I processed my miscarriage by talking about it

Guest post by S.

Conventional wisdom tells women that they should wait at least twelve weeks before announcing a new pregnancy. This is meant to protect you from having to tell everyone, over and over again, that you’ve miscarried.

I’ve never been one for convention. In the end, I told more people about my miscarriage than I had even informed that we were expecting another child. When the horrific reality of having lost my pregnancy set in, all I wanted to do was talk about it. Those poor friends who called during the near aftermath probably learned more gory details than they had ever bargained for. I couldn’t stop replaying the events in my mind — from seeing that first blood drop to sitting in the waiting room of my clinic, surrounded by glowing pregnant women and their boisterously rotund bellies, knowing that our baby was pronounced dead just minutes ago.

I call it a baby but I’m not really sure whether that term applies. This was one of the main things I struggled with while recalling the tale: what to call what we had just lost. A fetus? An embryo? A baby?

I poured my heart out to my friends and family members, hungry and eager for comfort and solidarity. And that I received in huge amounts. I could not believe how many women had experienced this loss as well — how many of my friends and acquaintances could commiserate with stories of their own. I had already known a few friends who had miscarried, which had made me feel much less alone in my experience when it happened to me. But nothing could have prepared me for the sheer number of stories added to those I already had heard.

There is still an aura of silence around losing a pregnancy. It wasn’t until I opened up about my own loss that I gained admittance to this club of sorts; a space shared by the many women (and their partners) who’d mourned and lost their own pregnancies.

While some miscarriages can be attributed to specific and harmful actions, most miscarriages are simply the body’s way of getting rid of an unfeasible pregnancy. The mother is not to blame. But no matter how clear-cut that information, it is difficult to not second-guess one’s actions leading up to the loss. And it’s possibly for that reason that sharing one’s pain — a pain that is complex and riddled with questions of “what if” — is a difficult thing to do. Additionally, in some religious societies, the loss of a pregnancy is seen as a direct punishment for immoral behavior, yet another reason why families might not want to announce their grief for the world to judge.

In the weeks following my miscarriage, several friends asked whether this affected how soon I would share the news of a pregnancy the next time around. If I had just waited the obligatory twelve weeks, I could have skipped many of those painful phone calls to tell family and friends of our loss. Surely that sounded appealing.

Appealing? Perhaps. I certainly hope to never have to repeat those hours spent on the couch writing emails and making phone calls telling everyone that I had lost the baby. But as difficult as those hours were, they were also therapeutic. They allowed me to repeat a narrative that cemented what had happened and weaved the story of our loss into the story of our lives. There was no undoing our sadness and no pretending that it wasn’t happening. By talking about it, by opening up to our friends, and by allowing for others to share their stories of loss with us, we came out of the experience feeling much closer and more connected to our community than ever before.

Everyone deals with grief in his or her own way. Talking about a painful event may not have the same cathartic effect on someone else. But there’s a reason we humans come together and form groups and families and communities: we enjoy the feeling of belonging and of solidarity. We seek out friendships and companionship. We do not like to feel alone.

And I did not like feeling alone in my grief. I wanted, needed, to talk about my miscarriage and to find comfort in words of other women, who had endured and moved on just as I now will too. In the end, time has helped erase that initial pain and the sadness that seemed to linger just between my stomach and my heart. But even more helpful than the passing of time has been the passing of stories, the narratives shared, and the grief lessened by the cathartic exercise of talking about my miscarriage.

Comments on I processed my miscarriage by talking about it

  1. Thank you for sharing your story, I completely share your thoughts on this matter. This is exactly how I felt when we lost our baby. We lost him at 13 weeks, so waiting the obligatory 12 weeks (which is something I’ve never been able to do with all 3 of my pregnancies) wouldn’t have made a difference. I was glad that people knew and I wanted more of them to know so that we could honour our lost baby. We had two older daughters at home (2 and 4 at the time) and we were very honest and upfront, though age appropriate, with them about what had happened to our baby. We felt that this would help normalize death, loss and grief for them. Four years later, they know that these are normal parts of the cycle of life and that sharing our experiences and feelings helps to ease the pain of loss and to build bridges between people. Again, thank you for this piece and I am sorry for your loss.

