Today is the first in a series of episodes that will feature different beliefs and how they affect our grieving process.
Dr. Aimee Baron supports Jewish families touched by infertility, miscarriage and loss. She shares her experiences of saying goodbye to 6 babies and how her community and her faith has shaped her life after loss.
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This is the first episode in a series that I am so excited to do. I want to talk about different religions and belief practices and how that affects our grief. I think it’s so fascinating and so good to learn and understand the way other people believe. Learn more about world religions and beliefs and just.
I think birth and death are so spiritual and there’s so many questions that we have that sometimes we don’t have answers. So I hope that through this series you will find answers, and I hope that it will help you think more about your own spirituality and your beliefs and how they’re helping you in your grief, or even sometimes making it harder.
So today we have an amazing guest. Her name is Dr. Amy Barron. She is a pediatrician. And now works as the executive director of I Was Supposed to Have a Baby, which is a place for infertility and lost support in the Jewish community. I am so honored to have her on today. I know you’re gonna love everything she has to say, and I’m especially grateful that we could have this episode come out in the middle of Hanukkah.
So I wish everyone a happy Hanukkah. The Festival of Lights. It’s a, a beautiful time of year and also a tough time of year for, for people who are missing their babies. So let’s, let’s talk to Amy. All right, welcome Amy Barron. Um, or should I say Dr. Amy Barron?
You can call me whatever you want,
um, is here with us.
Like I said, from I was supposed to have a baby. I am so grateful that you are here with me. Thank you for
being here. It is really my pleasure. I am a big fan of your work and so this is really an honor for me as well. Okay,
thanks. Well, I love to start my interviews asking people about their babies, that we don’t get to talk about them very often as far as like their life.
So is there something you could tell us, um, just about your experience, um, with your babies who aren’t here and. Maybe a special memory or a lesson that they taught you?
Wow. You know, for me, and, and I, I, I think I, I was going to say for most people, but frankly I can’t even say that, so I’ll, I’ll just gonna return it to myself.
For me, I. Each of the pregnancies that I lost, and we lost six of them. So six babies, they were all very wanted. They were at periods of my life, of our life, our lives that we were. Wanting to add to our family. My, my first loss wa was at a point where we had already had a couple of years of secondary infertility.
It was after we had our first, and we were down the road of seeing reproductive endocrinologists. And, you know, I was tested, my husband was tested, and we had no answers. But still, we were not getting pregnant. And it was the first time we had tried like a medicated cycle with an i U I. So it was Clomid and an i u I and I got pregnant, which was like, we felt like the biggest miracle.
And I, you know, the blood tests were great and rising. And then at the second ultrasound, not the first one, but the second ultrasound, which was at eight weeks, there was the expectation that you would’ve seen a heartbeat. And there wasn’t. So, um, that pregnancy was one where we felt like we were being given a miracle and finally the answer to our prayers, and then it was all just taken away.
That’s my first memory of loss and then that experience. Shaped all of the rest of my pregnancies because we then went on, um, we did eventually get pregnant. Um, afterwards, it was another year, plus we did a number of, number of cycles. So like a longer, complicated story. We’re not actually sure whether we got pregnant that cycle because, um, it was that, like it just happened naturally or whether there was.
Some sort of manipulation. Like we did an I U I with a natural cycle. So we don’t know actually how we got pregnant that cycle, but we did. And then from that moment on getting pregnant, not my problem anymore. And so with all of those next pregnancies, I have five children total. So I had one. Um, and then the loss, and then we had two others.
But with those next two, you know, always up until that eight week mark I was. A mess. Hoping, praying, you know, is this gonna be a good pregnancy? Is this not gonna be a good pregnancy? Um, and once we hit the eight week mark and had a heartbeat, I immediately relaxed and said, okay, this is gonna be fine. But then what happened was after our third, our, our intention with our family was to have more than three children.
We didn’t think we were gonna have. 14, but we thought we hoped it would be more than three. And then so when I got pregnant again, we made it past the eight week mark, and I thought, Hey, free and clear. We’re good. You know, everything’s fine. And I totally relaxed and went into that 16 week appointment where I still couldn’t feel any movement because it was too early.
