If you have found this site, you most likely have lost a baby or are losing one. I’m so very sorry. I hate that anyone would need the information on this site, but I pray that it is helpful to you.
I’m aware that quite a number of non-Orthodox people have accessed this site and found it helpful and that’s good. It was never my intention to be exclusive about who is welcome here! Even if you don’t share my faith, please do avail yourself of the rest of the site. The pages that are most specific to Orthodoxy are Prayers and Liturgics and the Touchstone article. The Actual Process is entirely medical in nature and the Photographs page is just that. In addition, while many of the stories are about Orthodox families, not all of them are. All of this is simply to say that you should be able to find what you need comfortably without feeling like I’m forcing my faith upon you.
This site is always going to be a work in progress as more parents add their stories and photographs. In addition I will add any relevant news items here on the main page under this post. If there is anything you think should be added here or any corrections you would like to make, again, feel free to email me.
May the most Holy Lady Theotokos, the Mother of God, comfort you in your grief, as she has comforted me in mine.
Last week and this I recorded a three-part interview with I Choose Life radio (Right to Life of Northeast Indiana) on the topic of miscarriage and stillbirth as it fits into the prolife stance. These interviews will air on three consecutive weeks beginning in August. Further details are not available right now but I will post when they are. Follow the links above to learn more. As part of this I searched for a post I thought I had written on waiting to announce a pregnancy until after 12 weeks, but I was unable to find one. Since I may have imagined it, I am rectifying the situation by writing a post now.
It’s standard practice in the United States (I can’t speak for other countries, but I assume most of the West is similar) to wait to announce a pregnancy until you have reached 12-13 weeks, i.e. the end of the first trimester. This is so ubiquitous that it’s rarely questioned. Since a startling number of pregnancies are miscarried in the first trimester this means many people are losing the baby before they’ve told many or even any people. This alone can account for the fact that miscarriage is rarely discussed even today and most people have no idea of its prevalence.
Because this is the “rule”, even advice given out by doctors and pregnancy websites, it’s barely questioned. However, given that one result of this practice is to leave many women and couples to grieve alone there seems to be more harm than good in it. As I will show you, this is not the only harmful result.
Let’s begin by looking directly into the face of this practice and asking “why?” Why is it so common? If you ask anyone they will tell you that they are “waiting until the danger period is over” or “holding back in case ‘something happens’.” Plainly speaking, they’re waiting until they think any chance of miscarriage is past before telling people. Let me be the first to tell you that there is no time in a pregnancy when the risk is over. While a relatively small percentage of babies are lost in the second and third trimesters, I personally have a friend who lost her baby literally as the baby was in the middle of being delivered. I lost Innocent and Andrew at approximately 13 weeks. I’m just trying to point out that there is a false sense of security in doing this.
We need to follow this to its logical conclusion. So let’s say you’re planning to announce at 13 weeks. At 11 weeks you find out the baby has died. Now you can do one of two things: tell people, “I’m pregnant but I miscarried,” or just not tell them. The vast majority of people will choose the latter because the former is hard and awkward to say. So in choosing to keep it secret they are now grieving alone while having to pretend everything is fine and forcing themselves to continue their normal activities. This is one example of disenfranchised grief: grief that is not acknowledged or validated by society. And one of the worst things to a grieving parent is feeling like you can’t grieve. Grief doesn’t magically disappear just because it isn’t convenient, and is either delayed and complicated, and/or manifests in physical ways or self-destructive behaviors.
Telling your family and friends that you’re pregnant early on ensures that if you do lose the baby you have a support system. They can rejoice with you but then grieve with you. One priest I know strongly advises his parishioners to announce as soon as possible because “the sooner we know, the sooner we can pray for you!” I can speak from experience here too that it is a frustrating and helpless feeling to find out after the fact that someone you know was pregnant for weeks and weeks, and then miscarried, and you could have been praying for them all along had you only known.
Now let’s look at the implications of delaying pregnancy announcements for wider society. I’ve already mentioned that this creates a bizarre situation in which a common experience (estimates say 20-25 of all pregnancies are lost) is virtually unknown and not discussed. But looking a little deeper, there is another, very important result: babies in the first trimester are invisible, dehumanized, and devalued.
What is one thing you hear said to parents who have lost a first trimester baby, especially earlier than eight weeks? “It wasn’t really a baby anyway.” What do doctors usually tell their patients in this situation? “It’s just like a bad period.” [This is a lie, by the way.] And now, what do people defending abortion say about first trimester babies? “It’s only blood, tissue, and clots, not a baby,” and “Those plastic models you see are fakes; it’s not really human.” Can’t you see that a failure to acknowledge babies in the first 12-13 weeks contributes to the devaluing of their lives?
