As told by her mother Amanda.
There’s this club. It’s a secret and exclusive club that not just anyone can join. The criterion to be in it is specific. Millions of women are members, yet, not everyone in the club knows they are part of it. You can never lose your membership; it is life-long, even if you are unaware you are in or don’t wish to be part of it. There is camaraderie within this unique society that has an extraordinary quality like no other. This may sound intriguing and exciting to some, causing them to be eager to join, but for everyone in this club, they desperately wish they weren’t part of it. The club is called child loss.
Pregnancy is defined as a woman having a child develop in the uterus. For some women this is a planned, beautiful experience. They go through the entire nine months without a hiccup. For others it’s an unexpected surprise that turns into sheer joy. But what happens when the baby doesn’t develop as it’s supposed to? For people in “the club” it is an altogether traumatic endeavor that ends in relentless heartbreak and pain. Pregnancy isn’t always pure bliss that results in a happy ending. It can be a complicated experience. A loss may happen at any stage of pregnancy and be just as detrimental to a woman no matter when it occurs. Pregnancy loss is devastating, but you don’t have to go through it alone.
A miscarriage is the spontaneous loss of a pregnancy prior to the twentieth week of gestation. One out of four pregnancies results in miscarriage. This is a startling fact. It is more prevalent than most people know. Despite affecting such a large number of women, it is rarely spoken about.
I was first “inducted” into this club on June 26, 2013. My first pregnancy, which ended abruptly at only seven weeks, was a horrific experience. For the first year as a member, I was unaware that I was a part of it. Instead, I did as most women in my situation, stay silent and grieve alone. Having only been seven weeks along I felt crazy to be suffering so badly. Surely this wasn’t long enough to produce such pangs of emotion. Nevertheless, it did.
Most people expect you to move on right away and assume it’s not a big deal, especially if it was early on. But this is not the case. It is a loss; a difficult loss that most women have to endure on their own. “Silent Grief” is the term so eloquently coined by Clara Hinton, which is the most accurate title for women experiencing child loss. Women go through this painstakingly harsh grief alone. Little do they know there is help to overcome the hurt, but it can only come from other members of “the club”, for they are the only ones that can understand.
It took me at least ten months to fully come to grips with reality and learn how to cope with the pain of my miscarriage—mostly by myself. A deep bout of depression, anxiety, medication, and therapy later, I was at my wit’s end. But once I discovered that refuge could be found in others who have also suffered pregnancy loss, my journey towards healing began. They knew; they understood. I found solace in both familiar and unfamiliar places. Family, friends, acquaintances, and even strangers emerged out the woodworks once I opened up about my loss.
There are many circumstances that prevent women from coping with pregnancy loss. Rarely do they discuss their experience with others. Sometimes because it was so early on in the pregnancy that no one else even knew about it. Other times it is just too uncomfortable to discuss, especially when they have no one who understands. And you don’t truly understand unless you have been through it. People will say the most absurd, hurtful things when they don’t know any better; (I, unfortunately know this all too well.) They may mean no harm, and may even think they are encouraging, but as we all know, words can slice through your heart and leave you feeling depleted.
By simply opening up and talking about the loss, you realize you are not alone. There is always someone with a similar experience and suddenly you have an instant connection with another woman who gets it. That can bring immense relief. When you first find another woman that has had a miscarriage and you realize you aren’t the only one, you discover “the club.” You are in it. There is no turning back. All of a sudden you feel the need to find more members of the club. Extreme courage is what one must have to express their experience in order to fully repair the wounds. It is very emotional, yet therapeutic to share your story with someone else in “the club.” The scars will always be there, but the deep rooted cuts can be closed. Yet, there are times they open a bit and let a little sting in.
Although miscarriage is the most common form of pregnancy loss, it is definitely not the only one. There are stillbirths, ectopic pregnancy, abortion, fatal prenatal diagnoses, preterm labor, etc. These types of loss may occur further along in pregnancy and which seems more upsetting, but child loss in any form is unnatural and devastating. One isn’t more hurtful than another, just a different kind of hurt. It is child loss, even if you never met or held your child, or even never knew the gender, it is a baby.
