Our stories are powerful. When we share them, they can help us heal and bring hope to others. The following stories highlight the unimaginable, pregnancy and infant loss.
She was 18 years old, a freshman in college. Nervously, she made her way to the women’s center on campus. Her suspicion was confirmed. She was pregnant. Although she feared her family’s reaction, she bravely shared the news with them. Unfortunately, her father was embarrassed, and her mother withdrew. Their family connection was broken. She was alone and stressed, but she resolved to have the baby.
A few months into the pregnancy, she noticed that something was off. It did not feel like the pregnancy was progressing as it should be. At 12 weeks, she started bleeding. Her friends helped her get to the emergency room, where she was greeted by hospital staff that did not treat her with care and compassion. An ultrasound revealed the fetus was no longer viable. Her baby had stopped developing around eight weeks, but she did not physically miscarry. She underwent a dilation and curettage procedure, more commonly known as a D&C, to end the pregnancy.
For this 18-year-old girl, the trauma of losing a child and going through the process without her family set her life on a different trajectory. She did not fully process the impact of her loss until she was much older.
She was young, married, and excited about starting a family. She was pregnant with the baby girl she had always dreamed of being a mother. At 20 ½ weeks, her dream came crashing down. Labor started at work, but with no close friends who already had children and no conversations about what happens when your water breaks, she did not realize she was actually in labor. Eventually, it became clear that something was not right. She was rushed to the hospital from the office.
After hours of monitoring, she was rudely told her baby would not survive. By the following day, there was no heartbeat, but she still needed to deliver her baby. The birth process was peaceful, but her baby girl was stillborn. Following the delivery, she suffered significant blood loss from surgery to remove the placenta.
After this traumatic experience, she was grateful to be alive but still longed to have another baby. She refused to give up hope. Almost one year later, she endured another pregnancy loss but eventually gave birth to two beautiful boys, her rainbow babies.
She and her husband were ready to grow their family again. Getting pregnant the first time happened quickly, and it also did this time. The plus sign on the pregnancy test was faint, but she was already feeling the typical pregnancy symptoms. She began to dream about being pregnant on the beach that summer and preparing to be a mom of two. A few days later, she took another test, expecting the positive to be more prominent. She reasoned that the first test was taken just a little too early. To her surprise, the test was negative. She called her doctor and went in for blood work. The results were unexpected. Her doctor called it a chemical pregnancy. She would miscarry.
The next day, she started bleeding. Her dreams were crushed, and she struggled to process her emotions, sometimes feeling as if she didn’t have the right to grieve such an early loss when others miscarried further along in their pregnancies. Thankfully, a friend reminded her that a loss is a loss no matter when it happens. Her friend gave her permission to grieve the life that could have been.
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.
Losing a child, whether in pregnancy or infancy, is unimaginable. When the future you imagine with the precious life you are carrying is suddenly cut short, it changes you. Statistics tell us that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage, loss of pregnancy before 20 weeks gestation and that stillbirths, loss after 20 weeks, occur in about 1 out of every 100 pregnancies.
All three of these stories are the stories of Black women, a group that is more vulnerable to poor maternal health outcomes and has a higher rate of miscarriage and stillbirth than any other racial/ethnic group. For Black women, the miscarriage rate is 43% higher, and stillbirths occur in 1 out of every 96 pregnancies.
When experiencing a loss, it’s essential to have support and resources as you grieve. As I listened to these women share their stories, a common theme emerged: the importance of support and resources for women who looked like them. Unfortunately, Black women often navigate pregnancy and infant loss alone and without adequate support.
Shades of Becoming a Mom (SBMOM) is a new non-profit organization focused on providing resources, guidance, and support primarily to women of color grieving the loss of a baby in pregnancy or infancy. Tieree Reid founded the organization in November 2021 after she spent months advocating for better maternal health outcomes and resources to support those experiencing pregnancy and infant loss as Ms. Central Indiana 2021.
Support for women of color through Shades of Becoming a Mom includes hospital resources and care packages through referrals, online community and support groups, a resource catalog, and community events. Through these various avenues, the vision is for every woman to receive culturally competent and equitable maternal health care.
On October 15th, SBMOM will host a community candlelight ceremony to surround parents who have lost a baby in pregnancy or infancy with love. To learn more about the event, the mission, and the organization’s vision, or how you can support their efforts, visit https://www.sbmom.org or follow on Instagram @shadesofbecomingamom.
If you have suffered a pregnancy or infant loss, know that you are not alone. There is community and support for you. And remember your story matters. It is powerful. It can bring healing and hope for you and others.