Despite the fact that pregnancy loss affects millions upon millions of women, there is a taboo associated with openly discussing it. While there are organizations and initiatives that encourage women and families to break the silence it is, nevertheless, a subject mired in silence. This is a problem, because it encourages and fosters ignorance, as well as a lack of empathy and understanding. It leaves a lot women feeling completely alone, when they're anything but. It's definitely why women struggle to love themselves after experiencing a miscarriage; because the default response is usually "something is wrong with me," rather than remembering that an estimated 20% of recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage.
Emotionally speaking, there are no universals truths about having a miscarriage. Someone may be absolutely devastated after losing a pregnancy. Another person might not feel much of anything. Someone else might even feel relief. Absolutely any and all of those feelings and reactions are completely valid, even and especially when they're experienced at the same time. So, in speaking about ways to care for yourself following a miscarriage, you will ultimately know what is best for you. If you're suffering from and through the experience of a miscarriage, I can only offer suggestions and insights from my own experience. You, and you alone, will know what you need and in no way should feel guilty for asking (no, demanding) that you receive that necessary support.
When I miscarried (almost 21 months after the birth of my son and almost exactly a year before the birth of my daughter), I was in such a state of weirdness, frankly, that there was a lot that I did not feel empowered or allowed to do because of (extremely uncalled for and unnecessary) feelings of guilt.Eventually I was able to listen to my body (and heart) and take steps that helped me heal after a loss, which included the following:
Feel Free To Cry
I avoided crying for a while. I told myself I "shouldn’t be upset," because I hadn’t even known I was pregnant for more than a few days before I lost the pregnancy. I told myself, “You’re only about 6 weeks along. What about the women who lose pregnancies in their second or third trimester? What about women who have stillbirths. They’ve suffered loss. You haven’t.” I told myself “This wasn’t even planned. So your life is going on exactly as planned now.”
The most I would cop to for about a week was “feeling weirdly bummed.” However, that dam of self-denial was bound to burst, and when it did it was intense. I sobbed horrible convulsive sobs. I admitted I wasn’t fine, at all. I told my friends. I let my partner hug me. Admitting the hurt and letting it out was, while not necessarily cathartic, hugely important. Crying was what allowed me to move on to say and do other things that, eventually and inevitably, made me feel better.
Be In Touch With Your Doctor
There are lots of good reasons to pay attention to your body and mind after a loss and to be in touch with your doctor for anything concerning, such as excessive bleeding, fever (which can be a sign of infection), or feelings of depression (different from feelings of sadness, which are of course normal and healthy) or anxiety.
Eat All The Things
I recommend chocolate. This sounds trite and flip, but I ate my feelings for, like, a solid month after my miscarriage and I’m completely OK with that. You know how you feel when you’re physically sick sometimes and you need a bowl of chicken soup (or, if you’re an Italian kid like me, pastina) to fortify you? That’s how I felt for a long time. I didn’t eat myself unhealthy or anything like that, but I sort of babied my need for comfort foods until I felt like myself again.
Take Time To Rest
Even if you lost your pregnancy early (and, statistically speaking, you probably did, as around 97%, of miscarriages occur before 12 weeks), your body goes through some drastic, hard-hitting hormonal and physical changes right away. It's completely normal and natural and understandable that you may be reeling for a while. You may also be in no mood to get up off your couch. Go easy on yourself, and give yourself the time to rest.
Tell People (If You Want To)
I will admit: I’ll write about this subject, but coming up on 3 years after my loss, I still don’t like to talk about my miscarriage in person with friends and family. Of course, that’s my choice and it's one that benefits me. No one should feel like they have to keep mum about their miscarriage out of fear of making someone else feel uncomfortable.
For me, there was a fair amount of self-hate and shame going on after my miscarriage. I felt like my body and I were failures. As weird as it sounds, I felt very deep, painful embarrassment after my miscarriage. Something that helped me through those feelings were supportive and wonderful friends, who reached out with messages of love, encouragement, and, in one glorious case, fancy chocolates crafted by hipsters. It’s fine to take some time to yourself and to be solitary, but don’t shut out other people’s love because you feel like you don’t deserve it. People want to help, and even though there’s no way they can fix what’s wrong, allow yourself to draw comfort from them.
Allow Yourself To Laugh
Life goes on. Even in the darkest, most difficult moments, the mundane crap that happens to us every day keeps happening, and sometimes those mundane things will be funny things, or even good things! It’s okay to respond to those funny or happy things with smiles and laughter. You don’t have to be in mourning 24/7 for a particular period to prove to yourself (or anyone else) you’re still in mourning.
Don’t Be Afraid To Stand Up For Yourself
Sometimes, people say profoundly stupid things after you tell them you’ve had a miscarriage. I tend to think the culture of silence surrounding miscarriage facilitates these profoundly stupid things, but, of course, some people are also just idiots.
Still, chances are relatively high that you will encounter a well-meaning idiot who, due to the fact that we culturally don’t know how to talk to someone going through pregnancy loss, will say something stupid in an attempt to be helpful. You are under no moral obligation to cure them of their cluelessness, but you do not have to suffer in silence, either. So, if they say something hurtful, call them out on it if you want to. It’ll be cathartic for you and, honestly, you’ll be doing them a favor in the long run.
Don’t Put Yourself On A Timeline
Mourning a pregnancy loss is different for every women, but everyone I have ever talked to who is in this crappy club agrees that emotions can be erratic. There’s no “normal progression” or concrete, chronological stages of grief. Things you think you’ve come to terms with a week ago come back to haunt you several months later. Don’t beat yourself up for not being “over” it within a certain timeframe, and don’t think of normal emotional fluctuations to be “backsliding.”
See Yourself As A Whole Human
You are more than your body, and more than your motherhood or desire to be a mother. This disappointment/tragedy/event is not all that defines you, not even as part of a series of miscarriages.