ms. fresh fish

The Miscarriage Post
September 8, 2012, 2:18 pm
Filed under: babies, events, family, general | Tags: , ,

I’ve often wondered how many of the miscarriages that happen in this city come to my knowledge. I get questions all the time, mostly from friends who have family, colleagues or friends who are recovering from one. They just don’t know what to say and ask for guidance. I feel honoured that people would come to me, and it makes me thankful that I’ve been so open about our journey. Maybe, just maybe, it’s helping others, even if just a bit.

So, here are the common features of my suggestions for what to say to someone who has had a miscarriage:

  • Understand that it’s devastating. It may happen all the time, to so, so, so many women, but that doesn’t make it any less devastating to the people in the moment. Increase sensitivity accordingly taking into account factors of how long she was trying to get pregnant, how far along she was and how many previous miscarriages she has had.
  • Resist the urge to comfort with talk of “next time,” and don’t minimize with “it will be okay.” I cringe at these, because I know I had said variations of these to others before I had experienced one, only to be met with what I now recognize was a subtle urge to punch me in the face. It’s not about “next time” and on some level, she knows she’ll recover… eventually. It’s about honouring the current experience and not minimizing it by pushing someone to get over it prematurely.
  • Under NO circumstances, do not say anything to the effect of “it’s for the best,” “it wasn’t the right time,” or “things happen for a reason.” I’m not even going to explain why. You should know why.
  • Much like the death of a loved one or illness diagnosis, the standard “I am so very sorry. It’s just not fair,” can work wonders. Instead of trying to talk them out of the sadness of their devastating experience, validate their feelings and ask if there is anything you can do. Ask about the experience. Be seen to care about what it felt like and what she is really going through, physically and emotionally. It will help her process.
  • Also important to understand is that, for some, a miscarriage is an incredibly physically agonizing experience. My first two miscarriages, before the morphine kicked in, were just about as painful as my labour contractions. Excruciating. We both thought I was dying. Because it’s pretty much the same process as delivering a child, but with the opposite outcome. I had no idea of this before my first one; I thought it would be like a heavy period. And it is like that for some people. But be prepared to be there for someone whose body has just gone through war.
  • Do not ask “what happened (to cause it)?” I get it. Everyone wants an answer. The problem is that it implies that Mom could have done something differently. SHE IS ALREADY ASKING HERSELF THIS. She is, more than likely, on some level, blaming herself. She doesn’t need your encouragement to do this. Miscarriages are unfair. Unexplainable. Really terrible and without remedy. It sucks. That’s it.
  • Be patient. It’s devastating, confusing, and really depressing. No one is readily equipped to deal with this lot gracefully. Don’t be upset if she doesn’t want to go to your baby shower. Be sensitive when you announce your pregnancy. After my second miscarriage, I sent out a request that all pregnancies be announced to me via email, so that I could react in a way that honoured my journey (so, cry) and then quickly move on to the part where I could be thrilled for my friends. And yes, I felt guilty about that too. But trust me, anyone dealing with fertility issues is going through this. Just be thankful that you don’t have to go through it too and be gentle with them.
  • If she’s shutting her friends out, she’s likely depressed. As with all friends battling depression, it requires a delicate balance of space and force. Space to be sad, force to talk. I failed miserably at letting well-meaning friends even try to do this.
  • It has also happened to the Dad/partner, who may be feeling like they have to be the strong one while their partner goes through the physical pain. Honour them with your sympathy and love as well.

This is obviously a generic set of recommendations based on mine and other women’s experience with whom I’ve spoken. Of course, you have to take your cue from her. If she wants to talk about “next time,” go ahead and indulge her. Every woman, with every miscarriage, will react differently.

