Thursday, May 29, 2014

Why Stillbirth Is Not the Same as Miscarriage ~ by Lori Esteve

This post was written by the founder of S.O.B.B.S. (Stories of Babies Born Still), a group on Facebook that I am a part of. She discusses how stillbirths are different than miscarriages. It has always bothered me when people refer to the loss of Lily as a "pregnancy loss" or when they have compared their miscarriage to losing Lily. They are not the same and Lori describes the differences respectfully. Each loss is devastating and each life is precious, however they are still not the same. 

I also feel as if people think my loss was not as great a loss as someone whose child lived outside the womb (for however long). Though I do not know how it feels to lose a child in that way, it doesn't mean I love Lily any less or that my loss is not valid. Having a child who was stillborn brings an entirely different road of grief. I grieve that I never once got to look at my child in the eyes, among a thousand other things that other parents who have not been through this will not understand. Instead of grieving what Lily's life held, I am grieving everything it could have held and everything I will never experience with her. 

Lori reminds us that though losses are all different, we should not compare, but rather support one another in our grief. Let's extend grace and love. I think she speaks for all stillbirth families by describing what we all think/feel/experience so acutely.

Can I just start by saying my heart goes out to each and every single person who has lost a child regardless of age, stage or circumstance. It truly is a pain deeper than the ocean and wider than the sea. However, I must confess, I take issue with those who say to me I had a miscarriage and I know how you feel. Sadly, people just do not realize how such statements diminish each other's unique and individual experiences. So, If you would extend to me a moment of your time I would like to explain to you why miscarriage is NOT the same as stillbirth.

First, try to imagine the baby you have spent many months in constant company with, the one you have felt grow, move, turn and even hiccup, is suddenly gone. You feel so blindsided. As women we are educated early on about the possibility of miscarriage. But not this thing called stillbirth. And while the soul is gone the physical body remains. This body still has to be birthed. The body does not just disappear because the heart has ceased to beat. To come to the realization that you will be giving birth to death is something beyond compare. Now imagine laboring for hours fearful of what that birth may reveal. Maybe horrible birth defects or causes so terrible you can't even bring yourself to think about or even worse, no known cause at all. And somehow you can't help but feel by birthing your child you are contributing to their very death. Then after hours of hard labor your little miracle is delivered to your arms, silent. Wrapped in tiny blankets. The sweetest face you have ever seen. The face of an angel. You unwrap the blankets and marvel at 10 little fingers and 10 little toes. Maybe he has your nose or maybe she has his chin. There are handprints, footprints and a lock of hair for keepsakes. The name that took you months to choose is recorded for the stillbirth "birth" certificate, the death certificate, the marble slab. A name that whenever you hear it, even in casual acquaintances, in the days, months and years to come will pierce your heart with an ache that will take your breathe away. Then you are asked to make decisions about burials, cremations, caskets, services, obituaries, all the things that mark the end of an earthly life, and you feel like the breath is being choked from your very lungs. You attend a memorial service with engorged breasts and aching arms. They say your body will heal in 6 weeks but you know your soul never will.

Having a stillbirth means you will always feel panic when your friends, sister, or co-workers announce their happy news. Especially when they start off with “now that we are past the risk of miscarriage stage..” You feel like the dark shadow of experience has robbed you of the joy surrounding any impending births for the rest of your life. You feel like you owe it to other women to educate them but you don’t want them to look at you like you are the grim reaper.

This is the reality of stillbirth. And while miscarriage has it's own tragedies that I can not even begin to understand, they are not the same thing...they just aren’t. I can’t imagine the heart of a mother who never even got to know the sex of her child, their face, or to cradle that child in her arms. One who had to send that child to Heaven without a name, or one robbed the memories of those first gentle flutters that every woman cherishes. My heart aches for these mothers in ways you can not imagine. But still they are not the same. You don’t know how I feel any more than I could possibly know how you feel. Anymore than I know how a mother feels who had her child at home for hours, days, months or years.

