For our families, the world is filled with reminders that they are not parenting. Sometimes that reminder is a pregnant woman passing on the street, or a child at a grocery store. Other times, the reminders are at home, making daily life complicated, exhausting and somber.

One day, father of C.C. and our community member, Ryan, felt compelled to document the changes in his home that were not. The electrical outlet uncovered. The stairs without a gate. The pantry without baby food. The car without a car seat. The cabinet door without a safety latch. A night stand without a baby monitor. Each of these serve a marker of loss.

Empty Arms offers a safe space for our families - free from reminders and full of support. Wherever you are in your healing journey, we welcome you. Thank you for sharing these with us, Ryan.


Ryan and Katie during their pregnancy

Ryan and Katie during their pregnancy

By Katie and Ryan

Early pregnancy loss can be an especially isolating experience. Society tells us not to share that we’re pregnant until the end of the first trimester, as if it is some magical threshold after which nothing bad can happen. (For the record, Empty Arms is full of grieving parents who can tell you that’s not the case.) But for those of us who have had something bad happen during the first trimester, it becomes that much harder to share the news of our loss, often leaving us to mourn in silence.

When we said goodbye to “our little Chocolate Chip” nine weeks into our pregnancy, two days before Christmas 2014, we were devastated. We weren’t ready to leave the house, let alone celebrate anything, but we also weren’t ready for all the questions that would invariably come our way if we just cancelled. We didn’t want to ruin everyone else’s holidays either, so we told only our siblings (to help us deflect attention when conversations turned in our direction) and slogged through all the scheduled celebrations. Neither of us remembers much of those celebrations. Still in shock and unable to fully grasp the reality of our loss, it felt like we were sleepwalking.

A month later, we attended our first local (Connecticut) support group meeting for people who had lost a child. This group was full of compassionate, supportive people who had also suffered loss, but at times it was painful to listen to others talk about how something like a picture of their child, a memory of their son, or one of their daughter’s possessions would trigger them. It hurt because we didn’t have any of these things. We didn’t have any objects to hold onto, no pictures of our child.

After hearing all of their gut-wrenching stories, we felt overwhelmed. Even as we witnessed their grief, we felt envious of the time they’d had with their children. We felt inadequate to explain the depth of our own loss. We felt resentful that we felt we had to explain that our loss was just as real.

After a couple meetings we decided to look for a support group with a more specific focus. Even though we live an hour’s drive from Northampton, we made the trip to our first Empty Arms meeting in March. The Miscarriage Support Group was exactly what we needed. These were people who fully understood that our loss can seem invisible to the outside world. Our loss was full of hypothetical moments — watching her grow, celebrating birthdays, helping her learn her ABCs, taking her for rides in a running stroller, making Halloween costumes, driving lessons, prom, college graduation, her wedding day — a whole life with our child. We were mourning the loss of our very real child. We were mourning the future we pictured with her.

For the first time since our loss, we left that evening with our hearts feeling a little lighter. We felt heard. We had found people who truly understood our loss and could help us on our grief journey. We no longer felt alone. We’ve been back every month since.

The Empty Arms community understands that grief is an ever-changing journey that doesn’t always look like sadness. There are plenty of tears, and anger, and depression, but there are also times of lightness, with smiles and laughter. There is time to hold our children in our hearts.

They hear and understand where we are in our grief journey because they’re right there with us now, or they’ve been there at some point during their own experiences. They don’t judge us. They don’t try to fix us, or minimize our pain. They don’t say things like “You can just try again,” “Everything happens for a reason,” or “It’s probably for the best.” And we can be there for other bereaved parents as they share their experiences.

Although we don’t live in the area, we very much feel a part of this community and are glad to have found them.

How We Preserve What Was Lost

Hope in the Rough: Surviving Miscarriage & Challenges Conceiving
By Charlotte Capogna-Amias

I have been thinking about miscarriage and the ways we remember and honor what was lost. Maybe heading into the winter months is spurring this for me as I contemplate ways to hold onto life as we head into the season that is free of green growth and fresh abundance. For me, it was important to have some ritual or marker of a time and experience that will forever be important to me and my family- the months in which I was pregnant. I did this by planting some pale rose colored perennial coreopsis flowers in our garden around the time our baby was due to be born. My family and I went to our favorite perennial farm and spent a long while mulling over all the plant options until we settled on the coreopsis. We wanted something that was hardy and would last our long New England winters and come back year after year to remind us of what would have been our second child (my first pregnancy).  

So I am wondering, for those who would like to share, what are the special ways you have honored your pregnancy and child?  