  2. Thank you for telling your story. Your story is so similar to mine. I had two miscarriages and they were horrible blows that I feel like I am still working to recover from. It shocked me when i opened up how many women, that I was close to, that shared their miscarriage stories that they had never spoken to me about. It is so heartbreaking, I cannot see being able to recover without talking about it.

    Be well, be strong.. and thank you again.

  3. I agree. In a span of 3 years I lost 7 pregnancies. There are no words to describe how awful each loss was- but it was the support of family and friends that helped me cope with the experiences. I’m happy to say that I’ve since had 2 healthy babies. We didn’t wait because of the experiences, in fact, just the opposite. If it happened again, I would want that support.

  4. I think we should talk more about hard things in our lives. By talking about it, you’re putting word on emotions: it’s sounds stupid, but it allows your brain to classify the emotion and process it without creating a traffic jam in your head. Everytime your brain receives an information (emotions, for example, are a truck load of info about what you’re living) it travels as an electric impulse along your brain cells. If you don’t process all that info, it creates a cluster fuck and that’s usually when we feel confused, lost and depressed. That’s also how an accident can create even more jaming along the road (like when you’re depressed at work, you’ll notice how your love relations will suffer too)Words ease and orient the traffic flow. Anyway, that’s how I see it 🙂

  5. This is an excellent article, and thank you so much for sharing your story. I am expecting my first child, and my husband and I made the decision to tell people just a few days after we found out I was pregnant – I knew convention had dictated to me that I wait, but I just couldn’t. However, I am a realistic person, and I know the risk of miscarriage is and always will be there. I feel quite strongly that if something does happen, I’m not afraid of telling people, and I’d rather be honest instead of feeling as if I had something to hide. I’ve always felt that the waiting until the second trimester policy was less about sparing the parents’ grief and more about helping other people avoid being in awkward situations where they have to talk about distasteful and sad things. Life isn’t like that – you don’t get to always avoid the sad conversations or the bad stuff. Talking is how we process grief, rather than shutting it all away and keeping it secret.

  6. Having had one miscarriage previously, the next time I became pregnant I decided to tell immediate family and close friends right away. I figured that if I did miscarry again (I didn’t) I wanted that support rather than suffering through it in silence. By talking about my fears, I found out that so many people I knew had miscarried as well, including some that surprised me. It is actually VERY common, and being quiet about the pain doesn’t help anyone. I think the three-month rule denies a fundamental truth about who we are and what we go through as women – the good and the bad.

  7. You aren’t alone. I have told FAR more people about my two miscarriages than I ever told I was pregnant. I need to let people know that I am grieving and, despite outward appearances, I’m not totally okay.

    I still think I will wait to announce my next pregnancy until pretty far into it, however. I think this is because, if I were to miscarry again, I want to have some shred of control over who and when I tell.

  8. Thank you for writing this. My wife forwarded it to me after saying that it was the most identifiable article she has read on the subject. I would totally agree.

  9. Thanks for this. When we had our first miscarriage we had only told immediate family about being pregnant and now way more know about the miscarriage. When we got pregnant again (with fertility help) we found out we were having twins we told everyone at 9 weeks. We figured we would need all the support we could get if things didn’t work out the way we hoped and when one of our twins “vanished” I was glad that everyone knew we had lost twin b we really needed all the acknowledgement and support we could get and hopefully in August I will be delivering our twin-less twin with all the mixed emotions but mainly being thankful.

  10. S, I have been following you for years from Academichic to Simply Bike, through your wedding, time abroad, pregnancy, and beautiful birth story. I was so saddened to hear that you had a miscarriage when you posted about it. This is a poignant article and helps me answer the question “When is it safe to tell people?” when my patients ask (I’m a CNM).

  11. Thank you for sharing your story.

    “This was one of the main things I struggled with while recalling the tale: what to call what we had just lost. A fetus? An embryo? A baby?”

    After I had a miscarriage I often times thought about why I felt like I lost a “baby” and not just a fetus, or embryo. I have always been pro choice, and I am still extremely pro choice. So why is it that I felt like I lost a baby, and not an embryo?

