This is such a sensitive subject–not only to me, but to many of those I love. Many of my very dear friends have experienced pregnancy loss, and my heart aches for them. I’ve traveled this road, yet I feel so inadequate. I don’t know what to say or how to help and comfort her. Prayers of love and peace just don’t feel like enough.
I have pondered on this matter for so long, and still I sit here at a stalemate. Pregnancy loss is so misunderstood by those outside of its painful grasp. I hope I can express how I feel in a way that can offer hope to those who have experienced it and understanding to those who haven’t. I’m quite positive that we all have known someone who has dealt with such loss.
Grieving comes differently to everyone. Some may bury the feelings, return to work or life the next day, and essentially move forward from the experiences. Some cry for days and refuse to get out of bed. Some question their god. Most all question their body. Some blame themselves. There is no wrong way to grieve. I do believe there are healthy and unhealthy ways, but no wrong way. (Unless there is shooting up at a local Babies “R” Us. I would perhaps call that a wrong way to grieve)
Addalyn was my first experience was pregnancy loss. (20 weeks of gestation). I struggled. That first day back home from the hospital, I was like a stone on the couch. I remember my friend Stephanie had to physically help me to the bathroom, urging me to at least shower. I took time off work. I laid in bed all day then woke up and tore apart my house at night. I baked, I cleaned, I reorganized every inch of my house. I sat in the shower and cried until there wasn’t any water left in my body. Even when the shower turned freezing cold, there I sat. In a daze. Trying desperately to design a short-term plan that would get me out of the shower and dressed. I couldn’t think any further ahead. I felt as if I was living from moment to moment, ready to shatter with any misstep. I blamed myself for her death. If only I’d eaten better or perhaps taken bed rest more seriously. If I had only been a better mother, she would have survived–no matter what the doctors told me. How there wasn’t enough room for her. Enough blood flow. How I didn’t have sufficient hormones to keep the pregnancy viable. It didn’t matter. I had failed miserably.
The next three pregnancy loss experiences all happened at around 6-8 weeks. I became stoic. I had no hope in a pregnancy ever coming to fruition and providing me a child. With each positive we became less excited, and eventually, by the last miscarriage, I didn’t feel a thing. This is where I began burying feelings as deep as I possibly could. I felt like I was pathetic, crying at the sight of a pregnant belly at Target or hearing of a friend’s exciting news of adding a baby to their family. On the outside I was rational and put together. On the inside I felt like my soul was being melon balled out of my body. To use Meredith Grey’s words, I was, ‘dark and twisty’ inside.
I’ve even punched a hole in the bathroom wall (this was during the loss of our second adoption). Now, this is something I don’t recommend as punching walls breaks fingers and hands.
These experiences were awful. Each and every loss took a piece of my heart, and it has taken many years to find and repair the damage that has been done. I hope that the following can help those going through the grief of pregnancy loss. I also hope that it can help those who are trying to support their family and friends, that maybe it can shed some light into what she/he/the couple is feeling. It’s such a tender subject. Egg shells. Shattered glass, even. It’s hard to walk on, so most of the time we just scoot around it.
For those who are/have experienced pregnancy loss.
Cry. Don’t try to hold it in. I promise it will only make the pain worse. It’s been proven that crying is cathartic for the body. It releases tension and helps promote healing. Even more important, you are hurting emotionally, and you deserve to cry. Don’t let anyone tell you your time is up. That you’ve cried enough. Cry until it’s out for good. I used to believe that crying was a sign of weakness. I was wrong. I see it now as a sign of strength. It takes a lot to release those emotions. If you don’t like crying, like me, go cry in the shower. Turn on some broody music to bring those emotions to the surface and bawl your eyes out. No one can hear you in the shower, and the steam helps with the puffy face part. Please, allow yourself to cry.
