I had no clue what to say to her.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” sounded so trite, so impersonal. Something I might see over and over again in the comments of a post on social media: five words with a little heart emoji tacked forlornly onto the end. Not the genuine empathy I wanted to convey to a friend who was going through a heartbreaking miscarriage.
I decided to solicit the opinions of women who had experienced loss—what was the one thing that helped them get through it? What advice would they give to someone else who was currently in the midst of it?
My intention was to compile what they shared into a list, a guide for those in my same predicament should they ever want to offer comfort without sounding glib. But as I was reading through the words of these brave women, who didn’t hesitate to bare their souls and tell me what was in their hearts, I stumbled across something I didn’t expect to find.
“What is something you wish you had received more of during and after your pregnancy loss, and why?”
The resounding answer was this: more information and more empathy from my doctor.
“I may have had tired, busy healthcare providers that day at the ER, but looking back, a little more sympathy or some type of feeling and care from them would have gone a long way.”
“When you miscarry, the doctor gives you a pamphlet. It’s very sterile. The doctors deal with this all the time, and their directness about the situation can make you feel like you are overreacting. You grow to feel at home at your OBGYN office and it would be nice if you had someone there who could address the fear, anxiety, sadness, and inadequacies of losing a baby.”
“I was told to go home and let it pass. I didn’t know what my body was doing. I didn’t know how long I would bleed or what it would feel like. I didn’t know what questions to ask.”
I found myself, instead of compiling a list, composing a letter. A letter to my doctor. A gentle reminder that our physical selves and our emotional selves are not so easily compartmentalized. A reminder that just the smallest bit of compassion can go a long way. A reminder that we are people too, and not just patients.
I know this happens to so many of us, but please don’t be nonchalant. Even if this is my first loss, even if the chances were 1 in 4 of this happening, even if the odds are good it won’t happen again … it doesn’t hurt any less right now.
I know it might be common knowledge to you, but please explain it to me simply, in words I can understand. What is Misoprostol? Will it work? What does a D&C entail? How long will I bleed? I don’t want to have to resort to Google and Pinterest to figure out what is happening to my body.
I know you treat my body, but please don’t forget the person inside of it. I am more than your one o’clock appointment or a pair of feet in the stirrups. I am more than a statistic. I know you have a job to do, and I’m grateful. But please be as gentle with my heart as you are with the rest of me.
I know you are busy, but please don’t rush me. When you’re done, please don’t just stand up to leave. I need a minute. I might want to ask a question. And if I do, please don’t open the door and answer on your way out. I know your time is valuable, but I am worthy of it.
I know you are the expert, but please listen when I talk to you. Please don’t dismiss me when I share information with you. You see women going through this every day, but you don’t see me every day. Miscarriage may not be unique, but my story is.
I know my face will fade from your memory, but I will never forget what it was like to be here, to experience this, to hear the news for the first time. You won’t remember me, but I will carry this for the rest of my life. Please do better than just “I’m sorry for your loss.” I know you can.
Author’s Note: This is in no way meant to discredit the dedication, sacrifice, and genuine concern shown by so many doctors, nurses, staff, and other professionals who work in the field of women’s health. To those wonderful individuals in particular who go above and beyond in their care of others, thank you.