Last week I had the honor of supporting a mother through a planned home birth of her miscarried daughter, who died at 13 weeks gestation. My personal experience with miscarriage is limited: my own two losses were early and my body naturally passed what was left. I know miscarriage is common, according to the American Pregnancy Association, 10-25% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. Pretty much every woman I know has had at least one miscarriage. And, most women I know either had a “heavy period” or electively chose a D&C procedure to remove the remains from their bodies.
But, this isn’t enough information to have a support role at a birth of a miscarried baby, so I started to dig around. There wasn’t much to be found! There is very limited information about what she was about to experience: the planned home birth of a miscarried baby. What to expect in labor, what is cause for concern, and what we should be aware of. I reached out to friends and peers to hear personal experiences, and that was helpful but still wasn’t the education I was seeking.
She and I made a birth plan, knew we both had limited knowledge of what to expect but had access to her OB if either of us felt it necessary to ask a question, and agreed to be conservative when it came to blood loss. She labored, just like any women experiencing a med-free birth, with hip circles and rhythmic movement, deep primal moans, and the exhale of relief when she got into her bathtub of warm water. The moisture on that collected around her eyebrows gave away how hard her body was working. I’m not trained to check dilation, but I know she did based on the cues her body gave.
Finally, after a quick trip to the bathroom, she went to the sink to wash her hands and as the contraction began, she began to moan and sway then all of the sudden said, “Oh!” She was immediately out of her labor mindset and back into the world, and we carefully checked her pad and found the most perfect 13-week-old baby, fully formed, laying in an intact amniotic sac. We noticed Baby Girl was still connected to her placenta and Mom gently tugged on the cord and she was free.
We expected her to soon pass an intact placenta but an hour later, it still hadn’t come. Her body was clearly trying to get it out but couldn’t, so Mom and Dad chose to the hospital for help.
This was what this Mother wanted for herself and for her Baby, and to me it doesn’t seem unreasonable! I do think it would have been so much better if I had known more about common signs of trouble, or had some better ideas of what to expect. I supported her physically, emotionally, and spiritually in the same way that I support all my doula clients, but this birth didn’t require us to be considerate of Baby’s outcome at all, other than treating her with utmost respect once she was born.
It’s with this experience in mind that I’ve decided to pursue my bereavement doula education through Stillbirthday. It’s been on my mind for over a year, and this experience solidified that desire for me. I think this program will be wonderful but a challenge for me, as I have always been invested in the pro-life community and truly feel the loss of each individual soul. This is exactly why I believe this service should exist though, that a Mother’s wishes could be honored and she could be supported with the same attention and care as a Mother giving birth to a live baby.
I have also decided to reach out to some midwives in my area, for further education on loss and fetal development. Every now and then I briefly consider learning midwifery, but I don’t truly feel the call right now! (I have to throw that in there because everyone asks!)
It’s my hope that soon I’ll be able to officially add the initials “SBD” to the end of my name!