Miscarriage and stillbirth - personal thoughts and experiences
As a mom of a stillborn baby at 38 weeks gestation, I often hear, "I had a miscarriage once, but you can't compare." I think: you can compare everything and sometimes you find similarities and sometimes differences and most of the time there is more of one than the other.
So it is the same here. Before I start, I send ahead that I never had a full-term, only threatened miscarriage and therefore today I can only write from the point of view of a mom who lost her child in late pregnancy.
In pregnancy with my big daughter I had a bleed at 13 weeks, in pregnancy with my little daughter I had a heavy bleed at 11 weeks. When I went to the hospital in pregnancy with my big daughter, the doctor said, "There is nothing you can do, either the baby stays or not.
When I was pregnant with my little daughter, I already knew that and was still beside myself. I remember well the fears and worries I had in the face of the threat of miscarriage, and also the relief and joy that the girls then stayed after all, even if only one for the time being.
And I believe that this is precisely the great commonality: the pain of a lost child is always great. It hurts so much, even if the child was only with you for a few days or weeks.
I had an immediate connection to my children and knew they were there even before the pregnancy test. I immediately imagined what it would be like to live with them and be their mom. The love was there right away.
And to lose that love and not be able to live it out is so, so painful. So the feelings are very similar. What differs is the context. While miscarriages are relatively common, stillbirths are not. About one in three pregnancies ends in miscarriage, which is about 30%. In contrast, only three to four out of 1000 babies are stillborn, less than 0.5%.
That is, both the occurrence is very different, as well as the knowledge about it.
Personally, I didn't even know that babies at that gestational age still die in the womb. Which, in retrospect, is a bit crazy, because life can simply end at any time. Even in the mother's womb.
So we were counting on Lene. I think in the first trimester, many families still don't rely 100% on the pregnancy, precisely because the miscarriage rate is so high. In the last weeks before the birth, no one expects the baby to go. And not just because you don't know. Even though it's part of the reality of life that babies are also stillborn, you always always always think that it won't hit you.
When I think about what else was different in early and late pregnancy, it's the relationship with the child. In the first trimester, you don't feel your child yet. That then changes. I already knew Lene quite well. We could communicate with each other. I noticed that she had a completely different temperament than her big sister. She already had a personality that I could sense and we were in contact with each other. In early pregnancies, it was different.
And everything was prepared. All she had to do was move in. You have to put everything away eventually. That hurt me more than it would have hurt me to not put anything down for the baby in the first place.
And still we had bought two cuddly monkeys in the 5th week of pregnancy. For good luck. The first sibling purchase. That meant a lot to me. The sight of the monkeys is still painful and it wouldn't be any different if Lene had said goodbye earlier.
The idea of the family of four was immediately on my mind and in my heart. In early pregnancy, it is not yet visible to others that there is a baby. Just before the birth, everyone knows that a baby will be born soon. And that's hard because everyone sees that someone is missing then.
I was shunned, stared at, many just didn't say anything because they didn't know how to deal with me.
That was lonely. Just like you are lonely after a miscarriage, because no one has seen that you are pregnant, because maybe you haven't told anyone yet, and because it is not very common in society to talk about the loss of a child.
You are quite alone. And that makes it even harder.
What other differences are there?
My child has a grave. We had to bury our baby. We had to choose a casket, organize a ceremony, choose flowers, consider who would attend the funeral, decide on a grave plaque and planting.
We had to lower our 57 cm, 3210 g child into the ground and leave her in a cemetery. Not only do I have her in my heart, there is also this place where I can always visit her. From what I've heard, it's a little different with miscarriages.
But does it have to be? And at what point does one speak of a stillbirth? What exactly is a miscarriage?
There are clear guidelines that I would like to list. Parents of miscarried children also have rights and it can certainly help many parents to know these in order to take the right steps for themselves in their processing.
The borderline between miscarriage and stillbirth is 500g. A baby under 500g is called a miscarriage, above that a stillbirth, if it just does not show signs of life. If a baby shows signs of life, it is a live birth, regardless of weight.
Burial law in Germany is a matter for the states, so there are different regulations. In all federal states, parents have individual burial rights for miscarried children born after the 12th week of pregnancy.
In all federal states, parents of children born alive and then deceased have a burial obligation. So one can be done, the other must be done. In some federal states, the burial obligation begins at a birth weight of 500g, in other federal states only at 1000g.
In North Rhine-Westphalia there is no weight limit. The following applies: "Miscarriages and stillbirths can be buried, also from abortions. If there is no declaration by the parents, stillbirths and miscarriages are to be collected and buried by the institutions under dignified conditions."
So it's worth checking out. As far as I have read now, collective burials are quite common.
There are days when I only get the connection to Lene at the cemetery and there are weeks when I feel it the same way and don't need that place. Having a place where you know your child and can bring things to them can certainly be a great support for families.
Another very important piece of information I find is that you can also register miscarried children at the registry office. To do this, you need a medical certificate of the miscarriage or a maternity passport. If you present this at the registry office, the registry office issues a certificate in which the child is recorded with first and last name, as well as gender, birthday and place of birth. This can be done even years later.
Knowing Lene's birth certificate in the family register is important to me.
Even if the children are not with us, they are part of the family and deserve their place. I think it's so important to make them visible. All babies, no matter when they left.
I think because of the similarities, you resonate and feel connected that way. And because of the differences, it feels fitting to add that it doesn't compare. Maybe that could be tied into a future statement with a conversation invitation.
"I had a miscarriage and it was painful. So I think I have an idea of how you must feel about stillbirth. Do you like to talk about that?"
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