October is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month

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In 1988 Ronald Reagan declared October as Pregnancy and Infant loss awareness month http://nationalshare.org/october-awareness/

“When a child loses a parent, they are called orphans.

When a spouse loses a partner, they are called a widow or widower.

When a parent loses a child, their is not a word to describe them.” -Ronald Reagan

Every October we take a moment to honor babies gone too soon. For many this may be a very difficult time of year, but can also be a time of year for healing.

Here in Madison we are fortunate to have some great resources for those who have suffered pregnancy or infant loss.

October 2- Lunch and Learn about Pregnancy after a loss at Madison Area Parents Support

11:30-12:30 p.m.

Psychotherapist Julie C Kull, LCSW will lead a lunch and learn discussing education and coping skills for pregnancy after loss.

https://www.madisonareaparentsupport.org/calendar

402 E Washington Avenue at MAPS Base Camp

October 3- Kull Counseling Miscarriage Support Group

5:30-6:45 p.m.

This support group is run by psychotherapist Julie C Kull, LCSW. The purpose of this group is to provide a safe place to share your loss and connect with others in the early loss community. We will be painting rocks to honor your babies in October.

720 Hill Street, Madison, WI

To register contact Julie at 608.239.4807 or julie@kullcounselingmadison.com

October 17- Bereaved Parents of Madison Support Group

7:30pm (Doors open at 7:20pm)
St Mary's Hospital in Conference Bay 4
700 South Park Street 
Madison, WI

October 19- Remembrance Day hosted by Mikayla’s Grace

“This Remembrance Day is to honor families who have lost babies through pregnancy, stillbirth, or in early infancy. This 9th Annual Forever in Our Hearts Remembrance Day is being planned by local bereaved parents and Madison area non-profit Mikayla's Grace.”

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What to expect at the miscarriage support group

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I often get asked about the free monthly miscarriage support group so I thought I would take the opportunity to share a little Q & A about what you can expect if you are thinking about attending.

When and where does the group meet?

The group meets the first Thursday of every month from 5:30 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. at 720 Hill Street.

Why do I need to register and how do I register?

I do ask that everyone registers in advance. This lets me know how many I can expect so that we will have enough people to make a group. I know how hard it can be to get the courage to come in for a group and if we do not have more than one participant than we cannot hold a group that month. I also ask that you register so that I can send you a few questions to make sure that the group would be a good fit for you. You can register by emailing julie@kullcounselingmadison.com or calling 608.239.4807.

What is the purpose of the group?

The purpose of the group is to find support and connect with others that have been through a miscarriage.

What can I expect at the group?

You can expect a relaxed atmosphere and an inviting space. I usually start the discussion with a few reminders, an introduction and sometimes a quote or intention. I invite everyone to talk when they are ready to. It is not a requirement that you participate but I find that most people are ready to share when they come. I keep the group small so that is not overwhelming. You may not be in the exact same place as others but more than likely you will find that you have some things in common with the other participants. If the group happens to fall near a holiday or a due date we often discuss these and ideas on how to cope.

Is the group religion based?

No. Everyone is welcome. Everyone is also welcome to share their beliefs as it pertains to their loss. We respect that people have different beliefs.

How much does the group cost?

Nothing! This group is free of charge. I want everyone to be able to access it.

Who is appropriate for this group?

Anyone who has had a loss before the 20th week of pregnancy.

Can my partner come?

Yes partners are welcome.

What can I do if I have more questions?

If you have questions or would like to register please contact Julie at julie@kullcounselingmadison.com or 608-239-4807.

#miscarriage matters...my story

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October is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month. I hope that sharing my story may help someone else find comfort and strength.

This Thanksgiving will mark 4 years since I said goodbye to one of the men that I respected most in this world, my grandfather. As the priest mentioned later at his funeral, it was so fitting that he died on Thanksgiving because he was the most thankful and giving man despite facing many challenges in his life. It was difficult to say goodbye to him, and bittersweet, as I had a secret that only my sisters knew, I was pregnant with my second child.

Fast forward 5 days later and I was sitting at the doctor’s office with my husband and one year old waiting for our 8 week ultrasound. I remember thinking how lucky I felt and how it almost did not feel real. I could not wait to show our daughter that she had a sibling on the way.

