I have had three miscarriages. The thing about miscarriages is that, as a culture, we don't really talk about them. That isolation made the grief that much worse the first time I went through it. I longed for a connection and community with others who knew what I was going through. So, to find that, I had to tell people what I was going through. The flip side of that openness, of course, is enduring the worst things you can hear after mentioning your miscarriage, usually from the tone-deaf things people who either don't know what it's like, don't want to try to know what it's like, or don't realize that their best intentions are falling short.
(Of course, it's worth mentioning that I always want to hold the space for people who've experienced miscarriages who don't identify themselves as "moms." Whether that is based on not having more children, or whether that is based on gender identity. Your experience is still valid as someone who has dealt with a miscarriage.)
My first miscarriage happened when I already had two children. I was 12-13 weeks pregnant. We took our children in for the first ultrasound and the tech, wand on my belly, said nonchalantly, "There's no heartbeat. Did you suspect it?" Um, what?! No, lady! If I had suspected do you think I would've brought my two small children in with me?! She continued, totally oblivious to my overwhelm and shock, "Yep. Looks like this one stopped growing at about 9 weeks 3 days." All I could think was Shut up! Shut up! Shut UP! I can't believe I brought my babies in here! How could I do that to them?!
When the tech ultimately realized this was not a nonchalant moment she, thankfully, stopped talking. However, the heavy silence loomed as I motioned my partner to take the kids outside and the tech never spoke or made eye contact again. She was careful not to touch me at all, as if miscarriage were contagious. I sat, frozen, in the room she wordlessly moved me to and waited for an hour alone, in silence, while listening through the wall to other pregnant people's babies' heartbeats.
I believe the only way for people to get the support that can be essential for weathering the emotional storm of a miscarriage is to continue speaking about it. However, the more we speak about it, the more horrible comments we are likely to hear. Hopefully by sharing the worst things these mothers heard after mentioning their miscarriages it will get us a little closer to a world where these insensitive things are never said again.
"You're too young to have kids anyway. I was 27."
"You have enough kids."
"'you're young, there's no rush.' This person meant well, but man it stung. And clearly still with me over four years later."
"I didn't have a miscarriage, but a son born very premature who died. For me, the worst was religious people who knew I was an atheist and said anything about God or heaven. It might be the thing they thought was comforting but it felt very upsetting to have who I was completely ignored."
"The worst was after I got pregnant with my twins and told my mom I was excited for my rainbow babies and felt blessed, but it still hurt having lost so many pregnancies to get here. She told me just don't think about it, no one wants to hear or think about dead babies."
"I had a very early miscarriage and was told several times to be happy 'it wasn't really a baby.'"
"'Sometimes god's discipline hurts.' I was not an atheist at the time. So many people telling me this was the last straw for getting there. I just couldn't continue to believe in a god who would literally kill his 'child's' baby as a punishment."
"My experience was stillbirth at 33 weeks. There are really so many things that people said that hurt. 'You can have more children,' and 'she's in a better place,' or, 'something must have been wrong with her.' I think one of the ones that bothered me the most was when someone asked how far along I'd been and then said, 'Oh, that's why you're so upset.' I had to explain that I'd have been grieving no matter how far along, because this was a very wanted baby. He did apologize to me."
"People were cruel after I lost (my son). These comments were some of the worst along with a nasty message I got saying that it was basically god's plan all along for (my son) to die and I just needed to accept that.
'You should have been very happy thinking God had picked such a perfect Angel. You are truly blessed to have such a great thing happen to you. May God bless you always. I do feel bad for your human loss. One of our weak parts God made and it hurts at times really badly. I guess I was thinking of God's side of this loss for you. I hope I did not offend you.'"
"'Oh, pretty much everyone has had one. It's not a big deal.'
I'm sure the person was trying to be helpful but it felt incredibly dismissive of my feelings. Plus, how does she know what all of the circumstances were that made it a big deal to me?! I was hurt enough by that comment that I didn't even tell anyone but my husband about my second miscarriage until like 10 years after it happened."