So one by one, let’s stop this practice of either waiting to announce pregnancies ourselves or advising others to do so. Because I don’t think this is the message we’re really intending to convey.
For thou didst form my inward parts, thou didst knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.
Stacey has shared the story and photos of her twin pregnancy loss, one early and one at 14 weeks. They can be found under the 14 weeks heading on the Your Stories and Photographs pages. Thank you so much, Stacy, for your generosity in sharing Cedric John and Celeste Star.
Earlier this year Kimberly lost a baby, Quinn Zoe, at 13 weeks, 6 days. She shared Quinn’s story and photos here. Unfortunately Kimberly has just lost another baby, Caleb, at 10 weeks, 2 days. She has generously shared her heart once again, giving us photos and her story.
Caleb’s photos are important because they show how the gestational sac is many times encased in the uterine lining and/or placenta when it is delivered, hiding the sac. This leads many people to think they haven’t delivered the baby or that they “weren’t really pregnant.” Gentle examination can reveal the sac and baby.
My grateful thanks to Kimberly for sharing her precious children with us here.
Heavenly previously shared her twins, Cedar and Arrow, with us and sadly experienced another miscarriage. Zion departed this life at the age of 9 weeks and was born after medical induction. She was born outside the sac and her body was not intact. Heavenly and I decided that it was important to share these photographs even though they may be difficult to see because this is not a rare occurrence and it may help someone else who experiences the same thing. They are on the Photographs page under 9 weeks.
Kimberly has shared her baby Quinn Zoe with us, departed this life at 13 weeks and six days and born at 19 weeks and two days. Quinn’s photographs are on the Photographs page and Kimberly’s story appears on the Your Stories page under 13 weeks. In addition, Kimberly shared a photo of her placenta which is on The Actual Process page along with photographs of placentas at other gestational ages.
Many thanks to Heavenly and Kimberly for so generously sharing the photographs and stories of their beloved children. May the memory of Zion and Quinn Zoe be eternal!
Two babies have been added to the site: Baby C and Baby Pax. You can see them on the Photographs Page.
Baby C was only 4 weeks and not easy to pick out in his intact gestational sac, but it is extremely rare to see a sac this small (approximately 3 mm diameter). Thank you to his or her mother A. for sharing her baby.
Baby Pax was approximately 6.5 weeks, born at 11 weeks. He was indeed a boy and had Trisomy 22. He can be seen very clearly inside his sac. His story is also posted on the Your Stories page. Thank you to his mother, Trisha, for sharing her baby with us.
May God bless these mothers for their generosity in sharing their beloved children, and may He grant them comfort in their grief. Memory eternal!
Thank you to Roxanne for sharing photos of her baby, Eden, in the sac at 5 weeks. Edwin was born at approximately 9 weeks, 3 days gestation after multiple scans showing slight gestational sac growth but none otherwise. There is one detailed photo in which Eden is clearly visible in the sac (I added notations to help) even at such a young age and after so many weeks of waiting.
Heavenly was generous enough to share photographs of her twins Arrow (11 weeks) and Cedar (5 weeks) after they were born following expectant management for a missed miscarriage. Heavenly had felt she was pregnant with twins but only saw one baby at a 9 weeks ultrasound. When she miscarried she saw the tiny twin still in the gestational sac. You can see photographs of Cedar and Arrow on the Photographs page under the 5 and 11 weeks headings. Thank you, Heavenly, and may God comfort you in your grief.
Thank you to Myra for graciously allowing me to share photos of her baby, Peanut, who was born a few days ago. He died at 9 weeks, 5 days, and she courageously carried him for an additional 9 weeks. He was born after two attempts at medical induction (at home) and was beautiful and perfect despite the long wait. You can see his photos on the Photographs page under the 9 Weeks heading.
It hurts. I felt exactly the same way after we lost Andrew, our second loss in 8 months, and with no explanation.
Every early afternoon, I would walk over to her grave, lay down across it, and listen to Marillion’s Afraid of Sunlight. Sometime in the hour or so visit, I would just raise my fist to the sky and scream at God. “You gave me one job, God, to be a father to this little girl, and you took it all away.” In my fury, I called Him the greatest murderer in history, a bastard, an abortionist, and other horrible things. I never doubted His existence, but I very much questioned His love for us.
It does get better. I can’t logically convince anyone of that, but it does. God is merciful to have taken all of my rage and flailing about and love me anyway. I know all of this now, but reading the essay I look back and viscerally remember the pain. Lord have mercy.