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The Hem of His Garment

On miscarriages. 


I will never know her name, and I doubt I will see her again, but I’ll never forget the kindness of the nurse who gave me a long, sincere hug in the hallway of the local emergency room during my miscarriage on September 29, 2012.

More than ten years later, I remember her dark, curly hair, the fact that she had glasses, and that for a moment, she stepped outside of her professional duties and interacted with me in the most basic way: human to human. I was a suffering woman, and she was a woman who could support me. She was warm, comforting, and nearly the only source of solace I had that night, aside from the words of my husband. Other medical professionals I encountered in the emergency room that night were cold, disinterested, and unbothered. That nurse, whoever she was, was a balm for my fresh wound.

Ten days after my first E.R. visit, I had to drive myself there again in the middle of a work day after I began spontaneously bleeding. It was determined I needed a dilation and curettage procedure to remove the remains of the pregnancy that had barely taken root before it withered and was lost.

That evening, a kind and cheerful nurse cared for me. She was sensitive, helpful, and visibly pregnant. I looked with envy on her cute, volleyball-sized baby bump. Unexpectedly, she asked me if I’d like her to find a different nurse to care for me, fearing her pregnancy would upset me. I thanked her for her kind offer, but I didn’t mind that she was my nurse. She prepared me well for my procedure, and while our interaction was not long, I won’t ever forget her, either.

These women from my memory, along with my own experience of miscarriage, kindled a spark in me that has grown into a fire to provide women suffering from early pregnancy loss with practical help, not just words of encouragement. Slowly but surely, those of us who have made this our mission are making progress toward supporting women suffering miscarriage in many ways—particularly in the care of their physical needs. Especially now, nearly a year after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, thereby re-opening many of the social and legal debates over pregnancy and birth, this mission is particularly important.

Statistics about the frequency of miscarriage are fairly common knowledge, at least among those of childbearing age. The Mayo Clinic reports that as many as twenty percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage, but that they are probably even more common, as they often occur before a woman knows she is pregnant. Someone you know has gone through one; perhaps you have yourself. Perhaps, like me, it’s been years since it happened, but the wound will never be completely healed.

I was thrilled to see the line indicating “positive” on a pregnancy test in August 2012. My husband and I hadn’t been trying long for a baby, so we felt very blessed—lucky, even. A few weeks passed and I didn’t experience many symptoms, but I hoped and prayed that everything was okay. Why should I have expected otherwise?

At that point, I didn’t know or think much about miscarriage. I knew my mom had had one; I may have heard of others experiencing them, but I wasn’t yet reading enough “mom blogs” to see others’ stories of loss. Looking back, I realize my miscarriage happened before the phenomenon of sharing everything and anything about oneself online took off. Only in the last five or so years has it become acceptable to post publicly about a miscarriage, and women should feel comfortable and encouraged to do so, if they choose to. Sharing about miscarriage online has helped open up a necessary conversation about the topic, and it often brings healing to those suffering from it. Miscarriage is common, it happens naturally, and it causes trauma. Why shouldn’t we talk about it and find ways to help each other get through it?

When I had my own loss, I told hardly anyone what had happened. My boss knew, so that he’d understand why I was missing work for several days, but I instructed him to tell my students I had the flu. My husband and I hadn’t yet told any family members besides our parents; we called them when we came home from the E.R. late that September night. The loss stayed with me—an unseen, but deep, wound—for years. Then, a woman moved to my small town. A woman who talked openly about her own three losses.

That woman, who is now a dear friend and a co-founder of the Early Pregnancy Loss Association, invited me to a discussion group in 2016 to talk about miscarriage and what we could do to help women going through it. There must be a way, we thought, to really help women suffering miscarriage. Nearly everyone in the room had experienced it themselves or seen a loved one experience it. There were things we saw missing from miscarriage care—clear information about its physical aspects and what to expect, support for the physical needs of the woman, and recognition of the massive, sad sisterhood into which it initiates women.

A few months later, a handful of us founded the Early Pregnancy Loss Association, a nonprofit with the goal of making sure no woman suffers miscarriage alone. Our first project was the creation and distribution of informational brochures about miscarriage, answering questions many women told us they were still wondering after their loss. What can I expect from a miscarriage at home? What is an ectopic pregnancy? What is a D&C? How should I care for myself after I miscarry? Many health-care providers give some, but not much, information about miscarriage. We wanted to change that.

Next, we introduced miscarriage care kits. What makes our kits special is that they contain physical—both comfort-based and sanitary—supplies women need during and after a miscarriage. Many nonprofits (including some we partner with) provide only comfort or memorial items. From the beginning, we have made a point to provide what we know women need but they may be afraid to ask for—pads, absorbent bed liners, hot and cold packs—even special saline kits to preserve a miscarried baby’s body until it can be buried or submitted for medical testing. These sorts of items can startle people at first: many families do not even think of needing a way to collect and preserve a baby who it is miscarried at home. Many women, like myself, only think about it too late, when it has most likely been flushed unknowingly down the toilet while the miscarriage is happening.

Over the past six years, E.P.L.A. has provided more than two thousand small and large miscarriage care kits to women across the country. Many are distributed through doctors’ offices and E.R.s; many are also mailed directly to women who request them through our website or Facebook.

We have made our way into the world through word of mouth; our website, blog, and podcast, and by publishing pieces in the media. Given the recent concerns and discussions about miscarriage in relation to abortion after the reversal of Roe v. Wade, we have found ourselves in a particularly critical place over the last six months. Miscarriage is not abortion, despite the fact that the medical term for many miscarriages is “spontaneous abortion.”

The pro-life movement’s focus on supporting and championing pregnancy care centers is essential, and the good work of these centers has never been more important than it is now. But we must not overlook the support women who are losing their babies need, as well. The physical presence and support that crisis pregnancy centers provide should include care for those suffering miscarriage, and the pro-life movement should seek ways to support those who are born too early.

The pregnancy resource center in my small town does stock E.P.L.A.’s miscarriage care kits, and we encourage similar centers across the country to either request our kits or build their own, full of sanitary and comfort items a woman will need after a loss. It may look like a bag of pads, tissues, and memorial items to some, but anyone who has suffered the loss of an unborn baby knows those items will provide more comfort and support than anyone would guess.

Doing this work to care for miscarrying women, I often think of the biblical story of the hemorrhaging woman in the Gospels. Until she touched the hem of Jesus’s garment, she had been suffering alone for twelve years. Once she reached out and touched him, she was healed. While none of us can miraculously stop the bleeding of women suffering miscarriage, we can reach out to them, ask them to reach out to us, and give them support and physical comfort. We can be Christ through our actions to others, especially those suffering this sort of loss. Those nurses in the emergency room who helped me through my own loss with words of comfort and their physical presence did just that.

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Maria Servold is the assistant director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. She is married and has three daughters.