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Delaying Pregnancy Announcements

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.

The photo I used to announce my pregnancy at 13 weeks in March 2011. I did not know the baby had already died.

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.

-Ps. 139:13

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.

-Jer. 1:5

Welcome

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.

-Matushka Anna

New beginnings 

As you can see I have moved Lost Innocents to a new platform. The move is not complete and you may run into some dead links. I am still in the process of sifting through everything, cleaning up pages, etc., and I will need to rewatermark all of the photos. I hope all of this will be finished in good time. 

You may still contact me through the contact page here or by emailing lostinnocentsorthodox (at) gmail (dot) com. I am always honored to consider photographs and stories for submission. 

Comments problem

There is a bug with Blogger such that I can no longer access comments directly on the Photographs page. Some problem kicked in after we reached the (apparently magical) number of 200 comments. In fact, in desperately trying to read the rest of a recent long comment I accidentally deleted it. 🙁 So I’m just letting everyone know that until the bug is worked out I can’t respond to comments on that page. If you’re in need of a response, you can email me at lostinnocentsorthodox (at) gmail (dot) com.

Innocent: The Baby at the Beginning

Five years ago today I sat in the cold, scuffed exam room with my purse clutched in front of me and heard the words, “I’m sorry, there was no movement [on the ultrasound].” When we got to the car I cried so hard I thought I would tear the lining of my throat out, as if by wailing, I could will my baby back to life. The unthinkable had happened: My baby died.

In the days following I was thrust into the world of loss, the harsh clinical world of “pregnancy loss”, “tissue”, “products of conception”, “spontaneous abortion”, etc. I fought for the only thing I had left that I could do for my baby: honor his or her body. I had joyfully carried him while he was alive, nourished his growing body, prayed for his health. Now his soul had departed, but the body remained. And the last thing I was going to do is let some unfeeling and efficient doctor tear him out of me.

I needed information. I needed support to labor and deliver my baby on my own since the medical field had abandoned me. Kind friends and even some strangers reached out and told me the details of their own losses. For some I know the memories were probably almost unbearably painful to dredge up, but they did it anyway. With their love, support, prayers, and the information I had gleaned from them and from painful internet searches, I prepared to honor my baby’s body. Late one night, after I had almost lost hope, my body finally relinquished its grip and I held my son in my hands. My beautiful baby.

This is a journey I have made four times now. Thankfully after the first time I did have support and care from medical staff. Their love and respect has gone a long way toward healing the festering wound left by the first doctor. And, I dare say, by traveling this road with me they too have learned something about human dignity.

Lost Innocents was born of this pain. It was born of the need to honor the women who had gone before me and then supported me in my agony. It was born out of a wish to provide others with the same information and support. It was born to honor the love for my son Innocent, and then in turn, Andrew, Gabriel, and Demetrius.

Innocent did not live long by human standards. He was less than 13 weeks in this life and never took a breath. He did not hear me sing to him, never felt me kiss his head. But this tiny baby, this miracle created in the image of God, has birthed an entire ministry to bereaved parents and their precious children.

Today is the feast of St. Innocent in the Orthodox Church. I gave my son the name Innocent in his honor and today I remember him. May his memory be eternal!

Fake?

It’s unbelievable to me that you can have someone with the appendage “MD” saying that the photographs on this site (and others) are faked. I guess it goes to show that just because someone has MD after their name it doesn’t necessarily mean they know what they’re talking about. Sheesh.

A Kind Email

Letter published with permission from the author:

Hello,

   I tried to leave a comment on your site, but I don’t think it worked. I want to tell you how much you have helped me.

   I miscarried our fourth child at 8 weeks in August 1994. I had been brought up to believe that at this early stage there was no baby, just a clump of cells. So, I didn’t think to look for our baby, and put the grief to the back of my mind. August 1995 saw the safe arrival of our daughter. Family life continued and every time thoughts of our missing child arose, I ignored them.

   In October 2008 our eldest child died aged 21. In coming to peace with this, the earlier loss was harder to ignore and I started mentioning the miscarriage to family and friends.

   In September 2014, I developed post viral fatigue and have had to stop rushing about. I spend much time meditating and just thinking quietly about things. My little one kept coming to mind and I have recently been drawn to the you tube videos made in memory of angel babies. I suddenly knew that little one had not been just a clump of cells and I really needed to see what he/she would have looked like.

   I searched ” what does an 8 week gestation baby look like.” And your site was the one I looked at. I cannot start to tell you how helpful I have found it. 19 years later, I can finally grieve for my baby. Even though I am not yet able to talk about this with my family, I know through the stories and photographs that I am not alone, that little one was a real baby. I never held him/ her but he/she grew next to my heart and will always be there.  I take comfort from the fact that my two children in heaven have each other.

   The strength of my reaction suggests to me that part of my health problem has been caused by being in denial for all these years. I am confident that my health will improve. I love knitting and crocheting and will be making hats, blankets etc for preemies as well as angel babies as a way of honouring the lives of my two in heaven.

   Thank you so much for being there.

Peace and love

Fiona

Gabriel [updated]

Within a few weeks I will be adding yet another story and more photographs to this site. Although I’ve known since Friday, today it was confirmed that we have another baby waiting for us in heaven. Gabriel died at 10 weeks, 6 days. I am waiting to go into labor on my own. I will update when I am able.

Update: Gabriel was born 6-25-14 at 10:42 PM. I posted about it here. Eventually I’ll write up the birth story and post it and photographs here. May Gabriel’s memory be eternal!

Update #2: I posted some photos of Gabriel here.