Wait three months to announce your pregnancy, because it could fail — and God forbid you have to share the news of your loss.
I dream of the day we can acknowledge pregnancies when they happen, announce them immediately and share the journey and the joy with everyone. Have communities of our friends and family support us and help pick up the pieces if that journey suddenly takes a turn. Instead, I have my beautifully edited announcement photo saved away in my camera roll: Never shared. Unable to delete it, but a twinge of pain every time I scroll past it.
The majority of people “don’t know what to say” to someone who has shared news of a pregnancy loss. Do you know why? Because we don’t talk about it enough. Although strides have been made, women are still made to feel that they have to hide and suffer alone.
With that being said, many don’t say the right thing. Many people, including a vast majority of health care professionals (I speak from experience), say very, very wrong things to women suffering the loss of their unborn child. But those suffering just take it. They don’t bother to correct it. We excuse the comments. “They just don’t know what to say,” we say.
For example, it’s not okay to say…
“It happens all the time…”
How incredibly absurd. If someone just shared the news of the loss of a family member, friend or loved one, you would never respond with, “it happens all the time.” That is a ridiculous oversight of the severity of the loss and the intense grief a mother is suffering through.
“Hope you’re okay” or “How are you?”
Yeah! Just great! Things are pretty good, thanks for asking. Come. On. If you do ask this question, be ready and willing to accept a real answer. I couldn’t bring myself to give the typical “I’m good…” answer and maintain niceties. I wasn’t “good” and I didn’t want to brush over the intense pain and grief of my loss. That little soul deserves my truth – the truth in how much they were wanted and how deep the loss of meeting them has cut me.
“I know it must be hard…”
If you did know (and I don’t wish the pain and torture of miscarriage on anyone), you would not make the blanket statement: Must be hard. Must be hard? “Hard” doesn’t begin to address the range of emotions and stages of grief. “Must” suggests it has the potential to not be.
“You’ll have another…”
Think for a moment. This is the equivalent of someone losing a brother and saying, “Well your sister is getting married and you will soon have a brother-in-law…” Don’t negate the unique connection, relationship, bond or importance that little unborn soul instantly had with their mommy.
“At least it was early”
This is suggesting that you have a smidgen of a clue as to the depths of emotion and connection a mother has with her unborn child. It doesn’t matter how early or how late in the pregnancy — a loss of a child is the loss of a child, and the loss of all the hopes and dreams that come with finding out you’re pregnant. Imagine telling someone who’s elderly grandparent passed, “At least they had a good life” — that is negating the pain and emptiness created by their passing. Like it is somehow okay that your baby passed away because you weren’t pregnant that long (or that grandparent got to live long enough). Get it?
“You already have two wonderful children…”
Is it that simple? Can we simply replace one life with another? If you lose a sister, at least you have another one left over. If you lose an aunt, at least the other two are still kicking… What?! Look, I am not trying to completely throat-punch every person who is doing their best to try and comfort someone grieving the unborn child they have lost; however, it’s foolish to assume that any number of family members or loved ones somehow compensates for the loss of that little angel.
I’m not writing any of this to make others feel bad. I’ve been guilty of not saying the right thing with only the sincerest intentions of the heart. But if we don’t talk about it, how will anyone ever know what to say? I also acknowledge that every woman experiences and processes loss in different ways — and that what I am sharing today may not strike the same chords for someone else navigating their own journey of pregnancy loss.
So, what do you say? Some things I have found personally comforting during this time are similar sentiments you would relay to someone who has experienced the death and loss of any loved one:
1. “I’m so sorry for your loss.”
2. “Thinking of you during this difficult time.”
3. “Sending you all my love and hugs.”
4. “Keeping you and your family in my prayers.”
5. “I’m not sure what I can do, but if there is anything you need — I am here.”
6. “Thank you for sharing. You are so brave.”
In our day and age, even sending a simple heart emoji is enough! My best friend called me immediately after I shared the news and just cried on the phone with me. We just sat, and cried, until I told her I loved her and would talk to her another day.
I get it, it’s hard to know what to say. But by saying nothing, without realizing, you’re allowing that mommy to grieve alone. Be alone. Feel alone, isolated, shunned, and/or embarrassed. Call her, just cry with her. She may not want to speak, and if she doesn’t – she won’t answer the call! In the same breath, overwhelming her with constant messages and check-ins when she hasn’t responded to the first few should help give you some insight as to what she needs (back off a bit, she’s not ready yet).
It’s also important not to place any expectations on a mom grieving the loss of her child. Don’t expect that text back, don’t expect a thank you or response, don’t expect that she’s grieved long enough and should “bounce back by now…”, and definitely don’t expect that she will be the exact same person she was before her loss. Just letting her know that you are there and not shying away from her to protect your own ego from risk of embarrassment is the most you can do.
I’m scarred by the friends and family who have abandoned me because of risking their own awkwardness, risking saying the wrong thing, or simply not even beginning to comprehend the depth of scars miscarriage can leave. If the emotional pain is not severe enough, a mother has to endure the drawn out physical pains and changes that come with it — reminded constantly of the hopes and dreams that faded away alongside that little heartbeat.
I have begun to open up conversations and dialogue about this with my family doctor, who is going to address this topic with her contacts in the board and administration of the local hospital. It’s time to discuss and better equip/educate hospital doctors, nurses and staff on how miscarriage is dealt with and discussed.
Yes, the statistics of miscarriage are high. Yes, they see it all the time. No, it’s not okay to suggest that because of mere frequency a mother should feel any less pain, grief and emptiness from her loss. Sitting in the emergency room, physically feeling the loss of my child, and being told, “Oh, it’s okay. This happens all the time,” sends chills down my spine and has scarred my heart forever.
I had to call and book my final ultrasound to ensure my baby was “completely gone.” I started the phone call with, “I suffered a miscarriage last week, I need to book my follow-up ultrasound.” Only to be met with, “Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are completely booked. I have 10:00 or 10:30 Tuesday.”
Why do we have a general incapability to empathize with miscarriage and pregnancy loss? Is “I’m sorry” is too much to say?
To all the moms who have suffered a miscarriage, whether in the dark or shared with others: I see you. You’re strong and beautiful, and that little angel is so lucky to have felt your love from the inside. That little soul felt complete with the comfort and intensity of your love and is blessed to have that love for eternity.