12 Things I Needed to Hear From the Doctor After My Miscarriage

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I have miscarried two babies, Ruby in 2010 and Gus in 2015. I had two very different experiences with my miscarriage. In 2010, the doctor treated my experience as a medical event and was unemotional. It took months for me to be OK with how I was treated, and his treatment of me compounded my grief. In 2015 when Gus died, I was treated with compassion and given options. I was able to move forward more quickly because I wasn’t struggling with mistreatment from my healthcare provider.

Here’s what I wish I heard from that first doctor in 2010.

1. I’m sorry. Please tell me you are sorry or that you will be thinking of me during this difficult time. I know you see miscarriage happen often, but this is my first miscarriage. Even if I have had more than one miscarriage, I would still like to hear those words.

2. Offer a kind touch or a hug. I may be really sad, and it’s helpful to know you care. This is not a medical event for me — it is heartbreaking. Placing your hand on my shoulder helps me feel deeply cared for and will improve my experience.

3. Please tell me what to expect. I have never done this before, and I am scared. I don’t know what my body and mind will experience. It’s helpful to know if I will be in pain physically as well as emotionally, and I will need to know a little bit about how to handle that.

4. Please give me options. It may be hard for me to live with having a dead baby inside me. Please help me understand the best options for my body and help me understand why. If I am anxious, please help me through that with medications or resources. If I am in pain, please offer me pain medications or resources. I need to know you are there for me if I need help. I will also need some sort of timeline. If you don’t know how long this process will take, it’s OK to say that. Just help me understand what to do if the process is taking a long time.

5. Prepare me for what I might see. I have never seen a very tiny baby before, and my baby may be so tiny that they aren’t very visible. Please prepare me for what to look for such as gray tissue or what the placenta may look like.

6. Please tell me not to flush. I may feel guilty and shameful if I flush my baby, so please give me something to capture my baby in and tell me where to keep my baby or what to do with my baby.

7. Tell me it’s OK if I do flush. If I do flush my baby down the toilet, please tell me that does not mean I didn’t love my baby or didn’t care. I need to know that many women have done this and it’s OK.

8. Explain my situation to your staff. If I have to share my story with your staff, they may think I hung up because I have become silent. Sometimes I cannot form the words, or my tears swallow my voice. It’s helpful if your staff already knows and can be comforting to me on the phone.

9. Help me know that I can bury or cremate my baby. I may want to bring my baby home, bury my baby or have my baby cremated. If you don’t tell me this is an option, I may not feel at peace about where my baby went, and I may struggle later. Please share the options I have for my baby’s remains.

10. Share with me that I can take time off work. I need to know it’s OK for me to take some time off not only to complete the miscarriage but to recover emotionally. If you don’t tell me this is an option and that it’s OK, I may go back to work and regret it later — especially if I spend the days crying in front of coworkers and clients.

11. Please don’t minimize my experience. I know not all women will grieve miscarriage the way I am, but that doesn’t mean my grief isn’t worthy or valid. If I call my baby a baby, please reciprocate. I didn’t refer to my baby as “products of conception,” “embryo” or “fetus.”

12. Let me know I will survive and move forward. Right now, time seems to be standing still. I can’t imagine stepping outside and seeing how the world is still turning while my world has been crushed beneath me. I need to know I’m going to make it through this even though it will be hard.

The Mighty is asking the following: Write a letter to anyone you wish had a better understanding of your experience with disability and/or disease. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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Why This Simple Question About My Kids Is Anything But for Me

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“How many kids do you have?”

It’s a simple question, right? But I don’t know how to answer it. And I’ve felt that way for over five years.

When I’m in a grocery store or some kind of temporary space and it’s coming from a kind stranger, I usually answer with a forced smile and say hesitantly, “A boy and a girl.” What I’m doing is navigating the question by not exactly answering the question.

