Editor’s Note: This post was written by Tiffany from Mommy Methodology. To find out more about Tiffany, please visit her website here and her contributor page here at Our Small Hours. Be sure to follow Mommy Methodology on social media: Facebook, G+ and Pinterest.
Demystifying Miscarriage Grief
I sit here staring at my keyboard, unsure how to put my words down in writing. I don’t want to face the emotions I’ve tried so hard to move past as quickly as one would gingerly, yet speedily, navigate across a drive of sharp pebbles on a hot summer day. However, there is a grief that too many women endure only to speak of in hushed tones of secrecy and if I, among others, openly speak out about this grief, perhaps we’ll collectively demystify the loss and more women will gain the support needed to face their grief freely.
So here goes: To state it frankly, I suffered a miscarriage 10 weeks ago as I was entering my ninth week of pregnancy. Each week that goes by, I’m reminded of certain milestones I will not experience this time around. For instance, there is the 3-month mark when I was going to announce my pregnancy, but instead I had to answer unexpected questions from my 3 and 5-year-old as to the name of all my children. My husband and I did not tell them about my pregnancy or later miscarriage, but in true child fashion, they’d honed in on something. That precise weekend they specifically asked for the name of my other children. A hot, sharp pebble of pain to navigate. The current milestone I’m missing is the gender reveal. I should discover the sex of my baby, not write about the emptiness of loss. Another hot, sharp pebble of pain to maneuver around.
This is not my first miscarriage. It is my third. I’ve been pregnant five times. I’ve got two beautiful little girls whom I love dearly. That doesn’t diminish the deep desire to know my other three children. I saw an inscription on a charm recently that stated my sentiment so poetically, “someone I love was never born.” Or as Job 3:16 expresses miscarriage, “like children who have never seen the light…”
As mothers, from conception, our children are truly a part of us. Our bodies adjust first hormonally and chemically, then physically to lovingly protect and encourage the growth of a new life. If we experience loss of this life, it can take weeks or months for our bodies to adjust hormonally and physically so why do we feel the need adjust emotionally nearly overnight? Why do we feel it’s a secret to keep?
Miscarriage and the Stages of Grief
Miscarriage is a death. Sadly, it is the most common problem in pregnancy. There are hundreds of thousands of babies each year who don’t successfully develop and survive to birth. That is a hugely significant amount of people suffering daily, most feeling prohibited from speaking openly of their loss. With miscarriage, you experience a slew of emotions and grief as you would with other losses or deaths. The deeply personal 5 stages of grief are relevant here too:
- Denial: Inability to accept what’s happened, a state of numbness and shock.
After my second miscarriage, up until the due date, I harbored a fantasy that I was still pregnant, that my loss had been that of a vanishing twin. The heartache of spending nights dreaming you’re still pregnant, only to awake to the void of reality, goes deep.
- Anger / Guilt: Placing blame on yourself or others for your loss.
After my second miscarriage, I alternated between anger at myself and anger at my doctor. She’d prescribed a medicine that could cause severe birth defects. I felt she should have known better. I felt I should have done my due diligence and researched the medicine before trustingly taking it. I currently cycle back and forth with this stage of anger and guilt. This last pregnancy/miscarriage was a threatened miscarriage for a couple of weeks before completing. I continue to wonder if I’d gone to the doctor sooner if the outcome would have been different.
- Bargaining: Making some kind of deal internally or externally to turn back the clock, to mitigate if not avoid the pain.
I found myself promising myself I’d be a more patient mother if I had another chance at pregnancy.
- Depression: Feelings of emptiness with limited joy or no joy in the present.
For weeks after this last miscarriage I was unable to find solace in music, something which I normally can’t go a day without listening to. I’ve found it difficult to find my voice in writing. There are days where everything seems mundane.
- Acceptance: Acknowledging your new reality and adjusting your life accordingly.
After my second miscarriage, it took me a solid two years to come to a true acceptance of my new reality. A mere couple months after reaching that turning point, I found myself pregnant again, wondering if I was free to get excited, to enjoy it, and a couple of months after that, I found myself facing a desolating loss again.
I feel optimistic that this time around, with my support group in place, with a new-found ability to discuss my feelings, I will come to full acceptance and recovery much sooner. I’ve already found myself reaching out for cathartic projects to engage in with my girls.
Changing the Cultural View of Miscarriage
If we need to honor our own feelings and grieve, others need the opportunity to extend us the same honor and dignity, right? When reflecting on other deep personal losses, the loss of a relationship, of health, of a family pet, of a dear friend, of a beloved relative, we speak of these losses more openly than the loss of an unborn baby. I’ve recently seen posts on Facebook about all the losses I’ve mentioned, except for miscarriage. This seems to debunk the theory that woman don’t openly speak of miscarriage because the loss is too personal or the pain too deep. If we feel entitled and capable of speaking of any other loss, should miscarriage be any different? We need to stop treating miscarriage as a taboo subject, unfit for conversation.
I’m not saying we have to sensationalize the loss or bear every inch of our soul. So what am I saying? I’m saying a woman should feel comfortable to share as little or as much of her emotions over her loss as she needs, without feeling she’ll be judged for her emotions, without feeling that she has to pretend that life didn’t exist, and she must go on with her normal routine. We should not shroud miscarriage in some dark, misty shroud of quiet.
I’m typically a private person. My first miscarriage wasn’t made known until after the fact, and even then only to a handful of family and friends. I was okay with that choice at the time. My husband and I were trying to expand our family, and I got pregnant again within mere weeks. It allowed me to focus on the positive than the negative.
My second miscarriage was different. I got pregnant unexpectedly; there were many emotions I had to deal with, my own and others, before I could anticipate the birth of another baby. Being the private person I am, I didn’t speak with many people about my conflicting emotions. Once I resolved those emotions, I quickly became attached to the baby growing inside of me. The loss was devastating. It made me desire another baby with an ache that only started to fade after two years had passed. And I while I did speak to a few friends and family prior to my miscarriage as well as after, I still maintained a private stance. Sadly, I wanted to speak out. I was grieving so deeply, I knew I needed comfort and support, but I felt expected to keep my loss private, to mourn in secret. Culture has reinforced that feeling.
My Mom lost a baby then underwent a subsequent hysterectomy. Granted, I was a child then so it would have been inappropriate to openly share her feelings with me. Since then, though, she still prefers not to talk of it. Her reasons are her own, but I remember being dissuaded from sharing her loss with others as if it was a family secret.
My sister is more open about her life than I. However, her miscarriage was a fact that only a few heard. I feel sadness that she felt forced to share such a life-changing event with so few, as if the criteria for disclosure was on a need-to-know basis only.
Among my circle of friends, there have been a few that have suffered a miscarriage. Despite friendship, I was unaware of their loss until I reached out in my time of need to form a support network. I felt surprised at how many others have experienced the same pain and grief. Perhaps, if I’d known sooner, healing would have come sooner? Perhaps.
What My Miscarriages Have Taught Me and How I Hope It Will Help Others
What did that teach me? It taught me that the silence after the loss did not lessen my grief, it intensified it. Pretending I lost nothing wasn’t going to make the hurt go away. This time around, I’ve determined I need a more open policy about my emotions and to recognize I need my friends.
How can you receive compassion and support if others aren’t aware of your need? How can you spread comfort and hope to others in grief if you don’t openly share the trials of loss that miscarriage encompasses?
I sincerely hope we can begin to demystify miscarriage and reverse the callousness of pregnancy loss, one unique life at a time.