Risky Baby Business: When Pregnancy Goes Awry

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!

Jenny

About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! An extrovert who's terribly fond of silliness. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm (http://writersinthestormblog.com). Write on!
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20 Responses to Risky Baby Business: When Pregnancy Goes Awry

  1. Jillian Dodd - Glitter, Bliss and Perfect Chaos says:

    I had two miscarriages. The first one was my first pregnancy. I had used a mild fertility drug, gotten happily pregnant, told everyone we knew, had morning sickness and was starting to show just a little. At twelve weeks we went to hear the heartbeat, and there was none. Then they did an ultrasound and told us that I had something called a blighted ovum, or empty sac. This meant that even though I had gotten pregnant, no baby had actually formed.
    We were heart broken, but felt like we shouldn’t be because there was no actual baby. Like you said above, you sometimes aren’t even grieving the loss of the child, as much as your hopes, dreams and plans. Besides feeling like a failure, I also felt half psycho, like I was some woman who wanted to be pregnant so badly, her body was pretending.
    In this case, after the shock wore off, surprisngly the doctor said one of the things you said not to say, and that was, Well, at least we know you can get pregnant. We’d tried for about six months, then had been on clomid for about 4 months. I was oddly comforted by that.
    I went on to have two sucky pregnancies, but had two amazing, healthy children.
    Then I had a second miscarriage. This was at seventeen weeks. We had heard the heartbeat, thought everything was okay, had told our kids and everyone. This one was harder to deal with. I also had something happen involving this pregnancy that caused us not to be able to have more children at all. Once again, losing the baby was horrible, having the doctor tell us that we couldn’t have more, was that whole shattering our dreams of having a big family.
    I agree with everything you said. I think people who have not experienced a miscarriage do not understand the sadness you feel. Just having them acknowledge that your sadness and feelings are real are enough. Having someone to talk to about it – is a bonus.
    I think it’s so great that you are doing these posts🙂

    Like

    • My daughter had an experience between her first two similar to your blighted ovum. They called it a false pregnancy, but it sounds like the same thing. She was greatly soothed when she realized there hadn’t really been a baby there to start with, although she was still sad at the disappointment.

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Jillian,

      You are a rockstar for sharing this paiful time in your life. I have one friend that lost 11 babies before they found out she had incompetent cervix. Ditto for another friend who lost 5 babies before they discovered “the Stitch” – the last one was 5 months along and they made her deliver the child. My heart bleeds for these women.

      There’s little to do besides listen for those on the outside. I’m sorry for your loss of the big family you hoped for. I understand the feeling completely. I wanted two kids and got one. Even though she was a gigantic blessing, I’ll always wish for more.

      Like

  2. Jillian, and Jenny, I want to hug you both! I had two times I that I know I was pregnant, but had no doctor confirm them before I miscarried (I was only 6 or 7 weeks pregnant, but I know from comparing my full-term pregnancies that I was). The doctors were insulting–I was infertile, so what I described had clearly not happened, and if it had, it didn’t matter anyway. Grr.

    I’ve had a very close friend miscarry at 20 weeks, and a niece have a stillbirth at 28 weeks. My friend tried to move on, grieving in solitude; my niece had a funeral and burial. The difference between the two is remarkable, and I believe the way they each dealt with the loss made a large part of the difference. My friend didn’t feel she had the right to grieve, and has never quite gotten over it. My niece, although she will never “get over it,” has been able to honor her child and that helps.

    Great post, Jenny–as is the whole series.

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Thanks, Elizabeth…I needed that hug!🙂

      I read your first paragraph and though, “Exactly!” That’s about how I felt when I told the doctors about my experience and was pooh-poohed.

      From a medical standpoint, understand where they’re coming from, but still thought they should eat dirt.

      Thank you (all of you) for taking time to comment on these posts…it adds to much to the Saturday posts for me to hear YOUR stories.🙂

      Like

  3. My mother still grieves a miscarriage that happened over 40 years ago. Miscarriages are no small thing and should never be dismissed as maybe it happened for the best. The grief, though faded, never goes away.

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I agree with that, Angela. I also think that these sorts of things weren’t really discussed or dwelled on 40 years ago so that grief has remained much more fresh for our mothers.

      Like

  4. K.B. Owen says:

    Hi, Jenny,

    This is a really good thing that you’re doing. I have been pregnant four times, and I have three healthy boys. My first pregnancy miscarried at 6-7 weeks. I hadn’t even had the chance to tell my parents yet, because we wanted to tell them in person, and we were planning a visit a week or so later. That was a hard phone call: “I WAS pregnant, but I’m not anymore.” I could barely get the words out.

    It was a shock, too (this was 20 yrs ago); I had no idea how common early miscarriages were. The doctors called it nature being “ruthless” and rejecting “defective embryos.” Every time I was pregnant after that, of course, I was worried, and with the initial medical workup, I would be asked how many times I had been pregnant before, and what were the outcomes. I understand the necessity of that, but it was surprising to me how it stung to have to recount that first miscarriage, every time.

    I can’t even imagine being as strong as you, Jenny, or the other folks here, who have gone through much worse than I ever had. I admire you all!

    By the way, how I got through it? I curled up in a big cushiony reading chair with a bag of chips, and read murder mysteries all day long. I think I did that for about 3 or 4 days before I was functional again. My dad wrote me the nicest note, and said that he was certain that someday, he’d be bouncing a grandchild on his knee. I still have that note.

