The statistics, one in four. Twenty-five percent of women know pregnancy and infant loss. One in four know what it’s like to lose a baby.
And 100% of those women wish others understood. They don’t wish loss on anyone, but they wish the empathy was there.
They wish others knew how impactful loss can be.
They also wish someone had warned them. They wish they weren’t caught completely off guard by the physical and emotional symptoms. If so many women experience loss, why didn’t they know what to expect?
Why Didn’t Anyone Tell Me?
My first loss hit like a punch to the gut. I felt lost, confused and utterly broken. What was wrong with me?
Did my body do this?
Will I ever have another child?
Am I being punished for something?
I had no idea that miscarriage is an unfortunately common aspect of reproduction. I had no idea several of my friends had experienced this. I had no idea the physical toll a miscarriage could take. I had no idea how long it could take.
Several losses later, I know my first would have been easier if I knew what to expect. I know that all loss is easier with empathy. I know that marriages and friendships can blossom into amazing things with a bit of knowledge leading to empathy.
I know these seven things all loss mamas wish were widely known:
#1: A Miscarriage Lasts More Than A Day
When I had my first miscarriage, I had no idea how long these things can take. Mental health and emotions aside, a miscarriage is never physically a single day event.
Nearly everyone experiencing a miscarriage spends some time in limbo. For some, it’s just a few moments. For many, it’s hours, days or even weeks.
Is this bleeding concerning or will things still be okay?
Are my dates simply off? Will the heartbeat be here next week?
The heartbeats slow, the hcg is rising wonky, but could this still work out? Afterall, her heart is beating.
For those with a missed miscarriage – when there’s fetal demise but the body has yet to realize – there’s waiting days to weeks for the body to begin miscarrying; or waiting hours or days for medication management or surgery.
Even once the day of miscarriage is complete, it’s rarely over for most. There’s at least one or two follow up blood tests, and for some it’s weeks or months of blood tests.
It can take one, six or even more than eight weeks for pregnancy hormones to finally be gone. There may be follow up ultrasounds, testing and even repeat surgical procedures for retained tissue or scarring.
We don’t wish this experience on anyone, but we do wish people understood why we’re not ourselves for a while. We wish we had known what to expect. We wish we had known to take time to heal. We wish our partners, employers and friends understood we needed time.
#2: We Didn’t Cause Our Miscarriage
We did not cause our miscarriage. We could not have prevented it with whichever product you’re selling. It wasn’t from exercising too much or too little. It wasn’t from eating McDonald’s or being vegan. It wasn’t from having sex. It wasn’t that glass of wine had before the positive test.
It wasn’t something I did, it wasn’t something you did, miscarriage isn’t anyone’s fault.
Everyone who has experienced a miscarriage will go through a phase of questioning everything she ever did while pregnant.
This is a normal part of the process, wracking your brain, trying to find a sense of control.
But ultimately, it wasn’t because of something done or not done.
Most miscarriages are related to chromosomal abnormalities. Some are related to physiological issues in the body, but even so that is never someone’s fault. And many happen with no known answers except that we know not every fertilized egg can survive.
You might mean well, but telling someone their diet, their cleaning products, their activity level, their coffee consumption, their job, their whatever might have played a role doesn’t help.
Most women experiencing loss are under the care of a qualified physician or midwife, leave the advice to them unless you’re specifically asked about your thoughts.
The reality is there are billions of people throughout history who have never thought about their diet, their environment, their whatever and have never experienced a miscarriage.
And then there are women who do everything “right” by planning every meal, never touching caffeine, have a carefully planned exercise routine, practice mindfulness and gratitude and they still experience loss.
Because no matter what you do or don’t do, there are no guarantees in reproduction.
Don’t carry the weight of thinking you’re responsible for loss, and don’t give that weight to anyone else.
#3: Miscarriages Can Be Medically Complex
There are many miscarriages which simply begin with bleeding, everything passes, and the body begins to heal. These are still of course physically exhausting and mentally gut wrenching. They can be painful; they can take days.
There are some miscarriages which don’t start on their own and can be helped with home remedies, some just need time, or a bit of pharmacological management.
But there also miscarriages, more than you realize, which can be medically complex. There are ectopic pregnancies which require harsh medication, surgery, impact future fertility and in rare cases can even be fatal.
There are missed miscarriages which lead to sepsis. There are emergency room visits for hemorrhaging. There are surgeries which go wrong.
There are miscarriages which can require multiple surgeries, tests and uncomfortable procedures. There are molar pregnancies which leave women fearing for their future health and fertility.
There are miscarriages, like my most recent one, which can drag on for nine weeks, through three surgeries, over eight appointments, and still not be done.
