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Why My Husband & I Consider Our 'Medically Classified' Miscarriage a 'Stillbirth'

By Devan McGuinness |

Triton's Memoral

Triton's Memoral

Sharing the story of our 9 miscarriages and 1 stillbirth last Friday threw me a bit. I didn’t expect it to become so difficult and it’s compounded already-present anxiety I have due to a monthly trigger I am still trying to learn to cope with.

I have told our story many times before so when I finally made the decision to share it here on Babble I didn’t expect it to cause so much emotion in me. I knew a larger audience would be reading my story – for that I am very grateful because I am passionate about opening up the dialogue and removing the stigma – however I had reservations about sharing something I find so deeply painful and personal with such a large audience who had not heard our story.

I shared it because it is a large part of who I am. Just as my living children are – the children I never got to see grow up, define part of who I am. What I was not prepared for last Friday was my grief being quantified and calling into question our personal definition of Triton’s loss as a stillbirth – at only 14 weeks gestation.

Grief hierarchy exists. It became very clear to me last Friday. It’s clear in the complete lack of support for any pregnancy loss before 20 weeks gestation and it is clear with how few people acknowledge “just a miscarriage”.

Since people are curious (or insulted) by our personal definition of stillbirth for Triton and not ‘just a miscarriage’ and why we define our other losses by their medical terms – it is for very personal reasons and is very much because of our history.

Triton’s death came after 8 miscarriages and 2 healthy, full-term children. While I don’t expect anyone outside my husband and I to understand – because we are the only two who lived this – the main factor in our choice to define his death as a stillbirth is because at that time our ‘due date’ was passing 8 weeks. Historically, if our pregnancy passed 8 weeks we were going to have a full-term, healthy child. It was our ‘track record’ – THAT was our ‘due date’ – 8 weeks. To our personal definition our son passed away after his ‘due date’. Medically – not even close – but personally, yes.

This is how we survive it.

Our personal decision has no effect on anyone else – none. Grief is not quantifiable. While I was trying to digest all that had happened, I shared on Unspoken Grief’s Facebook page that you can not compare loss and the greatest loss is whatever the grieving person is suffering. I do not compare my grief to anyone else’s – it is not a competition. It is important to allow survivors to grieve in their own individual way and the space to define it how they feel best to continue their survival.

Triton was born still. He was a stillbirth and this is how we are surviving it.

While my feelings have been deeply hurt by other’s decisions to question how we honor our son – I am going to do my best to not take it personally. I can acknowledge that the hurtful comments are – what I can only assume – a result of deep and unimaginable pain and the need to speak freely about grief because they too feel silenced.

For anyone feeling silenced in your perinatal grief

– we are listening – UnspokenGrief.com

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About Devan McGuinness

devanmcguinness

Devan McGuinness

Devan McGuinness is the writer of the lifestyle blog Accustomed Chaos. After surviving 12 miscarriages, Devan founded Unspoken Grief, a resource and support site for perinatal and neonatal loss. Read bio and latest posts → Read Devan's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “Why My Husband & I Consider Our 'Medically Classified' Miscarriage a 'Stillbirth'

  1. Elizabeth says:

    I haven’t read your previous post, but just reading this, I had to say, first of all, I am so, so sorry for all of your losses. I’ve never had a miscarriage, I have only one child, a beautiful, healthy 1 year old, so I can’t imagine the pain of a miscarriage, and my heart goes out to you and your husband completely. What you said about there being a “grief hierarchy”, I find to be completely true. It seems to me that a lot of people think they can quantify grief, compare someone else’s grief to their own. Before my best friend committed suicide when we were 20, I had lost some people close to me, and although those deaths had been painful, I was completely unprepared for the all-consuming grief that consumed me when my best friend killed herself. Something I realized in the aftermath of that grief is that just because it is possible for something worse to happen to you, doesn’t mean that whatever you’re going through isn’t the worst thing that’s ever happened to you. There is always something worse that COULD happen, but that doesn’t make anyone’s grief less valid or less real. If a mother lost a 7 year old in a car accident, would we discount her grief because she didn’t also lose her 14 year old?

  2. Elizabeth says:

    “All-consuming grief that consumed me”- haha sorry, I wrote this while distracted by my daughter and didn’t proofread, I apologize for any typos or awkward turns-of-phrase!

  3. Ruth says:

    Well said my dear. Although it was rude, I agree she is in so much pain, she needs someone to cry to.
    xoxo

  4. Tina says:

    Firstly i would like to thank you for sharing your family with us. All of your family! I cannot imagine the pain you have been through and still live with every day. My heart goes out to you!
    Secondly I would like to apologise for the tactlessness and pain you have encountered in sharing you family with us!
    NO ONE has lived your life, your loss or your pain, therefore NO ONE has the right to judge you for your feelings!
    Please try not to allow the thoughlessness of others to affect you (soooo much easier said than done – I know!), but be assured that some of us out here do feel for you and allow you your right to your feelings!
    Hugs xx

  5. Shayna says:

    I gave birth to my son at 17 weeks gestation. He was born living and did so for just a moment. Far too little to survive this giant world he passed just after, but the important thing for me is that he was here. When I talk about him people always ask the inevitable question, whether it was a miscarriage or stillbirth, and I always tell them neither, he was just very premature. They always give me a “look” but then I describe him and how perfectly formed he was, down to his tiny little fingernails, and they are in as much awe as I was when I saw his beautiful face. :) I understand your decision, and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.

