I had two stories published in today’s edition of the Register-Guard’s special publication Dash. This is the last Dash after 5 years of publishing a special section dedicated to women. The Dash concept is being folded into the regular paper as part of a new Living section called Weekend. I was proud to have these two stories, this one about miscarriage, and another about upcycling cast-offs into nice gifts, published in the last issue.
Coping with miscarriage
Drawing from their own experience, a couple help others deal with the pain of losing a child in pregnancy.
By Vanessa Salvia
For The Register-Guard
PUBLISHED: 12:00 A.M., APRIL 2
Deena and Matthew Crandall met in 1987 through a mutual friend. They dated and married 22 years ago, and like most young couples, anticipated parenthood. Deena endured two miscarriages, however, before realizing that she could not have children. This grief, powerful though it was — and in truth, still is — helps the couple counsel other couples about coping with miscarriage.
Deena, now 45, was approaching her second trimester when she miscarried the second time, on Dec. 11, 2000. Deena was in another state when she learned that there was no fetal heartbeat. Matthew took a frantic phone call from Deena and told her to come home. “That’s the worst feeling in the world for a husband,” he says, “when your wife is 2,000 miles away and there’s not a blessed thing you can do.”
Processing the grief
After surgery for severe endometriosis followed by another surgery for a full hysterectomy, the couple had to accept that this pregnancy was their last. Deena felt in her heart that she was having a boy. “I named him James Matthew,” she says. “It’s the name I had always wanted. I really bonded with him, even though I never saw him.”
She has some mementos that the hospital gave her, and a quilt that a friend made. Without a baby to hold, Deena and Matthew were left with emptiness and a lot of prayers. “I was scared, really sad,” Denna says. “I prayed. If I’ve got to go through this then give me peace, give me guidance.”
Holidays are the hardest times. Each Mother’s Day and Father’s Day Deena and Matthew imagine that they would have a son, who would be 13 years old now. “There’s a sense of loss,” Matthew says. “I should have a 13-year-old son and we should be doing father-son things.”
Matthew is a pastor at Pioneer United Methodist Church in Coquille. The couple moved here from Evansville, Ind., nine years ago, where Deena was part of a miscarriage support group, but it wasn’t a good fit.
“The people there were dealing with really intense grief, even years after their miscarriages,” she recalls. “I worried, am I always going to be this sad?” She wanted to help others more professionally, so she got her master’s degree in counseling, and is now working toward becoming an ordained deacon.
After moving here, Deena volunteered with the Sydney Center, a nonprofit agency that closed in 2007. A group called Compassionate Friends meets to help others with any type of child loss, but, Deena says, losing an older child that you’ve gotten to know is not the same as losing a baby that you never met. Deena started Baby Loss Eugene, which meets monthly, to address her ongoing need for support and to help others cope. “The grief never goes away,” she admits. “You never forget, but over time it does get better.” She says she still has “grief attacks” and sometimes a “why me” feeling washes over her. “I really wanted my child,” she says. “Why did I have to have a miscarriage?”
Miscarriage, sadly, is a common occurrence. Around 800,000 women will miscarry annually and 25 percent of all pregnancies are reported to end in miscarriage. The actual number may be as high as 40 percent. Most miscarriages occur within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. After 20 weeks the loss is considered a stillbirth. “It’s really hard not to have an answer to that ‘why’ question,” Deena says. “A lot of women have guilt and I did, too.”
Deena and Matthew are comforted by some of the grief rituals that our community offers, such as the twice-yearly ceremonies that Mt. Calvary Cemetery offers for miscarriages. Working with others has made Deena aware of her own grief and that she still carries around pain. “It’s the difference between being a Walking Wounded and being a Wounded Healer,” she says.
“I believe in my heart that I’ll meet him again,” says Deena, thinking of James and clutching the quilt that bears his name.
Baby Loss Eugene meets at the Evans
Chiropractic Group, 190 E. 18th Ave. in Eugene at 7 p.m. the third Thursday of each month. Call 541-556-2773.
Mt. Calvary Cemetery, 220 Crest Drive, Eugene, holds twice-yearly ceremonies for miscarriages. Call 541-686-8722.