So many women struggle with infant loss, miscarriage and infertility; and a majority of these women are suffering silently. You might not know it, but I would imagine you have at least one Facebook friend dealing with pregnancy challenges, infant loss, miscarriage or infertility. An estimated 1 in 4 women experience pregnancy or infant loss. That statistic doesn’t include the women who are unable to get pregnant or women who have had a stillbirth.
I will admit that before the birth and death of our son, I might have even laughed at a few of these jokes each year; I was innocently naive, as are many people who make these jokes. Now I dread April Fools’ Day.
Please think before you joke about pregnancy. It is something so many women are yearning to experience. It is something not everyone can laugh about.
Pregnancy is not an April Fools’ joke.
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I had one living child when I experienced my first miscarriage in 2010. I had no idea how painful miscarriage could be, both physically and emotionally. My doctor treated my experience as a medical event and nothing more. I was devastated and desperately searched for as much information as I could not only about the process but the emotional effects I was experiencing. I felt isolated and ashamed, something I learned many women feel.
I became a bereavement doula (a person trained to assist families through pregnancy loss in any gestation) and learned about the wide range of options and support available to families enduring pregnancy loss. As a family companion and mentor through loss, women shared similar stories; their miscarriages were treated like medical events only, and they did not feel validated in their experiences. When I experienced another miscarriage in 2015, I was much more prepared and knew how to advocate for what I needed. Because of my personal experiences and the stories women shared with me, I compiled this list of 18 points I believe should be consider during miscarriage.
1. I need to decide my plan for my miscarriage. It is OK no matter what I choose, because I have researched my options and trust my intuition. I know what is right for my body, for me mentally and for my family.
2. Researching my options is important. I can read about miscarriage options or download the Miscarriage App. I realize I don’t know everything there is to know about miscarriage, and my care provider may not be aware of all the options available to me.
3. I should discuss this plan with my partner and family (if age-appropriate). I know checking in with them is important so they can share what may be important to them during this difficult time.
4. I should seek spiritual/religious guidance if desired, just to be sure I have taken care of any spiritual/religious needs or requirements of which I am not aware.
5. I will need a plan for my baby’s body. No matter how early this pregnancy was, I still need to decide what I want to do.
6. I know I must begin the experience of miscarriage. If I have chosen medical or surgical management for my miscarriage, I know when things will likely start and end, but if I have chosen for things to start on their own, I need to be patient with myself as my body prepares in its own way for this experience.
7. It’s OK if I feel relief. This is normal and many women feel this way. This doesn’t mean I didn’t love my baby or pregnancy, it’s just a relief that this part is finally over and I can begin to move forward again.
8. I should plan for my physical and emotional recovery. I will need pads, tissues and time off. I should write down a list of tasks that feel hard for me to complete like meals, doing dishes, walking the dog and time alone to grieve. I know these are important to me, but they feel overwhelming and I need someone to take these tasks on for a while.
9. It’s OK to need help from others; many women do, and it doesn’t matter how early or late in the pregnancy the loss was. Support is crucial.
10. I will allow myself to accept help from others.
11. I may need to explore outlets for my grief such as writing in a journal, listening to or creating music, crafting, volunteering for a pregnancy loss organization, pumping and donating my baby’s breastmilk or other healthy outlets.
12. I will have moments and days when I don’t feel sad. It’s OK that I don’t feel sad all the time. This doesn’t mean my loss doesn’t matter. This also doesn’t mean that when I am really sad after a period of being OK, I am depressed and need to be saved. I am just having a hard day or moment. Grief has no timeline and doesn’t look the same for each person.
13. Even though my husband, partner or children seem to be “normal” or look like this loss doesn’t matter, that doesn’t mean they don’t care and aren’t sad. They have a different way of navigating through their grief. Their way doesn’t have to be my way.
14. When I feel upset about the way my husband or partner is responding to our loss, I will communicate with them. I will share how I feel as best I can, so we can talk openly about our loss.
15. People will make hurtful comments believing they are helpful. I do not have to be “fake” and smile at these comment; I can choose to say something if I feel the need.
16. I may lose some friends. It can be really hard or easy to walk away from them, but I need to do what’s best for me and that’s OK. I do not have to hang on to friends who are toxic to me.
17. I will gain new friends. Some of these friends will become friends for life. Others will be here for moments, and that’s OK. These new friends do not have to be friends for life.
18. I will survive this. Life may look different, and that’s OK. I am different. It’s OK to let others know I am different.