But when I’m in a hospital or medical setting — which unfortunately is often — the answer gets even trickier. It’s hard for me not to tell the truth to a medical professional, even if it’s just small talk. But that question isn’t small to me.

I think the biggest reason I can’t not tell the truth at the hospital is that these are the only walls that all three of our children have experienced. And, oddly enough — as I write this — it’s the first moment that thought has really clicked.

When our first child’s heart stopped beating unexpectedly when he was a nearly 36-week-old in utero, it felt like my heart had stopped beating, too. But it didn’t, and here I am, and so are his two beautiful siblings who may be with us thanks to some medical interventions that the mysterious loss led doctors to for future pregnancies.

It wasn’t until our third child was born that the question of “how many kids do you have” became so relevant. He was born with a life-threatening primary immunodeficiency disease that is considered most likely unique to him, and possibly related to his older brother. But we don’t really know and may never have all the clear answers. Yet, now that we’ve been in and out of the hospital for my son’s condition and ultimate bone marrow transplant, there’s no avoiding that we are in the same physical space and medical mystery as we were five years ago.

So, to answer your question — I have three beautiful children. In honor of our angel Maks, sweet Maia Bee and brave Luka the Lion. October is miscarriage and infant loss awareness month, but we live and breathe it every second.

Everyone has a story, and sometimes the simplest questions have the most complex answers. It’s not what you say, it’s how you make people feel. If you show genuine empathy and care, it goes the longest way, no matter if you’re a perfect stranger or close friend.

For those who are experiencing loss, the best advice I ever received was to allow for time, space and love. Sometimes you won’t know all the answers, and accepting that helps.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

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What Nobody Tells You About Experiencing a Miscarriage

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October 20, 2005 at 2:40 a.m. is a day and time I’ll forever remember. I was just about to enter into my fifth month of pregnancy when life as I knew it changed. Over the course of one day, I went from happy and anxious mom-to-be to grieving mother.

I remember absolutely everything about that day. My boyfriend and I spent the day setting up the baby room. We had the crib up with a beautiful Precious Moments doll lying on top, little outfits in greens and yellows hanging in the closet and a car seat sitting by the door waiting patiently to be used. Later that night I had slight cramping, so I decided to take a bath. As I was about to step into the tub, my heart stopped. I knew something was wrong.

We rushed to the hospital, and since it was late at night, we had to wait a few hours for the ultrasound tech to arrive. I remember lying on the hard hospital bed thinking how cold and sterile the room felt. I remember arguing with the ultrasound tech who told me my baby was only measuring at 15 weeks’ gestation when the baby should’ve been measuring at 18 weeks’. My worst nightmare was confirmed when the doctor was called in to take a look.

I remember my boyfriend literally falling to his knees, and all I felt was numb and empty.

Numb is the best way to describe how I felt when family and friends stopped by to offer their condolences, and numb was how I felt weeks later when I watched my boyfriend pack away the baby’s room.

Months later, when my mom came over with a porcelain angel figurine holding a baby in her arms, the dam of emotions finally broke. That was when it hit me that it was really over, and this was all I had to hold onto.

Nobody tells you when you have a miscarriage that the grieving won’t go away overnight. I think most thought I would be back to myself fast. How sad could I be over losing a baby I never met? What people don’t take into account is that I was planning the life of my baby. I had hopes, dreams and wishes for her. Would she have had curly blonde hair and green eyes like me? Or black hair and blue eyes like her father? Would she have been eccentric and quirky like me, or laid back like her father? She had a room, and a name picked out, and it was all gone within a blink of an eye.

Nobody tells you that it’s OK to grieve the loss of a baby you never met, and that it can take years not to hurt as much. I didn’t feel better after days, weeks, months or even three years later when my son was born. The pain was less, but it didn’t go away.

For the longest time, it felt like a punch to the gut when October rolled around. Or when March came (when her birthday should’ve been) and I would think each year, she would’ve been walking, talking, riding a bike or starting preschool by now.

