Book Introduction

Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of overcoming it.
Helen Keller

The joy of pregnancy and birth creates a wonderful connection between people from varying backgrounds and generations. There is a certain warmth and appeal about a pregnant woman that seems to draw out our instinctive desire to care and nurture, and the charm of a new baby can reduce a normally articulate person to speak in a language that would rarely be heard around a boardroom table.

While we openly welcome and participate in the celebrations of new life arriving there is another side to pregnancy which is often overlooked. A quarter of all pregnancies result in the loss of the baby[1], often for unknown reasons, before full term. An early loss (before 20 weeks) is commonly called miscarriage, and a loss later than this is known as stillbirth.

It is difficult to describe how the loss of a baby during pregnancy feels because it can be a very different experience for every one of us. It is difficult to write a ‘one size fits all’ book about what to do and how to feel, so I have captured stories from women and men around the world to highlight the mixed thoughts, feelings and experiences that can occur during and after this tragic loss. Regardless of the gestation, every reaction and every emotion is valid when faced with such an unexpected tragic event so this book is written from the heart, making no assumptions and passing no judgement.

The stories I have been privileged to hear during my research are absolutely heartbreaking. Many can also be surprisingly uplifting because along with the experience of such a loss often comes a deeper understanding of the delicacy of the process of conception and the risks of pregnancy. This in turn fosters a greater respect and appreciation for the preciousness of life itself.

All pregnancy losses come as a shock. Even those who have experienced more than one loss do not embark on the second or subsequent pregnancy with the expectation that they will again lose their baby. The responses cannot be predicted or planned. There is no single reaction to the loss of a baby at any stage during a pregnancy.

The significance that individuals place on each loss can also be different. Some responses are matter of fact and philosophical while others leave us immersed in grief for lengthy periods of time. Most are somewhere in between. The challenge is to have faith (in ourselves) that we are responding in the way we need to.

When we experience pregnancy loss we can’t tell if we are responding in the right way because we have no point of reference. We aren’t trained to behave in a particular way and there is no internal mechanism to guide us. People who experience a very similar loss can respond completely differently, while people who have had vastly different experiences can respond similarly. There is simply no right or wrong way to deal with this because there is no single destination at which we all must arrive.

The likelihood is that we have all known people who have had similar experiences to us but haven’t share them, so we have precious little in terms of external guidance to provide us with a sense of how we could be feeling.

Without these internal or external guidance systems we find ourselves feeling completely alone with only our thoughts and emotions, which are often influenced by the rather callous but well-meaning responses of other people. We hear things like, “It wasn’t meant to be”, “It was natures way” and “At least you know you can get pregnant”. They all seem viable in a logical sense but our hearts still feel lost, hurt and empty.

In one sense I wrote this book to bring a greater sense of validation and significance to this life-changing event. The opportunity to create something that might provide a source of comfort to anyone who had experienced pregnancy loss was too great a temptation for me to pass up.

Another consideration for me in writing this book was to create a greater awareness of the significance of this experience amongst those who haven’t been touched by it. I felt that facilitating knowingness, engagement and connection on this topic could only help others to gain some perspective and build a better understanding. With increasing awareness pregnancy loss can be openly acknowledged as an important part of the life journey, no more or less significant than any other loss we may experience. Greater awareness may also mean that it will no longer have to remain a silent sorrow.

The primary purpose of this book is to create a process to take those who have been touched by pregnancy loss from a place of heartbreak to a place of healing. A process that takes us away from the logical discussions taking place in our heads and into our very core. Why? Because our core is the place where our emotions exist and it is therefore the only place where our healing can begin.

The flow of this book reflects the critical steps that we all face along the path of pregnancy loss. From the initial discovery that something is wrong, to how we communicate our sad news to family and friends and beyond. Each chapter is filled with excerpts of stories from people like you and I so that we can each find connection and validation regardless of our individual experiences.

I have chosen to share these stories with you (with approval from their owners) throughout this book because pregnancy loss is such an intense experience and we often don’t know how we ‘should’ feel about it. There is no right or wrong, but it does sometimes help to know what others like us have been through. The stories appear in italics throughout the book and are placed so that they illustrate the subject matter in the chapter.

For similar reasons I have also included my own story, broken down into sections at the beginning of each chapter. I hope that by sharing my story with you, I not only give you a unique insight into my perspective, but another point of reference for your own experience.

I use the words we and us, and in doing so I am speaking to anyone who has experienced this loss physically or emotionally. This book is for all of us. The term loss is used to encapsulate both single and multiple losses, and the term pregnancy loss is representative of miscarriages and stillbirths.

What differentiates this book from others are the self-awareness exercises at the end of each chapter. These very personal sections have been designed to provide us with an opportunity to gently and safely challenge ourselves along the path toward emotional healing. They contain questions that encourage us to explore the emotional links we have to that which has been discussed in the chapter and express those emotions when we are able. It is well worth keeping written notes of your observations when answering the questions, as you may like to reflect on them later.

In each of the self-awareness exercises, there is a reminder that this is about you. While feeling discomfort in this process is a sign of potential growth and increased awareness or understanding, it is important to remember at all times the importance of doing only what feels safe for you.

I initially set out to write this book for people who had experienced a pregnancy loss. In my discussions with the many who I have met in recent months I have come to understand that grandparents, aunts, uncles and close friends are often feeling similar levels of grief and anguish over the same loss.  Their pain and sadness is very real and their need for guidance and support is just as valid.

Regardless of our situation, human nature dictates that we go outside of ourselves when we are looking for answers. This book is built upon the basic premise that we already have the answers within, we just need to learn how to access them. To achieve this what we often need is someone who doesn’t give us the answers, but rather guides us inward simply by asking the right questions.

Before we embark on the journey from heartbreak to healing let me introduce you to the greatest teacher you will ever meet…you.

Thank you for trusting me and more importantly for trusting yourself.

[1] Garćıa-Engúıdanosa, A., Calleb, J., Valeroc, S. & Lunaa, V. (2002). Risk factors in miscarriage: A review, The European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology & Reproductive Biology. 102, 111–119..