The Pain of Miscarriage
A month ago, my daughter let us know that she was pregnant. We were overjoyed at the prospect of having our first grandchild! We were on the phone with her regularly tracking her progress and sharing in her excitement. Several days ago, she called in tears to tell us that the fetus had no heartbeat and that she would have a miscarriage. With our new technology, a developing embryo can be visualized very early in pregnancy. We were all crestfallen, saddened by our collective loss, and deeply disappointed. It was especially hard for my wife and I since our daughter lives so far away. We wanted to be there to hold her hand and wipe away her tears.
According to Dr. Laurent Nicolov, an OB/GYN physician at The Everett Clinic, between 15-20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. It’s a very common experience. My wife had a miscarriage during her first pregnancy. At the time, we were devastated. It had taken a long time (at least so we thought) for her to get pregnant. We were so excited! When she miscarried, we felt so sad. But with time, we healed and went on to have two beautiful daughters. The memory of that sad experience faded into the background.
If you talk to your friends, you will hear many similar stories—some even more heartbreaking. It’s a common experience, but that makes it no less sad or sorrowful when you are going through it. The death of a developing child is painful. The immediate loss of dreams and hopes is upsetting. It’s just something that you have to live through.
Dr. Nicolov reflects, “Women often feel that they did something wrong, that it’s their fault. They went into a hot tub, they exercised too much or too little, they ate too much of one thing or not enough of another, they had bad thoughts, and so on. The fact is that none of those things cause miscarriages. It is a natural process that occurs at the cellular level. It’s nature’s way of protecting the species.”
So what can friends and family do when a woman has miscarriage?
Acknowledge the loss. I guess because I’m a Dad, and wanted my daughter to feel better, I told her, “Well, at least you know you can get pregnant”. While that’s true, it’s better just to acknowledge the sadness and sense of loss that your friend or relative is feeling. It’s fine to send a card, flowers, or a kind email or text too.
Reach out. I let my relatives know about the miscarriage and they sent me caring responses—but I sensed that they were reluctant to contact my daughter directly. While everyone, to some degree, has to go through this experience alone, it is often comforting to hear from others. We heal in the warm glow of the expressed love we receive. It’s okay to pick up the phone and make a brief call.
Everyone grieves differently. There is no specific formula for grieving that all individuals follow. Everyone finds his or her own way through grief and loss that fits their personality and their circumstances.
It’s a loss for husbands too. While pregnancy is more abstract for men, they also experience the loss that comes from a miscarriage. Extend your support and love to husbands—they need your love too.
Ask for help. Late trimester and multiple miscarriages can be extremely challenging for couples. Fertility problems can be very stressful. Ask your OB/GYN or primary care provider for a referral to a counselor with experience working through these issues.