Eight years ago I miscarried what would've been my second child. It's a day I can't forget, even if I wanted to, and truthfully I don't want to. For me, pretending I didn't lose that pregnancy means pretending that pregnancy didn't happen. But I did, and that loss is part of my story as a mother. Recently, I discovered a friend had quietly experienced something similar, I just didn't know until it was too late. If only I had said the following things after my friend had a miscarriage; things I know I needed to hear when I was enduring my own loss. Then maybe she'd have felt less alone. And while every person handles pregnancy loss differently, for me I know support from friends would have helped me focus on the future. I try to remind myself of the things I needed when I was seemingly drowning in my sorrow, and give my friends or loved ones going through similar pains what I know they need.
I can't speak for every woman who's lost a child, because grief isn't a one size fits all experience. But my first pregnancy loss played a pivotal part in the kind of woman, and mother, I am today. I had a daughter nearing her third birthday, I'd endured and overcome postpartum depression (PPD) that almost ended in suicide, and I was just starting to see the light at the end of what was a difficult new-parent tunnel. So the moment that pregnancy test confirmed I was pregnant, I was hopeful. I didn't know I could fee that way again, but there I was: holding a positive pregnancy test, looking at the glass half full for the first time in over three years, only to have the glass break in my hands when the doctor said there wasn't a heartbeat.
My partner and I tried to get pregnant for another two years before I found out I was pregnant with our son. During those two years I cried. A lot. I thought I'd never hold another baby of ours again. And while I loved our daughter the the sky loves the sun, I felt like a failure. I couldn't will a baby to life no matter how hard I sobbed, or prayed, or hoped. When I think of a friend going through a similar experience, I can't help but be disappointed that I didn't say or do enough. I just wish I had done more. Said more. I guess, in the end, I wish a lot of things.
This yearly reminder of my miscarriage, a reminder that will undoubtably be part of my being from now until forever, is a reminder that loss doesn't ever really go away. If anything, it tattoos itself on your heart, possibly changing your choices, and journey, along the way. When a friend goes through something like this, there are things you should say — things I wish I'd said — that might help take some of the weight of her pain and sadness off her shoulders, such as:
"My Words Won't Heal You"
When someone endures a loss of any kind, I've found that people say all the topical, prescriptive things they think you need to hear. "It'll get better in time. You can try again. Lots of women lose a baby before carrying to term." I know people mirroring those sentiments have the best of intentions, but those are shallow phrases. If anything, the aforementioned comments made me resent whoever said them.
Someone grieving from a miscarriage needs to hear that their feelings are valid. They need to be allotted the time and space to sit in their grief. So I should have told my friend, "Nothing I say will take away your pain, because if they did, I'd say every word in the dictionary." With loss, the truth is best, not what you think someone wants to hear.
"I'm Sorry I Wasn't There For You"
Sometimes "better late than never" doesn't apply. There were some people in my life who ghosted after my pregnancy loss. Maybe they didn't know what to say or do, or maybe my grief was an inconvenience, but regardless of why, it hurt to look up and see that people I thought would have been there, weren't.
I know it's difficult to navigate someone else's grief, especially if you're the type to shut down when it happens to you. Still, I wish I'd been there for the friend that needed more. Just because I want space when I'm hurting, doesn't mean that's what everyone else needs.
"It'll Get Better... Eventually"
People tell you time heals all wounds, but I don't think that's necessarily true. I'm still carrying a lot of open wounds that time has done nothing to "heal." It's probably how you use the time that aids in healing. I wish I'd reminded my friend that, while it hurts now, if she used the time in between for self-care and reflection, it would, in fact, get better. Not today, and maybe not next month or next year. But eventually.
"Some People Just Won't Understand"
Anyone who hasn't lost a pregnancy just can't understand what it's like. They'll try, and they'll mean well, but I should've reminded my friend that the solidarity comes from those who've been through the same hell. I should've helped her navigate the feelings of frustration when someone was too optimistic or overly positive about a future she, herself, wasn't certain about, especially immediately after her miscarriage.
"I Don't Know If You'll Go On To Have Another"
People love to tell someone who's lost a baby that they can try again. That they'll likely have a successful pregnancy in the future. But the thing is, when grieving that pregnancy loss, chances are she doesn't want to think about whether or not she will get pregnant and carry that pregnancy to term in the future.
I don't want to lie to my friend about what the future may, or may not, bring. I mean, what good would that do? There isn't a single person on the planet that can predict the future, and pretending I have that ability just diminishes the pain my friend is in now.
"I'm Here For You"
I never told my friend I was there for her. In all honestly, hearing of her loss well after it happened triggered my own feelings of sadness. I couldn't tell her I'd be there for her, because "being there" reminded me of just how much pain I still carry from my own miscarriage.
I hate that I allowed my own pain to keep me from helping my friend navigate her own. But if I could go back and do it over, I'd tell her I'm there for her. And damn it, I'd be there.
"I Hurt With You"
Pain is universal, even though it varies in intensity and people react to it in vastly different ways. Expectant moms who lose a pregnancy may never be able to completely verbalize the extent of what the loss felt like, or how it changed them. And then again, maybe it didn't change them at all.
I wish I'd told my friend how much I hurt hearing the news of her miscarriage. How it brought up memories of my own, and how I've realized how poorly I've grieved those losses. I should've told her she's not alone and that I hurt with her. I should have told her that if it were to ever happen again, I'd be the first to look her in the eye and say everything I should have said before.
Just as I hope others would do for me.
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