“A miscarriage is a natural and common event. All told, probably more women have lost a child from this world than haven’t. Most don’t mention it, and they go on from day to day as if it hadn’t happened, so people imagine a woman in this situation never really knew or loved what she had.
But ask her sometime: how old would your child be now? And she’ll know.”
-Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams.
Right after my miscarriage I found this blog, Things People Said After My Miscarriage. It is funny, kind of bitter and all rings very true. Like me, the author dealt with the double whammy of miscarriage and fertility issues. If you’ve had a miscarriage or you’re trying to talk to someone who has, please go check it out! The only thing I don’t like about it is that she only posted for a while on it, because I wanted to read more and more. I hope it means she went on to have a baby and worry about things like diapers and daycare. I would like to have those worries someday too.
It’s interesting how different people respond to this kind of loss. It has made me think a lot about how I’ve responded in the past when my loved ones had a loss, whether it was a miscarriage or a death in the family or something else. Loss is hard. It is uncomfortable to talk about and it feels like the elephant in the room. You don’t know what to say. You don’t want to upset the person. God forbid you make them cry.
The thing is, you just don’t know what to say about miscarriage because we’re not given any scripts for it. For so long, miscarriage was suffered through silently. No one talked about it. My hope is that this is changing and will continue to change. It seems wrong that it is a taboo topic and that women should be quiet about it. So now when people are starting to talk about it more, what do you say?
Here are some suggestions I have, based on my own experience. The blog I posted above has some great suggestions too.
What to do/ say when someone you care about has a miscarriage:
Say something. Even if you say “I don’t know what to say”, say something. Say “I’m sorry” or “I’ve been thinking of you” or “Wow this sucks”. The timing may be off and it may be awkward, but it means a lot just to have the loss acknowledged. It sucks to feel like you have to bring it up all the time. Chances are, everyone’s sitting there thinking about it anyway, especially if it was a recent loss.
It’s no one’s fault/ it’s not your fault. Of all things people said to me, this was the most comforting, just simply “It’s not your fault”. The nurses and doctors are clearly well trained and used to this, because everyone in my Ob-gyn office said this and it really, really helped. They reminded me that it happens for various reasons, but not because I did anything wrong. This helped because sometimes I worried about the kombucha I drank one day (I didn’t know about the trace alcohol!) or that weekend when I didn’t know I was pregnant yet and I sat in the hot tub for hours and drank wine.
Make some concrete plans. Many people offered to bring things, or to get together. That was really nice, but I seem to benefit most from someone forcing me to make concrete plans, like “what night next week can you come over for dinner?” or “how about tomorrow?” Truth is, sometimes I just sit in my pj’s and cry or watch a marathon of stupid shows on netflix and the whole idea of making plans seems overwhelming. It helps to have someone take the lead a bit more.
Don’t try to make it better. My husband is the pro at saying things to try to make things seem more positive. I love this about him, but after my miscarriage, it was NOT what I needed. After a while I just told him “This sucks and nothing will change that. I just need time to deal with it and you probably do too”. I’m sure it was harsh of me to say that, but I was very upset about the comments like “at least you can get pregnant” and “you can try again” and things like that. Nope, it just sucks. Sucks, sucks, sucks, sucky sucks. I know people mean well when they say such things, but it is hard.
Don’t tell me statistics. Miscarriage is very common. My doctor told me that one out of four pregnancies will end in miscarriage and that at my age, it is more like one in three. I know it happens and it could very well happen again. One woman who wrote to me pointed out that she felt she was being ridiculous when she felt so heartbroken by her miscarriage, if they are so common then why does it hurt so much? While it is common to go through such a thing, it doesn’t make the pain any less. Minimizing someone’s pain only invalidates them, it doesn’t help them to feel better. It is also common for people to get sick and well, we all know that there is no escaping death. I certainly wouldn’t tell someone who just lost a loved one “You know, every one dies someday” or “One out of 3 people get cancer”. Come on, that’s messed up. I’m fine getting that information from my doctor, but it really doesn’t help me to feel less crazy or less like a sad-wombed loser to hear that so many others have gone through this, it just makes it feel more awful that other people go through it so often, and yet we never talk about it.