Nobody tells you that the immense pain slowly turns into sadness, and then into memories of what would’ve been. Now nine years later, I don’t think of her as often, and it doesn’t hurt as much. I’ll think of her when I see a child around the same age, and wonder if she would’ve had the same interests. I’ll think of her on Christmas morning when my son is opening his gifts, and on what would’ve been her birthday.

I want all parents who have ever lost a child to miscarriage to know that it’s OK to feel sad and grieve for your baby. He or she was a part of you. There is no time limit to grieving. Your pain is no less because you never met your baby. There will always be something that comes up that reminds you of him or her, and it’s OK to wonder what would’ve been. Miscarriages are painful no matter what stage of pregnancy you’re at, whether it’s six weeks, 10 weeks or 15 weeks along. You lost a child, and I believe there is nothing more painful than that. I also want you to know that as time moves on and you don’t think of them as often, you may feel guilty. It doesn’t mean you’re forgetting them; it just means you’re healing.

It’s taken me nine years to be able to talk about my miscarriage openly. I have a memory box for her that I used to open all the time, but now find myself only looking in once a year. The pain has lessened,  but I’ll never forget her because she was mine and was a part of me.

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Why I Want to Change the Way We Talk About Infant Loss and Miscarriage

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My husband and I experienced a horrible loss this past April. I was four months pregnant with our first child when our baby’s heart stopped beating. I remember everything about that day — going in, having the routine vitals checked (blood pressure, weight, etc.) and the nurse coming in to hear the heartbeat with a Doppler machine.

After a couple of minutes of silence from the machine, I began to panic and could feel myself breathing faster. She exited the room without saying anything. Another nurse came in and said, “Let me try.” Silence. I could feel the hot tears start to well up in my eyes. As she walked out, she said, “I’m going to check if you can have a sonogram done.” I immediately began to pray, “Please God, please God, please God, let everything be OK.”

The cold gel no longer tickled as it had the first couple of times. I asked, “Is everything OK?” The woman responded, “I’m sending a report to the doctor. He’ll be with you shortly.” I was led to the doctor’s office, and at that moment, I already knew something was wrong. As I sat down, he said, “There was no fetal heartbeat detected. I’m sorry but the pregnancy is not going to continue.” As soon as the words left his mouth, I broke down crying as I felt the world collapsing around me.

Through sobs I somehow managed to ask, “Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure.”

He began to explain my options on how to proceed with the necessary arrangements, but I wasn’t listening. I completely drowned him out and just sat there and cried. My husband showed up and everything after that was a blur. I sat there, completely numb, as the doctor explained to my husband the situation and I heard the news all over again.

There are absolutely no words to describe the feeling. We were beyond devastated and completely heartbroken.

“This isn’t happening. How could this be happening? Why must I go through this? It isn’t fair!”

All of these thoughts played over and over in my mind as I was forced to face the reality of the situation. I was admitted into the hospital two days later where labor was induced and I delivered my baby. Seeing my baby girl and saying goodbye was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, and it has changed me completely. I was given a memory box that day with an infant onesie and a small newborn hat, but the most precious thing in that box was a set of three cards with my baby’s footprints.

I cried so much as the thoughts and dreams I had for this new life with our daughter were shattered. I didn’t know how I was ever going to be able to face another day knowing I would never get to hold my baby, watch her grow up, go to school, to the prom, get married. I didn’t know how I was ever going to come back from this, how I would ever be the same.

I came across a story one morning, “To the Mom I Didn’t Mind Making Uncomfortable at the Playground,” and read it with tears in my eyes. I empathized with this mother. I knew exactly what she was feeling and I wanted to reach through the computer, give her a hug and tell her, “I understand.”

In the past three months, I’ve encountered friends who I haven’t seen in a long time, and it never fails — that question I so dread always comes up. “Do you have any kids yet?” A couple of times, I’ve experienced the uncomfortable silence on the other end after telling people what my husband and I have been through. At first, I struggled with deciding what I would say, but I finally came to the conclusion that I didn’t have to keep quiet — I shouldn’t have to keep quiet. My baby mattered to us, and there shouldn’t be anything wrong with talking about her.

