02 Oct Miscarriage – The Silent Sorrow
We often hear on the local news and from others about deaths and tragedies in the world around us. Communities provide relief; and, people extend their sympathy and condolences. Yet, few realize how very many women suffer silently from miscarriage. Until you have miscarried yourself and share your news with other women, you are not aware how very many have suffered the same fate.
Many women, in fear of miscarriage, delay telling friends and family of their pregnancy until after the first trimester. This was my case with my first miscarriage. Although I had some children already, I did not want to deal with people’s reactions about another pregnancy and so I waited. Unfortunately, I miscarried. It was something I was not prepared for and totally overwhelmed by. I miscarried at home amidst an ocean of tears. It was heartbreaking to lose a life that I was so excited by. From the moment I knew I was expecting, I knew deep within me that this was flesh of my flesh, taking sustenance from what I provided, drawing life from my life, hearing my voice, being one with me, though separate. The death of my child within my womb was a reality too hard to fathom, but blatantly in front of me. I felt very much alone, even though my husband and children were so nearby.
It was not easy and so hard. At that time in my life, I had never experienced such personal suffering. That day felt agonizing. I remember looking for my child within the clots I passed, hoping but not hoping, wanting validation that I was pregnant, but not wanting to see. I never found anything and knew the baby had passed away much earlier than I assumed. Nature was cleansing me. My second miscarriage was not so straightforward. I needed medical help to relieve the heavy cramping and continual discharge that didn’t seem to improve after quite a while. I had to go to the hospital for a D&C to ensure everything was cleaned out. That made a difference and helped my recovery. Afterwards, I was surprised how long it took to re-balance my energy, hormones and bodily health. I couldn’t just jump back into life. I had to recover, almost as if I had a full term baby born, but without the baby.
I have had friends not much further along than the first three months of pregnancy who miscarried, some even going to the hospital. One friend went to the hospital and immediately asked for support while miscarrying, stating her religious denomination. Because she asked for support, all the staff at the hospital treated her with much compassion and acknowledged the grief of losing a child. A social worker and clergyman were provided. The hospital made a keepsake box for her to take home with her. The social worker was fundamental in helping her take her little one home for burial at her local cemetery. Another friend, a nurse by profession, demanded to see all that she expelled when she was miscarrying. The staff felt she would find nothing and were reluctant. She persisted and was granted permission. It surprised them all that she should find her tiny, tiny little child, lifeless and not completely intact, but there. She asked to take her little one home for burial and was granted her request. She approached the local funeral director who encouraged her to go to the Catholic Cemetery where there was a special spot for the burial of unborn children. Another girlfriend buried her baby in a corner of the family plot at the cemetery with the funeral director’s permission. This allowed the family to visit over the years, no matter where they lived. Moreover this hallowed ground provided great respect for the remains of these little ones. A private memorial service can also be requested at a church for a miscarried child. It is not necessary to have the child’s remains to do so. Friends and relatives can thereby offer a great source of support. What comfort, healing and closure this brings to all.
At home, it is worthwhile to remember the child in some way. A special baby item can become a keepsake. Writing a letter to your baby may prove beneficial. There might be a song or poem you appreciate that helps you through this time. If you have ultrasound or pregnancy photos, consider framing one or even just putting them on your fridge so you can look at it regularly. This child did exist and you have miscarried. It was not in your imagination. It really happened. You have a right to be sad and mourn. The days ahead will be very emotional. Your hormones will be all over the map. It will take a while for you to “settle”.
Many individuals do not know what to say when they hear you have miscarried because they have never known anyone who has. They might remark, “Well, you can try again” or “You’re lucky you have children”. True, but not enough. No one is replaceable. I am grieving. This is a terrible loss, not to be taken lightly. You need to hear, “My condolences, I am so very sorry.” Friends need to be there for you. They might not know how. Be willing to ask them to make your load lighter by dropping off a meal, getting together for coffee and a good cry, taking care of your other children, etc. How helpful it is too to receive a card of condolences in the mail. Few realize they could or should send one. You are suffering loss. Death has visited you. How much the sympathy of others proves soothing.
