Easing the Anxiety of Pregnancy after Miscarriage

In response to a recent post, someone included a link to this article in a comment. I liked it, and wanted to share it.

Even though I had never experienced a loss of any sort (early, middle, late miscarriage, fetal demise, stillbirth, infant death), the following description of these post-loss mothers resonated with me, mirroring my feelings during this pregnancy:

“‘One Foot In — One Foot Out’ describes women’s sense that the pregnancy is uncertain, so they steel themselves emotionally by acknowledging that the pregnancy may not end with the birth of a live baby,” says Côté-Arsenault. “They cushion themselves against attaching to the new baby.

“For most of these women, carefree enjoyment of a pregnancy is not possible. Instead, it is a balancing act between trying to insure safe passage of the baby while maintaining emotional stability.”

There was always a nagging something in the back of my mind; but I tried to ignore it and overcome it, and be attached to the baby. I think I did for a while, but then something happened when I started spotting the second time, and I just felt like it was a farce. I was living under the sword of Damocles, although I pretended like I wasn’t, and acted like I wasn’t, and tried to convince myself that I wasn’t. Perhaps that was my body telling my mind what my uterus already knew; but perhaps not — some of these mothers in this article did not truly believe they were actually going to have a baby even in late pregnancy, although they did.

“It would be wonderful if pregnancy losses were acknowledged openly in our culture too,” she said, “but at least hospitals in this country have gotten better about helping women acknowledge a lost baby,” noted Côté -Arsenault. “When a baby dies, giving the mother the baby’s photo, footprints and handprints is much more routine. We have made progress. Now we need to recognize the impact of perinatal loss on subsequent pregnancies.”

Being open about my miscarriage has brought a lot more response and sympathy from women who have had miscarriages than I would have guessed. I knew that a large percentage of women have had miscarriages, and I knew a lot of my friends in particular had had miscarriages; but there were a lot of women who told me about their miscarriages, when I had not know that before. And I don’t know why. Certainly, some of it is that I was not close friends with them at the time they had their miscarriage(s); many of my facebook friends are people I see once a year, or perhaps even less. But I was surprised at some of them — multiple miscarriages, even, and I never knew it. And then all the stories from those who had not miscarried but had experienced spotting and even bleeding — I never suspected it to be so many.

It’s almost like women are expected to just accept the miscarriage and go on, not telling anyone that they were pregnant unless absolutely necessary — almost like it’s a secret. A naughty secret. Sure, some people are private; some have probably heard some not-so-sensitive comments on their loss, so I understand why some wouldn’t broadcast the news of their miscarriage. Others like to keep the news of their pregnancy private, to have something just to share between them and their husbands, until something happens that makes them need to tell (start showing, morning sickness they can’t hide, etc.); and then if they happen to have a miscarriage before they’ve told, then they’ll just not mention the pregnancy at all. I understand that; but I think many people do themselves and others a disservice. Because then it remains hidden, it remains not talked about, and through peer pressure, or not wanting to be an oddball or whatever, nobody else says anything either. It’s almost like a girl being sexually abused by her step-dad, and thinking she’s the only one; then finding out 20 years later that he abused all of her sisters, plus his own daughters, and a few neighborhood girls as well. A wall of silence.

Now, I’m doing okay. I really thought I’d have a hard time with this, but I’m not. Perhaps that may change at some point, but so far, so good. But many others hurt deeply and grieve terribly, over early or late losses. And if the wall of silence remains, they don’t know whom to turn to, for someone who has gone through a similar experience. Perhaps they even think they’re the only ones. But if they are likewise silent, then those others who have previously experienced loss won’t even know that they are going through or have gone through the same thing, and need comfort. And the cycle perpetuates.

That’s one of the reasons why I was so open about this pregnancy and miscarriage, despite (or perhaps because of) my uncertainty and fears. I want to help break the cycle, and break down the wall of silence. Because we are not alone in this world, and we shouldn’t have to act like we are.

12 Responses

  1. I agree with you. I wish I had more of an emotional vocabulary for miscarriage and infant loss. I’ll hear from extended relatives about a miscarriage or a friend of a friend had one. I want to say something the next time I see them. I want to know how they feel about it and not give them a rote “this is what you are supposed to say” comment. I think in a bigger umbrella death of anyone is very held back emotionaly in our culture. It has become one of those things that people feel they can’t talk about because showing emotion denotes weakness and weakness is frowned apon……..Well anyway, I did a post about my miscarriage earlier this year – http://sususeriffic.blogspot.com/2009/11/it-is-very-common-you-know-miscarriages.html I don’t think I feel the way most women feel after a miscarriage but my feelings are valid anyway.

