Mere weeks past conception, my first child passed away, and I was left bereft and overwhelmed; not sure how to handle the situation. I did it the hard way, but I wish someone had given me advice on what on earth to do. Months later, I also lost my second child at an early stage of pregnancy. I was a little wiser this time, and took the advice I had created for myself when I lost my first. The grief is less now, and time has begun the painstaking process of rebuilding my shattered heart, but the ‘How To..’ details remain few and far between. So I took the best of the advice I was given on coping with a miscarriage by friends and relatives, mixed in a few ideas of my own, and came up with a list of hints and tips for anyone who’s going through the agony of losing their baby….
1. Stop to acknowledge the passing of your child. I didn’t, and it remains my deepest regret. Everything else can go on hold. Don’t hang on, teetering on the brink of that darkness – let go, fall into it and begin the grieving process. You have been a mother since you conceived. The loss of your baby doesn’t make you less of a mother, nor does an early loss ‘count less’.
2. If you can, tell people what’s happening. They’ll probably find it hard to hear, but they will at least then understand why you’re (probably) not functioning to par. They can’t cut you any slack unless you let them know you need it. They can’t extend compassion if they are uninformed.
3. Get your girlfriends around you. Friends or relatives; it really doesn’t matter – you need women you can trust. Women you can cry with. Women who can hug you. Because no matter how sympathetic a man is, a woman will understand you in a very different way, and part of the healing lies in fully comprehending the loss, all its implications, navigating the train wreck and beginning to get a little perspective.
4. Try not to let distance grow between you and your partner. This one’s easily done. He’ll see the whole situation differently. He might try to fix it. He might wonder why it’s taking you so long to get over it. He probably won’t have a clue about the million and one ways it affects you every day. Unless you explain it in terms he’ll understand.
I used the analogy of coloured dyes with my husband; his brain processes experiences as individual jars of colour, which he can take out and examine one at a time, whereas my brain processes them as though they’d all been poured into a bowl – they intermingle, interact with other areas of life, and tinge everything.
5. Take your time to ‘get over it’. Grief affects everyone differently. Don’t anticipate a certain length of time before you feel ‘normal’. Go with what works for you in the moment. Don’t rush. Whatever you’re feeling is normal, has been felt by others before you, is not completely mad. If you need it, seek professional help to get through this.
6. Take care of yourself. It should go without saying, but it’s easy to let grief swallow you whole. It’s a vile, heartbroken place to be, (and you may hate me for saying it if you’re still in that darkness) but you did not stop living. You will do yourself no favors in the short or long run if you grind to a halt. You need to eat, you need to wash, you need to get up in the morning and do *something*. Even if these things seem hollow and pointless, keep going – persist and it will help you later. Do it for the ‘you’ in a few months time.
7. Expect sex to be a little weird at first. Whether you’re straight back into trying to conceive or you’re having a break, it’s unavoidable that at some point, you’ll realize that this act of love is what led to the pregnancy which led to such heartbreak. Don’t beat yourself up if your attitude to sex changes. Maybe radically for a while. Try to offer explanations to your partner, which let him know that you’re not rejecting him; that it’s not about him; that you still care for him. Back this up by showing him lots of physical affection in other ways if the idea of sex is too much for you to manage at the moment.
8. Expect the unexpected. It may well be that one day, when you’re no longer even thinking about your lost children, something quite innocuous triggers a descent back into that place of grief. Ride with it. Let those around you know what’s happening. You’ll be back up again soon. The peaks and troughs will gradually even out to a place where you’re able to look back upon them with a small, sharp tug on the heartstrings, but no longer that panicked, howling anguish.
The loss of a child in pregnancy is a terrible tragedy which can never un-happen. If it’s happened to you, you’re part of the Invisible Moms Club. Your life was altered the moment conception took place; you are a Mom, and it’s heartbreaking that you haven’t that child to show for it. Yet Good can still be wrought, even of this pain – whether it’s sharing your story so that understanding and compassion can be spread, or being able to offer a shred of comfort and hope to a young woman suddenly faced with the loss of her unborn child and all that entails.