The doctor’s office confirmed my pregnancy with a blood test, so it was on to the ultrasound. As the tech started to move the wand around she was silent. I looked at the screen and knew immediately that something was wrong. I had seen what a 8 week ultrasound looked like with my first child and I knew this baby did not have a heartbeat. What happened next is a blur of talking with the doctor, crying, and feeling so empty. I will never forget the nurse that sat me down to go over my options with me telling me how sorry she was and that she had had 4 miscarriages. In that moment, hearing her story gave me strength to get through that day.

I decided to wait hoping that the baby would come out naturally on its own. I spent the next few weeks trying to heal and also let go. I went to my grandfather’s funeral, showing little emotion, fearing that any emotion would lead to a breakdown or trigger the miscarriage.

The baby did not come out on its own. The miscarriage took an entire month to complete. It was a month filled with pain, bleeding, and doctor’s appointments.

After the physical symptoms had subsided, the emotional ones had kicked in. Every person that has had a miscarriage is different and everyone reacts differently. I was embarrassed, ashamed and heart broken. I felt like my body had one job in life and it failed. I told a few people in my support circle. Some people were great, some people had a hard time relating. Support came from surprising places. Even with this support I felt really lonely. I looked for resources in the community and nothing was the right fit. Based on the challenges I had finding help in the community, I made a promise to myself that when I was at a place to help others with pregnancy loss that I would. In 2016 I started taking trainings and doing research on psychotherapy and pregnancy loss. In October of 2017 I started offering a support group for miscarriage.

Having a miscarriage can make someone feel so alone. If you or someone that you love has had an early pregnancy loss please share this resource with them. No one should have to go through this alone.

For more information on pregnancy loss or to sign up for the free monthly support group please contact julie@kullcounselingmadison.com or 608.239.4807.

Best practices for helping women after a miscarriage.

A miscarriage is pregnancy loss before twenty weeks. Early pregnancy loss is estimated to occur in 1 out of 4 women. Most miscarriages happen between 6-12 weeks gestation. Early pregnancy loss is considered a loss but also a trauma. I recently was asked by Kat Schuknecht to give a presentation to the Madison Postpartum collective on best practices in helping people through early pregnancy loss. Here is a summary of my presentation.

Miscarriage is an invisible loss. It is the loss of your baby but also the loss of your dreams to come. Many people wait until the second trimester to share pregnancy news. When pregnancy is unknown by others it can feel invisible to the couple that is grieving. There is no one asking how you are doing or checking in with you. It can be difficult to share your news with others because of the sense of shame and guilt that surrounds the stigma of miscarriage. Many women blame themselves even though it is not their fault. In most cultures there are no rituals or ceremonies to help people grieve. It is normal to grieve with others, you may grieve miscarriage alone or with only a few people and you may feel very isolated.  It can also feel very abstract. If you do decide to share the news of a miscarriage it can feel abstract to the people you are sharing it with. It can even feel this way for your partner. Women tend to connect with their pregnancy and baby early on while partners often connect later in the pregnancy or once the baby is born. This type of loss can feel very uncomfortable for people and you may find them shying away or not knowing what to say.

If you have had a miscarriage you have experienced a major loss. An earlier loss does not equal less grief. Grief does not go away, it becomes part of a new normal that you carry with you. Grief is not linear it is actually quite messy and make look different every day. Grief is different for each person. You have a right to your grief. Your partner's grief will be different from your own.

Miscarriage can lead to feelings of shame, guilt, anxiety, depression, isolation, emptiness, failure, feeling disconnected from your body and sadness. No two people feel the same way. We cannot assume that we know how someone is feeling.

Miscarriage can lead to women feeling disconnected from their bodies. It may lead to difficulties with intimacy. Because women may be feeling disconnected they can be unaware that they are holding trauma in there body. It is important if you do bodywork with people that you are taking a trauma informed approach.

A miscarriage is a loss but also a trauma. Having a miscarriage can trigger post traumatic stress disorder. Symptoms of PTSD to look for our: fatigue, trouble sleeping, hyperarousal, nightmares, lack of concentration, anxiety, depression, loss of appetite and frequent crying. Pregnancy after a loss can be triggering for people.

Women who experience a miscarriage can have postpartum depression or anxiety. Anytime a woman goes from pregnant to not pregnant there is a shift in hormones that can affect brain chemistry.  It can be difficult to identify what is grief and what is anxiety or depression.

