My partner and I celebrated my pregnancy for over a week before I experienced my first miscarriage. After trying to conceive our second child for six months, an ultrasound revealed no heartbeat and I was scheduled for a D&C the very next day. The second time I miscarried I didn't know I was pregnant and, sadly, started to believe I'd never carry a pregnancy to term again. So believe me when I say I know there are things every woman who's had more than one miscarriage truly needs, and sensitivity is at the top of the list.
The memory of my first loss in its entirety is locked away in part of my brain that refuses to fully acknowledge or accept what happened. Because I can still recall the sheer joy my partner and I felt the week before that damning ultrasound, it hurts to remember the way my physician laid his hand on my shoulder, head hung low, and issued the first of many apologies. So I don't want to call to mind the tears that didn't stop for days on end. I don't want to remember my daughter, who was 2 at the time, sitting in my mom's lap while the doctor told me I had miscarried. I don't want to think about the fact that while she didn't understand what was happening, she could sense that something was wrong.
Over two years passed before I'd experience another pregnancy loss. My partner and I had grown complacent as month after month, for years, I found myself in need of a box of tampons instead a bottle of prenatal vitamins. In fact, we started to consider fertility treatments, hoping that medical intervention could help us give our daughter a sibling. So when I experienced my second miscarriage, I felt a strange mix of acceptance and disappointment; like losing pregnancies was my new normal. I felt broken, and didn't know how to go through life as if experiencing miscarriage was normal (even though, statistically, it is). I felt defined by these losses, and in so many ways I needed support, encouragement, and hope from people around me. I don't think anyone could have taken the pain of multiple miscarriages away, but I do know how powerful unconditional support can be.
Now that it's been many years since those losses, and I've since successfully carried and birthed my son, I've been thinking a lot about what I needed at such a difficult, painful time in my life. People meant well, to be sure, but when it comes to pregnancy loss, there's no guidebook loved ones can turn to. And because every woman reacts to miscarriages differently, it can sometimes be a difficult situation to navigate. So with that in mind, here's what women who've endured multiple miscarriages really need:
After each of my losses — particularly after the first — I was overwhelmed by other people's words of comfort and well wishes. Sometimes those words and wishes helped, but other times they fell short. I could barely process my feelings, so I didn't need so-called fortune tellers predicting the outcome of any future pregnancies I may or may not experience. I didn't need to hear lengthy stories detailing someone else's pregnancy losses. All I wanted to hear was, "I'm sorry and I'm here for you."
I can't speak for all women, but for me space was crucial to my grieving and healing process. Miscarriages happen abruptly, usually, so I didn't really have the time to process what was going on and why. I was numb, scrambling to figure out what happened and how to move forward. While I needed my partner's warmth and comfort, I didn't want 20 friends or family hovering over me and asking how I was feeling every two seconds. A pregnancy loss is extremely personal, so I needed my boundaries recognized and accepted.
I didn't necessarily want to talk about the pain associated with experiencing multiple miscarriages. Instead, I wanted to watch mindless television in peace so I could forget about being sad.
But when the time came for me to talk about the losses, I needed people to listen. Just listen. I know women who've miscarried, and I appreciate that during my grief they wanted to be there for me. But I didn't want to speak about my feelings and experiences if there would be interruption or distraction. I needed to be seen and heard, respectfully.
When someone is grieving, it's important to validate their grief. That means avoiding the comparison game. Telling a woman who miscarried at six weeks that she's "lucky" it didn't happen when she was six months, isn't helpful.
So please keep those experiences to yourself. Constantly comparing losses can make the woman grieving feel like she's in a contest of "who had it worse" or "who is hurting more." That's not helpful. That's hurtful.
There's always going to be people in your circle who take it upon themselves to tell you it'll get better with time. Or they'll say something like, "it's not meant to be right now." They mean well, sure, but when I heard any phrases relating to an uncertain future, at a time I couldn't see past the current hour, it only made me more anxious and frustrated. I'd have loved someone to tell me that maybe I wouldn't have a second child like I planned, that I might grieve longer than I think, and that it's Ok to feel sad. I didn't want false hope or "feel good" anecdotes. I wanted truth and honesty, or nothing at all.
It may feel as though you're helping by offering some sage wisdom based off your own loss or someone close to you, but you're not. I didn't need someone else's opinion on how I should handle another miscarriage.
Every woman who's had more than one miscarriage wants space and empathy, but there comes a point when (especially if, like me, she's more cynical after the first and has come to expect loss) it's time to do something else. Something unrelated and fun. Something that'll make her laugh. Something that reminds her that, eventually, life does go on when she's ready.
More than anything, I needed something to help me remember that I'm so much more than a woman who lost.
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