But didn’t think that anything was wrong because I wasn’t bleeding and I wasn’t cramping, and I got on the table and there was no heartbeat for me. My memory of these babies is really one of petrifying fear and anxiety and. Never feeling sure that a pregnancy is actually going to be a good one because, you know, after that pregnancy that happened to me three other times in a row, um, where I would get there and either at 16 or 17 weeks with no indication there was anything wrong, there was no heartbeat.
And even with my pregnancy, with my twins, who. I thankfully are here and alive and delicious and yummy. You know, the entire pregnancy. I was a mess because I never really got to a point where I felt good about it because things had been taken away from me in such a precipitous and unexpected way. And so again, like.
You know, my memories of these babies and these pregnancies are just like clouded in this, like just complete anxiety, fear, nerves, like sleeplessness, like it was just, it was, it was a terrible time. So those are really my memories of my babies. Yeah.
Oh, I’m so sorry that you’ve been through so much. And, and those sweet babies.
Oh yeah. Thank you.
And, and they were all like, what? I would say, you know, the first baby, we, we know the one that, um, only, you know, didn’t make it to, to the eight week mark. That baby did have a genetic anomaly. Um, it was a trisomy, meaning he had three copies of, of a chromosome, which is not compatible with life.
But, um, the other four babies that made it to 16 or 17 weeks, all of those babies were genetically perfect. Um, and so for us it was like we, we couldn’t. You know, we couldn’t rationalize it away and say like, this baby wasn’t meant to be. Um, it was a very different scenario knowing that it was something about my body that was failing and not able to sustain these pregnancies.
Ones that were. Perfect, so to speak. Um, so it was a totally different kind of emotional
experience. I’m sure that was a lot to carry and wade through and, um, process through. So my heart goes out to you and thank you for sharing your story, and I know you do so much to share your story and to help other people who are going through similar things.
I invited you here because you do. Infertility and loss support for Jewish families. And I wanted to just ask you first, can you explain to us a little bit about just what is the, maybe the doctrine around pregnancy loss or early, um, infant loss? So that we can understand kind of what the beliefs are.
Sure. So I think really the best way to describe it is that in general, in the Jewish community, there is this framework that, um, There, there’s this concept of be fruitful and multiply. You know, it comes from the early part of the Bible. Um, and so there’s a tremendous emphasis on family and children and for people to have children.
And the, the, there is sort of, um, in Jewish law when someone loses a baby, what’s interesting about the way. Um, the way Jewish law approaches it is that if it was considered to be a baby that was over 30 days old, and what I mean by that is 30 days beyond what the due date would have been. Okay. Or life, let’s call it when the baby was born, then that baby is considered to be as if a full.
Adult I, and I’m like using that, that like I, I have air quotes here. I know none of you can see me, but I have air quotes that I’m putting up on my fingers here. And that baby is given a. Full burial. The baby is, the families, um, have funeral services. They sit this seven days of mourning. We call that the Shiva period where family and friends come and try to comfort the family because the baby died.
Um, so there, there are sort of, Purposeful mourning rituals that are done for that baby that are just like if an adult had died, if a grandparent had died, if an older child had died. If a baby dies when they’re less than 30 days. And so that means, you know, close to the time that they were born or a stillbirth or a miscarriage.
And, you know, we define miscarriage. I’m a doctor, so I play like lots of hats. I I wear lots of hats. You know, we define miscarriage as being less than 20 weeks gestation, and a stillbirth as being between 20 and 40 weeks gestation. Um, Law, Jewish law doesn’t actually have any specific proper rituals for the baby or for the family, and so what that means are sort of two things.
One is that what it does is that it enables the family to I if they so desire to not go through any of these proper mourning rituals or practices. If they don’t want to. Right. I mean, as we, we know, you and I know and so many of us know that there are so many people who, you know, have an early loss and like they don’t perseverate over it.
They don’t think about it for a long period of time. It’s not something they view it as like, okay, this baby wasn’t meant to be. Maybe it was just. You know, for whatever the reason is, and we don’t judge them. Like everyone deals with miscarriage and pregnancy loss in their own way. But what that does is it enables the families to just pick up and move on with their lives in a way that that is just like, you know, any other, let’s call it.
