October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day.
It has been six years since we said goodbye to our first hopes for a second baby. In the days and months following that loss, so many friends and family members opened up about their own miscarriages; many of whom I never even knew were expecting.
Much like mental illness, pregnancy loss is still something that most of us go through alone and in silence. Unless you have been through it, it is incredibly difficult to know what to say or how to support families who have suffered a miscarriage. My hope is that the following list will shed light on the experience and open the conversation for everyone.
One: It’s not just the loss of a baby.
Your whole life changes when you see the positive sign on a pregnancy test. Suddenly, your mind is bursting with thoughts: Your toddler will need a new big boy bed! What will we name him or her? I can’t wait to tell our parents! My sister/best friend is pregnant too- they’ll grow up together! If it’s a boy, our sons will play baseball together; if it’s a girl, they’ll still be best friends. We’ll need a bigger vehicle, stat….
We whisper, “She lost the baby,” but a miscarriage is so much more than that. We should say, “They lost the baby and all of their hopes and dreams for that baby and the future of their family and everything wonderful that changed the moment they found out they were expecting.”
Two: You will love that lost baby forever.
There is little comfort to be found in a miscarriage. Often well meaning phrases like, “It’s for the best,” or “Something was obviously very wrong,” and even “God has a plan,” can be exquisitely painful. Honestly, I didn’t care much about God’s plan at the time, I cared about the baby I would never hold in my arms. But, for whatever reason, that little soul was never meant to be ours to hold, so in the end I celebrated the fact that no one, absolutely no one could have had more love and joy for our pregnancy than my husband and I did, no matter how short the time. We still carry that love with us.
Three: Miscarriage can be a physically brutal process.
By the time our miscarriage was over, I had spent three nights in the hospital and received two blood transfusions. Complications from miscarriage aren’t common but they do occur. However, the risk of infection, hemorrhaging, and the need for emergency D & C procedures seems to be part of some secret code that isn’t mentioned until something goes wrong. So often, we’re sent home with the information, “Miscarriages are common, your body knows what to do when this happens.”
Please doctors, tell us that sometimes our bodies won’t handle this perfectly, tell us exactly what the possible complications are and explain them in detail. And then tell us the treatment options for each of these complications. We may be scared and emotional, but we are also strong and deserve to have this information.
Four: It’s also often financially devastating.
For many of us with high deductible insurance plans, a D & C has the same financial impact as a live birth. We were still paying off hospital bills from our oldest son’s birth at the time and knew we wanted more kids in the future. So we tried to avoid surgery, which backfired horribly. The end result was over $20,000 of medical debt in four years. This was without the costs of extended hospital stays, visits to specialists, infertility treatments, and funeral expenses that so many other families endure. I’m not sure that there is a good answer for this, but it breaks my heart that so many parents are in the same position of facing financial stress at one of the most difficult times of their life.
Five: You will put the pieces of your heart back together again, but…
I can only speak from my own experience, but eventually the sadness over our loss lessened. We had a healthy one year old son at home. Ultimately we were blessed with two more children, but my heart breaks into a million little pieces all over again when I hear that a loved one is miscarrying. It’s the last club you want to see your friends join. To this day I remember the names of the babies who left their families far too soon. Graham, Luke, Anna, Tristan, Rosalie, Gabriel, Noah. I think of them often, along with the many others who were gone before there was ever a chance to be given a name.