SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Some women dream of becoming a mother and bringing a healthy child into the world.
Unfortunately, that dream doesn't always come true for many women. Losing a pregnancy is heartbreaking and traumatic, and it happens to more people than you think.
The moment a woman finds out she's pregnant, her life is changed forever. Nine months later, most women will deliver a healthy baby, but not everyone gets a happy ending. Fifteen percent of pregnancies end in a miscarriage.
That experience can be difficult to talk about.
"If you think about what pregnancy usually means, it's happiness," Diane Youmans said. "It's planning for a child. It's the wedding, the child's graduation."
Youmans is a nurse at Memorial Health in Savannah. She has 38 years of neonatal ICU experience. She knows all too well the devastation women experience after a miscarriage.
"The loss of that baby is the loss of every dream she's had about that child," she said. "And every dream she's going to have about that child."
As the director of the perinatal bereavement support program at Memorial Health, Youmans' job is to help women cope with losing a child.
"As soon as we know there's going to be a loss we start preparing her, preparing the family for what to expect," she said.
One of the women Youmans has helped is Lindsey Gerow, who just recently welcomed her second child less than a year after losing a son.
Gerow lost her son after 21 weeks of pregnancy, but she said that's longer than she expected.
"We made it to 21 ... we got to hold him and dress him. He was our little boy," she said. "I'm very thankful we got to have that experience."
Gerow said the most difficult part was returning to work.
"It was hardest because I teach elementary and all my babies were so excited that I was having a baby," she said. "One of my biggest fears was coming back to school and explaining to them that the baby was gone."
Youmans said that Gerow's experience is all too common. Between 150 and 170 babies are lost per year at Memorial Health.
"We say about 15 percent of all clinically recognized pregnancies miscarry," said Dina Linfoot, an OBGYN at Provident OBGYN. "The most common causes are chromosome abnormalities, meaning the way the embryo was formed was abnormal. Sometimes it's a completely unexpected situation. She's come in, she's had a positive pregnancy test, she's had a good ultrasound and then the next time we can't feel the heartbeat. It's really quite common for a woman over the course of her reproductive life to miscarry."
The statistics, of course, don't make the loss any easier. It's always earth-shattering.
"There's about a month I don't remember," Gerow said. "I kind of cocooned myself. People don't talk about loss, especially infant loss. It's very taboo and very scary. You need somebody to talk to about that."
Social media makes the loss even more difficult. From baby announcements to gender reveal parties, many women are bombarded with these images from their peers that can be salt in the wound after experiencing a miscarriage.
"Everybody's life on the little phone screen looks perfect, and people only choose to portray it that way," Linfoot said.
For women who want help but don't know where to turn, there are options. Traditional therapy and support groups are one option. Another, which Gerow found, is turning to the internet.
"The most important thing is to not blame yourself and seek out a community," she said. "Once you start that dialogue, you realize it happens to more people than you ever expect it to."
Youmans echoed that.
"You're not alone," she said. "You're in a club that no one wants to be in, but, unfortunately, there are a lot of women in that club."
Ways to get help:
- Ask your doctor to refer you to a therapist or psychologist
- Memorial Health Perinatal Bereavement Program - contact Diane Youmans - http://memorialhealth.com/class-descriptions.aspx
- Hospice Savannah Grief Support - http://www.hospicesavannah.org/what-services-are-available/grief-and-healing/grief-support-schedule/
- The Tears Foundation - http://thetearsfoundation.org/services/
- Share Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support - http://nationalshare.org/