October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. It is a day of remembrance for pregnancy loss and infant death which includes, but is not limited to, miscarriage, still birth, SIDS or the death of a newborn.
-90,000 children die annually in the United States before their first birthday.
-Nearly 2,500 babies are lost/year in the United States due to S.I.D.S.
-Nearly 30,000 babies a year in the United States are born stillborn.
-The number of stillbirths worldwide is more than 4.5 million/year.
-More babies die as a result of stillbirth than all other causes of infant death combined.
-Stillbirth occurs ten times more frequently than S.I.D.S.
-15-20% of all clinically recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage each year.
Unfortunately, pregnancy loss through miscarriage is a natural and common event. More women than you think have experienced at least one; others many more. If this is the reality, then why is pregnancy loss so hard for society to deal with? People talk around it but rarely about it. I think it goes back to the fact that anything dealing with loss is a taboo subject. Realistically it’s because people don’t know what to do or say to someone who has suffered such a loss.
MY OWN MISCARRIAGE
Thinking back to my own miscarriage I remember the immense feelings of loss. One moment you are wrapped up in the excitement of finding out you are pregnant; the next is devastation and disbelief. You are powerless to do anything. For me, we had just announced my pregnancy to our families the night before. I woke up the following morning to find blood. I panicked. We were out of town and far away from my Doctor. I begged my husband to get us home. The whole way I wondered why it was happening. Was there something I did or didn’t do? I placed my hands over my stomach and prayed for my unborn child. Once we got home the cramping and bleeding progressed. My head knew it was going to happen but my heart wouldn’t let go. For days afterwards, I still felt pregnant. If I still felt it then it still must be true. Maybe it hadn’t happened at all. Maybe it was just a bad dream.
The Dr. did an ultrasound. No heartbeat. Nothing. Just an empty womb. I looked at the computer screen and it finally hit me. There was no more baby. It was over. All I know is at that very moment my “feeling” of being pregnant disappeared. My head and my heart had finally caught up. They were now in the same place. I could admit it. I had a miscarriage. The deep sense of sadness cannot be described. I felt empty. Literally. Empty. Alone. Lost in my despair. Fortunately, my husband was supportive. When I cried, he cried with me. But he would never understand what it felt like to have a child growing inside of you one moment, then have it gone the next. On that level he could never understand.
WHAT NOT TO SAY
The responses we have perpetuated for generations are far from helpful:
“You will have other children.”
“It wasn’t meant to be.”
“The time just wasn’t right.”
“God needed another Angel.”
These statements, although logical, do nothing to help a broken heart. Dr. Jessica Zucker created the #IHADAMISCARRIAGE campaign after she had her own miscarriage. She watched as friends and family struggled to find what words to say, while some said nothing at all. She created a line of “empathy” cards about what should be said to someone after a pregnancy loss. These cards hit the miscarriage bullseye. When Mark Zuckerberg was honest about his wife’s three miscarriages, women and families who have faced a similar situation shared their stories. It demonstrated that talking about miscarriage is okay – even for men.
WHAT TO SAY
So here are things you can say to someone who has experienced a miscarriage:
“I can’t imagine how heartbreaking this must be for you.” – Grief is about a broken heart. How do you even begin to understand how a miscarriage feels? This statement indicates that you respect how sad and difficult it must be for them.
“I really don’t know what to say.” – Words can’t even describe the feelings associated with losing a pregnancy. Saying you “don’t know what to say” is one of the most honest answers you can give. This way they know you are not trying to judge, analyze or fix them.
“I am so sorry for your loss.” – Sorry in this sense means to be sad or mournful. It reminds someone that you are also sad for their pregnancy loss. It’s another way of being honest.
“Can I give you a hug?” – Hugs reduce the amount of stress in our bodies. Grieving is one of the most stressful events in our lives. Offering a hug (or two) to someone who has suffered a miscarriage will be good for their emotional, physical and spiritual health.
“What happened?” – As hard as it it, someone who suffered a miscarriage needs and wants to tell their story. They want you to hear and understand to what they have to say. Don’t avoid talking to them. The most loving thing you can do to listen without judgement. Be a “heart with ears.”
Just having someone to listen or offer a hug bring a sense a peace.
As Barbara Kingsolver stated most women don’t mention a miscarriage but that doesn’t mean it didn’t have an impact on them. In fact, I can say that I still love someone who was never born. And how old would my child be now? Mine would be twenty-six years old.
Sending you love, comfort and peace!