Recently, I suffered the biggest devastation of my life; I lost a baby. I was 10 weeks and 4 days pregnant with our third child. Being pregnant with this baby was an unexpected blessing, but one that my husband and I were very excited about. Then just as suddenly, we miscarried. Our hearts were broken; mine, possibly beyond repair.
Losing a child is every mother’s greatest fear come true. Just imagine all the overwhelming joy you felt when you first held your newborn baby, turned in on you as pain. It is crippling. The worst part is that it's a lot more common than I ever knew.
No one knows what to say or do for a mother who has lost her child. People tend to want to make it all better, but you can’t. A miscarriage is something that has to be survived. Unfortunately, the mother who miscarries has to feel her pain and misery completely before she can move on through it. There will be a period where it feels like little emotional time bombs may go off at any time. For me, every month on the anniversary of the day I found out that I miscarried, I am sad and angry and prone to crying. It’s only been three months, so it’s still a fairly open wound for me. But there are things that friends and family can do to comfort the mother, at least these are what helped me.
Let her be. When I had my miscarriage, I wanted to be alone, completely alone with my anguish. I was hurting. I was pissed. I was sad beyond what I ever knew possible. I just wanted to be in silence, alone with my broken heart. I needed to mourn for my baby and for the broken promise. I had not told our family and friends about the pregnancy but needed to tell them about the miscarriage because I could not have survived it alone, in silence. I texted them what had happened and let them know that I was scheduled for surgery. I asked them not to call me but to pray for me. I told them I would call them when I could speak without breaking down.
Be available but not in her face. Bring her water, food, and cover her with blankets when she cries herself to sleep. Show up at the hospital to sit with her husband while she has her D & E. Hug her, but don’t linger too long. Remember, she is trying with all her might to hold her shit together. Text her, tweet her, and send her cards that say you love her and are available if she needs you but don’t call her. If you do, don’t be offended that she doesn't answer. She can’t. The sound of the disappointment in my loved ones' voices, the sadness in their eyes, and them desperately trying and failing to make me okay were more than my heart could handle. When she is ready to talk, be prepared to just listen.
Let her know that you love her. Tell her that you love her. Show her that you care. Cards with handwritten words are comforting. Understanding, compassion, and silent knowing are all ways that let her know that you love her without breaching her space. She is in pain and there is only one way for her to survive it; she has to face it head on and submerse herself in it. Pushing it down and carrying on like normal will only postpone the inevitable.
Don’t forget what she’s been through. She has been through a life-changing experience. Once you have lost a baby, your perspective is altered. We don’t want to be coddled and looked at with pity. We want desperately to try to find our way back to normal. We don’t want people to be afraid to share their good news with us; we don’t want to be that person. But we want you to remember that we did lose a child. That child was part of our life and we loved it; no matter if we were 6 weeks pregnant or 6 months pregnant, we loved it from the minute we knew it was there. We planned for it and it was our baby. We will never get to hold our child, see his smile, or hear him call us Mommy. Please don’t pretend that he never existed.
Don’t bring it up constantly. We don’t want you to forget our baby, but we also don’t want to be constantly reminded that we had a miscarriage. We were there; we know it happened. We remember the pain because all it takes is a moment of introspection or to look at an empty space in the family photo where our baby should be or to feel the empty space in our heart to remind us that we miscarried. If we bring it up, that means we want to talk about it. If we don’t, please don’t feel that you need to bring it up and say that you are sorry. If you've told us once, we appreciate it and we love you for it. We don’t forget the kindness, even if we can’t gather the words to thank you.
When a woman has a miscarriage, she loses more than just her baby. She loses a part of herself. With the birth of each of my children, my love doubled, and when I lost my baby, I was left with all this extra love and a void in my arms. I have a hole in my heart that I am not sure can ever be filled. I am thankful to every person who supported me with unconditional love and by sharing her own loss with me. I know it hurt them to remember their own loss, but it made me feel not so alone in one of the loneliest times of my life.
The best way to comfort a friend who has experienced a miscarriage is to just be available when she needs you, and in the meantime, give her all the space she needs to feel her pain.
Image via Deborah Cruz