An Interview with Melissa Sulley of josiah+co.
October is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month and I’ll be sharing a series of posts related to the topic.
MTM: You have, unfortunately, endured miscarriages. Could you tell us a bit about that?
MS: Yes. Yes I have. 5 of them unfortunately. Two of them were early losses around 5 weeks and 9 weeks, and then 3 late ones at 20 weeks, 18 weeks, and 16 weeks. All were missed miscarriages (except the 5 week one) - where I didn’t know our babies had passed away until we saw no heart beats on the ultrasounds.
MTM: That’s so hard. As you know, I had a missed miscarriage as well and I don’t wish that on anyone. The drugs are nothing to joke about that’s for sure.
What made you decide to share your experience of loss?
MS: It’s seriously the worst.
I started sharing publicly after we had Eliyanah, our Rainbow Baby. I had a hell of a time adjusting to life with two, and thought I was borderline suffering from PPD (postpartum depression). Which I could have been, but I also think there was a lot of unresolved grief from our first three losses.
Sharing about our losses has been such a healing journey for me, because it forces me to sort through all the emotions and write them down. And connecting with other loss moms has been healing as well. There is so much power in knowing we aren’t alone.
MTM: I feel exactly the same. It’s so cathartic to talk about especially to others who have gone through the same thing.
How do you fight the temptation to fear another loss once you are pregnant again?
MS: Honestly, I fear loss every time I’m pregnant. I try to tell myself “this one will be different” and I try to be optimistic, but with my history it’s really really really hard. I think I’ve just come to accept that the reality is the majority of the time I will lose the pregnancy and I’m just waiting to get “lucky” again. Also, I do know it is possible for us to have a living child (since I do have a living son and a living daughter), so that helps me push through.
MTM: What’s the worst thing someone has said to you in response to your miscarriages and/or your reaction to the suffering? How did you respond?
MS: Hahahahah. Do you want a whole list?
The worst was when we first lost Josiah. Someone from the church we were going to (which we are no longer at) came over with two other people to pray for me 3 weeks after our loss. After introductions they approached the subject and I started crying and they said “see this here, this grief we need to cast off, it’s not from God” or something along those lines. I nearly lost it. They basically wanted to “deliver me” from grief.
MTM: I don’t even know how to respond to that. It’s astounding how ignorant and insensitive people can be.
MS: Right? RIGHT? Oh it was “casting off the spirit of grief” they said. The church really needs to learn the art of sitting and lamenting with people. But that’s a whole other conversation. Some other things people have said are “don’t worry the twins are coming” and “God gives and takes away”
MTM: I got the “it’s God’s plan” a lot
MS: Frig I hate that one. “There’s a reason for everything”
MTM: Right?! I see how that seems positive, but it really isn’t.
Did you have any interactions with doctors/midwives/etc. that were helpful and supportive or the opposite?
MS: I have been super fortunate in this regard because I know not everyone has positive interactions from health care professionals when experiencing loss. All of our doctors, midwives, and nurses have been incredible. Absolutely incredible.
Midwives technically don’t have to be by your side when you are delivering/miscarrying.... but my midwives stood by me the entire time and followed up with me afterwards when they didn’t have to.
MTM: That’s amazing! I’m so happy you had that experience. I guess the next question sort of goes back to what we were saying previously but how has religion/spirituality played a part, if any?
MS: It’s played a huge part in how I’ve continued to walk through each loss. I would say my faith is fragmented, but still holding on. I’ve been able to maintain hope, because even though at times I feel like God has given up on me, or that He’s “allowed” this to happen. I know deep down He’s still walking alongside me, crying with me, and rooting for me.
I think walking through loss has caused me to wrestle through a lot of theology I’ve believed over the years. some true, and a lot not true. My view of God has changed a lot, and who I believe Him to be, not only personally but also in relation to the whole world and suffering. I’m still wrestling, like hard-core, not so gracefully at times, and I know I have a long way to go. And vice versa, my faith has helped me to not give up even at times when I feel like God has given up on me, deep down I know He hasn’t and that’s helped me to hang on; there IS hope or at least I keep telling myself that.
MTM: I feel so similarly. It’s so hard. Especially when people say, “it was God’s plan”. It makes it very hard to trust a god.
MTM: What advice can you give someone who has gone through a miscarriage and/or is now pregnant after a miscarriage?
MS: You can and you will make it through this. Even though it feels really dark, and the valley feels really deep, and it feels like the darkness will never lift, it will. And when you get to the other side you will be stronger, you will be braver, you will be wiser.
Surround yourself with real people. Real people who know how to sit in the sadness with you and who let you lean into it. Don’t waste your energy on people who don’t get it, and who expect you to just get over your loss.
Don’t try and rush through this season. As shitty as it is, don’t rush through it. Write your thoughts down, scream at the top of your lungs, and don’t deny yourself from processing all the emotions. Let it out, because if you don’t it will eat away at you.
In regards to being pregnant after miscarriage: it’s okay to be scared. Because pregnancy is scary. And experiencing loss makes it even more terrifying because you know first-hand how pregnancies can go wrong. Find someone who gets it, or someone who will even just let you bounce your thoughts off of them. Don’t let the thoughts eat away at you. It’s totally normal to not feel connected to your baby when you’re pregnant after loss. You aren’t crazy; you aren’t alone; and it doesn’t mean you love your baby any less. Give yourself grace in this area. The connection will come.
MTM: That’s such wonderful advice.
MTM: To finish can you tell us why you started your business, josiah+co?
MS: I mentioned this a bit above but when Eliyanah, our rainbow babe, was born in 2017, I had a heck of a time postpartum. I realized it was borderline Postpartum Depression mixed with a lot of unresolved grief from our previous three losses. I wanted a creative outlet to express my grief as well as a way to connect with other loss mamas. Around this time a friend asked if I’d ever sell her a pair of the crochet booties I had started to make and I realized I could build a small business around that. I started experimenting with adding the leather bottoms and sold my first pair in June of 2017. I named the biz “josiah+co.” as a way to honour our three babes we had lost, and have used the tagline “Handcrafted with Heaven Babies in Mind”. Ultimately each pair that I make is a way to honour not just my babies, but all the other women out there who have lost a child through pregnancy and/or infant loss.
MTM: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Melissa, and for putting yourself out there. It’s people like you who will help break the silence that so many associate with this type of loss.