I bring comfort to laboring mothers. I am a doula. I have been, for well over a decade.
So when I experienced birth in the first trimester, I was totally bewildered by the lack of care, skill, the total lack of humanity involved in my care. And with the birth of stillbirthday, I set out to change the paradigm we in the healing community know of pregnancy and infant loss, beginning with free, printable birth plans and access to real doula support for birth in any trimester, and in any outcome.
Providing a platform to honor families prior to, during and after birth in any trimester has also done this incredible thing, in allowing a global healing community to continue to grow through the longterm journey.
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Each year, I handwrite the names of our beloved babies onto teeny, degradable paper hearts, to be released in meaningful ways, all over the world. Across Europe, upon military bases, onto other meaningful locations, these hearts inscribed with the names of our youngest beloved rest upon this entire world. Each heart, holding tiny floral seeds, each heart, holding the opportunity to grow into something new.
And every year, I get asked the question “But what if I never named my baby?”
The reasons are plenty, and the question is real. Above the others, though, there is one instance which seems to increase the likelihood of this question. Let me share:
“I had a D&C, and never saw my baby or knew the gender.”
Despite evidence negating the need for such practice, mothers facing certain forms of miscarriage regularly receive counsel from providers encouraging them to undergo a D&C specifically to prevent infection. Because of the clinical ritual involved, D&C is interpreted as nothing more than an operation, removing what will be discarded as biomedical waste.
The implication is the trusted provider rescues the woman from the parasitic product of conception, for which we, those women, are to be quickly and quietly, relieved.
While our care providers certainly do care, intervention undeniably exacerbates a sense of intrusion: the intrusion of ownership, authenticity, authorship over our own narrative. We are left, empty, wondering how we write our story, while our loved ones wonder why we want to.
The healthy, proper and polite way to proceed is to deny that we are connected, in genetic, psychological, emotional and spiritual terms to that which was once removed from us, and to accept that grief is unsanitary.
Naming our children can seem too preposterous, even for us, but perhaps the more pressing concern is that we feel too ashamed to dare to think we could name them.
Add to this, our culture, socially, medically, seems to have its agenda pointedly toward age-ism. We know this of the poor regard we, collectively, have of our eldest generation, and we who have given birth in the first trimester have very likely been subjected to its many injustices antenatally.
As a mother who has given birth in the first trimester, and as a doula, I resist this paradigm.
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What if we began by changing the language, changing the narrative? What if we took back authorship of our own, unique, stories and our universal experiences? What if we changed D&C from medical operation, to the medically assisted birth of my beloved child who died and who was born in the first trimester?
What if we began, by simply giving ourselves permission to name our babies?
Let me say this plainly: It is never too late to name your baby.
Upon these teeny paper hearts, I have written surnames, nicknames, the number of babies: I’ve simply written baby.
Maybe today, maybe today is the day you feel called, inspired, given permission to, finally, name your baby.
As a parent who has given birth, in any trimester, with any amount of medical assistance, with any other circumstance, you have permission to name your baby.
If you need ideas, you can spend some time in reflection, of what your baby means to you and what legacy you want to be connected with your baby. Some baby name websites have an unnecessary amount of what could be hurtful influence, but Nameberry has been a good resource.
When you’ve chosen a name for your baby, it can feel so wonderful to share it. To write it down, to speak it aloud. If you’d brave to share your baby’s name with me, I would be tremendously honored to inscribe it onto a teeny heart, embedded with floral seeds, to hold, and to release.
Have you chosen a name for your beloved baby or babies? What names have you chosen?
Heidi Faith is the founder of stillbirthday and its headquarters The M0M Center. Stillbirthday is the developer of the Birth & Bereavement Doula® certification and free, printable birth plans for mothers experiencing birth in any trimester, because a pregnancy loss is still a birth, and is still a birthday.