When I attended my first Empty Arms support group I was so moved by the facilitator asking us, with an eager, loving air, about our pregnancies. She wanted to hear all the details we wanted to share- the pleasant and unpleasant ways our bodies changed, the excitement, the nervousness, the process of conceiving. It was so validating to have someone honestly want to hear about an experience that it felt taboo to discuss. I still feel, nine months later, that some people get uncomfortable when I even utter the words “when I was pregnant” as if it’s a period that should be left unnamed, forgotten.  

So with this, I encourage you to share what has been your way of remembering and honoring that important time, experience and soul that was a part of your life, if even briefly. You can leave a comment under this post or email me privately at  I hope to develop an essay about this and all names will be left anonymous.

Thank you dear community.
With love and support,

Mindfulness and Sitting With the Reality of What Is

Hope in the Rough: Surviving Miscarriage & Challenges Conceiving
By Charlotte Capogna-Amias

For the past three weeks I have been participating in an online Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course. A group of colleagues at the university where I work have also been taking the course and we’ve been meeting each week to try out the meditation or yoga practice of the week and have a short discussion. It’s been so helpful and enriching to my life. One outcome of participating, that came as a pleasant surprise, has been how helpful it’s been to my personal journey of trying to get pregnant.  

In some ways my fertility path has felt like an arduous one what with being queer and all that comes with trying to conceive when you need a third party to be part of the baby-making equation (though our third party is a gracious, kind friend and for that we are thankful). If you’ve been reading my posts, you also know that I suffered a pregnancy loss at nearly twelve weeks this past February. This summer I also underwent my first IVF cycle which ended in it being cancelled, because I got very sick with ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome due to the medications.

It’s now been two months since that IVF ordeal and I’m about to embark on it again. The mindfulness class has given me a gift I couldn’t have foreseen- sitting with the present moment and just taking it in exactly as it is. I have practiced meditation and studied mindfulness on and off for many years, but this lesson always merits repeating.

After my traumatic IVF experience, I went through weeks of worrying and thinking ahead about how the next attempt might go (“What if that happens again? What if they have to cancel the cycle once more? What if it doesn't work after all this?”). Now, when I feel anxiety rising up in my body, I make a conscious effort to tell myself, “You are o.k. today, right now in this moment.” It calms me.

Admittedly, I have some trauma around ultrasounds, because of finding out that my baby was not alive anymore via my first ultrasound. They have been a source of anxiety nearly every time I have had one since then and the IVF process is full of them. And yet, since starting the mindfulness class, I've been a bit more at peace with them, trying to be open to whatever is going on in my body that can be detected with this technology and trying not to leap into worry before the ultrasound even begins. Yesterday I had one and I actually felt fine.  It was mildly liberating. 

Mindfulness has also helped me in reflecting on my miscarriage. I spent so many months getting stuck on what could have been and what existed before that dreadful day when they couldn’t find my baby’s heartbeat. The past had this psychic lull for me. Yet I did experience pregnancy loss- that reality is part of my story now. I can have compassion for myself that this is a part of how grief manifests and it’s understandable to want to think about life before loss and what would have been had that loss never happened.  And yet, for me, I also am starting to get to a place where I realize that that’s also treading a soft path of suffering for me.  

I don't know what's going to happen going forward in terms of my ability to bring a baby into the world; no one does. It gives me a small amount of peace though to work on not trying to think ahead to what may or may not be and instead focus my energy on each day as it unfolds.  I can handle that.


Hope in the Rough: Surviving Miscarriage & Challenges Conceiving
By Charlotte Capogna-Amias

As I write this we are on the heels of August with its warming heat like ginger deep in the belly. In our house, as two parents who are educators and have part of the summer off, August often feels like one long Sunday getting ready for the school year to resume with its busy pace.  It’s also the month in which my spouse and I were married, and that brings some joyfulness to a time that otherwise would feel like it’s mourning the end of summer. As I have aged, I also have grown to love autumn- my constitution finds the cooler days better suited to my late-thirties body. Plus, living in New England, I am still dazzled by the beauty and wonderful assault to the senses of that fine season.  So August is that too, an ushering in of sweet autumn.  In short, it’s a month of mixed emotions.

This year, August brings another meaning: it was the month in which I was due to have my first biological baby (we have a daughter my spouse carried). I was due August 24th. It feels important to state that.  It’s something I don’t often say out loud: I was due August 24th.

One thing that has been hard for me since I miscarried is mentally playing the “I would have been…” game. (I miscarried at 11.5 weeks in mid-February.) March: “I would have been starting to show.” April: “I would have started to feel the baby move.” May: “I would have been showing at my choir’s concert… at the university’s commencement.” June: “I would have started the third trimester.” July: “I would have been enjoying my month off, nesting and getting ready to have the baby.” August: “I would have been in my final month of pregnancy.”  