And I’m not, I’m not judging it or not, it just, that’s what it enables. The problem is that for the families that do want that, or do need that for their own psychological wellbeing, right, who do wanna be able to bury their babies? Who do wanna be able to name their babies, who do want to have that formal period where people come and comfort them?
It doesn’t exist right there. There are no specific laws that exist that say you have to do this. So what has happened over the last number of years is that, People, depending on where you are in the, in the Jewish framework, different um, different rabbis of different denominations of Judaism, different clergy have taken it upon themselves in consultation with their, their community members who are searching for meaning and searching for ritual, who are saying, yeah, if you wanna bury your baby and you want a spot, That you know where your baby is buried.
You wanna name your baby, you want a headstone. We can do that for you. If you want. We can say these certain prayers. We can have a service, you can invite friends, we can do a burial, we can do a modified shiva, like modified morning period. All of those things are possible. They’re just not mandated. Um, and, and there are reasons why, like people have said why they’re not mandated.
Is it because in. Earlier generations. It wasn’t the case that, like, that all babies lived it in the sense that, you know, we didn’t have medicines in the same way we do now. We didn’t have sterile birth practices, we didn’t have like people in general like died younger anyway. Like we didn’t have the same quality of life.
So, Death was something that was happening all around us as, as a, as a human race. And so the thought was, is that the reason why the rabbis didn’t put these practices into place for these babies was because these things happened so frequently that it would, would be too hard to mandate, so to speak. And, and that’s fine.
But it doesn’t work for everyone now, and that’s why there has been this move to really try to meet people where they are and try to give them meaning and give them ritual if it’s something that they desire. It’s a great
evolution. I think we’ve seen in a lot of places and I’m happy to hear Yeah, that they’re able to kind of adapt and, and serve and help one another.
Cause I think that community is so important.
Right. And, and I just wanna say like I am speaking very broadly about the Jewish community, right? Like there are definitely still certain sects that. Very much hold to the old ways of doing things and you know, you’re not allowed, you’re not allowed to do a thousand things that I mentioned.
But they’re even within those sec, like there are. There, there is starting to be sort of like the drip, drip drip of like, you know, this is what everybody else is doing, and like, maybe like you might wanna consider that, oh no, we’re not gonna do that. Like, at least they’re hearing about it. Right. So I, I, I view this as progress because people need it psychologically.
Like many people really need it.
Yeah. And of course I don’t expect you to, you know, speak for the entire every, everyone, but I love, I mean, you. You do ha are in a great position to have heard so many stories and so many experiences and have helped so many people. And so that’s why I just think you have so much to offer and share.
Um, so I had kind of a follow-up question. So what is, what is the belief of what happens when a baby dies during pregnancy? Like, what, can you explain what the belief is about? What happens to them, their spirit, or if they were a spirit or all of that?
Right. So, you know, this is like all very murky, sort of heebie GB type stuff, right?
Like nobody knows really, you know, things that people say are, are things like that. The baby had a specific. So the word tikkun is sort of like translated as a purpose. Um, and the baby had a per certain purpose to be here on this world for a certain amount of time. And whether that was, you know, four weeks, whether that was 36 weeks, whether that was.
Per baby or person, even whether that’s 78 years, right, that each person has a, a specific place in this world, and that for some, they only need to be in this world for a certain amount of time, and then they’ve completed what they came to complete. I don’t know how I feel about that, honestly. I mean, for, for many people it brings them comfort in that they know or, or they, this, this is what they’re taught and they, it brings them comfort to think that.
Like, while this is an incredibly sad and awful experience, that their baby has already done everything it needed to do in this world and that a 70 or eight year old obviously has so many other things that it needs to do in this world. So they need to live for a longer period of time. Um, I’m not a theologian, so I mean, I can just tell you personally.
For me, I had a tremend. Like, I, I have a lot of difficulty with that personally. I, I understand the concept and it’s what we’re taught, but this notion that God gives and God takes away and you know, immediately, we all know when you get pregnant, you start planning and dreaming and hoping, and you see your life.
With this child and how it’s gonna fit into your family and how, how they’re gonna grow. And you imagine, you know, boy, girl, dark hair, like, like you start, you start already imagining. And so there’s this immediate bond when you see those two pink lines on that pregnancy test. And so I have a really hard concept with like, I just have find a really, really hard, I find it to be a really hard concept to grapple with.
