Today, October 15th, is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Each year on this day, I reflect upon the past few years with the challenges we’ve overcome. It’s hard to believe that just two years ago, our dreams of having a family seemed shattered. After our third round of IUI, George and I finally got the coveted BFP (big fat positive). When we went to the first ultrasound, we saw the most beautiful, strong fluttering heartbeat. I recall my doctor happily stating that 97% of the time when a strong heartbeat is seen, the baby is delivered to term. We were filled with naivety and confidence after that appointment. So confident, in fact, that I went alone to the next ultrasound appointment. Epic mistake.
At the second appointment, the dreaded words, “Your baby stopped growing” stung my ears. I recall a numbness filled with confusion. I thought, “What does she mean???” I sat in the doctor’s office alone in a horrid paper gown flummoxed. That was when I became the newest member of yet another club that no one want wants to join- the “I suffered a miscarriage” club.
Unfortunately, miscarriage is relatively common, estimated to occur in 10-20% of pregnancies. It happens to our mothers, aunts, cousins, sisters, daughters, and best friends. Yet, it alienates us from the very people we hold dearly because only those in the dreadful club truly understand the agony it causes. Sometimes we suffer alone, while other times we openly share our wounds only to find that those who love us inflict even more pain. Prior to my own experience, I didn’t have the foggiest concept of miscarriage. Perhaps I was an offender to those around me, saying “helpful” things that were anything but. Because miscarriage is common, chances are you know or will know someone in the dreaded club so please be a friend to her and consider my thoughts on the matter.
Recognize that your friend is grieving. Even though the baby was tiny and perhaps she didn’t even know the baby’s gender, the mother was attached to her baby the minute she knew he existed. She had hopes and dreams for her baby that were crushed. Most of all, it was the loss of what will never be. With each passing day, the mother knows her baby will never be part of her family to celebrate holidays, snap family portraits, or to snuggle at night. That is devastating. It is not the same as other losses, but it is a loss nonetheless and the mother is experiencing legitimate grief. Consequently, she needs the help of her friends so,
- Don’t marginalize her pain or experiences with insensitive words such as, “At least it was early. ” or “It was God’s plan”, or “Everything happens for a reason”.
- Don’t ignore her grief. It is just as hurtful for friends to ignore the pain of a miscarriage as it is for them to say something insensitive.
- Don’t inquire about future family planning or make statements about whether the couple should continue trying or not. Unless your friend specifically seeks advice in this area, it’s really none of your business.
- Keep your words simple and supportive. “I’m so sorry for your loss”, “You are in my thoughts and prayers”, or “I am here to listen.” can be very powerful. There’s no need to say more because chances are you may inadvertently say something hurtful.
- Send her something letting her know you are thinking of her. A simple card is plenty, but flowers or donations to charities in the family name are other thoughtful ways to honor the loss.
- If you have a new baby or are an expectant mother, understand that your friend may find it difficult to talk to you about your baby or pregnancy. It has nothing to do with you. Rather, your friend is likely experiencing intense pain that is exacerbated by seeing your joy. She is not jealous of you, but she is reminded of her loss. Give her time and she will find healing.
- Help her seek help (if needed). After a miscarriage, the mother’s hormones are in a state of flux where emotions run high and low. For most mothers, intense feelings, including depression subside within a few months. If your friend seems to be struggling immensely after several months pass, encourage her to speak with her physician.
If you are reading this, I hope you head my thoughts about this if it happens to a friend of yours. Miscarriage is an extremely difficult experience and the support of friends is critical.