Throughout the days, many shared they had also experienced the loss of an infant or had experienced a miscarriage. Many of them still cried when sharing their experience, but it was always in a quiet and private place, almost as if they didn’t want others to know what they had been through, and I wondered why is this topic so secret?

There is a horrible stigma surrounding infant loss. That needs to change. It should be OK to talk about this loss and look for support among each other. I know infant loss and miscarriage are extremely difficult and sad topics to talk about, but I want to be comfortable talking about my daughter. She was very much already a part of me and my husband’s life from the beginning, from the time we first heard the heartbeat, to the times I had morning sickness, to the time we saw her move her arms and legs on the screen. She is and will forever be a part of our history, a part of our hearts.

My husband and I received a tremendous amount of love and support during the days that followed the loss. Family was always available, calling every day, bringing food and checking in on us. Co-workers went above and beyond to make sure we were OK, sending cards, collecting monetary donations and taking care of my students while I was out, and friends were there to cry with us, as many times as we had to.

You see, it’s never easy to talk about the loss of a loved one, but I think by showing people it’s OK to reach out to one another and talk about our losses, we will be helping so many others who may be feeling the same things but do not have the courage to say so. 

So I ask others, please don’t feel uncomfortable when someone shares their story. Mothers, lets continue to support each other, tell our stories and be there for others who know exactly what we have been through. Fathers, I know your heart aches just as much as the mothers’, but together, you will come out stronger. I promise.

Many of my family members and friends were honest with us after the loss and said, “I’m sorry, but we don’t know how to approach you. We don’t know how to talk about it.”

And I always respond, “I know, but this is a start.”

My thoughts, love and prayers go out to all of the families who have walked similar paths.

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I Hated My Body After My Miscarriages Until My Daughter Said This

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Hospital I didn’t really believe something was wrong with my baby.

I didn’t believe it when I was started to contract and bleed heavily at 20 weeks pregnant. I didn’t believe it when the nurse couldn’t find a heartbeat after strapping the monitor to my belly. I disregarded the concerned looks of every medical professional who stepped into my cold, gray hospital room. 

The face of the ultrasound technician snapped me out of my denial. My heart felt like concrete in my chest, and I could barely breath as he explained that my baby had passed a few weeks earlier. My husband and I clung tightly to each other and sobbed.

“This isn’t your fault,” he told me over and over through his own tears. “You didn’t do this.”

 This wasn’t our first experience with miscarriage, and my husband knew exactly what I would be thinking. 

How could I have let this happen? What did I do wrong? Why did my body keep killing my babies? 

The grief and guilt I felt were far more painful than the contractions I was experiencing as they wheeled me into the operating room. Inside, I was hysterical. Strangers surrounded me. I couldn’t speak. All I could do was silently cry.

The operating room nurse gently tucked blankets around me and brushed my tears away. “I am so sorry, honey,” she said.

That’s the last thing I remember before the drugs kicked in and I drifted into unconsciousness. The medical team delivered my son and sent his tiny body to the pathologist. I never got to see him.

My friends and family went above and beyond to be there for me during the following weeks, but I couldn’t stop torturing myself with thoughts about what had gone wrong. I was healthy. I’d tried to eat right and exercise during my pregnancy. Had I overexerted myself when my family had moved a few weeks earlier? Had I allowed myself to become so stressed about losing another pregnancy that it became a self-fulfilling prophecy?

A few months later, before I’d truly processed the loss of my son, I got pregnant again. That pregnancy made it to 14 weeks before I lost it too. It was another baby boy, and once again I never got to see him.

After that loss, I tried to put on a brave face. I made jokes about my uterus being an asshole, and people commented on how well I was handling everything. They had no idea how much I hated myself.