But that’s, I, I mean, there are other things also that were taught, but that’s sort of the main, the main piece that, that we are told.
Do you believe like that you’ll see your babies again or is it kind of like they had their time and that’s
it or? Yeah. I, I mean, again, like these are all like, I don’t know that I can really answer that because I, I, like, I, I don’t know.
I don’t know. Yes, there, there is a thought that. PE people do talk about, you know, oh, you’ll see your babies again. Or, oh, your babies are with, you know, your grandmother who died and she’s watching over them and taking care of them. Like there, those are definitely concepts. There are definitely things that people say.
The answer is, I really don’t know. I, I mean, and when I say I, I mean there, there are things that are written and, and people who have postulated about these things. Um, There. It, it’s funny, this is an area of like Judaism that is not talked about a lot, frankly. And like, I’m not like, it’s, it’s not like from the moment we, you know, enter preschool, we learn, you know, all babies when they die, you know, God forbid they go and they go to this place and like, this is the way it’s gonna be.
And like you carry that with you and you carry that knowledge with you into your adult life. We’re not really taught anything about that, honestly. And so it’s, it’s really only when you’ve gone through something like this and then you start searching for meaning and the why and the how to try to explain it in your head that you, you know, the, these are, these are esoteric concepts that are not mainstream by any stretch of the imagination.
And so the answer is, is that’s, it’s some of the things that we hear, but. I don’t have any idea as to whether they’re true or
not. Yeah. Well, and thank you. I appreciate you kind of being honest about your own. Journey cuz Yeah. I mean, inal religions or beliefs, it is kind of spelled out like what happens and Right.
Maybe, you know, in your case it feels like it’s, it’s hard to put your finger on it. So I just find it so interesting how, how our faith and our journeys, our beliefs, all just affect how we. Grieve and, and I do agree. I think that’s kinda how it is in my religion. Like it’s very family-centered. It’s all babies and like families.
And then, yeah, when your baby dies you have to really search and it can be hard to find answers. Um, for me that was like, It was difficult, but also kind of a good thing because then it’s like, okay, I need to find my own answers. Like if I am not finding it in the doctrine or I’m not finding it in the scriptures, you know, I need to figure out what what I
Right, right. And I think that that. You know, for, for me, that was also like, that was something I had to grapple with also. Like, it w like in, in concept, right? It was very comforting for me to know, or, or to think that my babies were with my grandmother, right? Or are with my grandmother. But I, I just like, It for me that like, I was so much more steeped in this anger towards God that this was actually happening and it, that it kept happening to me because for me, I, like, for me it was recurrent loss.
It was happening over and over and over and over again to healthy babies, so, This notion that like maybe they’re with my grandmother, was like totally unhelpful. Like, just totally unhelpful. Like, thank you very much. Um, that’s nice, but I’m actually really angry, pissed off grieving, like, and so that’s not helpful at all?
Uh, yeah. Yeah, I can relate to that. A little bit too. Yes. So much. You know, we’ve talked about some of the challenges. What are some of the more comforting things that you’ve gotten, um, through your beliefs as you’ve processed through these losses? Yeah,
I mean, I think, you know, there is. The Jewish community, I, I would say like there is the Jewish community piece of it, and then there’s the religious piece of it.
So I’ll do the community piece first. The Jewish community piece is, Is one that, you know, really in the last five plus years has really rallied around, started to rally around the fact that people, that, that someone who’s going through any kind of struggle to build her family, and whether that’s infertility, pregnancy loss, or whatever the issues are, that it is one, to be sensitive to one that we need to be aware of and that it’s one that.
Like we recognize is not shameful, and that shouldn’t be something that has to be hidden. And so like in, in previous generations and previous years, like that wasn’t the case. It was like, oh, you had a loss and like maybe it was your fault or maybe like you did something wrong. So, And, and there definitely are still people who are like, well, maybe you didn’t pray hard enough.
