Women grieving the death of a baby through miscarriage often feel alienated from the people in their life who don’t understand the intensity of their loss. Through my own two miscarriages and through talking to many others who have had miscarriages, I have seen that the grieving mother is often left to grieve alone. Unless she is fortunate enough to connect with someone who has experienced this first-hand, the people in her life usually are unable to provide any real comfort and often, though well-meaning, actually say things that are very hurtful. Others don’t seem to even acknowledge her loss. They don’t understand why it is taking her so long to get back to normal, how intense the pain is, how empty her body feels, the lingering feeling of incompleteness and the lack of closure. Or, worse yet, the guilt that she often feels, cross-examining herself for any fault she may have in this loss of life. These are things the average bystander just won’t see.
In fairness, is it no wonder that only someone who has experienced this loss could adequately help? I was blessed with a dear friend who had had several miscarriages before finally having her one precious child. I have to say through both pregnancy losses, she was a Godsend. She never told me to get over it or on with it or whatever. She listened and listened and listened. And she understood. That’s all I needed.
With my first miscarriage, at five months, I was sent home still carrying a baby that had been dead for around two weeks or more. (I was just sure I could smell it.) My children asked their Grandmother what would happen when I “lost” it, and she answered in a confident, clipped voice that we would just flush it down the toilet. That just felt like someone knocked the wind out of me. At that moment I realized that people just don’t get it. Some people were sympathetic at first, and then as I continued to try to heal and I talked openly about the experience, I felt like people began to wonder how long would I keep talking about this. They would ask how far along I had been, and then make this odd face, as if to say (Some did SAY out loud) that that wasn’t that far along to be making such a big deal about it. Or, they might think I was still pregnant, due to the still-extended belly, one of the “joys” of miscarriage. This was especially awkward. And, of course, the famous quote, particularly repulsive to parents who lose a child, “You have your other children. You should feel lucky.” This comment stabs two ways: it disregards the uniqueness and value of each child, and it also seems to label your feelings of loss and sadness as selfish.
And, there were always the self-proclaimed medical experts and would-be social workers. They love to pull you aside to tell you that there was probably something wrong with the baby anyway. They remind you what a burden on your other children it would be. (Shame on you for wanting it to start with when you already had two children!) They infer how you couldn’t afford it, even if you did want it. (Shame on you!) All the while, you are standing there knowing you would want the baby alive even if it had two heads.
The second loss I experienced, within a year’s time, was another five month pregnancy. I was induced to a still-birth delivery. The baby was brought to me, like my previous babies, except this one was dead. It was a boy, who closely resembled my oldest son. The overwhelming emotion I felt was wanting to do something to make it alive…I just wanted to scream “CRY, please, CRY!” (I did insist that the previously-mentioned, well-meaning Grandma was allowed to see the baby. She was so much more understanding this time after being part of the reality of the baby’s existence. ) The nurses were trying to make me face it all with pictures and baby clothes and everything. They were attempting to force me to confront all these feelings so I could deal with them better. They obviously had had some kind of grief training. The thing was, I kept trying to tell them, my husband and I had had real-life training, too, having just gone through this the year before. I am sure they had the best intentions, but they really just got on my nerves badly. I just kept telling myself that if they would just leave me alone that I could begin to deal with it.
You will notice I use the term “someone who has experienced this.” Most of the time, it seems that that person will be a woman. But, I was blessed again in that my dearest human comforter was my husband. He was so heartbroken, and I knew he was feeling the loss, too. This gave me great comfort. Sometimes, after a particularly heartless remark from someone, it would seem like us against the world. Not only did he love and grieve for our babies, but he allowed me to grieve as long as I needed. But, after talking to other sorrowing moms, I have seen this is not always the case. Many times their husbands are in quite a hurry to get their wife back to normal and are not very patient with her grieving process, which may come and go for a while. So, even in her own home, a woman may not have a safe haven to vent her overwhelming sadness at losing a child. For these women I feel most particularly sad.