Our Culture Needs a Ritual to Honor Pregnancy Loss
by Martinique Davis
Oct 20, 2011 | 681 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Something about this time of year always makes me sentimental: the end of summer’s fecundity, its vibrancy fading into shades of gray, the cold blades of grass curving in slow arcs to their wintry bed beneath the coming snow.

As the focus of daily life here in the mountains turns more indoors, my thoughts turn inward, too, to reflect on this dynamic upheaval of the seasons, and with it, what will be lost or left behind as we trudge forward into the coming season of pseudo-hibernation.

“I’m not sure why I’m even telling you this,” my girlfriend had said to me, her auburn hair falling forward around the corners of her jawbone so I couldn’t quite read her expression. “I mean, you have enough to worry about.”

She had brought me energy bars and trail mix; the equivalent of contraband in the PICU, where a ventilator mechanically breathed for Elle and we numbly waited for her little body to fight the virus that precipitated our harrowing trip to Denver Children’s Hospital last winter.

“I started bleeding again,” my friend said, through a long exhale. Numb, no quiver in her voice, unlike the first time she’d uttered those words to me nearly four months before. Crushed.

That first time, I’d had soothing things to say. At least they were soothing to me.

“It happens to a lot of people,” I’d said, knowing she knew the statistic as well as I did: that twenty percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage. “Plus, you know you can have a healthy pregnancy.” It would have been her second child, a brother or sister for the son born just a few months before Elle. “I’m sure next time things will be fine.”

But standing opposite my friend in my daughter’s hospital room, four months after uttering that assurance, the injustice of it all was overwhelming.

“It’s so unfair!” I told her, finding no other soothing things to say, only hoping my embrace would translate into some little bit of solace for her loss.

I think of her now, pregnant again as the leaves give their final spectacular encore before fading into the perennially changing scenery. She’s cautiously optimistic this time, carrying a growing bump beneath hand-me-down maternity shirts and anticipating her third trimester. I find comfort in this scene, because it tells me that while we’ll inevitably face phases of barrenness, bounty will also return, in time.

But I can’t help but wonder: Did we ever give her, and the countless other women who’ve suffered the same loss, a real opportunity to mourn what floated away from them, like leaves drifting to a too-early winter bed?

Our culture lacks meaningful ritual to mark the passages in our lives. Sure, we throw baby showers and plan beautiful wedding ceremonies, but what do those celebrations really prepare us for? They seem to be more about performance than about truly preparing us for the life passages they commemorate.

Yet we close our eyes to these other, profoundly emotive but typically-not-spoken-about passages, having instead learned to affix our gaze ahead, on brighter and less gloomy panoramas. There is no ritual or ceremony, at least not one ingrained into any part of our culture, which honors a woman who has lost a pregnancy, or remembers the life she carried within her womb and in her heart.

Dwelling on the bereavements we suffer is not healthy. But ignoring them isn’t healthy, either. Our culture seems fearful of supporting our sisters and mothers through the tough times, yet we’re quick to celebrate the joyous times’ relatively empty bridal and baby showers, plying the wife- or mother-to-be with gifts that are, ultimately, just things, that will eventually be lost or left behind.

I hope we can begin to honor and support women who have suffered this bereavement, by giving it a time and a place for mourning, thereby paving the way for a more healthy, vibrant shift into life’s more-joyous phases.

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