  2. When I miscarried our first, I was immediately overwhelmed with women at church telling me their miscarriage stories – I’d never heard anything from them about it before. I didn’t even really know anything about miscarriage or consider it a possibility, because I’d never heard of any woman having one – but afterward, I realized that it’s more common to have had a miscarriage than not. There really is a wall of silence – probably because, at least in part, miscarriages simply aren’t acknowledged culturally as a “true loss,” and people do tend to say really dumb things to women after miscarriages – “you weren’t really pregnant yet,” “aren’t you glad it wasn’t later?,” “you can always try again,” etc. Even within the Christian communities, early pregnancy loss is not acknowledged like late-term losses or infant death. I’ve actually been thinking, for the past couple of months, of writing down my own miscarriage story on my blog to spread awareness of it. Sometime soon I hope to get around to it. Anyhow, thanks for the great thoughts!

  3. I am so sorry for your loss!

  4. kota press has some articles. Someone coined “bereft” for parents who have experienced pregnancy or newborn loss.

    I know with my first miscarriage I didn’t really tell anyone. I was somewhere between 6 and 10 weeks (little legs and hand flippers could be seen). The OB said about five based on bleeding I thought was a period. I had a 10 month old baby and didn’t know I was pregnant because I hadn’t had a period until the mystery days of bleeding. I lost my baby in the bathtub, and thought I was just having a period with heavy cramping. It was a shock to actually see my baby, and the OB never saw the child. However, I didn’t grieve much and was just perplexed by the whole event. At 16 weeks, that was a big shock. I’d felt the baby kick. I had heard the heartbeat. It was different and I shared it so much. I spoke about this iufd at church just a few months later. Women came out of the wood work. One mother of TEN told me she’d had a miscarriage with an IUD in place after her first two were born, and then had three more miscarriages. She had 8 children after that, and refused birth control from then on. I couldn’t believe a woman who had so many living healthy children could have so many miscarriages. Over and over again women told me their stories. Some had very late miscarriages due to incompetent cervix (most heartbreaking was a woman who moved in her early 2nd trimester after her first loss and the new OB wouldn’t give her a cerclage…horrible as she lost twins. Finally, she had a baby after she found a provider who would do a cerclage.

    I thought miscarriage was something I would never feel I could get away from. My BODY was the tomb. How could I leave the scene? I could never leave my body. The next pregnancy was another loss at 5 weeks (this time I knew it was 5 weeks, I saw no baby and no little limbs) My pregnancy after these two losses was bittersweet, and I still mourned my 16 week loss, but wanted to be fair to the new baby. This baby wouldn’t exist if CJ hadn’t died. After I had her, I immediately felt a deep need to have another baby. I knew I had to have the baby and did end up with a healthy girl, but did have a scary positive screen result for trisomy 18. I didn’t do amnio, too much risk for another miscarriage. Jillian is healthy (though she needs glasses and has had eye surgery). Just glad to have her.

    Ahh, you don’t know me and I’ve rambled on. I think you do sound okay, and probably will get through this generally fine but will always remember your baby. I pray for your comfort and peace.

    • I will be posting my “miscarriage story” in a few days, when I get it written, but I’m glad you’ve written this. I’ve read some miscarriage stories in which the mothers could identify baby parts, and others where it wasn’t mentioned (perhaps they had a D&C so didn’t see what was removed?). I passed some clumps of tissue, but there were no identifiable baby parts, which was odd to me. I was at 7.5 weeks of gestation (5.5 weeks post-conception, although the baby could have died prior to that, and it just took a week or two for my body to start the miscarriage process), and examined whatever tissue or bleeding that I could. It’s possible that the baby passed and I didn’t know it; but not having seen any embryo, I wonder if perhaps it was an “empty sac” or “blighted ovum” pregnancy — the baby just didn’t develop.

      • I do beleive getting to see my baby was strange. As I said, I could clearly identify the limbs and see the body shape. Even saw the chrion ??? around the baby (early placenta). However, something looked wrong, the flesh was indented all over like a sponge or morelle mushroom and pinkish. I wondered if this was a genetic disorder or deterioration. It was just not what I thought a baby would look like at all. Seemed to be larger too…so who knows how far along I really was. The OB didn’t want to look at the baby, I had taken it in because the books say to do that, and the OB just kept the baby in the office and I wish I’d taken him/her back home for burial.

