doula

Offering Support Through Miscarriage and Infant Loss

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The loss of a pregnancy is a traumatic event. While it is said that 1 in 4 known pregnancies end in miscarriage, this statistic does not make the loss any less sad or painful for the person experiencing it.

Perinatal loss refers to:

  • Miscarriage – a loss during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy 
  • Stillbirth – a loss after 20 weeks of pregnancy 

We are often told to keep our pregnancy on the down low, at least until after the first trimester, when the risk of miscarriage lessens. Not sharing the news of pregnancy is a very personal choice. When pregnancy loss happens, a range of emotions such as numbness and shock, guilt, heartbreak, devastation, and anger often follows it. Choosing to keep it to yourself can feel really isolating, while telling others then having to retract the news can be just as difficult. 

While those around you might be aware of what’s going on, they may not know what to do or say. Should they even talk about it? They may be scared of saying the wrong thing, or maybe they weren’t even supposed to know about the pregnancy. Social support plays a big role in recovery from trauma and grief, so here are some tips on how to be a source of support. 

 

The Basics of Supporting Someone through Loss:

Just listen. Often times, we want to say the right thing to try and fix a sad situation. In loss, there is nothing we can do to fix the grief. Instead, we can be there for the person, and just listen to anything they have to say. 

Be authentic. Be sincere in your reaction. It is okay to tell the person, “I don’t know what to say” or “I am so sorry, I’ve never been through this”. They will appreciate your honesty. Avoid using clichés - they come across as dismissive and minimize the loss.  

Recognize that everyone experiences a pregnancy and loss differently. Avoid sharing your own story or trying to relate to it. The person grieving is the focus.

 

3 A’s of Support in Loss:

Acknowledge the loss. Tell the person, “I am so sorry for your loss”, or “I am so sorry you are going through this”. Behaving as though nothing has happened is not helpful, and can isolate the person. Acknowledging it gives them space to grieve openly with people they trust. 

Allow the person or family time to grieve. Do not set any expectations on how long grief should take, or when they should ‘get over it’. 

Ask the person how they would like to be supported, then be available as much as possible to support them emotionally and with any other needs they may have. 

While the loss of a pregnancy through miscarriage or stillbirth is very personal, the woman and her family do not need to be alone in their grief. If you are aware of the loss, be thoughtful in offering support. You do not have to have gone through this experience yourself to support them. You just need to care. 

Alanna Thompson is a Registered Clinical Counsellor that offers compassionate, counselling support to families in the Comox Valley who have experienced miscarriage or infant loss. 

Alanna Thompson, M.A., R.C.C.

Registered Clinical Counsellor with Perinatal Loss Support Comox Valley

Phone: 250-650-4234

Email: info@cvloss.com

 

How to avoid Mother's Day Disappointment (and not feel guilty about it)

This is your day: a day that celebrates the blood, sweat, tears, love, kisses, hugs, long nights, early mornings, and reheated cups of coffee that you have sacrificed for your the tiny human(s) you made!

I think every mom has some expectation of what Mother's Day should be like, and I don't know a single one of us that hasn't felt a little let down or disappointed at the end of the day, followed by feelings of guilt for not being more grateful for the family we have and the effort they made. 

Maybe you just wanted lunch at your favourite restaurant, or a relaxing pedicure in the middle of the day. You might have hoped for breakfast in bed, with handmade cards slid underneath a hot cup of coffee, with the only three words that matter in the world. Maybe you just wanted a nap! 

Are you selfish? No. 
Are you worth it? Yes!
So, how can you have the mothers day you hope for? 

Tell them what you'd like.

It's actually THAT simple. 

What are the little things you long for to make you feel special, valued, and celebrated? Those things; say them.

It might feels a bit strange or contrived to clearly communicate what you want; it's not something we are well rehearsed at doing. But how many partners would breathe a sigh of relief if they knew exactly what it would take to make your Mothers Day special, to celebrate all you do and who you are to your family? I'd venture to guess it would be more than few. 

We aren't always the best at clearly communicating our needs, carving out time for ourselves, or asking for what we wish for. But this day? Its 'll about you, so why don't you tell the ones that love you the most, exactly what it would take to make you feel like their queen? It just might be the best Mother's Day yet. 

The Only Guarantee Your Doula Can Offer...(hint: it's what really matters!)

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There’s hardly a doula fresh out of training that hasn’t shared some variation of these statistics that you see above, myself included. Shorter labor, reduction in caesarean birth, oxytocin, analgesia, and epidurals; all of these things are meant to illuminate the value of doulas. These numbers are meant to wow the masses of what it is we can offer to ‘improve’ birth out comes for our clients. It’s well meaning, but it’s time for a healthy dose of perspective.  

The Cocherane Review has one of the most recognized studies that speaks to the benefits of doula attended births and provides evidence for these claims (You can see the actual study with accurate facts and figures, here.) This study is an excellent compilation of research that does in fact illuminate the difference a doula can make for a birth, but the way these statistics are being shared in the birth world may be doing more harm than good. 

When I share with you the ways in which I may be able to ‘enhance’ your birth by preventing analgesia or epidurals, I’m assuming you want to give birth without medication.

When I tell you that studies show my presence may reduce the length of your labor, I may be setting you up to feel as though your long labor was the result of a broken body or some bad luck.

When I suggest that, with my help, you may be able to avoid a cesarean birth, I’m assuming that this isn’t an ideal option for you, whether by necessity or by choice.

Here’s the thing: there is no golden standard for an ideal birth.These statistics suggest differently. Each of these numbers represents a preference, a personal ideal. Too often there ends up being an unnecessary weight of guilt and disappointment that mothers carry when their birth doesn’t meet expectations either set by someone else’s standard or their own. 

Nobody should expect or hope that any of the issues on these lists are important to you– maybe they are, maybe they’re not. Your doulas job isn’t to try to provide you with some statistically ideal birth plan, our job is to offer unconditional support to you through the birth you end up having; through the choices you make and the outcomes beyond your control.

Neither you or I can determine the outcome of your birth. If I take on the burden of trying to measure up to a statistic, I may not only be setting myself up for failure, but I may actually prevent you from birthing the way you want to. Birth doesn’t always stick to the plan; the unpredictability of labor means that you need to be ready to be flexible, to change your mind without apology, to grieve the things you’d hoped for and lost, and then celebrate how incredible you are for bringing life into this world.

So what is relevant here? What’s the point doula support if it comes without the guarantee of the birth you’ve planned for? Studies have shown that a woman’s satisfaction with her birth isn’t a result of interventions, outcomes, or having things go as planned; it largely relies on how she was cared for, heard, and supported, and that is an outcome I can promise to deliver. So here’s a statistic I think is worth sharing: