Important note: every woman’s response, every couple’s response, to a miscarriage is intensely personal and unique to them. So some of what I write here will not be true for you, some may even have been the opposite. But the topic of miscarriage is so rarely discussed that I wanted to start this conversation, so that maybe someone has the chance to say, you too? Thank goodness…
The grief can take you by surprise with its hugeness, the way it engulfs you. I’d never had a conversation with a woman who’d had a miscarriage before I miscarried our baby. In my naivety I’d thought the very things that became so hurtful – well, at least it’s earlier in the pregnancy, so you’re not so attached right? In fact, the overwhelming pain of loosing this child knocked the breath out of me.
It doesn’t make it easier that it was an “early” miscarriage. From the moment we knew we were expecting, our whole world changed. We were parents. From now until the day we died, this would be our identity. This would be our child, to feed, to rock to sleep, to play with, to discipline, to advise, to watch grow. Loosing the baby meant loosing that dream.
All your assurances that we will be able to get pregnant again, have little meaning right at this moment. It’s not my greatest worry. We have so much hope of being able to be parents in the future, but we won’t get to be parents to this child in this lifetime. I miss this child, not just being pregnant.
Grief for a miscarried child is similar to any other grief – you have moments of anger, blaming yourself, hopelessness, depression, acceptance. And like any other grief, these feelings don’t follow any linear, marked-out, track. And so I’ve felt fine one day, and not able to get off the bathroom floor the next.
Your instinct is to try and offer advice, to help. But the best way you can help is to keep the advice to yourself for now. Just hug me, tell me you’re so so sorry, listen to me if I want to talk. What was helpful for you/your friend after miscarriage may not be helpful for me.
If you tell me I really should read the book Heaven is For Real, I may punch you in the face. If I manage to hold the polite smile on my lips, be sure I am imagining punching you in the face while I smile.
Don’t tell me there is a purpose in this loss. There is no greater purpose to the death of my child. There is no higher being thinking, I think Fiona and Rasmus need to learn something so I’ll kill off their child. It’s disgusting and hurtful for you to suggest this to me. I truly believe that nothing is wasted in this life, that out of the darkest moments, new light can begin to shine. But that’s redemption, it’s not purpose.
As encouraging and sweet as you are trying to be, if you tell me I am sure to get pregnant again soon, or the next pregnancy will definitely result in a healthy child, you are lying. There is no way you can know that. Yes, the statistics show that most women who have a miscarriage go on to have a healthy next pregnancy. But there are no guarantees, and as hopeful as we are (we are!), it is not helpful to give me an unrealistic picture of the future.
Miscarriage is very common, but each one is unique. I was touched and strengthened by the many women who chose to tell me about their miscarriage(s) after we told our story publicly. It’s a comfort to know that there is nothing I could have done, that it is a relatively “normal” thing. At the same time, it was never helpful to have people use the “it’s so common” line to try and minimise my pain. It may happen to many many women, but the grief is still real, my pain is still legitimate.
The grief lasts. It doesn’t go away in a few weeks or months. It resurfaces – at Christmas, as you approach what would have been your due date. I’ve heard from other women that a next pregnancy or newborn child can cause the grief to resurface. Sadness has been a frequent companion these last six months. I read a few days ago that clinical depression is common for about a third of women who suffer a miscarriage. I have valued the friends who remember I’m still struggling all this time later, who still give me space to talk and those all-important hugs.
It is staggeringly beautiful to be part of a community that gathers around a couple in the midst of grief. Offers of meals, flowers left on our doorstep, multiple hugs and whispers of understanding. It gives me faith in humanity, faith in the goodness and love in people’s souls.
Please know that I am okay. We are okay. It is hard and it is sad, but we have friends and family to support us, we have each other, we have hope. I process my thoughts here because I hope it can be helpful so others.
Important Update: I need you to know that we have felt so surrounded by love and support this past seven months. The comments that stung were rare and even when they came, I still knew that they were motivated by a desire to help, even if they were misguided. Sometimes, the most hurtful comments were in my own head.
I know it is hard to know what to say, how to help. I know you’ve wanted to. This post is not in any way meant as an attack on anyone. We’ve felt loved. That’s the most important thing. We’ve felt so very loved.