Miscarriages are common, but they’re not easy. They can ravage the body, require lots of healing, and be incredibly emotionally draining. And that’s not even touching the aspect of grief.
#4: Miscarriages Are Worthy of Grief
Grief, it’s not something our culture is great with. We don’t like it. It’s uncomfortable. We mix up grief with mental health. We question the sanity of people when their world has just been shattered.
We give permission for people to grieve only certain things and only for some arbitrary amount of time.
And while I’m not the granter of grief permission, I will say it loud and often, miscarriages are worthy of grief.
The moment a woman finds out she is pregnant is the moment she begins to think about her baby. What will they look like? When will they arrive? Will his eyes be brown like mine or blue like his fathers? Will he play soccer or be into art? How soon do you have to set up a college fund?
Even if a woman discovers her pregnancy as it’s ending in a completely unexpected miscarriage, she wanders to what ifs. She wanders to what could have been.
This ultrasound, only nine and half weeks. Do you see that face? Those arms? So tiny. Not close to viability yet. But so human. So full of life. So full of hope.
So full of expectations and wonder of what life would be like with her. And just two weeks later we would confirm her heart had stopped.
With that, a life, hope, future plans and expectations all gone.
Each pregnancy lost, whether at five weeks or five months takes hopes, dreams and a child with it. That child, it’s worthy of a mother’s grief, a father’s grief and even society’s grief.
#5: Miscarriage Changes You Forever
After one experiences a miscarriage, she is forever changed. You may notice some of these changes, or some of these changes stay hidden within her own heart and mind.
She is likely to carry anxiety, fear and grief with any future pregnancies. She is likely to fight bitterness and envy when she sees another expectant mother, baby or pregnancy announcement.
Sometimes just for a moment, sometimes for a lifetime.
She might gain a level of empathy, giving her the ability to speak encouragement into the lives of others who know loss. Or that level of empathy might hurt her heart, causing her to withdrawal knowing there’s pain all around.
She might seem different to you, or you may not notice much. But I promise you this, she never forgets losing a pregnancy. She never forgets how it made her feel. For some, these changes are noticeable, for others they are hidden, but they are there.
Don’t pressure your spouse to get back to themselves. Don’t be upset with the friend who finds more peace at home than being out and about.
Give her space. Give her support. Be the best partner, the best friend, the kindest coworker to the new parts of her.
#6: Miscarriages Affects Men Too
A man may not be truly bonded to a pregnancy quite yet. The thought of a baby, still a bit abstract. Or, he might be beyond excited and counting down the days until he feels the kicks, and finally until he meets his baby.
Wherever he is in engaging with the pregnancy, a miscarriage affects him too. He’s spared the physical pain, the hormonal changes and the uncomfortable procedures.
But he isn’t spared from having emotions. He isn’t spared from watching his partner go through something he can’t fix.
He isn’t spared from losing a child.
For some men, the loss of a child hits him just as much as it hits his partner. For some, it’s watching their partner fall apart while she struggles through the physical and emotional changes of miscarriage.
For some it’s carrying misplaced anger and resentment from their partner. It’s the never knowing the right thing to say or the right way to help.
Whatever the experience is, it’s hard. It’s relationship testing. It’s confusion.
Men are affected by miscarriage too. Perhaps not on the same level as the woman, but that doesn’t negate the challenges they also face.
When you support your friend through loss, don’t forget her partner.
#7: Hormones After Miscarriage Are Brutal
However long or short a pregnancy, it comes with loads of hormonal changes. When the pregnancy ends, whether with a live birth or loss, those hormones come crashing down.
With miscarriage, there’s no baby providing oxytocin – the feel-good hormone. There’s no distraction. There are only the side effects with nothing to show for them, nothing to make it worth it.
For some, there’s even lasting pregnancy symptoms as the hcg and progesterone remain high. Keeping food aversions for a week after an early miscarriage was a brutal reminder of what no longer was. Still needing Zofran for hyperemesis gravidarum the morning of a d&e for a missed miscarriage seemed like unnecessary torture.
The post-pregnancy sweating. The aches. The cramping. The bleeding. The exhaustion.
And feeling the blues as the hormones crash down, in addition to the obvious grief you’re feeling is an added level of emotional aching. The mood swings and irritability from hormones accompany the heartache and symptoms of grief.
Even when a woman is handling her miscarriage in the healthiest of ways, the hormones make everything so much harder.
We Want You To Know Miscarriage Is Hard
Women who know loss, wish loss on no one. But they still want you to know how hard it is. How much grace, patience and permission to grieve they may need.
They want you to know, that emotions aside, it takes far more than a day to manage a miscarriage.
They want you to know, fellow loss mama, that you are strong it’s just that miscarriage is hard.