As women we need not diminish each other experiences but uplift and support each other in the face of these unimaginable tragedies. As women we must educate each other for potential signs, risk factors, or causes. We must strengthen our sex by uniting, no matter what the experience, not weaken it by comparison. In care, concern, and in the name of healing ~ Lori 



  1. So well said. I always say loss is loss but the journey is different. Just as you can't compare a losing your mom as an 8 year old or losing your mom as an 80 year old. You still lost a mom, but there are obviously differences.

  2. Good Afternoon,

    My name is Cory Marchand, I am the photographer/copyright owner of the photo you have listed here:"Empty Cradle"

    You can see the original here:
    I am asking that you please provide photo credits for this picture on your website, or use the image I have provided to you in the link that provides credit on the photo itself.

    I am asking kindly for compliance within 30 days.

    Let me know if you have any further questions or comments.

    With sincere regards,
    Cory Marchand

    1. Hello Cory,

      My apologies for using the photo without giving proper credit. It was the photo shared on the Facebook page with this post, so I didn't know it was someone else's. I have updated it to the picture from you the link you provided. Thanks for letting me use it.

      Blessings, Hannah Rose

  3. I know and understand what she is saying. It sometimes makes my blood boil when they call my little sister's still birth a miscarriage. It wasn't! I saw the sweet angelic face of my sister and I felt her kick my hand. I never got to see her open her blue eyes or hear her precious laugh. I hold her empty clothes and just cry.

  4. This is why I don't support S.O.B.B.S. my son was labeled as miscarriage. He was weeks off from being considered stillborn by the state of Ms. I delivered. Felt his kicks a few times before he passed away. We were already preparing for him. Even though we knew the worst was going to come. I also think we grieve in many different ways.

  5. This was very well said. The scars of my c-section, the feeling of those breasts waiting to fulfill their intended purpose, the night crying coming from somewhere deep inside you that should have been your newborn...Loss is loss and unique in that we all experience it the same but very different. I apprecIate your words and candor. Since my baby was born sleeping I have regully prayed that doctors would begin to share the statistics of stI'll birth with mothers to be.

  6. While I agree that all loss is tragic, I would say that there are even different stages of miscarriage. You're right -- an early miscarriage is very different from a late miscarriage, which I'm sure is different from a stillbirth. I've never experienced a stillbirth, but I did miscarry my son, William, at 15 weeks. I still held him. I still gazed at his beautiful face. I counted his fingers and toes. I still labored for hours to give birth to him. I still planned his funeral. I had another miscarriage at 9 weeks, which was completely different from what I experienced with William. So, yes, miscarriage is devastating. Stillbirth is devastating. All of these issues need to be talked about more openly. I understand what you're saying -- it does feel different when people say they have been through miscarriages. Not all have experienced what it is like to see your child and hold them. But some have. I think we need to be accepting of everyone who has lost a child. Instead of comparing grief, let's support each other.

  7. I had a miscarriage after my son. It was very early on but still made my heart ache. I had a daughter a little over a year later and they both are wonderful. But nothing prepared me for the absolute pain that my best friend would experience when she had a stillbirth at 21 weeks. My entire heart went out to her. There are no words that will soothe that pain. I sat by silently and did all that I could. I felt ineffective but I think that's what she needed. Someone who would just listen.

    1. 21 weeks? In these people's minds it's a miscarriage therfore doesn't feel their pain!

  8. What about those that miscarry a few days/weeks before it is officially classed as a stillbirth?? Do they not deserve the same heartache and respect because they didn't get a birth & death certificate? I know someone who claims she had 2 stillbirths but officially only had one! Do those people not go through the same heartache going through hours of labour and holding their lifeless 'foetus' looking into it's eyes as it's wrapped in a blanket??
    Just because officially it's not a 'stillbirth' by even a day they don't feel the same pain?? Honestly?? Have a heart

    1. Hello, I'm truly sorry if you feel hurt or offended by this post. I completely agree with you and find it upsetting and frustrating that a loss that far along is classified still as a miscarriage. I think it should be considered a stillbirth when a baby is born.


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