The Other Side of Pregnancy Loss
Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day is October 15 each year, squarely in the middle of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. It’s in sharing stories like these that we can invite people to talk about these experiences. Statistically speaking, each of us knows several people who have experienced this kind of loss and yet it’s a taboo subject in most circles. There are so many moms, dads, siblings grandparents, aunts, uncles, employers, and friends who could benefit.
It’s early for the “official” event. I’m going to say that we need to talk about this when the opportunities present, regardless of what month it is. My aunt, who is both wise and experienced in the ways of grief, recently said that she wasn’t going to hold on to gifts to give on the designated days. She has a gift ready for a December birthday and will give it the next time she sees the lucky recipient. She’s experienced tremendous loss in the past year and no longer wants to keep things that bring joy - she doesn’t want to count on having another time to share.
And so I bend to her wisdom and share this with you.
Becky Mollenkamp is a content marketing strategist. She’s also a mother who has experienced miscarriage. She graciously agreed to share her experience with me to further the conversation about pregnancy loss; at the end of the post you'll find Becky's social media addresses where you can follow and friend her.
1. What do you wish you had known about miscarriage?
When I got pregnant with my first child at 40 years old, I knew I had a greater risk of miscarriage or other complications. Even so, I was completely unprepared when I lost the baby at 10 weeks.
The day played out in slow motion, and I’ll never forget it. The doctor not finding a heartbeat but reassuring me it was quite common that early in pregnancy. The ultrasound technician confirming the absence of a heartbeat and gently expressing her condolences. Being ushered through a back hallway into a patient room where I could cry alone. Waiting for my fiancé to answer the phone and then finally saying the words, “we lost the baby,” aloud for the first time and bursting into an ugly cry. Him rushing to my side and asking the doctor questions before helping me to the car and then into bed (where I stayed for several days).
I had lost my 30-year-old brother to a drug overdose a few years earlier, but even that gut-wrenching experience didn’t prepare me for the loss of a pregnancy.
I wish I had known just how common miscarriage is. Only after my loss did I learn that so many of my friends and family members had also experienced miscarriages. I discovered that about one in five pregnancies ends in miscarriage, and that means almost everyone knows someone who has gone through it. But it’s rarely discussed.
While many people talk freely about the deaths of loved ones, very few women share their stories of fetal loss. There are likely many reasons—it’s simply too painful, they worry others won’t understand the feelings, they worry others will minimize the loss—but ultimately not discussing miscarriage does a disservice to other women who experience it. Once people shared with me about their own losses, I felt less lonely. It also helped me feel less responsible and gave me hope that I could not only get pregnant again, but have a healthy and happy child.
I also wish I’d known more about the mechanics of a miscarriage. Exactly what the body goes through, not only emotionally but physically. As I went through it, I felt ill prepared for what was coming next. I don’t think medical professionals always do the best job explaining these things to women to help them prepare themselves for what’s coming.
2. How has the experience changed you?
Having a miscarriage has made me far more empathetic to other women who have had a similar loss. Before it, I didn’t understand how deeply you could feel the loss of someone you’ve never even met. Of someone who, by many definitions, isn’t even really a someone yet. I came to understand that grief is as much about the loss of a dream as it is the loss of a person. I didn’t just lose a pregnancy, I lost the future life I was already living out in my dreams. I lost my dream of motherhood, of co-parenting with my fiancé, of giving my parents a grandchild, and so much more. The pain of that was just as real and difficult as losing my brother I’d loved for 30 years.
3. What would it be helpful for other people to know about your experience or grief in general?
My goal in talking so openly about my miscarriage here, on my blog, and with my friends is to help other women who are or may go through this type of loss know they’re not alone and they’re not to blame. Also, I want them to know it’s not the end of the dream of having a child. Four months after my miscarriage, I was pregnant again. And 1 year after losing my first baby boy, and at age 41, I gave birth to the most amazing child, Gus.
4. What kinds of things did you feel like you needed in terms of support or self-care that you didn't receive?
I wish more people had acknowledged my loss and my pain. Although I told many people, only my immediate family members and 2 very close friends gave condolences. I received only one bouquet of flowers and no one brought food or any of the other gestures often given to people in grief. My loss was very real, yet I was left feeling like many people didn’t agree.
5. What kinds of things did you feel helped you in terms of support or self-care?
In the future, if someone I love experiences a miscarriage I will know to treat the loss in the same way I would any other death. My advice is to call and express your sympathy, send flowers, bring a meal, offer to clean her home, or in any other way show you care, you understand the depth of the loss, and you are there to help and love them through this very difficult time.
Thank you, Becky, for sharing this. There is someone out there who needs to see this today.
Very beautifully written piece. I had a miscarriage early on and I blamed myself and hated my body for months following. I love that women are starting to open up about miscarriage and insist that people recognize it for what it is; it's the loss of a life and as you stated, a million and one dreams and plans. This shouldn't be a taboo topic. It certainly shouldn't be neglected or shamed. Thank you for your transparency and honesty. This post is bound to help and relieve someone out there.
I hear you, cousin. I had a miscarriage 33 years ago and I remember at first trying to pretend it didn't matter. Nobody else was acting like it was any big deal because it happened at nine weeks and I tried to stuff the pain. My wise husband knew better and drew me out of my denial to grieve. It took three beers but once the floodgate opened, the tears came and the sobs followed. It feels very lonely when your friends don't come.
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