I didn’t even want to look in a mirror. I stopped caring about my appearance. I used food to comfort myself. What did it matter if I gained weight? I hated my body anyway. My babies were the most precious things in the world to me, and my body kept killing them. 

Trying to comfort myself while simultaneously hating myself was driving me crazy. I didn’t know who to turn to or how to deal with the wildly conflicting emotions I was feeling. 

In the end, it was a conversation with my one living child that finally helped me begin to find peace with my body.

I’d just stepped out of the shower when she came into the bathroom. She stared at me for a moment and then asked, “Mama, why do you have stripes?”

Pregnancy was not kind to my skin, and my stomach and hips are covered in stretch marks. 

“You used to live in my tummy,” I explained. “My skin had to stretch so that you could fit, and that gave me stripes.”

“Why did I live in your tummy?” she asked with wide eyes.

“Well, it kept you safe until you were big enough to come out and be with me and Daddy,” I said, hoping it was a simple enough explanation for a toddler.

She considered this for a moment and then patted my stomach. “Thank you, Mama’s tummy.” 

I nearly started crying right there in the bathroom. As much as my body had taken from me, it had also given me my beautiful daughter. As simple as the moment was, it was a powerful realization for me.

There are still days when I struggle with my body, but I’ve tried to change my thinking about it. My body is neither good nor bad. Nothing I did or didn’t do caused my babies to die. The body that failed to carry those babies to term also helped create those precious lives. For that reason, I choose to love my body and all of its flaws.

Andrea Woslager with her daughter

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I'd Just Lost My Child. A Stranger's 3 Little Words Kept Me Going.

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I have no idea what made me pull in that day, with the weather cool and dreary. Having passed the little country store a dozen times or more on the way to visit my parents, I still can’t pinpoint what made me stop.

I wasn’t looking for anything in particular until I saw this beautiful mahogany box. Hand crafted, rich in color and smooth — it was meant to hold cigars. But I knew it was perfect for something else.

It was perfect to hold the memories…

I picked it up and knew I had to buy it. Smoothing my hands over and over the top and edges, I carried it to the front. A lady, who looked to be of grandmotherly age, held out her hands to take the box and ring me up. As I watched her wrap it so carefully in butcher paper, I must have looked pained because she asked me, “Are you OK?”

In a split second I had to decide — Do I tell her?

I opened my mouth — to say what, I don’t know. Probably to give the requisite “I’m fine,” and go. But instead, truth spilled out of my mouth.

I told her about our daughter, how she had died inside of me. I told her how beautiful that little girl was and how scared I was that the son I now carried would share her fate. I shared with her how beautiful I thought that box was and how it was to hold all the memories I had of little Kasey.

Her hands reached for me. Cupping my face gently, she pulled me to her and said, “God loves you.”

It was exactly what I needed to hear that day. I left with a box, a special place to put Kasey’s onesie and the prayer her father said over her grave. But I also left with reassurance.

God loves me.

And months later, when our son did die — when his pictures joined Kasey’s inside that box — I went back to the store.

I went back, and I asked her, “Are you sure God loves me?”

She said He did. And I left, not only with reassurance but with her name and address.

And she wrote me. She wrote me of how her son died and how she kept on living. She told me over and over how much God loved me, no matter how I felt right then. She sent gifts and cards and even her daughter to visit.

She was my angel. And I found her, I’m sure, by the grace of God.

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I still pull the box down sometimes and look at all I have left of my babies. Their ultrasounds, little hats, a poem. I have little to hold here. But I still hear her voice, her message simple but powerful.

“God loves you.”

At a time when so many people were awkward and unsure, turning away from my grief instead of being with me in it, she reached out. She touched me when other hands hesitated and fell, and she gave me love. She loved a stranger, gave a stranger comfort, and I can never thank her enough.

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: Describe the moment a stranger — or someone you don’t know very well — showed you or a loved one incredible love. No gesture is too small! If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please  include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio.

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