Trigger warning: story and image of infant loss
There is a growing community committed to sharing the hard truths of infertility, infant loss and premature delivery, but it can still be an incredibly isolating experience.
When Michelle Johann experienced infertility and loss she found community at Pulling Down the Moon, a holistic women's health clinic. Inspired by their work, she joined the team to continue creating a community as others navigate difficult fertility and pregnancy experiences. When she's not working, she loves to spend time with her husband Brian and son Gavin. Nyssa was given special permission by Michelle to share her heart-wrenching experience of loss during infertility.
The following is her story.
Infertility is not pretty
This is me: the most raw photo of me ever taken. When I lost my children, within a minute of each other, I saw their first and last breaths. We made it to 21.5 weeks with cervical insufficiency and bed rest, but that wasn’t enough.
Many women and men think they've triumphed over infertility until there's a chemical pregnancy, a miscarriage, or even death after premature delivery. It isn’t pretty, but it's real life.
Trauma after pregnancy loss
We have to speak this truth for people to understand what it is really like. It is delivering healthy babies only to lose them. It is the medical community not knowing how to stop it. It is surviving postpartum in a haze and trying to heal physically while being denied leave, coping with your body thinking there are babies to care for, and then having to have surgery six weeks later.
It is also the smaller losses and traumas along the way. You may lose your identity, your faith in your body, friendships, relationships, and more. Even when you survive, you do not come out unscathed. You can heal, though it does not heal by itself. Support, time, therapy, and whatever gets you through should be made available.
Embracing an 'unmentionable' reality
We can do better. We can be honest about the parts of infertility and pregnancy loss we don’t usually talk about. We can support women. We need to talk about it. We can find answers to the medical questions and not accept it's okay for babies to be lost before intervention. We need to make mental health a priority. This is just a piece of my story, though it echoes so many.
I hope you share. I hope you get support. I hope you are not alone or afraid even when it may feel like it because I want you to know a whole community is here for you. Together we are stronger and can do so much to support one another. Do it for me. Do it for Payton and Anderson. Do it for your babies. Do it for the women and men who also need a voice.