How Can Professionals Help

Holding Space - Professionals can help by holding space for clients. Holding space is being present with clients. Starting where a client is and remaining non judgmental. It is providing an environment that honors your clients needs.

Communication - How we communicate with people about early pregnancy loss can greatly impact our work. By opening dialogue about early pregnancy loss we can normalize and help reduce stigma. Ask. Include questions about early pregnancy loss in your assessment.  Take cues from clients when addressing early pregnancy loss. Refer to it as your client does. Whether they call it a pregnancy, a baby or even a name. If you meet with couples acknowledging a partner's grief.

Advocacy - Advocate for your client's needs on different level. At a micro level address their needs within your office. Are there pictures you may want to take down in your office or waiting room? Does this client have to wait in a room full of pregnant women? Is it possible for them to wait in the office? If you have someone that needs support validating and normalizing that it is okay to need support. Connect them to resources in the community. Therapy and Support groups are a few sources of support.

What do clients want us to know? I surveyed a group of women that had experienced early pregnancy loss and this is what they wanted providers to know.  They wanted providers to:

  • Be present with the client and loss
  • To listen
  • To validate
  • To understand that grief is a lifelong process
  • To be told they are a mom

If you are a provider or someone that has experienced miscarriage and our looking for resources Kull Counseling provides therapy and a free monthly miscarriage support group. Contact Julie at 608.239.4807 for a free 15-minute consultation.

 

How to reconnect with your partner after pregnancy loss

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Pregnancy loss can have a profound effect on your relationship. For some, it can be a life altering event bringing you closer, and for others, it can lead to the end of your relationship.

When you lose a baby it can be difficult to cope. There is no handbook that gives you instructions on how to grieve. You may feel like you and your partner created this baby together, so grieving should be a joint process.  However, for many couples this is not the case. People grieve differently; how you process grief, when you process grief, and when you get to the acceptance stage of grief. You most likely felt different the minute you realized you were pregnant, connecting with your baby early on in your pregnancy. Research shows that for many first time fathers, a man does not consider a pregnancy a baby and himself a father until he holds that baby in his arms. www.webmd.com

You may feel emotionally disconnected from your partner when you are processing pregnancy loss, and you may also feel physically disconnected from your partner. It is common that you may also feel physically disconnected from your own body. You may find it difficult to be physically comforted by your partner or may have difficulty being intimate. This is common after you experience pregnancy loss. 

Reconnecting with your partner can be difficult, but it is not impossible. Here are a few things that can help you reconnect with your partner after pregnancy loss.

1. Reconnect with yourself - Before you will be able to reconnect physically with your partner, you need to reconnect with yourself. This can be done using mind-body techniques to reconnect you to your body. Two mind-body techniques that I use in my work include progressive muscle relaxation and the body scan. These exercises are both helpful to identify where in the body we hold pain, grief and stress from the trauma of a pregnancy loss and where we are disconnected. 

2. Communicate - This may not sound difficult in theory, but in practice can be difficult. Discuss your feelings about the loss with your partner and accept that they might not understand and that they may feel different about the loss of your baby. Tell your partner if it is difficult to connect physically. Explore feelings about being intimate and what that means for each of you. You may feel like being intimate again will lead to a subsequent pregnancy that you are not ready for. Your partner may just be trying to comfort  you and connect physically. Identify triggers that lead to feeling disconnected. Continue to check in about how you are both feeling.

3. Honor your loss - Find a way that feels comfortable to grieve your loss. Create a ritual that you can do with your partner to honor your loss together. It is important to find at least one way that you can honor your baby and sharing this with your partner is a great way to reconnect.

 4. Seek help - If the above ideas do not work and you are still finding it hard to reconnect there is help. Psychotherapy can help you reconnect to your partner after a loss. Remember to be kind to yourself. Pregnancy loss is a complicated loss and there is no one way to navigate it. 

For more resources on reconnecting with your partner please contact Kull Counseling, LLC at 608.239.4807 or julie@kullcounselingmadison.com.

Surviving the holidays after early pregnancy loss/miscarriage

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In 1963, Andy Williams sang, "It's the most wonderful time of the year."

If you have experienced an early pregnancy loss you may feel differently. The holidays can be a difficult time of the year for many, but can be especially difficult if you have experienced a  miscarriage.

You may be dreading parties because people do know and are uncomfortable about what to say or  people do not know and are asking when you are planning on starting or growing your family. Or maybe you are dreading opening holiday cards of pictures of friends and family with their children or you may be dreading sending out your own without your child. 

