Next week is Baby Loss Awareness Week. Miscarriage and stillbirth, even in these enlightened times, are still taboo subjects. But not being able to talk about it, just makes a very painful experience even worse. Here is a blog, that I posted as a guest blog last year, that might answer some questions and give a different perspective for those going through it – and for those seeking to support.
The Darkness and Dawn of Miscarriage.
Miscarriage is not the happiest of subject matters but a topic that affects so many people – about one in four pregnancies. I have written this in the hope of answering two questions:
- Why is it quite so upsetting?
- How do I support someone going through this?
I worked in a hospital at the time of my miscarriages. The obstetrician was fantastically supportive and kind, but many of my colleagues said the most appalling things to me; not from malice but from misjudgement. It was really confusing. It was hard enough to get my head around the fact that I had been a mother who had never held or kissed her child. To be subjected to pseudo-medical guesswork was just more than I could bear. After the first miscarriage I went into a form of shock. I was back at work on the Monday, apparently fine. By the Friday I was in pieces and I didn’t really understand why. Now I do understand why but it took a while to work it out.
For those going though miscarriage one of the hardest things to deal with is other people’s reactions. The problem, I believe, is created by a difference of perspective. For friends and family the miscarriage is a medical event – the pregnancy has stopped – but for the hopeful parents, what is lost is not the pregnancy but the baby in their arms. And it is this baby, fully imagined, fully cherished, that is lost. I have many friends who have also had this experience. Loved ones wanting to support but unsure of what to say, and because of their perspective getting it horribly wrong; the very people who should be pouring love and support, just end up pouring more darkness.
So How Do You Be Their Dawn? – for the mothers and their partners.
- Understand that you are helping someone who is grieving (as well as dealing with chaotic hormones and probably having undergone a fairly grim, clinical procedure.)
- Don’t assume that when someone says “I’m fine” that they are. Don’t assume that the “I’m fine” from yesterday is still true today or even in a month’s time.
- Don’t keep going on about it. Don’t get frustrated when they do.
- Do NOT say:
“it was for the best” (it wasn’t – it really, really wasn’t the best)
“at least you have your other child” (they are not consolation prizes)
“well at least you know that you can get pregnant” (this was not a dress rehearsal; this was the real thing.)
- If you notice anyone saying the above, have a word.
- DO say:
“I’m so sorry.”
“How can I help?”
“This is really sad news.”
“I’m sorry that I don’t know what to say.”
- Hug them. Remember to hug the partner; they’re grieving too.
- Help. If you can, turn up and do the washing up, hoovering, making tea for visitors. They’ll be mortified that you did their washing up etc. but will also be relieved that it’s done. You have to play this one really carefully so have empathy dials up to max.
- Turn up with food; my friend Sarah turned up with a casserole and jacket potatoes already cooked and still hot – I just needed to put them on the plate. I sobbed.
- If you are their manager, treat them as you would after any bereavement. Take particular care to remember point 1 and 2.
I had a very spiritual experience a while ago that helped me deal with my own miscarriages. I share that here in the hope that it brings some peace, clarity and hope.
One final point; if this is you then you are not alone. The miscarriage association have a fabulous website. Speak to your friends and family; there will be people close by who have been through exactly what you are going through. Lean on them. Say yes to help. Be difficult. Rage. Love. Grieve.