Therapist and social worker Joey Miller’s Rebirth: The Journey of Pregnancy After a Loss is an indispensable guide for those navigating a subsequent pregnancy while processing the trauma of miscarriage, stillbirth, or postpartum loss.
Released by Hachette Book Group during October’s Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month, this comprehensive aid is sourced from Miller’s nearly two decades of experience advising women. It also contains intimate observations from 25 women whose stories of loss highlight the diverse spectrum of feelings that coincide with pursuing pregnancy in the aftermath of a devastating loss.
Miller points out that the loss of a child is not rare. Between 10 and 20 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage prior to 20 weeks’ gestation, and around 1 in 100 pregnancies result in miscarriage after 20 weeks’ gestation. An estimated 22,000 infants die each year before reaching 12 months old.
The landscape is harsh for those who suffer loss, as Miller demonstrates. In spite of its prevalence, loss of a child can be a taboo subject, and may be given short shrift by people who are uncomfortable addressing death. Friends, family members, strangers, and even medical professionals often fail to understand the painful and nuanced emotions that can last for years, and even a lifetime, after a woman has lost a child. Growing social media efforts to normalize grieving and help mothers who have lost their children can sometimes create inaccurate comparisons or reinvigorate suffering in a way that causes more hurt than help.
Rebirth is a vital addition to the field of pregnancy literature because it speaks directly to the hearts of those whose faith, resolve, hopes for family planning, and emotional stability are upended after the death of a child or the unexpected ending of a pregnancy.
No matter their experience, readers who come to Rebirth for support will find they are in safe and caring hands. Miller’s thorough guidance is delivered without judgment. She follows through with a promise she offers the reader in her introduction: “You’re no longer alone in the dark, without anyone who speaks the same language as you … I have a light and I know the way well. I will walk as slowly and cautiously as you need, but I will also walk confidently. And, we can walk together.”
Regaining Control after Loss
The sections of Rebirth are designed to be read throughout various landmarks on the journey towards a subsequent pregnancy. Laid out chronologically, the book offers insight for processing an initial loss, covers the decision to try for another pregnancy, and walks readers through the unique hurdles of a pregnancy that follows. The final segments, about navigating birth, the postpartum period, and life with a new baby balance typical parenting struggles with those unique to parents who have known loss.
Throughout Rebirth, Miller outlines the emotions, many of which are diametrically opposed, that women may experience as they process and move on through loss. She empowers women by directing them to information and resources should they require additional help.
She also offers sample dialogue to help readers advocate for themselves in difficult situations, or respond to onlookers or loved ones who, lacking understanding of the complexities of loss, make well-intended remarks that actually exacerbate pain.
Miller’s concluding segments are an uplifting tribute to the strength of readers who have successfully navigated seemingly insurmountable hardships and given birth to new life. In doing so, Miller says these women have “overcome darkness; [they have] also overcome death.”
Herein lies the power of Miller’s work. Over the course of Rebirth, as the reader progresses through the crests and valleys of pregnancy, Miller increasingly steps back and hands her the reins. Ultimately, the reader discovers she has “grow[n] and thrive[d] through and beyond [her] own challenges.”
Rebirth holds the power to normalize the way we talk about loss and honor all lives, no matter how brief. The book is designed for those who have experienced loss, but it can be an important tool for anyone who wants to understand the complex arcs of grief felt by loved ones as they navigate pregnancy after losing a child.
Miller’s work will be a vital resource for the medical practitioners who hope to provide more complete care to women undergoing struggles associated with miscarriage, stillbirth, or postpartum loss. Even for women who experienced a loss decades in the past, Rebirth can be a powerful affirmation that their emotional reactions to that loss were normal. It may also help them to find new ways to commemorate their love for their child who has passed.
A Warm Embrace
Just more than a year ago, I wrote about an early miscarriage that left me devastated and uncertain about the future of my family. Some commenters reacted by admonishing me for speaking of a pregnancy prior to the end of the first trimester. Others condemned me for expressing bereavement over an event they deemed trivial.
After reading my story, Miller searched me out and offered unwavering support. She met me where I was with incredible empathy, warmth, and kindness, and as we conversed, she quickly became a trusted confidante. When I found I was pregnant just weeks later, Miller was one of the first people I trusted with the emotional news.
The same encouragement and genuine care Miller offered me last year radiates through the pages of Rebirth. Her warm words feel like the embrace of a trusted, understanding companion, which one truly needs while traversing the emotional minefield of pregnancy after loss.
I read Rebirth during quiet stretches while my three-month-old napped. I found myself especially moved in the concluding segments. For the first time in months, I found myself thinking of the five-month-old child who might have been in my son’s place, and how the past year, and Miller’s support, had changed my life.
One woman whose story Miller relayed resonated deeply. “I am not the same person I was before my daughter died,” she explained. “I have become a more authentic and empathetic person….I am grateful for my daughter for teaching me how to be a better human.” I, too, find that the miscarriage I experienced ultimately deepened my capacity for love, and my gratitude for the children I am blessed to parent.
Miller’s Rebirth is, at its heart, a guide finding a way through grief that allows us to honor the losses we cannot bear to forget and increase our strength, empathy, and love. For every person who has experienced the loss of a child at any stage, Rebirth can be a guiding hand and a firm yet loving reminder that emotional reactions to grief are varied and strong; that respecting your desires is important, and that hope and love are never lost.
Miller’s work will have enduring value for years to come in helping women come to terms with the aching loss of a much-desired baby, and find the strength to carry on through uncertainty toward the goal of creating a family.