  5. First my prayers again Kathy that you continue to do well and feel comforted by the Lord, your husband, anything else that is helping you to feel generally okay right now. I’ve never miscarried (about 24 weeks into my second pregnancy), but I’ve been around a lot of death in my relatively young life. In reference to people not knowing what to say, or wishing there was something else to say, I have always found out biggest cultural inconsistancy with death is people don’t feel a cultural acceptance to feel angry about death, particularly non Christians. There is this stigma that if you are angry you must be angry at the person who died, and that’s ‘not right’. When, in reality, Christian or non Christian, everyone has an inate, God given knowledge that death is an enemy, an intruder into lives that were supposed to be untouched by it. Yes God made us capable, in His infinite wisdom, to deal with death, but we were not created to die. Death is UNNATURAL, it is a thief and a robber and an enemy to which we all will eventually fall. I have found it very personally helpful as part of my healing/grieving process to acknowledge the anger and hate towards death, not the person who died or even the process of that death (sometimes death can be a release from much physical pain and suffering and, for a Christian, ultimately leads to a reward), but at DEATH itself, at that old thief that has unnaturally stolen something of great value. I know in comforting/counseling many of my friends they have found that having someone (anyone!) willing to say ‘its okay to be angry, this isn’t natural and you don’t have to fight to pretend it is’ has been of great help to them as well. Obviously this works better for Christians that non Christians, but have even found some non Christians, who completely believe in evolution and that death is a natural part of life to find it comforting when they are actually dealing with their emotions about a death of a loved one. Anyway, that’s my suggestion for expanding upon, as briome put it, the emotional vocabulary for miscarriage. A miscarriage is perhaps the worst theft of all, how much more unnatural can one get than taking life from the womb itself?
    In all prayers and sympathies.

  6. My good friend lost her baby last year as she was 7 months along. I tried to mourn with her. I really was sad because I had been with her to a few Dr appointments and ultrasounds and was looking forward to this little person. But I am a little worried I said the wrong things. Can I ask what you think are things not to say? I tried to just be a listener, but I think I asked what went wrong and maybe I shouldn’t have.

    • Different people are going to respond in different ways, here is a post I wrote several months ago (with some more links and sayings in the comments) of various things I could think of that people might say, that may be hurtful. But one of the things I had listed as “not to say” a reader said she would have not found offensive at all, but rather helpful. {shrug} That post was more along the lines of an early pregnancy loss, but some things fit a loss at any time.

      What you can do is ask your friend if you said anything that hurt her at the time of her baby’s death or afterwards; and if so, you can ask her forgiveness for having unintentionally hurt her. Asking what went wrong could be taken in different ways, depending on where she was emotionally at the time — idle curiosity that may or may not have been hurtful, an implication that maybe *she* did something that caused her baby to die, or deep empathy for her and her situation and a desire to help her process her baby’s death and her subsequent grief, which is undoubtedly how you meant for it to be taken. Only she can tell you how she felt; and another person may not have felt the same way.

      When my father died (car wreck, 10 years ago), many, many people said things that they thought would be helpful and comforting, but they were like a dagger in my heart. It wasn’t their fault, and I don’t hold it against them, because they thought they were doing and saying “right things.” But it still hurt me at the time. They would have been shocked to know what was going on inside of me — and this included people whom I had known all my life, close friends, and even those who had experienced a similar loss. Because of that, I am aware that the common “right things to say” may not always be so right, depending on the person hearing them. Which, unfortunately, you cannot crawl inside their head to find out if saying this or that is going to help or hurt them.

      Because I don’t want to hurt anyone by a remark that unintentionally is not helpful, I tend to just say, “I’m so sorry,” and leave it at that. However, that may also be taken in a wrong way, by someone who feels that that is a cold or a trite phrase, and that if I *really* felt sorry for their loss, I would say deeper words (although it’s usually said with tears in my eyes, so I hope it comes across as real). Sometimes I feel like “you can’t win for losing,” but have taken the tack that it’s better to say as little as possible to avoid the hurt that a multiplication of words can bring. And then, let the situation guide me, trying to respond in ways that seem right at the time. And pray that what I say is helpful and not hurtful.

  7. bj, being a listener and saying that you are so sorry is the best thing you can do. If your friend is taking to you about the loss, telling her that you want to hear about the pregnancy and her memories of her baby is very helpful. Don’t say anything that you would think was inappropriate if your friend had lost a 5 year old (e.g., It’s better to loose the baby now. You will feel better in time. Time soothes all wounds. You weren’t ready for a baby. You are young and can try again, etc.).

  8. I couldn’t identify anything baby-ish after mine. It happened at 10weeks but it was likely a molar pregnancy. Later I described the one thing I saw, it looked like a dark bloody tampon and my midwife said that was the placenta. I imagine looking at baby parts would feel much more emotional (for me anyway).

    • I think it would make me more emotional as well. I’ve imagined myself seeing identifiable baby parts, and feeling much more sad and emotional — as if it would make the loss more real, as opposed to being able to say, “Well, perhaps it was a blighted ovum, so wasn’t *really* a baby anyway…” Maybe I’m just in denial.:-/

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