A message from Dr. Unjali Malhotra, FNHA Office of the Chief Medical Officer
Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day is a day to break the silence around the thousands of people across Canada who are mourning the loss of their babies as a result of miscarriage, stillbirth or death within a year of being born. It is a day to remember these babies.
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada estimates that at least 15 to 20 per cent of pregnancies end in miscarriage or stillbirth. In addition, a number of infants die within the first year after birth. Too often, parents are isolated in their grief. Those who have experienced pregnancy or infant loss during the already-isolating pandemic may feel especially alone.
When the pregnancy stick is positive, we daydream about birth and the joy of the pregnancy. We think of the love of hearing children's laughter. We consider the cute clothes. We look forward to the silly things they will say. What will they need? What will they like?
What about when those two lines fade into a lost dream? Bleeding, cramping or a cruel surprise at an ultrasound can, for many, be the only memory of that pregnancy. Our hopes and dreams are shattered. What then? Who do we talk to? How do we move forward? How to we make sense of it?
This past month, Chrissy Teigen bravely shared her devastating stillbirth experience with the world via Instagram. She is a warrior for opening up a conversation that many needed. In her pain and vulnerability, she showed us all that pregnancy isn't always about happy endings, and it isn't always pretty. The pain of a pregnancy loss is true and lasting.
If you have experienced a pregnancy loss, know that you are a warrior too. There are many of us who have endured such pain but continue to look forward to find joy.
If you know someone who has suffered a loss, sit with them. They may not need anything other than a meal and company. They may want to talk, they may not want to. They may want counselling, they may not. They need to know you are there, with or without the words as there are none, really. They need to know they are loved.
If you have experienced a loss yourself, there are some teachings to reflect on that might bring some comfort. According to the FNHA's Knowledge Keeper, Syexwaliya, the Elders tell us that miscarriage or stillbirth happens because Creator knew the child would have a difficult life or birth defects that would make their life hard – or that it wasn't their time to be born. So Creator took the child back home to the ancestors to wait for another time. “The Elders also tell us to not have feelings of having done anything wrong because it was Creator's decision," says Syexwaliya. “They encourage the mother and father to remain strong in cultural teachings and ways to help themselves and to not try to hold baby's spirit here."
My colleague Lucy Barney, an Indigenous RN specializing in perinatal care and early childhood development, offers these additional words of advice: “If you are struggling with a loss, you can be supported by letting your community take care of you. When you are ready, talk to someone who will sit with you and allow this to happen. Follow your family's and community's way of caring for the loss of your baby who was called to the Creator to be with your ancestors. Host a ceremony as you would usually do (physically distanced with your bubble, or virtually if necessary), as these ceremonies provide space for healing, laughter, storytelling, tears – and most of all love. There is no time limit to grieving. Let the spirit of your little one go on their spirit journey to be with your ancestors."
If you or someone you know is looking for information about pregnancy loss or healing afterwards, here are some online resources:
• https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/hw44090• https://centering.org/ • https://www.compassionbooks.com/• https://webhealing.com/• http://www.bcwomens.ca/our-services/gynecology/recurrent-pregnancy-loss• https://reproductivementalhealth.ca/• https://www.bcbh.ca/ • Phone (Toll-Free): 1 (877) 779-2223. You can also email us for grief support at email@example.com. Hours 9:00am - 5:00pm (Monday - Friday, excluding holidays).
• Phone (Toll-Free): 1 (877) 779-2223. You can also email us for grief support at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hours 9:00am - 5:00pm (Monday - Friday, excluding holidays).