  6. Dana Sears says:

    I love and respect you for your feelings.
    I love and respect you for talking out loud, when so many others will not.
    I love you and respect you for knowing the difference in how people grieve, and letting others know its ok to do what they need to do.
    I love and respect you for building a place and trying keep what should safe, safe.

    Greif is different for everyone.

    Lost my little girl at 16 weeks, she was born still.

    Medical or not she was born a still….

    I ask those that chose or choose to tear a person apart for the way they grieve, for what a person calls there grief…

    What are you gaining from it?

    I would really honestly like to know, because I just can’t see why it could feel good to tear others down.

    As women we need to build each other up, give each other support. You have no idea what kind of support is on the other end of every computer screen.

    ::rant over::

  7. Danielle says:

    Wonderful post. I am not a miscarriage survivor, so I have no idea what you’ve been through, but you were able to identify and put into words how important it is in ANY situation to feel whatever you’re feeling. People so often minimize what they are going through bc others are “hurting worse” or minimize what other’s are going through bc they’ve personally been through more, while we should all really be focusing on our own situations. Afterall, whatever is the best or worst thing happening to you is what you feel and we should all be allowed that much in life.

  8. Grace M. says:

    I think you are an amazing woman. I can’t imagine the pain you’ve been through. All losses are to be mourned no matter how doctors classify them. He was your son! He had a name! He was precious to you and your family. It does not matter what doctors say. You lost your son, and you will always miss him.

    I really appreciate your honesty and strength in sharing your story. I intend to share it with friends who have lost little ones.

  9. H says:

    You’re probably right that other people seek to minimize your loss at 14 weeks as “just a miscarriage” because of their own efforts to deal with whatever complicated feelings they have about the “status” of an unborn child. I mean heck– people in this country (men, women, parents, non-parents) have been wrestling with that question since Roe v Wade and even before. The fact of the matter is that none of us humans– whether doctor, judge, religious figure, woman/mother– can truly understand life and when it begins and ends. And it is precisely for that reason that we all need to respect each other’s personal experiences with life and death. Nobody has it figured out so nobody can tell someone else that they’ve got it wrong.

  10. Kari says:

    I can’t imagine where you gathered all of your strength and courage to keep trying to become pregnant again. You have more power and conviction than most of us will know in a life time. I am so sorry that you had to lose so much before and after you gave birth to your children that are with you today.

  11. angela says:

    I think it’s very brave of you to share this. I also think it’s very kind to think about the (what I consider) insensitive comments in terms of someone else’s grief.

    There is always a more difficult situation out there, but each of us are entitled to our grief.

  12. dearcrissy says:

    Hi Devan, while I can’t personally relate to miscarriage or the loss of a child, as a mom, I can certainly empathize. I feel that you are offering the world a lot by articulating your experiences and emotions in this way. Best luck with everything in the future!

  13. Hollie says:

    I am so sorry that people have been so rude to you. Especially moms should know, that as soon as you know you’re pregnant, EVEN if you try to “rein it in”, you immediately take off in your mind, heart, and soul with plans and wishes for your child. Not for your zygote, fetus, cells… even as someone who is pro-choice, I felt my CHILD from the first positive pregnancy test. To lose your child at any stage is devastating. Thank you for sharing, Devan.

  14. Amy says:

    Hugs to you, Devan…

  15. Meme says:

    While my situation is not the same, I understand the pain of being judged for the truth. I tell the world I had 2 stillborn sons. My second son was indeed stillborn at 32 weeks. My first son had fetal anomolies that were not condusive to life…if he made it long enough to be born alive, we were told he would suffer and not be able to breathe and would live for only 2 days but suffer the entire time. After lots if intense discussion and thought, my husband and I decided to have a D&E. People have judged me and yelled at me and told me I am going to hell and all kinds if horrible things. I WANTED my son…we tried and prayed and begged and pleaded with god to make him ok. I have come to terms with our choice like this…if he was born alive and was only surviving through the help of machines, people would tell us to let him go…let him have peace. I WAS HIS LIFE SUPPORT! But people don’t understand or they are so judgemental and have no empathy…so I tell everyone we have 2 stillborn sons…because to me, that is the truth. I wanted every single one of my children…my 2 stillborn sons and my beautiful rainbow daughter.

  16. StrawBerry says:

    I just wanted to say thank you for this article. I recently endured a loss of my first pregnancy, and was at 14 weeks also, and have been having trouble finding other people that have lost around that point, and it’s helpful every time I do. I agree with calling it a stillborn, or even born sleeping, and have been doing the same. I can’t and refuse to call it a miscarriage, that term is so negative and makes me feel like it’s downplaying my grief and un-acknowledging the life I had for a moment. Not to mention all the hopes and dreams that went with it. He appeared fully formed and that’s how I want to remember him, and believe he deserves that respect, as do all the other little ones that were just too perfect for this world.

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