10 Of The Nicest Things You Could Possibly Do For A Woman Who Just Had A Miscarriage
In the winter of 2009, my partner and I decided to try for a second child. At the time, we'd already been blessed with a precocious (almost) 3 year old, but longed for her to have a sibling. We tried for months until, one September day, I discovered I was pregnant. Overjoyed, we scheduled our first doctor appointment for that very week, only to have the ultrasound reveal there was no heartbeat. Our baby was not alive. I quickly realized that some of the nicest things you could possibly do for a woman who just had a miscarriage aren't that difficult and, honestly, might help the healing process move along a little easier.
The day this devastating news broke, I had a nagging feeling deep in my gut something was "off." It certainly didn't feel the way my first pregnancy did, and though that's not the only identifier (because all pregnancies are different), I can only narrow it down to an intuition. My reproductive system has always been the cause for all sorts of problems. I went through puberty early (around 9) and menstrual cycles were so painful, I was put on birth control not long after. Doctors would inform me my uterus was titled and cysts grew on my ovaries en masse, often, so becoming pregnant the first time was nothing short of a miracle. However, I still wanted more children.
A few days before that doctor appointment, I suffered slight cramping, nausea, and other symptoms I simply wrote off. I did this because maybe I wasn't ready to face what I deep-down knew to be true of this pregnancy. Once the loss was confirmed, the rest is a blur of memories. I remember sobbing in the corner room with my paper gown still covering me as the doctor tried to console me. My mom was there, and my daughter, too, because we thought we'd leave that afternoon in celebration. Instead, we left grieving.
The next morning, because of health reasons, I had surgery to remove the deceased fetus from my body. While still a tiny being, I felt that loss once home for recovery that evening; physically, mentally, and emotionally. It's so hard to explain that great responsibility of carrying a life, only to have my body betray me. My grief was heavy and took many months to remotely come to terms with all that had happened. I still remember some things others did during that time, that absolutely helped me get through it. Without any of these things, I honestly don't know I would have.
Let Her Grieve The Way She Needs To
In the days after my loss, I wasn't exactly sure how to act. I cried more than I ever have in my life and wanted to spend my days in bed or, at the very least, locked up in the house and away from people. My anxiety festered and I sank into a depression. At the time, I didn't need anyone reminding me of all I did have (a supportive partner and healthy daughter), and I didn't want to be "cheered up." I merely wanted to exist and process what this loss meant to me.
Everyone deals with loss differently. The best way to support someone going through it is to let them do whatever it is they need to. Basically, let the mother lead the way. Until the clouds begin to part.
Help With The Miscellaneous
Whether there's a loss or not, responsibilities don't care. If you know someone suffering, take as much as you can off her plate. My mother-in-law kept my daughter for a few days while I healed. I had a great friend buy my groceries, and I had a partner willing to pick up the slack while I took the time to grieve alone. Something as simple as bringing a home-cooked meal or whisking my daughter off for a couple hours made all the difference in the world.
Listen When She Needs It
Navigating a loss of this magnitude is so very personal for the mother. It's difficult for the father, too. There were times I didn't want to speak a word of it and, of course, there were other times when I desperately needed someone to listen to me to get the thoughts out. Regardless of which is preferred, be that person willing to do whatever the mother needs you to.
Remind Her It's Not Her Fault
Knowing my body betrayed me was the hardest fact to accept. That guilt of feeling like it was all my fault still lingers. Was there something I could've done differently? The questions haunt me.
When speaking with a mother who is experiencing a pregnancy loss, it's important to remind her, as many times as it takes, this is not her fault. There's no answer that could make it feel better, but having my partner remind me I wasn't at fault saved me from spiraling even further.
Show Support With A Hug, Or With Space
While grieving in the early days and weeks, sometimes I need a long hug. Others, I wanted to be left alone. I never knew how I'd feel on any given day after the events. While you can't always know what each mother is going through, try to be compassionate and understanding with whatever needs she prefers and don't push for otherwise.
Don't Ignore The Situation
The worst thing anyone could've done after my miscarriage was to pretend as though it hadn't happened. This huge thing took over my life and faculties for so long, to avoid speaking about it, or showing compassion on any level, only added to more feelings of frustration, loneliness, and anger. I know it's difficult to know what to say or how to act with a grieving mother, so don't think too hard on it. Just be there; whatever she needs.
Don't Compare To Other Losses, But Share Your Story (If You Have One)
Comparing the loss of a baby to the death of a pet, while sad, isn't the same. Similarly, if you've had a miscarriage of your own, it's important to share your experience, but tread with caution. As a mother who lived it, while it helped greatly to hear my dear grandmother's tale of loss in her late teen years, listening to friends' stories about their tragic miscarriages (as though it's a competition), made me feel worse and like my pain didn't matter. If you're going to share, do so in a way that doesn't minimize my pain.
Help With The Sibling
My sweet daughter had no idea what was happening at the time. When I think back now, at just a week or so from her third birthday, I see how disconnected I became. It wasn't fair to her, but it's all I could handle. I was trying to process my own emotions. It's hard to grieve when you have another child to look after so when something like this happens, take the time to give that child extra attention so he, or she, doesn't feel left in the dust.
Don't Mention Trying Again
Immediately after a loss, I didn't want to here about trying again or those empty phrases such as "maybe this was meant to happen." Seriously. Someone who's already trying to understand and come to terms with what happened within her own body doesn't need to hear any of this. Instead try saying, "I'm sorry this happened" try, "I'll do whatever I can to help so you can grieve" and leave it at that. Anything else might make her feel worse.
Remember It's Not About You
The day I received the news, I went home and laid on my bed and cried until there were no tears left in me. My partner came home from work early to just, well, hold me. I'm so thankful my mom was able to take my daughter home that day so that my partner and I could grieve and cry, together. He didn't shift my pain onto him, nor did my mom. Though everyone was reeling, they all let me feel the pain I needed to feel, and remained steadfast in being by my side while simultaneously knowing none of it in any way was about them. It's not personal. If you're trying to show support for a mother going through a miscarriage, put their needs and feelings ahead of yours.
I'll never forget that day — the day I said goodbye to my second child — and even now, I mourn. I'll never know what could've been, what I could've done differently, or why these things sometimes happen. Eight years, another loss, and another full-term healthy birth later, I'll never forget the generosity of those who helped me grieve at a time even I didn't know how. Thank you.