I have had miscarriages.
Five of them to be exact.
Each one of them was different. Special. Heartbreaking. Painful.
Losing the fifth one was no easier than losing the first.
I blamed myself. I had failed my babies. My body could not provide what they needed. It was my fault.
I was not able to provide another child to my husband. I had failed him.
I could not produce a brother or sister for the one child we did have. I had failed our son.
My heart was broken.
Both, the emotional and physical pain seemed unbearable.
And really, the only other person to go through this with me was my husband. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I didn’t want comfort from other people. I craved it very much. But after the first, I heard such hurtful things said by well-meaning people that I chose to not tell again. Here are a few of them:
- “At least your baby died now, before it was born.” I didn’t want my baby to die at all and especially now. I wanted to feel it move in my belly. My husband wanted to lay his hand on me and feel him kick. Most of all, I wanted to hold him, to see what he looked like. Even if he had passed away after one month, I still would have gotten one month. I would know if my baby was a boy or girl. I would know what color of hair he had, how big his hands were, watch him yawn, and rock him to sleep. This comment is hurtful because I feel like this was the worst time to lose him. Some time is better than no time and I’m the only one who seems to understand that.
- “Something was wrong. That’s why your baby died.” What I will hear you say is “Something is wrong with you. That’s why you lost your baby.” I feel guilty enough. Please don’t compound that.
- “You are healthy. You can have more babies.” Here’s the problem, I don’t want another baby. I don’t even want to think about another baby. I want THIS baby. I am already in love with THIS baby.
- “At least it’s not a real loss.” What do you mean it’s not a “real loss”? It’s not “real” just because my baby never took a breath outside of the womb? I still don’t understand this one. There was a life there. A heart was beating and now it’s not. What is not “real” about that?
- “You can try again soon.” This is not the same as #3. The last thing I want to do right now is rush into another pregnancy. I need time to morn this loss and for my body to recover.
- “You’ve already got one.” Believe me, this is not comforting. My baby was an individual. It’s not about numbers anyhow. It’s about life.
- “It’s just a miscarriage.” No, it’s not. You’re not the one involved so you can be detached. I have known about my baby for some time and have already come to love it. I cannot just shrug it off and go on.
- “Don’t talk to So-and-So. She is newly pregnant.” What? Miscarriages are not contagious. Hearing about another woman’s miscarriage is not going to induce your own. But talking about it can open up space for women to discuss their fears. And, if anything were to happen, she would know she was not alone. There is another person out there who understands and is going through it too.
- “Be happy for others who are pregnant.” Someone very close to me was pregnant at the same time when I lost my first baby. A few different people reminded me to “Just be happy for them.” It felt very dismissive of my pain. I was incredibly happy for them. I took comfort knowing that in a few months I would still get to smell that new baby smell and count little baby toes.
- “So-and-So’s miscarriage was worse than yours.” I don’t remember entering a contest. But miscarriages are terrible. Period. End of story. I need to be able to grieve as I see fit and not worry about how it stacks up against the experience of others.
So what should you say or do?
While it is true that there is nothing you can say to make it better, just knowing you care is comforting. Give her a hug. Cry with her. Pray with her. Send her a card just to let her know that you support her. Be a friend.
The farthest I got with any of my miscarriages was 16 weeks. Other than my husband, my sister was the only other person who knew. When I suspected something was wrong, she drove me to the doctor’s office. She held my hand during the ultrasound. She cried with me when they confirmed there was no heartbeat. She sat on the bed with me and just held me as we sobbed together. There was nothing to say, nothing to do. But knowing that she was with me, supporting me, and loving me was exactly what I needed. I will NEVER forget the tenderness and gentleness she showed me on such a painful day.