    I now think of it this way. It is all in the intention of the mother and father. I intended this pregnancy to be a healthy one. I was preparing to bring a child into the world. To me that group of cells that did not have a beating heart, that was my baby. Perhaps, in another time in my life that same group of cells (beating or otherwise) may have only been an embryo.

    May you continue to talk, and to live openly.

    • Figuring this out was definitely a struggle for me. I don’t really feel like I lost my baby, but that we are delayed in meeting him. I can still see him in my mind’s eye, although he feels much further away than when I first found out I was pregnant. That group of cells won’t be his body, but hopefully the next one will.

      I don’t expect anyone to feel the way I feel about their own baby – I think everyone can be effected differently. I’m also not sure if I will feel the same way in a month or a year, or if we had ever heard a heartbeat, or if the baby had been 10 weeks instead of 5.

    • I didn’t miscarry but I had an abortion because the fetus had Down syndrome. When the nurse told us about the process of abortion, she talked a lot about mourning the baby, giving him a name, seing the body, take pictures, the possibility of burying or incinerating the body, and told us about grief councelling. Although she said that the choice was ours and each and every one had a different experience, although she didn’t try to invalidate my feelings, and I know it would have helped other people in my situation, it made me very uncomfortable.

      I do not feel like I have lost a baby. I haven’t had a child. I mourn the loss of my hope of becoming a mother, of caring for a baby that would be mine. I do not mourn the loss of someone who would have been my baby, whom I would have known and loved. I was ready to love that baby-to-be, but I didn’t love it yet.
      It feels more natural to say that my baby had Down syndrome but I try to remind myself to say fetus instead of baby, for pro-choice reasons and because I do not wish people to comfort me, thinking that I am devastated. I am sad, but also absolutely convinced that I made the right choice and that there was nothing else to be done.

      Also, as I feared a miscarriage I didn’t buy anything baby-related before the 3 months landmark, and I think it really helped me distance myself from the pregnancy and the loss of it.

  12. Thank you for sharing this. I agree completely. My husband and I lost a baby in the early weeks of pregnancy, before we had told anyone (we were going to wait until 12 weeks), and it was so difficult that no one else knew we were grieving. When we got pregnant again, we decided to tell the world right from the start, so that this baby and this pregnancy would be celebrated while things were going well, and also so that we could have support if we lost this pregnancy as well. I got several raised eyebrows and comments that we should have kept the news to ourselves for a while (especially from my Dad, of all people)… but why? Miscarriage is tragic, and keeping it to yourself doesn’t happen doesn’t make it less so.

    • I totally agree with you about telling, in hopes of being supported if anything goes wrong. I would like to add that telling people you’re pregnant may prevent insensitive remarks or questions(about you beahaving oddly, not drinking alcohol, feeling sick etc.). Maybe.

  13. When I miscarried I so needed people to be talking about it. I wasn’t ready to talk about my own experience until a month or two out but I so wanted and needed to be able to know that I wasn’t alone and that other people had experienced this.

    Any other type of intense grief, the people around you would have at least some idea what’s going on. Yet somehow when you’re both in the midst of intense loss AND undergoing some pretty serious physical pain (at least in my case) it’s supposed to be this big secret.

  14. Something one woman said really changed my opinion on waiting to announce a pregnancy. I think I read it here, but it might have been somewhere else online.
    The woman said that she had not told her family she was pregnant, in case of a miscarriage. She miscarried and when she tried to talk to her mom about it, Mom was of course sad for daughter but couldn’t really share in the loss because she hadn’t been anticipating a baby alongside her daughter.
    This woman’s message was to tell anyone who you will rely on for support in the event of a miscarriage or, really, any outcome. I wish I could have explained it more concisely, but I feel it is very wise.

  15. Thank you. We also lost our first baby. The loss was “diagnosed” at our 12 week check-up, but it appears the baby had stopped developed at around 7 weeks (just about a week after we saw the heartbeat). We were waiting until after that appointment to tell people, but then when we found out we lost hte baby, it felt horrible that no one knew what we were going through. I reached out to women I had known who had had losses. And then I started sharing with everyone, creating myself as a resource should any of them have to go through something similar in the future. It was so so hard at the time, but now I am completely at peace with it. It certainly helps that we were able to go on to have another child, who is now two years old and lovely.

