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.
13 thoughts on “Cast a Light in the Darkness”
Aw, thank you for posting this, sharing your story and tips to help women who are going through it. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to say or do, but this helps a person to know.
I agree, it’s so hard to know what to do or say with situations like this. I sure hope this helps others better understand.
Great post. We had two very early miscarriages. Sharing with my friends!
I’m sorry for your losses, don’t forget to light a candle for your angels tonight. Thank you for sharing, knowledge is power!
This is a great post. And I must say, the advice can be applied outside the context of miscarriage (having experienced that ourselves, we would agree with everything you said). As a pastor’s wife, I have been privy to an abundance of tragedy in the lives of other people. In the early years, I would almost break out in hives trying to figure out what to say. But by watching my husband, I have learned so much. The best thing to say is “I’m so sorry for your loss. Please know you are in my prayers.” And don’t be afraid of the silence thereafter. I would also add, instead of asking “is there anything I can do?” offer something specific. “I would like to bring you a meal. When would be a good day?”
Thank you! Such a good point- people have difficulty finding the right words amidst any tragedy. We tend to think we need to fill a void with words, and sometimes we say insensitive things. I really like your point about asking the person when you can bring a good meal. I know that we haven’t taken up any vague offers to help with the quads because we are humble and also don’t know if people truly mean to help. A meal is something most any family will appreciate during a difficult time.
[…] In honor of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, I addressed my own losses, Casting a Light in the Darkness & Reflecting. […]
[…] If you or someone you know is experiencing infertility or miscarriage, here are a few helpful articles: Infertility Etiquette Infertility Myths & Facts Managing Infertility Stress How to Support a Friend After Miscarriage […]
Thank you for posting this! It amazes me how little people know or understand this. How common it is, yet so few talk about it openly. After suffering 3 miscarriages myself…I never hesitate to share my experience, in hopes that somehow it may bring someone comfort to know that they are not alone. That other women have been there, felt the same darkness, the same disparity, the same gut wrenching pain. And the pain goes further than just the actual loss as you said. You find yourself sad about what might have been…you find yourself feeling like a horrible friend when you realize that you feel as if you are bordering on angry when a friend or relative announces a pregnancy, or has a baby. You get angry when someone complains about their baby crying too much or waking too much, or stretch marks, discomfort in pregnancy and so on….all the things that you would give ANYTHING in the world to experience…because it would mean that your baby is alive, of in the instance of infertility…that you are actually pregnant. It causes one to be terrified the next time that they become pregnant…anxious, nervous and terrified at each and every appointment, even when receiving blood work results etc. You constantly scrutinize every little thing in your body…what was that pain, I didn’t feel the baby in the last hour, it’s taking them a long time to find the tiny little bean during that first ultrasound, taking too long to find the tiny heartbeat on the doppler…thoroughly inspecting the toilet paper looking for the tiniest speck of blood, checking for a heartbeat at home multiple times a day just to make sure the baby is still alive….the list goes on and on. It really can wreak havoc on someone, not just in the weeks after, but for months and years potentially. It steals the ability to just be in ignorant bliss during subsequent pregnancies…it can tarnish the happiness one should and would be feeling, because the anxiety and fear take over. It can even cause postpartum anxiety and fear. Miscarriage is real. The loss is real, no matter how early on it occurs. As a mother, the minute we learn that we are pregnant, no matter how early…we are that baby’s mother, they are our child and our love for them runs deeper than any other love could. We are attached emotionally and physically immediately. We mourn the loss, we grieve, it is a death, a life taken too soon, a life that will never be, a dream that will never be realized and fulfilled….
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PS…sorry for writing a novel, but I am a bit passionate about the subject to say the least 🙂
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You articulated the whole experience beautifully! It really is amazing how common miscarriage is yet so misunderstood. I honestly had NO idea until it happened to me. I’ll remember your angels when we light our candle tonight.
I may need you to write a guest post about miscarriage.
Amber, thank you so much! I have a few typos but I am glad that it came across well! I don’t think anyone realizes what it is like until it happens to them, and I have also noticed that sometimes men (not all) do not even begin to understand. For many of them, the baby/pregnancy isn’t “real” or something they are attached to until they can feel the baby, or even sometimes until birth. They don’t always understand the mother’s attachment from the minute they learn of the pregnancy. I think it takes some time for it to become “real”, for an emotional attachment to form…for SOME men…not all, but either way….I feel that those who have not experienced it and spouses/partners of those who have, could truly benefit from learning more about what it is like to experience it…the emotions and grief that one endures…the lasting effects it can have. It’s not as simple as “get pregnant again” or “it was God’s will” or “Something must have been really wrong, so it is a blessing…..” You get the general idea. And I’d be honored to do that should you ever need or want me to. Such a compliment!
[…] Tips for Helping a Friend After Miscarriage […]