"I can't remember the worst thing I heard after my miscarriage. All I can remember right now was a parent in my classroom (I taught her 2 year old) asking me about three months after the miscarriage how the pregnancy was going. She had missed the memo about the miscarriage, which I had at 18 weeks."
"During my miscarriage, comments I heard from doctors and nurses when I ended up at the ER because I began hemorrhaging during miscarriage. When they asked me who my primary doctor was and I said I didn't have one (because we were between providers and applying for Medicaid), they whispered under their breath right in front of me about my being another one of 'those' people who did not seek prenatal care. Which was totally wrong. I had a midwife. She knew I was miscarrying and gave me directions on how to handle it at home. She monitored me and all seemed to be going OK until I started hemorrhaging at which point I went to the ER.
They also acted very dismissive and actually judgmental with me during the examination (after mention of me having a midwife) and almost blaming me for needing a D&C when actually at the number of weeks I was, it's not common for women to have a D&C so it's not like I was neglecting anything in the process. Even during the procedure I felt the doctor was rough with me almost on purpose to teach me a lesson or something for, I don't know, daring to have a miscarriage and be one of 'those' people who use midwives. It was very demeaning."
"As for losing my baby, only one person said something rude, and it was that (when I stood up for myself and asked a friend to meet my need), 'You must still be hormonal and messed up from the miscarriage.'"
"I've had six miscarriages so, honestly, at this point I'm sure I've forgotten half the horrible sh*t I heard, but I'll go with, 'Well, is that really a surprise? You don't take great care of yourself,' and, 'Saves you from having to get an abortion. I mean you weren't going to keep it right?' (Because I was like 20 at the time).
Oh, and how could I forget the 'good news bad news lady.'
I went in with pain and bleeding and she knew I was trying to conceive. She bursts in and says, 'Well, I have good news and bad news! Which do you want first?' 'Good news,' I said. 'You're pregnant!' 'Alright, awesome, but what's the bad news?' 'Well you're definitely having a miscarriage.' I literally cursed at her.
"After one of many miscarriages, 'Don't you feel guilty continuing to get pregnant when you know the baby is likely to die again?'"
"After two miscarriages in a row, what got to me was coworkers constantly asking me if my husband and I were trying again. I really never would've discussed them with everyone at work, if I didn't feel like I needed to explain why I was missing work, crying after getting phone calls with test results, and also being extra careful about what types of chemicals I was working with in the lab (some were possibly teratogenic). I just didn't know or trust them all enough to want to share much of my personal life in the first place, yet, then suddenly they were in it anyways and they wanted even more details about my sex life? Really?"
"I had a person who always looks flawless comment on the horrible post miscarriage hormone rash I had in my face. That was super. I didn't really tell people about the second miscarriage because the 'support' I got from the first sucked so much."
"Actually it was my husband who got the worst of it after the miscarriage. I got flowers, and cookies, and my work told me to take what time I needed (all-female workplace). My husband's boss kept probing him for personal details about the exact nature of our loss and when he got curt, she had her own boss order him to apologize to her. Then, when he asked for time off to take me to and from my D&C in the morning and stay home with me the rest of the day, he was told that a D&C was a 'nothing procedure' and that there was no reason why I should need him afterwards. There was no recognition of the fact that he had lost a baby too. It was treated like a wife's medical issue."
"'At least you know you can get pregnant, I might not be able to.' Yeah, not helpful."
"I never thought I'd had a miscarriage, but being with my daughter after hers makes me question that now. That being said, one of the doctors in the ER at a hospital we now both refuse to use was actually the worst, framing it in a 'good news/bad news' format. I can also tell you each time she went through this, my heart broke for her.
I learned a lot about the power of not saying anything other than, 'I'm so sorry' after hearing what other people would say."