A lot has changed over the past few decades in regards to sensitivity and access to resources and support groups for those who at grieving with a miscarriage or loss. For those of us who feel adverse social or familial pressure for pursuing reproductive treatment can you imagine what that would have looked like 30 years ago?
Yet, so much has not changed as well. Often in this series I "listen" to the electronic voices of those who bravely share their story with a re-exposed a place of raw emotion. Something always comes out, they felt alone.
How can we shatter those feelings and change it to they felt supported?
We start by being like Lisa. Lisa is a fellow infertility advocate and writer with a fire in her belly to change things. To make sure it is a different place than when she struggled with infertility and loss 30 years ago. Lisa has dedicated her life to not forget her struggle but to change it for the next her. Thank you Lisa for all you do and your life’s work.
Here is Lisa's story:
When I suffered through my miscarriages almost 30 years ago, I felt alone because I was alone. I had a loving husband, wonderful family and fabulous friends. And I was still alone. We didn't know how to handle this type of loss alone, much less together.
I used the word suffered quite deliberately. It's an accurate word to describe how I felt. Alone is also accurate. There was no internet and no other place that helped support a loss like what I was experiencing. There were no rainbow babies. There were no rituals. There was no acknowledgement about a loss that hadn't even yet been acknowledged as a pregnancy. There was nothing.
The fertility clinic that I was working with had no resources to help, which was typical at the time. No one knew that miscarriage or early pregnancy loss needed to be addressed, that we needed help. The reproductive medicine field was too young. The concerns were about creating embryos and placing them in a uterus and all the myriad of issues that grew from those medical and scientific goals.
And there was worse than silence. There were well meaning, well intentioned comments that not only felt like arrows to my heart, they felt like they contained poison. Hurtful at the moment and then the poison slowly seeping in, at horribly strategic moments, as self doubt.
One of the hardest pieces that I had to face was my own response to the loss. Since it wasn't really a baby, why all the upset? Intellectually, I believed then and believe now that these little clumps of cells that are barely embryos are not babies. Politically, I also agree they are not babies and not people. Morally, for me, they are not babies.
What explained then, the flood of tears and the feeling that I had in fact lost something? What I knew is that I was trying very hard to find something, a successful pregnancy to build a family and the two times that I did find pregnancy, in a moment, they were gone. They were monumental losses despite the fact that they were tiny enough to fit on the head of a pin. They were losses of hope, of dreams, of heritage and of continuation of life and family. Do any of us who are trying to become pregnant not see these microscopic dividing cells as our babies even when intellectually we know that they are not babies?
After the miscarriages happened, I didn't know what to do with myself. I couldn't go to work, I was too distraught. I drove myself crazy for a day or two, staying at home, finding no relief in the quiet and unbusiness of being home. I didn't want to be with my friends or family because they just did not get it. They just did not. They said all the things about loss that I've learned from becoming a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist did not and could not help.
One statement, said over and over, stung most of all. The one that started, "You should be grateful". The sentence ended different ways but not really. The ending was always about something that someone else thought I should feel.
I remember hearing the following statements like it was yesterday:
I should be grateful because some women never get this far.
I should be grateful that I can afford fertility treatment.
I should be grateful that I wasn't born thirty years earlier when there was no treatment available.
I should be grateful that I had a loving spouse.
I should be grateful that I had a job and a home to live in.
I was grateful for all those things, actually. And my heart was still shattered. I was still suffering from a loss, a broken heart that could not be healed by messages that were meant for my brain.
I was not necessarily grateful for anything in the moment that my pregnancies ended and I was bleeding out the babies that I so desperately wanted. Wasn't it ok not to feel gratitude in that moment? To just feel the sadness, the ache, the fear?
My clumps of cells, had they progressed into fetuses, then babies, then children, then adults, would be 27 and 25 today. This month in fact.
Do I remember that every single fall?
You bet I do.
And I say a prayer, of my own making, and a thank you to those babies that never came into to my arms and who will always live in my heart.
Photo Credit: Lisa Rosenthal
(yes Advocate, writer and super fertility woman by day unbelievably talented photographer in her spare time.)
Get to know Lisa Rosenthal. Lisa has over twenty-five years of experience in the fertility field. After her personal infertility journey, she felt dissatisfied with the lack of comprehensive services available to support her. She was determined to help others undergoing fertility treatment. After 15 years working with patient not for profit fertility organizations (Resolve & The American Fertility Association- now Path2Fertility) Lisa has been with RMACT for nine years and is currently Patient Advocate and Blog Editor-in-Chief.