly suggest. I’m willing to bet they haven’t gone through this themselves if they are dumb enough to say such a thing. But I digress. Miscarriage is birth. We can be empowered through our choices around loss just as we can be around our choices for full term birth. I am so grateful that my husband took a photo of this moment when I caught our teeny tiny baby. I loved her so much, and it brings me peace to know that I was the first and only one to touch and hold her, with the love and dignity that even the smallest among us deserves.


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  1. Michele says:

    This is beautiful. What did you do with her? I never know how to ask that question.

  2. Margo Nelson says:

    I should add that to the story when I get a chance this week, but the short story is that we buried her next to the baby from our first loss, in the front yard of my in-laws home where we lived In a studio at the time.

  3. Michele says:

    Thank you for sharing. I’m friends with a woman who lost 8 babies, and I don’t know how to ask her what happens after. It’s so tragic. I’m so sorry. I can feel your love for your sweet girl.

  4. Kate says:

    Thanks for sharing the photo of your precious little girl. 13yrs ago (at just 20yrs old) I gave birth (“miscarried”) to a 16wk little boy, perfect in every way, right down to his tiny, tiny fingernails. He was beautiful in my eyes, but I showed him only to my mother and my closest friend. Somehow, I felt I wanted to protect him from other people who may have thought he looked less-than-perfect or beautiful. I think you are very brave to share her photo with others, and I hope that writing this post has helped in your journey of healing.

  5. Shawna says:

    I just went through this same thing basically. My baby measured 9.5 weeks while I was 11.5 weeks along. I gave birth in the middle of the night, and even though I’ve given birth to a full term baby, I had no clue what was actually happening. The cramping and heavy bleeding that I was told would happen should have been described as birth. I too, have a picture of my baby. My baby was not in the sac anymore, and the body was fully intact. We decided to cremate our baby and will have a memorial service tomorrow.

  6. Becky Parsons says:

    I am extremely fortunate enough to have never experienced this loss. But I hope that everyone finds some comfort and peace.

    I didn’t know how traumatic an experience this could be and probably like many others hadn’t thought of it as a birth. Such a wonderful and brave thing to share this story and raise awareness.

    The health care system needs to change and provide sympathetic support and counselling to families in this situation.

    Sending thoughts and love to anyone struggling with this x

  7. Elizabeth says:

    this is truly beautiful, thank you for sharing your experience and your precious child x

  8. Jessica says:

    It is birth! and the amazing thing about it is that women are encouraged by care providers to handle it alone in many cases (similar to w/ medication abortions) even though we’re expected to absolutely be monitored during full term labor??? As deep and heavy as my 15 wk miscarriage was earlier this year, the silver lining was that a lot of fear about freebirth was subsided because I delivered this baby on my own. Thanks for sharing your story ❤

  9. Vio says:

    This is sad but so beautiful. <3

  10. ellenie says:

    Literally every thing I said and felt these past few months.. I labored for 5 hours and 2 hours later my baby was the last thing that came out. it was fast and intense. IT WAS A BIRTH. thanks for sharing. I wish providers knew its not just a heavy period for every one. I still wish I took more pictures of mine. I look today and I just have one

  11. Saskia Leysner says:

    Thank you for sharing ???? I recently experienced the same way of miscarriage and here in Europe it’s still a taboo to talk about. So what I still feel is sadness and misunderstanding from my surroundings. I’m 45 and have 4 amazing kids and 1 granddaughter who is the light of ours ???? Because I couldn’t find any story of how we women recovered after a miscarriage on a Netherlands or Belgian site I came upon yours???????? This was my 5th pregnancy(a unexpected one)and 1st miscarriage and I felt guilty/sad/mad and every emotion you can think of. Therefore I want to thank you for sharing and it gives me a secure feeling for healing and process all these feelings ????????????????
    Thank you ????????????????

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We are mamas and birth workers who decided to do birth differently– and bring others along with us. We are kind, fun to work with, and great at (lovingly) calling people on their bullshit when necessary. With 11 children and 16 years of midwifery between us, we’ve learned a thing or two along the way, and Indie Birth is our space to share it all with you.

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