Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. This post is to mark the day, to help raise awareness and offer some comfort and advice to people who have suffered the loss of a baby through miscarriage, still birth or infant death. We need to keep having this conversation because it is the silence around this topic that make it such an isolating and lonely experience.
I have some experience with pregnancy loss, having lost six of my own. The one thing that made the whole dark experience even darker was the isolation I felt in my grief. Part of that was an over-arching rejection of my grief and sadness. This is not a blanket statement, there were several people who were incredibly supportive and accepting of whatever we felt, each time we lost a baby. But there were many who weren’t, and sadly some of those relationships have never recovered.
So, the experience of losing a baby in and of itself, is a terrible one. For that experience to be devalued and dismissed can be extremely damaging. For those of you who haven’t experienced pregnancy loss and are struggling to understand, some of the emotions I felt included shock, sadness, disappointment, guilt, shame, grief and fear. To name a few. However, I will point out that every woman experiences pregnancy loss in a different way. And I know from my own experience that my reaction to each of my miscarriages differed in some way, from the one before. There was always a new and surprising response with each one, but what I have listed are emotions that were consistent each time.
The grief of pregnancy loss, to me, is most complicated. There is no consolation, no looking at old photos of happy times, no recall of happy memories or funny quirks of your loved one, that while sad, will make you smile. When you lose a loved one, grief is an expression of the gap they have left in your life. But when you lose a baby that has not lived outside of your own body, there is nothing tangible to try and draw comfort from. The weight of that sadness is present, but there is no resolution. I had four miscarriages in a year, and during that time It felt like I was heaving a weighted stone around in my gut. I had a heaviness about me that only really lifted once I gave birth to my oldest daughter.
Along with the emotional ramifications, there are also the physical. The hormonal changes in a woman’s body, once she becomes pregnant, are extreme. When a pregnancy ends abruptly the body tries to recalibrate and it can take months before a woman physically feels like herself again. Combine this with a myriad of emotion and the impact on a woman can be momentous.
It’s important that this experience is not undermined and days such as October 15th – Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, are an important part of healing and keeping the dialogue open for women who may be feeling alone in their grief. It’s also an important acknowledgement that the baby they carried and lost meant something, and the sadness that they feel is justified.
If someone you know is going through this, here’s a quick 101 on what NOT to say:
– oh well, there must have been something wrong with it
– it just wasn’t meant to be
– you’ll be pregnant again really soon
– why do you keep talking about it, just get over it
– it won’t happen again, don’t worry too much
– at least you know you can get pregnant
Here are some alternatives:
– I’m so sorry to hear about your baby
– come here for a hug
– how are you feeling?
– I’m sorry, I just don’t know what to say.
These are not a prescription, you can say what feels natural to you as long as you are showing the person that you acknowledge the depth of their pain and loss.
If you have lost a baby, remember them today by lighting a candle for them, or take a moment to reflect on their fleeting presence and what it brought to your life. One thing I learnt from my miscarriages was the depth of love that is possible, so each lost baby, while devastating, reinforced this and now my living children (of which I have three) are the beneficiaries of this love.
Share this post with your friends who might take comfort from it, or share it with those who aren’t sure what pregnancy loss is all about. Supporting each other through these experiences is what will make us all stronger and better able to cope with the sadness of one of life’s inevitabilities.