Friday, November 24, 2017

The Heartache of Miscarriage

Coping with the Devastation of Miscarriage

It was one of the most painful, gnawing, and raw weeks of my life. My husband and I lost our baby in miscarriage, and the tumultuous circumstances surrounding that week are etched in my emotions and memories forever. We are not alone. As many as 15%-20% of all known pregnancies end in miscarriage, where the baby dies before the 20th week of gestation. Women all over the world experience this loss, yet it continues to be one of the most prevailing taboo subjects to acknowledge for several reasons. It is time to give mothers and fathers the support they need and the acknowledgment of their losses.

My Miscarriages

Even just writing that is painful – to see those words reflected back at me. The truth of those words are sometimes perhaps more difficult to understand because the loss of a child through miscarriage is often a hidden, reserved, private anguish that parents, mothers in particular, endure. I was the mother of a beautiful baby girl and blissfully 8 weeks along with my second child. I spent the weekend visiting with family and shopping with my sister-in-law for her soon to be born child, as she was 8 months along at the time. My husband and I arrived home and I realized something was wrong. I was spotting – often the first sign of an early miscarriage. The next day my fears were confirmed when my obstetrician said my hormone levels were far too low to sustain a healthy pregnancy – our baby had died.

The Emotions of Miscarriage

The world seemed like a vacuum, sucking my energy and ability to breathe out from within me. I felt the tumbling feelings so many women feel.

  • Extreme sadness over the loss of my child, the dreams for our future, and for the unknown
  • Anger that God would let my child die
  • Failure that I as a mother couldn’t protect my unborn child
  • Inadequacy as a wife to my husband that I wasn’t able to mother his 2nd child
  • Seclusion as people around me pulled away out of fear of saying or doing the wrong thing
  • Jealousy that my sister-in-law would soon deliver her child and she would hold him in her arms

It is that last emotion on this list, jealousy, that would haunt me the most and devastate me more than I ever imagined. I tried to reason with myself that at least I had time to grieve before the birth of my nephew. But in a twist of fate just 24 hours after I found my baby had died, my sister-in-law’s water broke 4 weeks earlier than expected. My jealousy was magnified beyond my comprehension. I remember screaming “It’s not fair!” as we waited to hear about the joy of that birth. However, that phone call came with the unbearable news that her son, my nephew, had died just minutes after birth as the result of an unforeseen medical complication. My body crumbled by the bedside and unleashed a fury of tears, hoarse screams, and heartache.

Reactions to Miscarriage

Still physically exhausted from my own miscarriage, we travelled again – this time for a funeral, just days after the joyful shopping trip of two expectant mothers. I was devastated for her, ashamed of my jealousy, and still mourning my own loss. Never once did my sister-in-law minimize my pain in light of her obvious devastation. But the reactions of those around us reflect the reactions of so many around women who lose children to miscarriage.

Ignoring the loss – Even though everyone at the funeral knew of our loss, most people did not acknowledge it.

Minimizing the loss – Several people comforted me by saying at least I lost the baby early and didn’t go through the entire pregnancy.

Speaking ignorantly – One friend of the family approached me and said that miscarriages are gross – the bleeding – and she was surprised I would attend the funeral in that state.

Coping with Miscarriage

I could barely contain the raw emotions of my heart, and my sister-in-law squeezed my hand as the rain drizzled on us in the cemetery. I didn’t feel I had a right to my heartache. I had no baby to bury. She had to bury her son. Our losses were different, but still unimaginable. The loss of a child in miscarriage often goes unacknowledged by many, not out of coldness but out of ignorance. It is time to give mothers the ability to grieve and receive support from others.

If you have experienced a miscarriage, do what you need to experience and acknowledge your loss.  

Name your baby. On that sad, drizzly day, as rain streamed down the window, I silently named my child Rayne. I could at least then say, “Rayne – I miss you and love you.”

Mark your loss. Some women plant a tree in honor of their child, hang an ornament on the Christmas tree each year, or make a charitable contribution that helps mothers and children.

Speak about your child. It is OK to say you miss your child, miss being pregnant, and are devastated that you won’t hold your child in your arms.

Rely on your faith. Sometimes it is all we have.

Acknowledge the loss of others. It is perhaps one of the most important lessons I learned – to offer support and a shoulder to mothers who lose their children in miscarriages.

Helping Someone Else Cope with Miscarriage

If someone in your life has experienced loss through miscarriage, consider doing more than just waiting for her to signal the next move.

Offer a hug – just as you would if she would have lost anyone else in her life.

Send her a card – a note to let her know you are thinking of her, praying for her, and acknowledging her grief.

Consider a memorial gift – women who suffer miscarriages know of their loss and loss is real to them. Things like a keepsake ornament, angel figurine, or tree planted in the family’s honor are ways to show that you understand this is real.

Ask her what you can do – even if she can’t think of something she knows you are there and are willing.

Miscarriage is devastatingly lonely and final. I did go on to have a healthy 3rd pregnancy with my husband which resulted in our handsome first born son. A year after his birth we were thrilled to find out we would welcome another child into our family, but again, lost our baby through miscarriage. The ultrasound technician was deafeningly quiet as he searched for a heartbeat, and I begged him to tell me what was wrong. He said he wasn’t allowed to give diagnoses, but touched my hand and said he thinks moms just know certain things. It is the look I wish I never had to learn. Miscarriage most likely has touched someone in your life like it has mine, and is something either you or someone close to you has experienced. It is OK to treat it like the real loss that it brings to a mother’s heart.

Related posts:

  1. Coping with Miscarriage: The Emotional Consequences

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