You might be celebrating the anniversary of your loss, a due date or your child's first holiday. Perhaps you were waiting for Christmas to announce your upcoming birth. You might have already made plans for what this holiday would look like with a new baby.  It is easy to feel triggered around the holidays when much of it is centered around family and children.

Wherever you are in your journey, and whatever stage you are at in your grief, here are a few ideas to help through the holiday season.

Tips for getting through the holiday season after an early pregnancy loss:

1. Get extra support - You need additional support during this time. Whether this is doubling up on support groups,  additional therapy sessions or just making plans with those that support you and your loss. If you are  religious, this may include attending services or seeking support through other church members. 

Support groups for miscarriage in the Madison, WI area:

https://www.kullcounselingmadison.com/miscarriage-support-group/

http://www.bereavedparentsofmadison.com

2. Say No - You do not have to do everything. It is okay to say no, whether this is to a party, a family gathering or sending out holiday cards. You especially do not need to do anything that triggers you or that is not a good space for you right now.

3. Practice kindness - During the holidays you tend to practice gratitude and kindness towards each other. Practice kindness and gratitude towards yourself. You may feel like you should be over your grief by now or that you were doing so well and that you took a step backwards-be patient with yourself. Do extra self care during this season: cooking, going for a walk, yoga, practicing mindfulness, reading a book, talking to a friend, or going on a date with your partner are just a few ideas.

4. Honor your baby - you may find it comforting to start a tradition to remember your baby during the holidays. This may look like buying an ornament that honors them or lighting a candle on your holiday to honor their presence. It could be volunteering or buying a gift for someone in need. Whatever this may look like for you, if you want your baby to be part of your holidays you can do it and let the important people in your life know what you need to honor your baby so they can support you.

Please remember if you are grieving a miscarriage you are not alone. If you need help during the holidays, Kull Counseling can help. Please contact  608.239.4807 or julie@kullcounselingmadison.com for more information.

When pregnancy after a loss doesn't feel like a rainbow

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You've experienced a perinatal loss and now you are pregnant again. The response of some people may be "I am so excited" or "I feel so lucky to be pregnant after a loss" but what if that isn't your response?  What if your response sounds more like "I am terrified or nervous" or "what if it happens again?". 

A rainbow baby is defined as a baby that is born after a miscarriage or stillbirth. In life a rainbow appears after a storm. The storm is perinatal loss and the rainbow is your beautiful baby that has emerged from the darkness (Urban Dictonary). While being able to get pregnant after a loss can be a relief and joy, it can also bring about a mixture of emotions.

Here are some common emotions that you may experience during a rainbow pregnancy:

Anxiety- Many couples experience intense anxiety during a pregnancy with a rainbow baby. After a loss your sense of security is gone. You may worry constantly about the health of your pregnancy. Women can have difficult times attaching to their pregnancies depending on physical symptoms for reassurance or worrying at the absence of them. You may feel like you will jinx the pregnancy if you start to plan for a baby; telling family and friends you are pregnant, buying items to bring the baby home, picking out names or even just getting excited about the pregnancy. Simple check-ups at the doctors office can turn into anxiety and nightmares. Even every day tasks can seem daunting as you worry about how it will effect the well being of your pregnancy.

Depression- You may feel intense feelings of sadness about your loss. You may have guilt about feeling happy or sad. Some couples wait until they have processed their loss before they start trying again, while others may start trying right away. Whether or not you waited to start trying again, getting pregnant again can bring such a sense of relief but it can also bring up feelings of sadness that you may have thought were gone. 

Grief- While you might have felt that you processed your grief from your loss, a pregnancy after a loss may bring up some of your grief again. It can feel like this pregnancy is supposed to replace your loss. You may struggle with honoring the child you lost while also honoring the child you are pregnant with. It may be an internal struggle to sit with your feelings of grief while also being happy for the new life inside of you.

If you are feeling mixed emotions about being pregnant again, you are not alone. How you feel about your pregnancy may change each day if not each hour. Anxiety, Depression and Grief are common emotions but so are Happiness, Relief and Hope. 

If you experiencing intense emotions during your rainbow pregnancy you are not alone. For counseling services please contact Kull Counseling, LLC at 608.239.4807 or email julie@kullcounselingmadison.com. For information on support groups please contact Bereaved Parents of Madison,