Maybe you are not like keeping these laws like exactly the way you should and God is punishing you. Maybe you should be, you know, doing X, Y, and Z. You should be a nicer person. Like, there, there, definitely, those concepts definitely exist, but I think the general, the general overriding thought in the community is that, There is nothing that one person or anyone can do to cause a loss, and that no matter whether you are a good Jew or you are a bad Jew, whatever that means, I.
You did not. God doesn’t work that way. God doesn’t work in the way of like, oh, you did something bad, now I’m gonna punish you. Like, it’s, it’s, it’s a concept we learn in kindergarten, right? We’re like, oh, you need to do X, Y, and Z and then like, everything will be good in your life. And you know, I think a lot of adults carry that with them as they get older and they think that there’s a black and white, like, you know, give and take relationship with God, that if you’re good, God will give you.
And if you’re not good, God will take away or God won’t give you. And we know, obviously it’s much more complicated than that. So when you graduate into the adult notion of like how you view God and how you view religion, you realize that it’s really just not that simple. And like it’s the old, like why do bad things happen to good people?
Right? So the community really has done. A beautiful job. Again, I’m speaking in generalities of recognizing that and really supporting people when they go through this kind of experience. You know, there are meals, meal meal trains that are set up and people like. Take if there are other kids in the family and they’ll, they’ll do their best to take the kids to allow the mother or, or the parents to be able to relax and, and like try to recover a little bit from that experience.
Like there are, there is really the notion of trying to surround them with love and, and trying to be as supportive as possible. What I would say from a religious perspective, and again, like just really going back to what I was saying before that. There because sophisticated people don’t view God as being a punitive God and don’t view this, this experience as being one that you deserved because you didn’t do or couldn’t do, or specifically, you know.
Went against some edict law, whatever it is, God is known to be merciful and, and God is known to be, you know, someone who, like we, we have this concept of that he is the one that oversees the world and he is the one that takes care of things. And we don’t know why he does what he does, but there is this sense that we know that there is a reason behind things.
Um, That doesn’t help, obviously when you’re going through loss, like when people come and say to you like, oh, like God must have a reason why this happened. Like everything has a reason and like it didn’t just happen for Naugh. Like, okay, like we, but we can view our pain and the fact that we know God is in charge and we can hold those two things simultaneously.
So, The, the, the other beautiful pieces are that, you know, people, there is a tremendous power to prayer people getting together. And like there, there is this beautiful concept of praying for another person who is in exactly your situation. And there is this concept that if you pray for another person who has.
Your specific problem that God will give you the answer to your problem. Um, and so, Like, obviously like it’s again, like not a one-to-one. Like it doesn’t always happen that way. But there are like, there are these, what they call these som circles of where people are praying for each other, um, and get together people who have lost babies, people who are trying to get p pregnant, people who, you know, speaking even outside this realm.
People who are looking to get married and trying to find their matches. Like there are these concepts of these prayer circles of where. People get together and say Psalms one for the other. One for the other one for the other. Um, because we know that there is a tremendous power in prayer. Um, so there, there are a number of really beautiful ways that our religion really supports people who are.
You know, who have been going through this or are going through this. I love
that. I love that visual of the circle and just everyone supporting each other. That’s really beautiful. Okay, I have one last question. Can you tell us, um, I know there are a lot of. Do you call ’em holidays, um, or special days during the year on the Jewish calendar?
What are some days that are maybe a little bit tougher or that we could be extra, um, sensitive and knowing like, Hey, this could be difficult for a friend who has been through a loss.
The, you know, the, the, the ma so many of our holidays revolve around children. So, um, and, and so any of those holidays are ones that are really triggering and, and can be painful for people who have experienced loss.
So like the biggest one is Hanukkah or Hanukkah. Um, that it’s a time when like the families all gather around, generally speaking, like your immediate family. And also people usually have lots of extended family. It’s very festive, like people have parties. Um, there is often like gift giving and there’s like dinners and I like games.
And there are special events in the community. It’s an eight day holiday. Usually in the month of month, month of December of this year. I think it starts the end of November. Those holidays often because so many of the events and the activities are surrounded or are not surrounded, are geared towards children.
So it’s very hard for people who are struggling. Um, another holiday is Passover. That is also really hard. And the reason is, is sort of similar in that it’s a time when families gather all all together. Um, the Passover Seder, which happens either the first night and or the second night is when, you know, we have this big massive meals with like extended family and friends and.
