by Annie Hardison-Moody
One of the things I’ll be writing about for this blog is something that I have experienced – pregnancy loss or miscarriage. Although it’s not something that we talk or write about very often, miscarriage is unfortunately common. The Mayo Clinic estimates that 10-20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. Although many women experience pregnancy loss, we don’t do a very good job of talking with them about it or understanding the grief that women and families face when they lose a pregnancy and all of the hopes and expectations that are lost with it. My journey to motherhood has included a series of early losses – seven in all – none of which have been explained.
I’ll be writing a lot more about my experiences of loss, grief & re-claimed hope in the future, but for now wanted to point to an article I found helpful from Huffington Post Parents, titled 5 Ways to Revolutionize How We Think About Pregnancy Loss by Jessica Zucker. I particularly liked this third point:
3. Honor Uniqueness. Even if your sister, best friend, colleague and/or neighbor had a miscarriage too, trauma reverberates, hibernates and maybe even evaporates differently for everyone. Rather than comparing and contrasting stories and possibly projecting our own experience elsewhere, we might simply ask how she is feeling and inquire about what her emotional temperature is at any given moment. Checking in again, even months after the trauma, might be the very thing she was yearning for. Every day is different and grief knows no timeline. It might be tempting to compare, by minimizing or magnifying, the pain of a loss at six weeks versus 20 weeks, but why go there? Loss is excruciating, no matter how far along we are in days/weeks/months. “Well, at least you were only six weeks. You can always try again in a few months,” doesn’t necessarily help assuage the sadness, the numbness or the fear of the future.
The article ends with a reminder to acknowledge the courage of women and men who have endured losses – whether they choose to “try” again or choose to pursue different paths. As Dr. Zucker relates in this piece, “It takes a certain kind of self-understanding to know when to stop, to understand our limits and to honor them.” Honoring the uniqueness and courage that accompanies loss is an important step in supporting women and families who have experienced pregnancy loss.
My experiences of grief and depression were at times minimized by those around me, who encouraged me to “be positive” and try to “move on” from the situation. These comments – while well intentioned – were at times very hurtful. I already felt like my body was failing me, and the injunction to keep moving, keep going, keep “trying,” despite all of this, and the extreme difficulty I faced in doing so, felt like another way that I was just letting everyone down. I had good days and bad days. There were times when I just couldn’t see a hopeful future, because I was so entrenched in my grief. So the advice we heard from others to think about all of all the “blessings” we had in our lives became another painful reminder of the one “blessing” we kept being denied.
Grief can be an extremely isolating experience, but I’m grateful for the brave souls who walked it along with us. Some of those folks were friends or family members, who just listened as I cried and questioned. That we expected (or hoped for, really). But we were surprised by the care we felt from others, like our extremely kind reproductive endocrinologists, who called and checked on us personally after each loss, and whose first question when we sat down in the office was always, “How are you doing today?” Those people who honored the uniqueness of each day, of each moment, during the years of loss we faced were often what helped me to “go on,” even on days when I felt like I couldn’t hold it together.
Living with loss is difficult, but there are ways we can make that journey a bit easier – and a first step is by acknowledging the uniqueness of loss and honoring the women and men who endure it as they endeavor to become parents.