Miscarriage is awful. (That’s an understatement, I know.)
My experience with loss of pregnancy, though, was after a successful pregnancy. I don’t know exactly what it’s like to have consecutive miscarriages.
I do, however, know the fear and pain of having a little one inside of you, and then losing them.
I know the sadness. The loss.
And if you’ll bear with me, I’d like to share my experience with miscarriage after a healthy pregnancy and how I wish more people would respond when someone they know miscarries.
If you’ll oblige me, I’ll start my story with some background on my first pregnancy.
Miscarriage After a Healthy Pregnancy
My first pregnancy
My first pregnancy was a sharp contrast to my second. It was a surprise, and I struggled with the guilt of not feeling ready for a child but having one anyway.
I hated feeling ungrateful. I knew I should be so happy to have a little one when others couldn’t.
And it was an almost ridiculously healthy pregnancy, from the positive pregnancy test to the vaginal birth and the healthy baby girl, our Gem, at the end.
I wanted to love her, in spite of how unprepared I felt. And over time, I saw the sparks of her personality, and I grew to treasure them as I’d wanted to at the beginning, when my guilt got in the way.
Mothering was beautiful.
After 18 months, my husband and I felt excited and ready to add another little one. Even our daughter, Gem, seemed to feel it was time. She would carry a little dolly around with her when we were all alone at home.
My husband and I eagerly anticipated our new addition.
The Second Pregnancy
But after several months of struggling to become pregnant during long menstrual cycles, my second pregnancy felt off.
It felt delicate. Like tissue paper, and quite unlike the stone fortress that my first pregnancy had been.
I never got truly morning sick. I remember searching on social media at 7 or 8 weeks gestation; trying to find out if that was normal with a second child. “Sure” some people said.
So I tamped my worries down.
But at roughly 12 weeks of pregnancy—nearly at the second trimester—I stepped into a tub and felt a ripping sensation across my abdomen.
“Ow!” I thought. I checked for blood. There was none. No more abdominal pain. Things seemed to be okay.
Then I started bleeding a few hours later.
And though the vaginal bleeding began as a few drops, it grew into a trickle. It got bigger. We called my office. Later we went to the emergency room.
There I experienced firsthand what no one tells you: contrary to how we perceive medical professionals; doctors are quite helpless when it comes to miscarriages.
They ran blood tests. The hospital staff was kind. A healthcare professional preformed an ultrasound test.
And there was our baby. Too small for the end of first trimester.
They didn’t show us the heartbeat, and our dread grew.
And next came the health care provider. “Early pregnancy loss” he said. Or “Spontaneous abortion.” Maybe chromosomal abnormalities.
“Pregnancies end” he said. “It’s normal.”
It felt anything but normal.
The Emotional Pain of Miscarriage
They sent us home, where I had painful contractions over the course of the next 24 hours. Finally, I physically felt the baby leave my body. No one at the health facility had prepared me for what that process was like.
Miscarrying felt more painful to me than my unmedicated 24-hour birth with Gem. Perhaps it was because in addition to the physical pain, I carried the emotional weight of knowing there was no baby at the end for me to hold in my arms.
I’d lost my child. And it hurt.
When the baby was gone, I kept bleeding. “Like a heavy menstrual cycle,” I read online.
Over the course of the next week, the blood clots and heavy bleeding trailed off. I felt my body healing, though it hurt (a bit like after labor) for the first few days.
However, after the whole physical process came people’s attempts to comfort me. And I spent lot of time wondering and reflecting on what the right thing for someone to say was.
From close friends and not-so-close friends, I noticed what helped. And I’d like to share the things I learned now, because I hope that others can find comfort or give better comfort as a result.
What People Say (And what not to say)
What Not to Say or Do
Well-meaning people said some of the following things to me, but I really wished they hadn’t. Please know that I’m not trying to sound mean as I share these things.
I just want to be real. I hope that others can learn from these examples and better comfort their loved ones and friends in pregnancy loss.
So, here’s what not to say:
- “It happens.” When people said this to me, it seemed to reflect their own methods of coping with personal miscarriages in the past. It felt like they’d blocked up their own emotions and were numb. But in the midst of all the things that I felt, I didn’t want to hear how it “happens,” because of course it happens. It had happened to me, and it still hurt.