It’s not only just seeing everybody in the family and like Aunt Sarah and like Grandma Rachel’s like, so, you know, when are you having another baby? Like, it, it, it’s that, but it’s also within this specific service. Like there’s a specific service that we go through during that meal, the Passover Seder, and there are many times where we mention children and there’s also a specific teaching that.
The whole purpose of the Passover Seder is to be able to tell the story of the, the Jews, the Jewish people leaving Egypt. And you wanna be able to tell that to your children that that is actually the one specific mandate of the Passover Seder. And so, When you don’t have children or when you don’t have the number of children that you thought you were going to have, it’s incredibly painful.
Um, and there are even other pieces. There are, there’s a piece in the seed, in the, in this Seder, which talks about the four sons and different, different ways that you should teach him about, teach the four sons about the story. If you don’t have sons, if you don’t have children like it, it just, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s the Passover.
Passover in general in the Seder is a very hard time. Um, and the third there are, are few others, but I, I will just say not to like, we could go on because every single Jewish holiday has, you know, is, is really, um, is, it’s really geared towards the kids. But I think. To know that, uh, look, as with any holiday, I think it’s not only the Jewish holidays, it’s really all holidays.
When you see the holiday in the eyes of a child, in the eyes of a child, right? It just brings such a different and, and. Such a beautiful concept of joy in a way that adult, an adult doesn’t appreciate, right? Like, you know, we’re, we’re all so jaded at this point, and then like to, to view like the, the different practices and the, the tr the traditions, you know, from the eyes of a child.
It’s just, it’s just, it’s magical is really what it is. And so just know that every time there is one of these holidays, whether it’s a Jewish holiday or other holiday, It’s just, it’s really hard for people who don’t have children or the number of children that they would’ve wanted. And what I always suggest to people is, you know, if you yourself are, are those individuals who are struggling, then you don’t have to go to all of the events.
You can, you can choose to only go to certain ones. You can also choose to go late or to leave early. You can also fake a headache. Like that’s like, you can totally do that. Or a stomach virus. Like I’ve done it like I promise. And the other thought is just that like for the people in your life that know that like it’s triggering for you to be around all these different kids, like.
We also can do a better job at having events that aren’t child-centered, right? We can have events like in the evening, later at night that just are for couples and just for the grownups, and know that it’s a safe space because there won’t be any kids there. Like there are ways to infuse holiday spirit.
Into programs and events that are not only for kids. So I think like all of us can try to be mindful to be inclusive. As inclusive as possible.
Such good advice. Yes. Thank you so, so much for everything you’ve shared with us. Will you just tell us a little bit about your organization, what you do, how you help people, and then where we can find you.
Absolutely. Thank you. Um, so we are, I was supposed Ed, I was supposed to have a baby. Our website is, I was supposed to have a baby.org. We’re also on Instagram. We, our mission is to, is to support anyone in the Jewish community that is struggling to build their family. And so what we do is, We, you know, whether you’re dealing with pregnancy loss, infertility, whether you’re discovering or exploring options in terms of adoption, surrogacy, or really anything along that journey where you’re trying to build your family and you’re coming up against some sort of roadblock, either a psychological, medical, financial, whatever it is, we are a community that supports you wherever you are because.
We get it. We get it. Um, and we’re just grateful for this opportunity to be able to talk to you and talk to your community and let them know that like it’s, there are so many things that are unique, right, about the Jewish community and, and about all different religions, but there are so many things that are universal and pain is universal.
That’s, unfortunately, that’s just the way it’s.
Yes. And that’s what I was gonna say. Um, cuz you’re also on Instagram at I was supposed to have a baby. And I think it’s, yeah, like everyone should follow you because you share so much and people are so open. I love that about your community, that people just really share, um, what they’re going through and help each other and, and it is so universal.
But thank you. Um. Thank you so much for being here. I, I truly appreciate it. Thank you so much. Do you have a life after baby loss coach? If you don’t, I would love if I could be your coach. All you need to do is go to smooth stones coaching.com and book a consult call, and I will tell you all about how we can guide you.
From pain to healing and joy. I’ll see you next time.