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Kathy, what a heartbreaking thing to have to make that call. And for your first baby too. Oof.

      I do the same thing whenever I get really sad! I go through every book written by 3-4 different authors. For some reason, reading 5 (or 10, or 15) interlocking series books cheers me up, just about every time. My honey knows and starts watching me like a hawk when I re-read multiple books by the same author.

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  5. This series always makes me feel unqualified to comment, Jenny, so I’ll just say good job well done. I’m glad you’re writing it. And may I expand your gift of a warm hug to all who need these posts? I definitely concur, but I also say warm hugs to ALL mothers. Easy pregnancies undoubtedly aren’t that easy, and then there’s diapers, grocery bills, school, dating . . .

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Unqualified? Why, because you don’t have ovaries? You have compassion, empathy and respect for women. That’s all you need for Risky Baby Business.🙂

      Thanks for the hug!

      Like

  6. It’s been fifteen years since my fifth and final miscarriage. I have a biological child (from my first pregnancy, during which I lost her twin) and an adopted child (three years after my final pregnancy). I don’t dwell on that painful time, so I won’t go into details.

    I do hope, however, that what I went through since that time may comfort other women who have experienced a recent loss. These are the lessons I’ve learned: You will survive this. You may never understand why it happened, and that’s okay. Don’t blame yourself. Life is wonderful, and you will be blessed, if not as a biological parent, in many other ways. If you choose to parent, there are valid options. (But give yourself time to acknowledge what you feel.) Your emotions are valid. Don’t let anyone tell you how to feel or how long you may mourn. Grief is an individual experience, but you are not alone. If you find yourself in a rut, it’s okay to ask for help. (I had a hard time with that part. Everyone around me thought I needed to just “get over it” because I had a healthy little girl. I struggled emotionally for a very long time. I found counseling very helpful and was finally able to get past the anger stage.) Perhaps most important, don’t push your partner away. He’s hurting too, just in his own way. He may try to cheer you up or “fix” things, because that’s what men do. But he’s in this with you. You’ll get through it together. One of the blessings that may come out of this, crazy as it sounds, is the two of you will be closer.

    I realize platitudes won’t take away your pain, but time does heal (or at least lesson) the wounds, and you will find acceptance and peace. I’m at the point in my life where I can understand why God’s plan for me was different than mine.

    Jenny, thanks for talking about this sensitive subject. You’re helping so many hurting mothers by letting them know how to work through it, and how their loved ones can be supportive. Thanks.

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Holy smokes, Jolyse. NO ONE should have to go through five miscarriages. I’m terribly sorry, because the years don’t really make that pain go away. Time just shifts it off the front burner so you don’t keep getting burned by it every day as you move around your life.

      You are welcome – there are many women that I think of when I write these posts. I really feel like, as hard as my pregnancy was, that I was extraordinarily lucky and I need to be appreciative of it.

      Like

  7. Hi Jenny.
    Thankfully I can say I’ve never been touched by any of the many pregancy issues – and that’s not a male joke, I mean my wife’s preganancy was textbook and for whatever reason other couples I know have been the same. But I can sympahaize with the loss of hope and the real physical pain the must cause. Children are all about hope, and for a parent, or parent to be, to loose that is surely the cruelest trick life can play.
    With all the wonderful things that can be done medically it’s sad that you have to write these posts, but you do them very well.

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      “Children are all about hope.” <– I feel this way exactly, Nigel. I'm so happy your life hasn't been touched by this particular kind of loss. And I appreciate your kind words. The people who comment regularly on Risky Baby Business both humble and teach me so much.

      Thanks for taking time to chime in!

      Like

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  9. It hurts so much to lose a baby. And it’s so hard when the miscarriage is early and others don’t see it as a real loss or didn’t know about it. We need to be able to grieve our losses without having to defend them. I think people who say hurtful things just don’t know how to deal with what’s happened. They don’t want to think too much on such sad things. So, they say something that they think is gonna fix it, “You can try again.” “It must have been for the best.” None of that helps but the person saying isn’t likely to be hurtful on purpose. My own experiences with loss and difficulty conceiving has taught me a lot about compassion. I think I’m much more sensitive now when someone else experiences a loss.

    I have anticardiolipin antibodies. As I understand it, they can cause tiny blood clots too. For my pregnancies with my daughter and son, I was on heparin. I worried so much with my daughter but I tried to be more relaxed with my son. I’m so thankful they’re ok.

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Sonia, you absolutely define compassion for me and I can tell that was born of experience.

      The problem with “tiny blood clots” is that a woman’s body makes four POUNDS of blood during her pregnancy. Little clots can become big clots and fill the uterus until they perforate the placenta and push the baby out. That’s why Factor V (and apparently anticariolipin antibody women) run such a high risk of miscarrying in the 2nd and 3rd trimester.

      It’s hard on the nerves (and the tummy where you jab those needles!).

      Like

      • Thank you so much. This series is so wonderful. We don’t often think about what others might have gone through. We can’t guess. But this gets us talking and thinking about it. And helping each other and others.

        I knew the little clots could spell big trouble. I’ll never forget seeing a person with disseminated intravascular coagulation from septic shock. It was horrible. I didn’t think about the 4lbs of blood or how the clots could accumulate. It’s scary stuff.

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