I don’t know if I am alone in this, but since I miscarried I have noticed many more pregnant women as I go about my day-to-day life.  Were there as many pregnant women before or did they suddenly start multiplying at rapid speed?  “I would have looked like her.”  “I would have been due before her.” And on and on it goes… If I’m pregnant again someday, I wonder if someone will think these things about me.

A friend of mine whose partner experienced two miscarriages told me that, in their experience, this mental hook does not end even after the due date passes. Instead it morphs into, “We would have a newborn now.” “We would have a two-year-old now.” Etc.

One thing that I do plan to do this August is to go to my favorite perennial farm and pick out a plant that flowers in late August. I will plant it with the little memory seashell the hospital gave me when they performed my D & C.  It’s sort of a cheesy little thing: chipped paint on the shell’s ribs in pinks and yellows… it might have a butterfly or heart on it. Still, it’s a token to remember an experience- dare I say a baby- I don’t want to slip away and forget. I want to remember that I was pregnant once and that the spirit of my baby lived, if even just for 11.5 special weeks.  

Meeting our Development Director & Support Group Facilitator: Beth!

Hi, Empty Arms community. I'm so excited and honored to be sharing this space with you. My name is Beth Pellettieri. I have met many of you, but not all of you, and I look forward to meeting everyone as my work with Empty Arms continues.

In January 2014, I emailed Carol and Lexi about volunteering with Empty Arms, and they quickly put me to work. I was new to the area, and looking for an organization that felt special and unique. My background is in women's health -- from teen pregnancy and HIV/AIDS, to providing support as a doula, and working in hospitals. My most recent gig was as board president for the Chicago Volunteer Doulas.

Empty Arms also hit an important note personally, as I had my own early loss in 2009. During that time, I felt lost and alone. The idea of an organization like this blows my mind in the best possible way. I'm grateful for the space it provides for families in the trenches of loss, and for those of us working through our journey of grief.

I'm thrilled to be our newest staff member. For now, my work includes increasing our development and fundraising activities, organizing databases, and improving our blog, communication and social media outreach. Please reach out with any questions, ideas, concerns. I'm really excited to be a part of this organization.

How You Begin Again

Hope in the Rough: Surviving Miscarriage & Challenges Conceiving
By Charlotte Capogna-Amias

It’s been five weeks and five days since my pregnancy ended.  Following my attendance at a support group for women who have miscarried, the facilitator said she was impressed with how well I am doing, and the truth is, sometimes I am too.  

Let me be clear: I was incredibly saddened to lose my baby. It is something I think about every day since it has happened. It went like this: First, I laid in bed and cried for the entire day I found out that my baby did not have a heart beating within me.  I kept replaying those awful minutes when the midwife’s doppler wand could not find the “whoosh, whoosh, whoosh” sound of my baby’s heartbeat. That cold instrument tricked me for fleeting seconds by picking up on my own pulse through my abdomen and filling the static-y air with its subtle thunder. But there were no fetal sounds to reassure the worry rising in my body. And then there was the drive to the hospital for the ultrasound to confirm what my heart already knew to be true. As I drove there numb and scared I kept thinking, “please don’t let this be my fate.” I wanted to live in the white calm that was my life as a woman with a seemingly healthy pregnancy, before the doppler wand signaled that I wasn’t that anymore. 

In the days after the miscarriage was confirmed, it was all I could think about, except for when I was very intentionally distracting myself with all-consuming activities. I learned that sometimes distraction will save you. In the second week, I thought about the miscarriage every day, but I had longer stretches where I could go without thoughts of it floating in and occupying my brain, taking my imagination hostage in that busy place. Now, I find that most of the time, I am not thinking about the miscarriage. I know its ghost still lives in the background, occasionally coming out to nudge me with a pang of gut-stabbing sadness.  It does not offer any advanced warning- it just shows up, lets itself in, and then is gone.

I have been thinking a lot about resiliency since the miscarriage, that raw, strong bone of the wise ones who inhabit this beautiful, terrible world.  I have had a good life in many ways.  I am grateful every day.

