A shocking 25% of woman will experience such a loss. One in four women. That is a devastating number. Do you know anyone who has suffered a miscarriage? Chances are you do… but you may not even know it. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, studies reveal that anywhere from 10-25% of all clinically recognized pregnancies will end in miscarriage. That’s only the pregnancies reported and known by doctors. That number does not include the staggering number of women who miscarry and don’t know, nor does it include women who have not yet sought medical care.
When our loved ones pass; the community rallies. Flowers are sent, dinners are cooked and brought over, and people offer hugs, love and condolences. Friends and family step up to let you know you are loved and your loss acknowledged and grieved with you.
When we experience a miscarriage none of that happens. Why is that? I believe it starts with the culture of secrecy when it comes to pregnancy. Don’t tell anyone until you pass that first trimester, in case something happens. From the get go, a sense of shame is instilled in us. No one wants to know if you lose the baby, is essentially the message. When we miscarry, there are no flowers. No dinners cooked. Very little is done to let you know you are loved and your loss is acknowledged and grieved. Even if you do choose to share it, most people say they are sorry and then change the subject.
I have been pregnant no less than eight times. I have had the absolute pleasure of giving birth to three beautiful children. The youngest is six months old and I enjoy him like babies are going out of style. I have had more than a few miscarriages. Each one was painful, filled with sorrow and gone through largely alone. Each miscarriage was met with an expectation of hush, the brief spark of life unspoken and unremembered by anyone else.
Except for me. I remember them all. I remember when they were due and I remember hearing heartbeats and seeing ultrasound photos. I remember the moments I discovered I was pregnant, and the lump caught in my throat; excitement building but not growing too big, lest I lose this one too. I remember the pain of going in for countless extra tests, extra blood draws, seeing ‘high risk’ at the top of my files, hearing ‘history of loss’ from my providers and the incredibly casual way my last provider told me “This one isn’t going to be a viable pregnancy” from my last miscarriage a few years ago.
I remember too, the very crass way someone had told me “Oh well, you’ve only had one baby. Once you’ve had multiple pregnancies, you’ll understand what I mean.” I don’t even remember what the topic was, but her tone was so dismissive. I chose not to be silent and I blurted out, “Actually, I’ve been pregnant three times. I have one child, yes. I lost the others. But I have been pregnant three times.” The silence was deafening. To say the pause was awkward would be an understatement. Even amongst other women, I was met with the silent accusation of, ‘OMG. You SPOKE of it??’
So what should we do when someone miscarries? The more I speak about my own losses, the more I hear from other women about theirs. I have no desire to hide, I refuse to be ashamed. Not talking about my angel babies makes it harder to move on. So talk. Talk about your babies. Share your fears. Express how sad you are. Let’s break this code of silence that society has imposed on us.
Give permission to grieve. The ‘what could have been’ is so powerful with a miscarriage. From the moment we discover or even suspect we are pregnant, our minds start planning. We imagine a baby in our minds, in our arms and in our lives. It’s not just a blob of cells. It doesn’t matter how pregnant a mom is. Names start popping into our heads, how we will tell people, what will our partner think/say/feel, etc.
Send a card. Cook them dinner. If baby items were purchased, ask if they’d like you or someone else to pack them away or hold into those items until they are ready. Offer to help connect them to supports in the community. Ask how their partner is.
Most importantly, I found for myself, was forgiving my body. That meant for me, some counseling and time. There is no timeline for grief. For some, it’s a few days, and for others, longer. Both are okay. In the long run, I am okay too. I will never forget my angel babies, they each have a special place in my heart.
photo credit: Claire Petrillo