Over the last several weeks, we’ve been talking about trying to conceive and how to stay sane once you do. But what about when a pregnancy goes awry?
We made reference to this a few weeks back with my friend that lost her first baby at the 8-9 week mark. What is a mom to do? What about those around her who don’t know what to say in the face of this enormous loss? (There’s a section for each of these topics below.)
Make no mistake, the loss of a baby due to miscarriage or failure to thrive is a loss. It’s the loss of a baby. . .a hope. . .a dream. It’s the death of a child you hoped to raise, and IT HURTS.
Anyone who doesn’t acknowledge the gravity of that in a woman’s life needs to go suck an egg, preferably somewhere far from the grieving mother. That mom and dad have their own sorrow to deal with and they don’t need other people trying to explain to them why “it’s no big deal.”
How does a mom cope when she’s faced with the loss of a child?
These are the things that have comforted my friends and family who have miscarried:
1. Recognize the importance of this loss.
Even if you don’t have surviving children, you are still a mom! Don’t let people convince you otherwise.
2. Commemorate the child in some way.
Whether you choose to have a memorial service, write the child a letter or keep an item you bought for the baby, the women I know who went through this experience felt better if they gave that child some recognition and love.
3. Reach out.
Whether it’s family members, friends, support groups or a professional counselor, sharing your grief honestly and openly can help make it bearable much sooner than floundering around alone inside your own head.
4. Understand that you and your pregnancy partner will grieve differently.
The best resource I’ve found is a site called Baby Grief. Every page of this site offers sensitivity to a parent’s grief and the warmth of true understanding. Baby Grief also addresses the unanswerable question of how to honor the memory of an unborn child in a healthy way. There are separate pages on grieving “for moms” and “for dads” and each are beautifully written.
Here’s the advice Baby Grief offers for the people surrounding the grieving parents:
Helping Those Who Grieve
If your son, daughter, friend, or other loved one has recently gone through the loss of a baby, there are specific things you can do to help.
1. Be intentional with your words.
Saying things like, “It’s for the best,” “You can try again soon,” “I understand exactly what you are going through,” or “At least you know you can get pregnant” are generally not well received comments. Instead, express your sympathy and love with comments such as “I’m sorry for your loss,” “I’m sad with you,” “I’m praying for you,” “I know this is hard for you,” “It’s okay to cry,” “I’m here if you want to talk about it.”
2. Listening is one of the best gifts you can give to your grieving loved one. Even if they repeat themselves or aren’t making much sense, your listening ear will be a help and a comfort.
3. Let yourself grieve as well.
If the lost child was your grandchild, niece, nephew, etc., then you have also experienced a loss. Your tears and grief will not subtract from the parents’ grief. If anything, it will confirm that the parents have a reason to be sad.
4. Offer to help…and follow through in practical ways.
Prepare meals when they don’t have the energy to cook. You could also volunteer to watch any other children or pets, do chores, or run errands.
5. Remember the date!
While you will probably work through your grief quicker than the parents, it is still important to remind yourself of important days when their grief might be more intense. Holidays are often difficult, especially at first. There may be other significant dates like the day they found out about the pregnancy, the day the baby died, and the baby’s due date.
Acknowledging the parents’ important grieving days means that you still care–and that it’s ok for them to still feel sad. A simple card, phone call, or hug can communicate your care long after the miscarriage.
My experience with miscarriage
Although Factor V women often miscarry well into the second and third trimester, I didn’t. Still, this was a very real fear for my husband and I throughout the pregnancy and we really didn’t draw an easy breath until the 32 week mark when we knew the child could absolutely survive on its own. To this day I feel lucky that, after 40 weeks, I got a baby out of it.
There were times in the past when I was certain I was pregnant and experienced what I believe was a miscarriage, but those pregnancies were not confirmed. It irked me quite a bit when the doctors discounted these pregnancies – they were real to me whether they were confirmed or not. But, in hindsight it wasn’t remotely the same as miscarrying several weeks after a positive pregnancy test.
It’s true that I wasn’t like most women who discover they’re pregnant and hug the cuddly secret close to themselves, basking in a river of rainbow-hued joy. No, I was a rabid raving beast until the doctor agreed to a blood test, got the results back and prescribed my shots.
I could think of nothing but blood clots from the moment I found out I was pregnant until I jabbed the needle into my stomach. Really, I didn’t relax until about a week later when I knew the Lovenox had probably built up enough in my system to prevent a blood clot. Trust me, I felt neither cuddly nor joyous in those early weeks. I was too busy trying not to lose the baby or die.
Though I cannot imagine the feelings surrounding a real honest-to-God miscarriage, I can completely relate to the stress these moms feel when they get pregnant again. That anxiety and worry is a huge part of why I started this series. If nothing else, I’d like to offer these moms a safe haven where they can let their worry have a moment of rest, each and every Saturday.
Do you have experience with dealing with the loss of a baby, for yourself or someone close to you? (I understand if you don’t feel comfortable sharing your story so I’ve got some other questions too. 🙂 ) Is there any sort of coping advice you’d like to offer moms who go through this? For those who’ve been pregnant, what made you the most anxious?
Here’s a warm hug for any of you that need it after this post…I kinda need one myself!