Guest post by Alison Hoy, founder of Brave Girl Birth.
If I have learned one thing in the last 2 years, it’s that it’s a miracle that we’re alive at all. It was fairly easy for me to get pregnant. This was before I knew anything about ovulation tests, or really, how ovulation even worked. I just stopped taking my birth control pills and hoped for the best. And then one day, it worked. I got pregnant. It all seemed so easy; no morning sickness, no swollen feet. I was endlessly grateful, but surprised at the ease at which I was experiencing pregnancy. I thought, maybe pregnancy is just my thing! I had a pretty uneventful pregnancy. Until it was everything but uneventful. I guess you could say the rug was really pulled out from under me.
It's not that pregnancy loss is uncommon, we just don't talk about it.
Pregnancy loss is different for every person—it can mean miscarriage, stillbirth, infertility. Loss is a lot more common than we think.
1 in 4 pregnancies ends in a loss.
Think about how many women you know, and then look at that statistic again. 1 in 100 pregnancies end in a baby being stillborn. That’s about 24,000 babies born still in the US in a single year. About 10-15 out of 100 pregnancies end in a miscarriage. And 1 in 8 of us is struggling to get pregnant. Those are big numbers. Yet we still feel so alone when it happens to us. Connecting with others who also experienced loss—these are the kinds of conversations we should be having.
Losing my baby was the most isolating experience of my life.
On March 27, 2018, I gave birth to my stillborn son, Marley. My firstborn child. To this day, the doctors didn’t find anything wrong with him, or with my pregnancy. One Friday, I realized I hadn’t felt my baby move as much as usual. I was 34 weeks pregnant. I kept hearing that the baby is getting big at that point, it’s getting hard to move around. (This, I have learned is very much not true.) Why didn’t I run to the hospital? My baby shower was the next morning. Talk about timing.
When we went to the hospital, we had no idea what we were walking into. Multiple nurses and then finally a doctor fumbled to find a heartbeat. But there was none. I think that’s the only day of my life I remember in great detail. The color of the nurses’ gowns. The nurse who told us the news had blonde hair in a ponytail. I remember the jacket on the chair and where my water bottle was placed on the counter. I remember being pushed down the hallway in a wheelchair, with my husband holding my things, and thinking, “What am I supposed to be thinking right now?” My brain didn’t know how to process what just happened, and my body didn’t know that my baby had just died.
The world around us remained the same, but my world had come to a screeching halt. And I had no clue how to navigate it.
When you’re pregnant and filled with the joy of expecting to give birth to a baby, the farthest thing on your mind is that you might birth death instead. When it does happen, there’s a shift. Forever changed. The night before I was induced, I knew I had to push my son out. I had to let him go. That was the last gift I could give him. The moment I pushed my son out of me was the saddest but most beautiful moment of my life. There was no cry from the baby. The midwife didn’t congratulate me. It was just complete silence. Holding my son, I saw the most perfect little baby boy. Not a dead baby. Watching my husband hold him in his arms, and in turn, my parents and sisters made it start to become real. But I knew I wouldn’t be able to take him home with me.
And in that moment, I realized that I could endure much more than I ever thought I could.
Fast forward to four months later. I got pregnant again. But not for long. This pregnancy ended in an early miscarriage. To say I was devastated is a massive understatement. But it also started a fire in me. I was so angry that this kept happening to me. Is my uterus a lethal weapon? What's wrong with me?
The big lesson: have these conversations out in the open.
I was always very vocal about losing Marley. I felt like it was my job to educate people that this is a thing that happens to perfectly healthy women, babies and pregnancies. It’s sad and traumatizing, but it is not rare.
We are not alone.
I got pregnant just a few months after my second loss. My daughter is now a beautiful, healthy, lively one-year-old. Life is completely different on every single level; I’ve lived through the worst thing that can happen to a parent, having their child die. I’ve endured a second loss. I’ve created support groups, one being local and one called Speak Your Truth with HATCH. I’m able to share my story on panels and in doula trainings to help better prepare the birth work community for loss. I helped to implement a Pregnancy & Child Loss program at the company I work for, Amazon. And my most proud achievement of all, I’ve become a certified childbirth educator, and started my own company, Brave Girl Birth, serving both new expecting parents, and parents who have experienced a loss.
As women, the world needs to hear our voices.
Yes, there are painful moments in life but there can be incredible beauty if you follow the fire that it sets within you.
I encourage all women to share what they’re going through with other women. So many people have found strength in my voice, which in turn helped them to find theirs. You are not alone, no matter what your journey looks like. What happened to me makes some people uncomfortable and sad. I have become, “the woman with the dead baby…marvel at how she walks and talks like us.” And yes, you should marvel … because I AM STRONG.