  16. I never understood why the topic of miscarriage was so secretive. When we discovered we were pregnant with our first child (a surprise) we were forced to make some drastic changes in our lives and as a result didn’t keep the pregnancy a secret. Even though it was unplanned when we discovered that we’d lost the baby it was devastating. I never imagined just how common (my Dr. said 1 in 4 but it may be even more common than that) that first pregnancy ending in miscarriage was. It wasn’t until we were facing it ourselves that family, friends, colleagues etc reached out to me and shared their own stories. I had no idea just how many women in their family lost that first pregnancy – if I had I might have been a little more mentally prepared for the possibility.

    We have one healthy daughter now but in September suffered another loss – one that was a lot more difficult on me physically (resulting in a trip to ER and nearly needing a blood transfusion). If we had not shared our news then and instead tried to keep everything quiet I would not have had the support network I needed during that time to help me while healing.

    We’re expecting baby #2 now and tried this time to keep things a secret purely because I was working on a promotion at work at the time. I work for a fantastic and supportive company but I did not want to put them or myself in an awkward position where there was a potential for discrimination (I really didn’t think it would be an issue – but I also really didn’t want to have that question hanging in my head if I told them and then didn’t get the job). I dislike lying to my coworkers, especially since I consider them a part of that support network (through my pregnancy with my daughter and my last miscarriage) and that was the hardest part. If any of them had directly asked me if I was pregnant I don’t think I would have been able to lie… but on the flip side – by the time I did tell them they had all pretty much guessed anyways.

  17. OMG, I can relate so much.

    I didn’t miscarry but I did recently put an end to a pregnancy because the fetus had Down syndrome. It was a planned and very desired pregnancy. I had told my closest friends because I wanted to share my joy with them, and one of them was 7 months pregnant -how fun it was going to be to watch our babies grow together ! I didn’t tell my family right away because we have conflicted relationships and I didn’t want them to smother me with questions which would stress me out. I wanted to wait for the 12 weeks landmark before announcing it to everybody. As time passed it grew harder and harder to hide (I had constant nausea, avoided lifting any weight) and I grew more and more eager to share the news. I waited though before buying anything baby-related, in case of a miscarriage.

    At 11 weeks the doctors told me I had a high risk of trisomy. I was completely taken aback. I had never thought about that. We tried to prepare for the bad news while waiting for the lab results. We had to wait for almost a month to have the confirmation and a few days more to have an appointment for the abortion. It was a terrible time, to be waiting, first for the news, then for the authorization (we were past the date for a voluntary abortion and had to have the authorization from two doctors to have an abortion for medical purposes). At least we had plenty of time to consider our options and be sure about our decision.

    When finally all things were settled, I went to the ER to get a pill that would start loosening the cervix and uterus, then went back two days later for the actual abortion. It happened just like a regular birth, although very smoothly and painlessly (I was on painkillers).

    When we told some visiting friends that we were pregnant but going to put an end to it, they said that they had had several miscarriages before having their two kids. I had no idea. Then they went on and talked about another friend of theirs who had announced her pregnancy just days after getting pregnant, and how foolish it was to do so. I thought a lot about this conversation. Although I truly believe it is anybody’s right to choose whether to tell or not about their pregnancies or their miscarriages, I also firmly believe that not telling contributes to isolate those who go through this experience and don’t know how common it is.

    The next day, I wrote a lengthy facebook post to publicly announce that I had been pregnant and had an abortion because the fetus had Down syndrom, that we were now fine and that I was ready to answer any questions in private. I did it mainly to raise awareness about pregnancies ending, and also for people to realize they don’t know what happen in others’ lives. I was thinking about very awkward comments I had had to bear at Christmas (so when are you going to have babies? you should get started, everyone is waiting!). My facebook post was a political act.
    I had a few answers, girls telling me in private how courageous it was to share it and thanking me for sharing. One of them had many questions, I don’t know if there was something personal going on but I hope it helped.

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