Finally, over a year after my loss I felt ready to try again. After all, I had survived it once; I could certainly do it again. Of course it would be hard, but this time I knew all the right steps to take and was aware of my trusted club members, just in case. Successfully getting pregnant on the first try since my miscarriage, I was instantly terrified. One part of me wanted to be happy and tell everyone, but the other side was scared to death to tell a soul. Struggling to keep it a secret, unlike my premature announcement the first time around, I had a grand plan to make it known at the twelve week mark. It was difficult though, I began showing immediately. My small frame packed on excessive pounds as I gave in to every craving, had no morning sickness, and was too scared to exercise.
I did everything right. I ate well, (maybe a little too well), only consumed water, and was a prenatal vitamin champ. I prayed daily, and specifically for a healthy, happy baby. My husband was amazing and I don’t know if it was my crazy hormones, but my love for him was beyond compare. It was a path to the perfect baby.
Eventually I did spill the beans to a select few, as I discovered my neighbor, best friend, and sister-in-law were all pregnant, too, all of which had some difficulties, whereas my only issue was the noticeable weight gain. I finally felt comfortable, excited, and ready to share this adventure with some people I loved. I had a new club: “May Mamas.” Pure pregnancy bliss.
Then on December 22, 2014, as we anxiously went to our gender scan, I was given heartbreaking news. While our sweet baby girl was alive, she was not thriving. She was diagnosed with a terminal illness, Trisomy 13. There was no chance of survival. Her condition was fatal, or “incompatible with life.” All we went for was a GENDER scan, boy or girl, that’s it! But two doctors’ appointments and five long, excruciating hours later it was confirmed. Our sweet daughter, Korie Jade Niño would not join us here on earth. And just like that our world turned upside down once again.
On January 3, 2015, I received my second badge for the club.
This second round of induction I heavily relied on my fellow club members. They were there for me to vent, to cry, to scream, to do pretty much anything to help ease the pain. I knew that I had to open up about my loss, not only because of my past mistake of initially suffering alone, but also because I had no choice. Everyone knew about this pregnancy. It was out there, I could only hide for so long before I was forced to face it head on and confide in members who provided me with comfort.
This has not been an easy task, but I hope that through my journey of self discovery, and divulging my story to others, that I too may bring some peace and healing to others fighting silently. You are not alone. There is a community out there just waiting to help. All you have to do is gradually put feelers out to express your hurt and sorrow, and you will be scooped up by peers that can lead you through the path to peace. They can provide support, inspiration, and encouragement like no one else can.
The sad and unfortunate truth is that most of the members that have provided me with the strength and courage to move on, are strangers. People I have never met have given me the most hope, have validated my feelings, and have written and expressed similar experiences that only members “get”. I have found comfort in knowing that so many grieving mothers feel just as broken as me. Members have this rare bond, so powerful and therapeutic, that will last a lifetime.
The mental and physical anguish I endured will be with me for a lifetime. Some of the effects it had on my life were, and still are, incredibly difficult to handle. I will never be whole again. EVER. But, I will be able to move on through the help of my circle of supporters. None of us chose this path—we are “lifers” in this secret society, and there is no alternative but to lift others up and make them aware they do not have feel isolated. There is hope in seeking help from “members only”.
As we walk through the first anniversary of Korie’s birth, an overwhelming flood of emotions fills my head and heart. This holiday season has been trying. I have done my best to push aside the chaos and commotion and not celebrate anything from October through January, because for me, nothing is worth celebrating without Korie. Again, no one understands but those in the club, not even those closest to me. It is devastating and frustrating. I hate being in this place, but it is where I am. All I have is the memory of those 5 precious months that I carried her, along with the priceless photos of the 8 hours we spent after delivery holding and examining her tiny body.
Life will never be the same. Thank God for those that “get it”—I can’t do it alone.
In honor and memory of:
Korie Jade Niño 1-3-15