Editor’s note: This is based on one person’s experiences and should not be taken as medical advice. Consult a doctor or medical professional for any questions or concerns you have.
Eight years ago, we spent our second wedding anniversary in the outer banks. This is my brave face, friends. This is the face I put on to tell myself everything was fine when I was hurting so deeply inside. Just three weeks earlier I had miscarried our second baby and I knew when the vacation ended I was headed for a battery of tests that would last months. I was tired, sad and scared. And I didn’t want anyone to know.
But this man knew and loved me right through it. Took me out to dinner every night, bought me a new dress (I’m wearing it in the picture), let me lie in the sun and swim in the ocean all day, let me talk when I wanted and just sit quietly when I didn’t. I’m so grateful I married a man who knows me and loves me and cares for me.
The other day I posted the photo and caption above on Instagram, and I read a handful of really beautiful responses that caused me to go back and re-read my caption. One phrase struck me, and I wished I had written it differently or explained it better.
“This is my brave face, friends. This is the face I put on to tell myself everything was fine when I was hurting so deeply inside.”
But the more I think about it, the more I’m not sure I used the right words. Because what if instead of smiling on a balcony for a picture I had stared sadly into the camera? What if I hadn’t felt like faking it in that moment and just suggested we not take pictures? What if someone caught my most vulnerable moments on film? The moments when my knees tucked under my chin and tears poured down my face as I tried to muffle sobs in the crook of my elbow. Would that not be my “brave face”? Of course it would.
It’s brave to feel and let out grief. And it’s brave to put on a new dress, go out to dinner and smile for a picture when your insides hurt so bad. Just about every minute of life is a brave one when you’re walking through the trenches. And sometimes it’s actually harder to show the world your real self in your darkest days. When I lost our first two babies just 10 months apart, I didn’t really let people in. I struggled to process the losses myself and didn’t feel safe letting anyone else into it. I spent a lot of time in public wearing that “brave face.” But it wasn’t always the truth.
I was shocked the first time around. The hours spent in the hospital are a blur. My memories are fuzzy and the whole thing felt like a whirlwind, even though we were there most of the day.
I couldn’t stop crying. Even when I didn’t think I was crying anymore I noticed tears were still streaming down my face. Tears became second nature that day and in the days, weeks, months and years that followed. I cried myself to sleep a lot.
It was painful – emotionally, mentally and physically. I was surprised by how physically painful it was.
I blamed myself for a long time. I questioned everything – the food I ate, the amount of sleep I got, my level of activity and the day or two I forgot to take my prenatal vitamins. I couldn’t shake the feeling that somehow it was my fault I miscarried. And I carried that guilt for a long time even though the doctors and nurses and my mom told me I hadn’t done anything wrong.
I felt rushed through my grief. I felt a mostly unspoken nudge to move on and “get over it.” I noticed that after the first few weeks most people seemed to think life ought to be normal again. But I wasn’t there yet, and as a result I felt lonely and kept my grief to myself. And to be honest, life never did “go back to normal.” Life changed – I changed.
I looked at positive pregnancy tests differently after our first miscarriage. I suddenly knew that being pregnant didn’t always mean you were going to have a baby to take home and raise… sometimes it means miscarriage, or stillbirth, or infant loss. I lost quite a bit of my usually optimistic self. But I turned into a hopeful realist, and that’s not a bad thing.
I struggled to go out in public for awhile. About four months after our first miscarriage we went out to one of my favorite restaurants. The waitress was so sweet and peppy, and it was hard for me. Everything in me wanted to tell her my world had tipped over. How could it just keep turning for everyone else?
I lost more than an “idea” or “dream” or “future hope”… I lost a person. Two persons. A real human baby was growing inside of me with a beating heart that just stopped one day. And I don’t know why. And then it happened again. And I still don’t know why. It’s hard to explain to others in a way that is easily understood. Because no one else was as connected to my babies. I was the only one who ever physically “touched” them. I carried them and my heart was knit to theirs and my life sustained their lives… until one day it didn’t. And it was utterly crushing. It is utterly crushing.
I lost two children and I have no idea if they’d have had blue eyes like mine or green eyes like my husband, John. I have no idea if they’d be blondes or brunettes or one of each. I have no idea if they’d like music or sports or science or creative writing. I ache for the time we lost and the lifetime of tears and laughter we’ll never have.
And absolutely nothing about my grief takes away from my complete joy and gratitude and love for the two children I hold in my arms.
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.
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.
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.