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National pregnancy and infant loss awareness month—Part 1

National pregnancy and infant loss awareness month—Part 1

October is national pregnancy and infant loss awareness month.  What can you say to a grieving parent after the loss of their pregnancy or child? Honestly, not much.  Unless you have gone through it too, and you are able to share your story (a hopeful one or not) with them…the power of a shared story is invaluable.  They will feel less alone.  Losses through the journey of infertility can make one feel very alone.  You can also simply be there to listen and be a shoulder to cry on.  Sit in silence with them. See the end of this blog for more things that you can do to actively support grieving parents and bring awareness to national pregnancy and infant loss awareness month.  

If you have recently had a pregnancy loss yourself, you are not alone!!! According to the Centers for Disease and Control (CDC), over a million pregnancies end in miscarriages or stillbirths each year.  One in Four women will miscarry.  

I have personally had several losses.  I’ve been there and I know how heartbreaking it is.  I am now on the other side of my losses.  It feels amazing to say that.  I have birthed two healthy children, a 3 year old and 6 year old, after an 8-year journey to complete our family.  I know the pain, the sadness and how lonely it feels to struggle to get pregnant and then to miscarry.  

Throughout those years, I always had hope (even if the hope sometimes felt like a lie). I always told myself I would turn my pain into power one day, confident, that I would one day complete our family and be able to share my story with patients to help them through their journeys with hope.  The saying “grow from what you go through” really resonated with me. Also learning that the “pain from infertility was apparently the equivalent to receiving a cancer diagnosis” made me feel less silly about all the crying that I did.   I definitely grew from what I went through, and developed a lot of patience.  It made me a better doctor and a more empathetic person. I also feel it makes me a better parent.  There is not a day that goes by that I take my children for granted.  I appreciate them and thank my lucky stars for them, daily.  

In addition to developing more patience than I ever thought I would gain, I learned to be strong and resilient.  I recall going home from my days at the office, crying that a patient had just asked me, why I didn’t have children yet, or if I planned on having a second child. These questions were very hurtful because at times, they were asked while I was in the middle of a miscarriage or working really hard to conceive and just got a period.  

I can assure you that my pregnancy journey and infertility had no bearing on my patient’s success.  My patients’ were getting pregnant and having babies with my support, and this secretly gave me more than ever.  I knew that if they could do it (conceive and birth healthy babies), I could dot it! There was never a jealous bone in my body seeing my patients walk in with their beautiful pregnant bellies and then, their babies in their arms.  It simply gave me hope.  

In addition to having multiple losses I bled through both my healthy pregnancies because of something called a subchorionic hematoma. This means there is a blod clot next to the where the baby attaches and if the bleeding becomes too severe, it can irritate the uterus lining and cause a miscarriage.  When I was pregnant with our second child, our daughter, Phoenix at around 8 weeks, I was finding a baby’s heartbeat through my patient’s pregnant belly using a Doppler ultrasound machine.  In that moment, I felt something gush between my legs that felt like a big clot.  I quickly excused myself and ran to the washroom and flushed down the toilet, what I thought was Phoenix.  I went back to my patient and went on with my day as though nothing had happened.  The next day, thankfully, an ultrasound confirmed baby Phoenix was still there; growing well and baby’s heartbeat was nice and strong.  They identified a large subchorionic hematoma and could miscarry but to hold on to hope since I had this with my son’s pregnancy too.  I was out of tears by this point.  Or so I thought.  When I had the standard 12 week ultrasound to confirm that baby Phoenix was growing healthy and didn’t have any congenital abnormalities, I took a picture of her feet. I cried in the parking lot after the ultrasound, the hardest I’ve ever cried in my life, with happiness, staring at her little baby feet before going to the office to see my patients that day.  In ancient Greek folklore, the Phoenix is a long-lived bird that cyclically regenerates or is otherwise born again.  It was definitely an appropriate name since we used the name for 3 previous pregnancies that ended in losses prior to her healthy natural conception, pregnancy and birth. 

National Pregnancy loss and infant loss awareness month has become a safe space for those grieving a loss and others trying to understand and comfort the parents. Every year discover ways to communicate gently and sensitively to grieving parents and anyone suffering the loss of an infant. I’m posting this on Halloween, because I remember how challenging Halloween was after a twin pregnancy miscarriage one year, seeing all the cute little children dressed up at my door.

How to observe national pregnancy and infant loss awareness month with your friends/family who are struggling with losses or for yourself;

  1. Light Candles; through the month of October, light up pink and blue candles in the evening and place them in your windows. Some communities do candlelight vigils at churches or in parks. The glow of candlelight at night is a beautiful way to remember and honor the losses.
  2. Tie ribbons around trees; Assemble your family and friends and find trees in neighbourhoods and in local parks. Tie pink and blue ribbons around them as a remembrance. 
  3. Social Media; Share your story or just let people know you are thinking of them and their losses.  Repost on social media the following hashtags #pregnancylossandinfantlossawarenessmonth #pregnancylossawareness #pregnancylossawarenessmonth  #miscarriageawarenessmonth 

See part 2 of this blog “National pregnancy and infant loss awareness month”—to learn about the causes of miscarriage and some things that you can do to prevent a miscarriage. 

Thank you for reading! Please share with someone who may be suffering, perhaps it will give them some hope.

~Dr. Tanya Wylde, ND

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