When you experience pregnancy loss and learn what having a miscarriage feels like, you get automatic membership to one of the crappiest clubs in the world. Initiation is potentially one of the worst things you will ever go through and, what's more, you were probably hoping to get into another, way different club. Here's what makes all this even worse: the club is huge and there are actually a ton of benefits you could get from talking to other members. But unfortunately there's enormous external pressure to keep this club a secret. So a lot of the time you don't even know who the other members even are. The first rule of Miscarriage Club is you do. not. talk about your miscarriage. Why? Well, it makes other people uncomfortable. So every day, everywhere, 10-25% of women who were pregnant but did not carry to term are pressured to keep any feelings or information on the matter to themselves, lest discussing their experience make someone else feel unsure of what to do for the duration of their interaction.
When I had my miscarriage, I expected I would feel sadness and maybe some anger in the coming days and weeks. While I didn't know the precise way those feelings would manifest, I was right. What I did not expect was that the feelings that would dominate most of my experience were shame and embarrassment. I felt deeply, deeply ashamed that my body "didn't do what it was supposed to do" and I felt embarrassed not only by that, but that I felt any of the emotions I experienced as deeply as I did. Because I knew that miscarriage was tremendously common, and I knew that there was nothing wrong with me or my body, and that even if there had been something wrong with my body, that didn't mean there was anything wrong with me as a woman and a human. But the fact that I felt sad and ashamed anyway made me feel stupid. As you can imagine, all this "head vs. heart" crap made for some pretty terrific downward spirals in the days that followed. Knowing these all the reassuring facts does not replace talking about what you're going through, and I wasn't talking. The unspoken but firm rules that Miscarriage Club was to be kept a secret had ensured that there was no paradigm I knew of to help me begin to talk about it.
But then a magical thing happen: a bunch of the friends I had told, too many of whom had experienced pregnancy loss themselves, reached out to me and asked me how I was doing. They sent fancy chocolates. These small acts of kindness and acknowledgment meant the world to me. Because so much of my sorrow was stemming from the idea that I was the only one this mattered to. That I was a stupid, lonely failure. But hearing from other women assured me that my feelings were not only valid, but totally normal. These ladies inspired me to never be quiet about my miscarriage again, even if it makes some people uncomfortable. Because I would rather let someone be uncomfortable than leave someone else in such a dark, lonely place when all she needed to hear was that someone else knew what she was going through.
In the spirit of talking about pregnancy loss, I reached out to some of my fellow members of Miscarriage Club, many of whom include women who helped me make sense of my own experience three years ago, and asked them what they would want to share with someone experiencing miscarriage. Their answers fell into nine basic categories.
You're Not Alone
"Even though it can feel isolating because it seems like no one talks about it, you are not alone... So while it sucks that anyone has gone through this, the good news is there is a community of support out there made up of others who have experienced pregnancy loss/miscarriage, and it can be really helpful and therapeutic to talk to others who have been or are in the same boat. I was so afraid to talk about my miscarriage when it happened, but when I did tell people, I was surprised at how often their reaction was, 'Oh, I had a miscarriage, too...'" -Dawn
"Find people who have gone through the same thing and let them support you." - Anne
Everyone Mourns Differently
"One thing that was hard for me as I would seek out miscarriage resources online was all of the people mourning their early losses as babies. People had named them, they talked about their baby "dying at x weeks" meaning they had miscarried at that many weeks. Which is fine. But for me, my first trimester miscarriages, while devastating, especially after infertility, were not the same as losing a late or full-term baby. I mourned the loss of the child I thought I'd have and the life I could have had with that potential child, but it was different [than losing a baby who had been born]. So it almost made it seem like I couldn't participate in those discussions in fear of people thinking I was minimizing their feelings ... But...you mourn how you mourn. It's completely valid to mourn for what you thought you were going to have even if you feel like you don't have a specific person to mourn for who has died. And it doesn't make your loss any less than someone who feels like they lost a baby." -Analia
There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Tears or no tears. Anger or sadness or fear. It's all normal. You are not alone.
"I've had two [miscarriages] and the main thing I've learned is that everyone handles them so differently. [After] my first loss, everyone treated me really strangely, like I was so fragile, and it really kind of pissed me off. It wasn't until my cousins took me out for drinks a couple weeks later that I finally started to feel better because they were treating me "normal," not like some broken thing. But after my second loss, some people were acting like it wasn't even really a loss, maybe because I was not very far along at the time of the miscarriage, and that hurt deeply. So the moral of my story is that there is no right way or perfect thing that someone can do, but just to be there and give love, and then you kind of can't go wrong." - Chrissy
Time Is A Funny Thing Sometimes
"Grief comes in waves ... You can think you're fine for days or even weeks and then it hits you like a train and you'll go through every emotion all over again." - Ashley
"The pain eases with time, but it can hit you like a ton of bricks at any time."
Don't Minimize Your Grief
"It's OK to feel and mourn each loss, no matter how many days or weeks you were pregnant before the loss. That baby was a piece of you and will be a piece of who you are forever. You don't need to minimize it because you later were fortunate enough to have another baby that did not miscarry or because you have another child already. People always want to say, 'Well, at least you got pregnant again,' or, 'At least you already have one.' Yes, thank goodness. But that doesn't diminish the feelings and dreams and love I had for this one that I lost." - Emily
Sometimes You're Mourning More Than Just This Loss
"Every pregnancy is different and a lost pregnancy has no bearing on future pregnancies. One of the biggest issues I had was I suddenly had fear that I would never carry to term again, that my miscarriage was an indicator that my body couldn't grow another child ... While I was mourning the loss of my baby I was also mourning the hypothetical loss of future babies. It took some time to stop and focus that I did lose a baby and that was awful, but I couldn't dwell on making prophecies about any future pregnancies." - Jessey
"With each miscarriage I've had I not only mourn for the baby I lost but previous I lost as well." -Shasta
Take Care Of Yourself
I found it very healing to talk openly about it, not just to friends but even my colleagues, boss, etc., and be very clear about what I was going through and what kind of support I needed. I think this helped a lot because many people don't know how to give support although they would like to (and I needed it).
"Don't be afraid to ask your doctor if it is normal, particularly if you have a long-term condition, that miscarriage may tell you that something isn't being controlled properly. Just as much as miscarriages might be a fluke, they can be signs that something is wrong." - Helen
Countless Emotions, All Of Them Normal And Valid
"It's OK to feel anger, jealousy, frustration, fear, sadness, etc. It's a loss and you can grieve. Don't feel like you have to be strong through or after it." - Magdalena
"It's OK to be mad. I remember feeling so angry at the world but trying to hide it."
- Melissa F.
It's Not Your Fault
"And it's not your fault... Try not to spend time overanalyzing what you did or didn't do. It's not you." -Dawn
"It's not your fault and it's normal to grieve this baby. Both of those things were important and helpful for me to hear." - Amanda
"Talk about it! Share your journey and your story. It helps others and it brings some peace that you don't have to internalize everything and carry the weight yourself." - Emily
"[Miscarriage] is not something that should be taboo. We need to support each other." - Helen
"Don't be afraid to tell people. Feeling the need to hide it made me feel shameful and angry." - Melissa M.
It helped me tremendously to talk about it because it did happen and it does matter.
"The culture of silence about pregnancy in early stages needs to change. The expectation that women don't tell people they are pregnant only hurts the way we can deal with a loss after it happens. It encourages grieving quietly." - Kristy
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