Before I began trying to conceive I was so naive. I didn’t really know the realities of trying to get pregnant, particularly trying to get pregnant when you’re nearly 40 and gay. I had plenty of queer friends of “advanced maternal age” (gag) who had been through the process, still, I didn’t truly understand all that was involved until I was in it. I didn’t know that you could miscarry without having any outward, physical signs. And why would I have known any of this?  Years before, my spouse got pregnant with our daughter on the second try; conception and pregnancy came easy to her, even at 37. I didn’t have the same luck and I quickly found out that not only did I have a rather irregular cycle, I also had an undiagnosed thyroid issue that had to be managed.  I became a verifiable Eeyore about the whole conception process. I complained. I cried. I felt repeatedly disappointed with each month that passed that I was not pregnant.  And then I got pregnant and it didn’t work out.  EE-YORE.

I remember when I was first trying to conceive this acupuncturist saying to me, “you have to manifest that you can get pregnant... picture yourself pregnant... imagine your child.” The thing was, though this made sense to me, I could never figure out how to manifest hope that I’d get pregnant, without getting incredibly disappointed with each passing month that I wasn’t. I am a student of the Buddhist teachings and I knew my attachment was causing some of my own suffering.

In the weeks following my miscarriage, this question has loomed large in my brain again: how can I maintain hope that I will get pregnant again, something I very much want, while not getting disappointed if it doesn’t happen readily, or at all?  How can I manage to carry and nurture a pregnancy again, knowing that it could end the same way the first one did?

These questions itched at me, bothered my very core, and I felt this odd sense that I wouldn’t be able to rest until I figured out the answer to this psychic conundrum. 

Recently I was reading an essay in About What Was Lost, a wonderful collection of essays about the experience of miscarriage. One particular piece- a letter exchange between two women who had miscarried- held the proverbial key to my question. One of the women talked about this exact challenge when she was pregnant for a second time after miscarrying. She tried to do what I had thought was the only possible solution to this dilemma: she tried to not to get attached to the baby developing within her. She pushed that life growing within her out of her mind in the early months before she would push it out of her body. She carried on like this for as long as possible, until it was, quite literally, impossible. She had to love and nurture that baby. And love that baby she did. And she also accepted, or at least named out loud, that it could die before it made it to her anticipating arms. So there was my answer: you have to hold both things, things you always knew were true, but you turn away from until you experience something where turning away is impossible. I will keep trying to get pregnant and I am hopeful with a laser fierceness that I will get pregnant again. And I also know that it might not happen quickly, or (knot in my throat), at all. There you have it. I knew that all along, but I couldn’t see what was right in front of me. I might still be disappointed each month that conception doesn’t happen- to deny that would be self-punishing- but at least I won’t be blinded. 

I also started playing this game with myself. I admit it’s a little twisted, but it’s intent is a healing one. As many women who have experienced miscarriage or infertility will attest to, being around pregnant women can be painful. It’s a literal reminder of what you lost and what you don’t have, but long for. I took myself off of Facebook for months because I couldn’t bear to hear another pregnancy announcement, or worse, watch friends and acquaintances swelling with baby when I should have been ballooning as well. But then I realized something: in all my efforts to soothe myself in the five weeks since I miscarried, I found that what helped me the most was talking to other women who had miscarried, especially if those women had gone on to get pregnant. It was too scary to talk to women who had miscarried and not been able to go on to conceive. So my game became this: every time I saw someone in the grocery store who was pregnant, or someone announced they were pregnant over an email (yes, this happens regularly at this point in my life), or I saw a pregnant colleague at the college where I work, I would imagine that they had miscarried prior to conceiving that child.  I know that’s kind of messed up, but it helped me. And you know what?  Some of them probably had.  I could take my poison and make it my salve. 

In the days and weeks since my miscarriage I have been fortunate to receive so much support from friends and family, and this is undoubtedly a major part of why I am fairing as well as I am. One friend has set herself apart from the rest, however. This friend has been the primary person to call me, text me, and email me repeatedly since this whole ordeal began, and explicitly ask how I am doing. And when she asks, “really, how are you doing?”  I know what she’s asking. I’m so appreciative to her for asking me outright.  She is one of my oldest friends and she also miscarried during this past year.  And you know what else? She’s about to have a baby. So when she asks me, “Really, how are you doing?” I reach over and accept her hand; this is how I begin again.

Addendum to this piece:
1) I wrote this many months ago, now I am nearly five months out from my miscarriage. I planned to share it publicly soon after I wrote it, but that never happened, so here it is now.
2) Honestly, some days I am doing really well, and other days, I am not... I think that’s the reality of loss.
3) The friend I mention now has her baby. She’s a girl.
4) My experience with grief is ever-evolving and sometimes regresses. All I can say is that for me infertility is inextricably tied to my miscarriage experience and some days I can’t tell which is worse. 
5) I’m resilient and so are you dear ones.

Thanks for reading,