I Wanted Someone To Ask Me About My Miscarriage
I lost my first child at 11 weeks. I lost my second child at 24 weeks. It’s not easy to talk about miscarriage and late-term pregnancy loss. Everyone wants to believe there is only a fairy tale ending to pregnancy. The reality is miscarriage and child loss happen more often than we may think. One in four pregnancies ends without a living baby.
My son Phoenix had a rare genetic bone disease called Osteogenesis Imperfecta Type 2. It was a condition that is incompatible with life. He was in constant pain. His head was like a sponge and his bones would break every time he moved inside my belly. It was a harrowing discovery.
Once my husband and I had decided we were going to terminate our pregnancy, we had to wait more than three weeks for our appointment. We felt like we were waiting for a death sentence. It was like purgatory. Every time I went outside, I hid my belly because I was afraid someone would ask me when I was due.
We were told the baby would pass away before he was born. After I was induced, I was in labour for 12 hours before my son Phoenix came out in one fast push.
“Oh my god, he’s alive,” screamed the nurse.
Shock. Then suddenly everyone was crying.
“Do you want to hold him?” she asked. “He’s beautiful.”
The doctor had warned us he would feel like jelly, like a fetus, but he felt like a real baby. His skin was dark and thin like he had a tan and his arms were disfigured. His eyes were shut and he looked very peaceful. His small hand was no bigger than a man’s thumb poking out of the blanket. My fear was that death would be gruesome, but it was beautiful.
The tears flooded down my face and I felt a massive rush of happiness. I was meeting my baby for the first time and I felt so lucky. I was a new mother and I had just given birth to my son. I felt euphoric. He had defied the odds and he was alive.
The whole room was glowing with love and we could feel his spirit among us. He didn’t move but we could feel him breathing very shallowly and slow. We spent about 5 hours in the hospital with him, passing him back and forth, examining his face and watching him breathe. When he passed, it was barely noticeable, like a whisper.
Phoenix weighed 500 grams but you can’t put that on a death certificate. I used to tell people he weighed 1 pound because I thought it made his life more significant.
Not many people asked what had happened to me. Most people just avoided the topic altogether. I guess they didn’t know how to react and maybe they didn’t ask because they didn’t want to upset me. But I was upset, so their reactions felt very cold. I probably wanted too much. I wanted someone to ask me about my son. I wanted people to acknowledge that I’d had a baby.
Miscarriage and child loss should not be a taboo subject. People need to talk about their experiences to help work their way through the grieving process. Since I began sharing my story, people have told me their own stories of miscarriage and child loss. They tell me like we share a great secret. Many women haven’t even told their family or friends, but they tell me. Maybe it’s easier for them to tell a stranger. But that needs to change.
It’s so sad when you can’t share your worst kind of grief with those who you share your biggest joy. I hope my story will inspire you to share yours.
How to help a friend through loss
When you don’t ask someone about their miscarriage or child-loss, you make a decision for them. You decide it’s not the right time or the right place. You decide it’s too uncomfortable to discuss. You decide they should be grieving in private. You take away their choice to share their grief.
I lost my first child at 11 weeks. I lost my second child at 24 weeks. Not many people asked what had happened to me. Most people just avoided the topic altogether. I guess they didn’t know how to react, and maybe they didn’t ask because they didn’t want to upset me, but I was upset, so their reactions felt very cold. I probably wanted too much. I wanted someone to ask me about my son. I wanted people to acknowledge that I’d had a baby.
It’s okay to feel awkward. Just know that no matter what you say, you will never make someone feel worse than they already feel, your words (or lack of) won't alter the pain that they feel regardless. Although I except everyone is different, I believe there is a power in validating poeple's feelings and acknowledging them. My golden rule is to take their lead, to ask them what they would like rather than making assumptions. There is a lot out there about what not to say to both women and men experiencing such losses. I worry that it scares people to silence. I hope the following empowers you to say or do something.
Here are some ways to help:
Acknowledge their grief, say: “I’m sorry for your loss.”
If you’re at a loss for words, try: “I don’t know what to say, but I'm sorry.”
Offer to listen or tell them you’re there if they want to talk.
Ask how they would like to be spoken to, take their lead on what is helpful for them in their grieving process and let them know you are there for them.
Send a kind text, a card, or a letter.
Give a memento to remember their loss.
Remember they are likely suffering physically from the miscarriage or birth. Their bodies need healing too. So many send them a care package.
Or drop off a meal, so they don't have to cook.
Send them a text a month later or on their one year anniversary. Remember their baby/pregnancy loss.
Give them a hug.
Follow up and stay in touch. Don’t forget about their loss and their pain. It does not go away over night and can often be very lonely as time goes on.
During the difficult time that followed my loss, it was the small acts of kindness that got me through. Every day, I woke up to text or messages from family as well as friends old and new. Even people I hadn't connected with for a long time. Some sent cards and gifts. Opening the mail became a ritual that got me out of bed and in turn out of the house. It was the beginning of my healing process, and it warmed my heart to know other people cared about my baby and me.
When I was grieving, I wanted to talk about my experience. Not everyone does, but I was a proud mother to a baby I loved and lost too soon. My opportunity to open up was so often taken away. If you have the chance, please don’t let that opportunity pass you by.