- One misled person seemed to think I should lay in bed for weeks. I’m not sure they understood that I had an almost 2-year-old and a household to run, though. Treating your friend like they are bedridden likely doesn’t reflect the reality of their circumstance: life goes on and they have to go with it. That’s part of what makes it rough. The pain, in part, is in life continuing, and acknowledging that that is part of coping.
- Don’t suggest that someone doesn’t know they are miscarrying. If they aren’t, that’s great. But if they are, it’s not fun to be told you’re not. I appreciate the person who did this with me. I think they just didn’t have a clear grasp on my situation when they did.
- Don’t make them talk about it. Talking is a good way to work through problems, yes. However, I found myself wishing that people would just give their support and not ask to talk any more. I couldn’t talk. I didn’t want to talk. There was nothing more to say.
What to Say and Do
So what do I wish people had said or done for me? Here are some of my thoughts (And know that many wonderful friends and family members did indeed do these things for me):
- If you are talking with someone in the midst of miscarriage, help them to understand the process. There are a lot of unknowns in miscarriage (and the medical staff failed to explain it all to me). The whole “mystery” factor of the experience is scary. I am grateful for my mom, who helped me to make sense of it.
- Sincerely say things like “I am so sorry,” and “I’m here for you if you need it.” Then leave it at that, unless your friend seems to need more. They may sound simple, but sometimes simple and sincere is better than not.
- Acknowledge how hard it is. Even though lots of other people experience miscarriage, it doesn’t minimize an individual’s pain. It’s just a hard time all around. In my case, I wished more people had acknowledged the pain of such losses.
- Bring food. During the first couple of days, my husband and I just needed time for the grieving process, and when people brought us food, it helped massively with that.
- Hug. Maybe you’re not a huggy person, but hugs (for me) at the right time are comforting and healing. They say what empty words don’t: I’m here for you and I’m so sorry for your pain. Hugs go along with the whole ”Maybe they don’t need to talk more about it but still want emotional support” concept.
- Ask if they need to talk, and if they do or don’t, respect whatever they want. I didn’t want to talk, but there came a time when I did. A good way to gauge that without intruding is to simply ask.
- If you have sincere thoughts to share but your friend just wants space, send a card. My grandma sent me a card, and it meant the world to me. I loved being able to read it in my own time. I still have it and don’t plan on letting it go.
People wept with me. They discussed feeling and emotions and the reasons behind them, when I was ready. And that helped. It was healing.
And over time, the feelings dulled. But the pain also became a part of me.
I realized that miscarriage is one of those things that will probably always hurt. No one can make it completely better. At least, no normal mortal can.
I found peace in Jesus Christ, whom I believe understands my pain and promises to heal this hurt I feel. His healing may not come until later—even after this life—but I do believe it will come, and I am grateful for it. I know that through Jesus Christ, families are eternal, and one day I will hold my baby in my arms like I was supposed to.
I hang onto that perspective. It’s my lifeline.
I want you and/or your friend cto find your lifeline. I highly recommend Jesus Christ, but of course, not all of you may feel totally comfortable with that.
Maybe you need to go to a pregnancy loss support group.
But whatever you feel, though, I promise you’re not alone.
And if it’s your friend who’s struggling, help them to know that they’re not alone. Walk with them. Talk with them. Let them know they are loved.
The Gift Package I Wish Someone Had Gotten Me
And if you would like, below is a Walmart cart with the kind of gift package I would have liked to have gotten.
Stuff can only say so much. But it can help a little, in its own physical stuff kind of way.
I appreciated any and all meal solutions that other people gave me, so I included a couple of meals in this cart. Additionally, I found a lot of therapy in coloring, so I picked some pens and a coloring book.
I added a journal too, because sometimes it’s helpful to write. Though, I only did a little bit.
Then there’s the bracelet. You can take it off the list if you want. Or, you can pick something else. But the idea is that butterflies remind many people of loved ones who’ve passed.
Looking back, I think I wouldn’t appreciated being given something thoughtful and tangible like this to remind me of my little one.
So, get it for yourself if you need it, or get it for your friend. Change it however you want once it’s in your cart.
If you get the bracelet, though, Be sure and edit it to have the proper letter with it, though (or pick a different bracelet/item).
In closing, though, please know that you are cared about. You’re not alone. Keep going.
This too shall pass.
Thank you so much for reading this.