The most helpful things that people did for us when I miscarried were:

  • Edible Arrangements, delivered. Seriously.
  • A drop-off of a care package for my recovery, including gossip magazines and junk food.
  • Anger. The friend who I should have had the hardest time with, who got pregnant by thinking about it (although also miscarried fairly late into her first trimester of her first pregnancy), while we were taking years just to get pregnant and then miscarry, was MAD. She was furious that this kept happening to us. Like, banging on the table MAD. I loved her for this. She met me where I was and was with me in it. Not trying to solve it, just really fucking pissed off about it. (I feel it’s important to honour her love by swearing. Because there was a lot of fucking swearing about the situation, which was really quite therapeutic.)

To give you a sense of the profound impact that a miscarriage can have in a life, I have been astounded by hearing women’s stories and memories about their experiences. I have seen 50 year old women, who went on to have more children, be reduced to tears when talking about the miscarriage(s) they had decades before. The ultimate of joy and hope, if only temporarily for some, ripped away from you.


17 Comments so far
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Nice piece Lo. I’m sure this will be very welcome to those who read it.

Comment by servingothersblog

I suppose, in your honour, I should have added something to the effect of: Please forgive her for showing up really, really intoxicated at Christmas parties. It’s her way of coping. Thank you for your non-judgment and understanding through our journey.

Comment by freshfish

Cant even imagine. So painful. You are so strong and so wise. Xo

And yes. Swearing helps.

Comment by Marianna Annadanna

This was beautiful and very accurate. Thank you for this.

Comment by Natalie P.

You have been a wonderful friend, helping me through it and reminding me to be open, honest and brave with sharing my story. Also, you are killer swearer.

Comment by freshfish

Great article, Lori. Thanks for sharing and got being there for these ladies in distress.

One other thing not to say: “well it just must not have been the right timing”. What does that even mean?

Comment by Dale

UGH! Or, “some things just aren’t meant to be.” NOT HELPFUL – you’re so right.

Comment by freshfish

I updated it. I think I had blocked out those comments!

Comment by freshfish

Incredible piece Lori and so bang on. Thank you for writing it.
S xox

Comment by Sandra Guirguis

Nailed it Lori. Thanks for putting it out there.

I think the other one I *hated* (and got from my mum, no less) was “Oh, I know. But let’s talk about MY miscarriage…” I like that you get it, but maybe now’s not the time to make it all about you…?

Agreed about the swearing, btw. And lots of it.

Comment by sarahfish

Actually, your Mom is one of the older women I was referring to – so, um, I believe you 😉

Comment by freshfish

Thank you for writing this. I think I did all the wrong things…more than once. And for that I apologize to every women who has miscarried and are in my life. I do remember being terrified of speaking to a certain someone when I did become pregnant and she was the most generous, loving and supportive friend a girl could ask for.

Comment by Momma Bear's fan

You took me in your arms and wouldn’t let me go. I didn’t even know I needed it when you did it. You were amazing. You cried. And, I believe that said girl wasn’t *so* supportive. Wasn’t her first response: “You’re too old to get knocked up that easily!! It’s not FAIR!!!” Yes, yes it was.

Comment by freshfish

Lori- what a wonderful post! You so eloquently, thoughtfully and coherently write about something that is in no way rational or coherent. It is something that you come to terms with it your own time, and these tips can only help people to help others along.

You know who else should read this? Doctors. Especially those who say things like “you know, on some level, you probably didn’t want to be pregnant.” thanks…

You are such an amazing woman, and you and Husband are an incredibly strong team. Hugs and love.

Comment by Kaili

Give me that Doctor’s name so I can go kick him in the shins. I’m so thankful that 2/3 of my docs were unbelievably amazing.

Comment by freshfish

Reblogged this on Disclosed Moments and commented:
Beautifully written post on miscarriage. As I delve more into the literature on this topic for an upcoming paper, I was directed to this post by a friend of mine. It’s nice to see an honest, recommendation-fuelled post about a subject that just simply isn’t discussed much amongst people trying to get pregnant and otherwise. Great post @freshfish!

Comment by disclosedmoments

Wow! Just saw this and am so glad that you found it helpful!

Comment by freshfish

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