Take time for yourself. If you have children, find someone to take them for a while. A few hours, a whole day, whatever you need. Lay in bed and watch a movie. Take a long, hot bath. Go shopping. Bake some cookies. Clean your house. If you start to feel the emotions arise, find a quiet place to release them. Teach yourself to move through life with those tender emotions. Show yourself that you can survive.
Ask for help. Being strong doesn’t mean doing it alone. This was probably one of the hardest things for me. It’s hard to accept help, especially when you feel so pained. If you need a shoulder to cry on, if you need an ear to listen, confide in those who have offered and who love you. If you just need someone to sit there with you so you aren’t alone, ask. I also highly recommend, if you feel you are in need, to seek out a good therapist. This changed my life and helped me deal with and heal from my losses. Sometimes, it helps to have someone witness your pain. A therapist is trained and can help you. A lot of times friends and family want to provide this for us but lack the knowledge. Let neighbors bring you dinner. Allow others to serve you during this time. It will benefit all involved. If you feel that medication is needed to handle depression or anxiety, ask your doctor. They are there to help you through this, too.
Validate your feelings. You are already experiencing so many emotions that there is no need to throw guilt on top of all that. What you are feeling is valid, and it’s good to remind yourself of that, even if you don’t believe it. You will come to believe eventually.
Give yourself time to heal. People are going to tell you it’s time to move on (which is insane, but they will). Yes, you will need to get back to life, but if you still have moments of pain, find a quiet place to work through it. These things take time, and wounds that are so gaping don’t heal over night. Be patient and kind to yourself. You are healing both emotionally and physically. If you rush this, it will come back to bite you. I can tell you that from experience.
Surround yourself with those who truly love you. You need a support system. You need to be loved. Find only those who can provide that and stick with them. If others fall away, that’s their problem. You need the strongest family/friends possible because you are most likely ready to fall apart.
You are loved. You are strong. You will get through this.
For those who have friends/family who are dealing/have dealt with pregnancy loss.
Do not minimize their grief. I don’t care if they were three weeks along, three months, whatever, it is not your place to say, “At least you know you can get pregnant,“ or, “You can just have another baby.” They don’t want another baby. They want this baby. You’d be surprised how far an ”I’m so sorry for your loss” can go. It usually comforts them more than any other phrase can.
Do not compare their situation to your friend’s/brother’s aunt/best friend’s dog’s situation. No two pregnancy loss experiences are the same. She doesn’t want to hear, ”Oh, well, my friend lost her pregnancy at such and such weeks and is feeling fine and got pregnant so and so weeks/months later.” I can promise you they will want to punch you in the ovaries/testicles/shins. This is not your place. If they ask if you know anyone who has been through a similar experience, then please, express that story to them.
Do not offer answers. Unless your name is followed by MD and you have a PhD on your wall in the field of obstetrics and gynecology, do not offer answers or conjectures as to why the pregnancy was lost. Trust me, they are already doing this themselves. Please, don’t tell them that there was probably something wrong with the baby and it would have been a mess if that baby was born. That one is a low blow in my eyes, even if you don’t mean it to be. She doesn’t need answers. She needs love.
Offer the support you can. If you feel you don’t have anything to offer, step aside and let others take over. This isn’t written to offend anyone. These are intense, hard experiences and sometimes it’s hard to know what to do or how to help, and it can be stressful for those who are in the gallery. Let them know you love them so they don’t feel abandoned. Check in on them from time to time so they know you are still there. If you do offer some type of support, follow through. If you say, ”You can call me anytime, even at 3 AM,” mean it. Most of the time 3 AM calls aren’t made, but if they need you at 3 AM, be there. Send a heartfelt email/note. Remind them that they aren’t alone.
Respect anniversaries. Some women have a hard time when the date of their pregnancy loss and/or their due date come around. They often think, ”My baby would have been 3 today.” Let them grieve on these days.
Love them. There are going to be hard moments. They might say things they don’t mean. Stick with them.
I know there is so much to say on this topic, and I would love any comments/thoughts you all have on the subject.