Among the handful of people at the service for two fetuses buried in Hannibal was a mourner weâ??ll call Lisa.
Lisa came to pay her respects because she understands in a way many of us canâ??t begin to conceive. Lisa has buried her own stillborn babies. Seven times.
Thatâ??s seven little children tucked into seven small caskets buried in seven tiny plots in her hometown cemetery. Seven babies who never knew life outside the womb, but seven deaths mourned deeply by their mother.
â??I wanted a child more than anyone will ever know,â?? Lisa told me as we talked alongside the tiny casket that held two stillborn babies who were delivered by an unknown mother at about five months gestation. Click here for related coverage. The births happened sixty years ago; we can never know what the mother went through, but Lisa can certainly relate. â??I felt so empty,â?? she said.
Each miscarriage for Lisa was terribly painful. Her last was especially devastating. She was just ten days from her due date when she went into labor. Lisa wrapped up her stillborn infant and brought the little girl home. She made arrangements for the child to be buried next to her six sisters.
â??It hurts so much, but I couldnâ??t talk about it,â?? Lisa said. â??I put on a good face in the morning and then came home at night to emptiness. I was told to pull up my bootstraps and be tough.â??
Not only was Lisa expected to be tough, she attached shame to her miscarriages. She was single. Each child had the same father, but Lisa had never married him. A minister told her she lost her children because she was a sinner. That's why Lisa didn't want to share her real name with readers. She still suffers silently.
Each child Lisa lost had genetic problems. She never was able to give birth to a healthy baby. After her last miscarriage, Lisa gave away her baby bed and furniture to a poor family whose baby was sleeping in a dresser drawer. It gave her some measure of comfort. Her experience also gave her a different outlook on life. â??It makes you more protective of living children.â??
In a follow-up column, weâ??ll look at the grief attached to miscarriage and talk about ways to find and offer comfort.