Another day, another heartbroken news of another baby loss from a loved one… The saddening fact that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss appears to be a true statistic amongst so many in our worlds who long for a baby or even to grow on their existing broods.
With the shattering recent news of more loss in my circles has finally triggered me to put fingers to type. Not about my own woes necessarily but just to try and help fight the taboo on such a sensitive subject. Miscarriage does affect us ALL – even those amongst us that aren’t even trying for a baby or have never endured loss. The likelihood is that we all know someone who has or will suffer a miscarriage at some stage, and with the matter being of such taboo hasn’t helped any of us (myself included probably) with what to say, what not to say or how to react.
I’ve been wanting to speak of the subject of baby loss and miscarriage for some time now. By speaking out about it can only help, because taboo subjects don’t allow us to feel informed, comfortable or relaxed in our actions towards others who might be suffering…
I’ve tried to structure this post around statements that are often heard which might not be helpful for those going through a miscarriage. There’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ per se, there’s no manual for most life events sadly – i.e do we avoid such ‘elephants in the room’ when we’re in the presence of someone who has suffered loss, do we approach with caution? Do we send a text, send a card, visit with a hug, post a bar of Dairy Milk through the letter box or ignore it completely?
“Thank goodness it wasn’t further along.”
As soon as someone finds out they are expecting, within days they may have shortlisted names, decided on what pram to buy, how they’ll decorate the nursery and have excitedly signed up to a local antenatal course. You can be pregnant for ‘as little’ as a few days or a few weeks and it’s still a heart breaking blow when those signs appear- such as a wipe of blood or a 4am wake up call of severe cramping.
Practically, yes, any medical professional may explain that the earlier in pregnancy a loss occurs the ‘kinder’ it is on our bodies – the process, the recovery, the risk of infection and more. But let’s leave it to the medical professionals to reassure us of the practical side of things. Your job as a friend/relative is to simply say “I’m sorry” and offer hugs, company, food (chocolate and sweets are always a winner) and an ear for however it’s needed. It’s an emotional as well as a physical battle to ‘get through’.
“Losing early is just like a period, right?”
This one makes me face palm a little. A loss at 6, 8, 10 weeks can still be ruddy painful but we’re forgetting the emotional side too. Everyone is different and thus all miscarriages will be a different experience from one person to the next. There is more than a few tablespoons of blood to pass. It’s technically a mini labour, there are clots and all sorts to ‘expel’. Every loo visit, every sanitary change, for those few weeks (yes miscarriage does last longer than a ‘period’ for most people) is a constant reminder of what’s happening, as the grief sets in.
Practically yes. As I echo again, a medical professional will always stay realistic and reassure that the earlier in pregnancy a loss occurs the ‘better’ it is for the body in terms of process, recovery and infection. This post is not about loss in all trimesters (it’s not bear thinking about) – it’s about it being okay to still be there for those that lose at any time and appreciate it’s still a devastating time for them. Not forgetting the horrifying ectopic pregnancies that can involve life saving surgery – at ‘as little’ as 6-7 weeks gone.
“At least you already have a baby.”
Ouch. So it’s okay to incur secondary miscarriage (often recurrent) after successfully having a baby previously?!? Is it really justified for your loved one to suffer that level of emotional grief and physical pain just because they’ve already been blessed before? Why so?! (This might sound dramatic to some, but this is how it’s translated…)
“At least you can get pregnant.”
Where’s the positive in falling pregnant if it’s only going to end in loss? For some people a repeated positive pregnancy test may always end in loss. Bringing a baby in to this world is an outright miracle for many – there’s a whole journey to get through. Starting with a positive pregnancy test is a good start, but it’s far from any guaranteed reassurance for the 9 months ahead.
“It wasn’t meant to be.”
No, perhaps it wasn’t. And perhaps the couple enduring loss may believe this in good time, but not necessarily in the early days. My view in life is that bad things should not happen to good people – not just miscarriage but any life traumas. I believe in life lessons, challenges to power through and hurdles to jump over and so on, but I don’t believe everything happens for a reason necessarily, and yes it may not be a viable pregnancy, but let the couple believe in this for themselves and when they are ready – they don’t need to hear this from anyone else.
In any crisis situation, when you want to be there for your friend but you can’t relate to their situation it is only natural to try and say something you think might be deemed as reassuring and positive – just because you want to say something helpful, which is a sure sign of a good friendship. There’s no right or wrong, the above is just my view and shared opinions from those who’ve opened up to me.
“So…what should I say?” I can hear some of you call?
The answer is a simple “I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry for your loss.”
“I’m sorry for your loss, is there anything I can do?”
“I’m sorry for your loss. Sending you the biggest hug.”
“I’m sorry for your loss. I’m thinking of you (and your partner – let’s not forget they have lost too).”
A partner can have their own level of grief to process but they have the hard job of witnessing their loved one’s physical pain and emotion. To be a support to their loved one coping with pain and loss as well as dealing with it themselves is no easy task.
A gynaecologist once said to me that early pregnancy units and gynaecological and scan departments aren’t always open (aka funded 24 hours and at weekends) because there isn’t the demand. Her point being that there is the demand, but because the subject is such a taboo there’s not enough awareness or discussion around the subject of miscarriage which potentially doesn’t allow for the funding needed for research as well for physical care and attention for those suffering. You might experience bleeding on a Friday night, but your local hospital unit is closed until Monday, meaning you have to just ‘deal with it’ for that length of time..
The Miscarriage Association have a relevant article on their website about supporting others through a loss. I’ve linked it here. The Miscarriage Association is a brilliant online source providing ample support, information and helpline and have often recommended them to others who I know have found comfort and support from them too.
Thank you for reading.