Certainly such occasions highlight the tremendous value of a human life, not only to the parents, but to the children and all who know them. So many mixed emotions occur. These moments cause the heart so much pain to consider the thoughtlessness with which children are intentionally aborted. Every life is such a gift and we know we have lost such a treasure! We have lost all the future memories that could have been, and are not. It may prove difficult to be around pregnant women for quite a while. Give yourself time and space.
I remember blaming myself that I must have done something to provoke my miscarriage. In speaking later with my doctor, I had to accept things as they are because the causes are often undetermined. Nature determines the viability of the growing child and decides whether life is feasible. Things were not coming together in a viable way. Nature took care of things. It was not my fault. I had to stop blaming myself.
I remember the regret of not sharing my pregnancy with others, and as a result, not having the energy to share my loss with friends and feeling very alone. Hours and days passed and I was engulfed in grief. I expected my husband to know exactly what to do to make me “better”. He tried his best but he grieved quite differently then I did. He was more rational about everything and felt to some degree helpless in front of so much emotion on my part. He didn’t know what to say, but tried to support me through many little gestures. It was a difficult time for both of us. I found relief in turning to a close girlfriend who listened, understood and helped me ride the emotional waves.
My children were very saddened by the death of their sibling. Their questions challenged me to rise above my emotion and articulate answers to the best of my ability. It took me awhile to frame it all for them. They helped me go deeper in my faith and make it my own. In retrospect, here are some suggestions: “Yes, God had given life and blessed us with a child. God only knows what happened and why. We come from God and we go back to God. We don’t know why things happen as they do. God knows what He is doing. He knows best. For whatever reason, our baby is with God forever now. One day God will let us meet our baby, but it is not now. The baby is very happy with God. God is looking after our baby and He will look after us now, although we are all very sad. We can talk to our baby and ask our baby to help us from now on, because our baby can right away go to God and beg help for us. We often ask family and friends to pray for us when we have problems. Well, now we have someone in our family who can be a big helper in heaven cheering us on.” In our family, we have named each baby that we have miscarried. When we pray our family prayers, we always ask these children to pray for us. This little detail gave us all a path of healing, hope and consolation. Over the years, I have constantly sought the help and intercession of my children in heaven to help us through difficulties. I honestly can say much good has come from them.
In the time following my miscarriage, my living children comforted me and fostered my hope, knowing that I had children and could try again. How my heart aches for women who have miscarried, without the comfort of their children surrounding them! What an agony! We are so quick to blame ourselves and be engulfed in despair and grief!!! Our husbands offer a solace and refuge, but somehow their mourning is quite different then ours and does not fill the void. Turning to other women, as I did in my next miscarriage, helped me tremendously. I was utterly aghast at the number of women I knew who had suffered miscarriage at some point in their life, some multiple times. Sharing, caring and co-miserating with these women brought me much relief and helped to me to realize I was normal for all I was feeling and undergoing. I blamed myself less and mourned more openly, healing sooner.
It took me a long time to emotionally heal. Various holidays and events reminded me that this child was no longer with me. Those days were wrapped in sadness and emptiness. The first anniversary was especially difficult for me, more so than my family members. Only the passage of time healed my broken heart. To open myself to having another child required that I face my fear of miscarriage. With the support of my spouse and leaning very much on my faith in God, I took the risk. Each pregnancy brought very mixed feelings – great joy, but fear of miscarriage. I was so scared to attach to the baby and be open to hurt again. Talking about it with women who could understand reassured me greatly. Time passed. I realized that if I never took the risk, I would never know if I could have another baby. It wasn’t easy, but leaning more on God helped me to be stronger than I thought I could be. I did go on to have more children.
I have had friends who have suffered much with multiple miscarriages. Some have found tremendous help through NaPro Technology to sustain their pregnancies through hormonal support. Consider looking into this. Not all doctors know about this avenue of help, but it is medically proven with excellent results for many women.
So many suffer from the silent sorrow of miscarriage. The loss of children so small, so helpless marks us and burdens us. We need to take solace in knowing life is not ended, just changed. The soul of this child lives on with God and one day will be reunited with us. It is worthwhile to know as well that every child we conceive does have a lasting union with us, not only spiritually and emotionally, but also physically. Just as that child growing in our womb takes nourishment from our body through the placenta, so too that child’s stem cells have entered our bodies to remain there forever, long after their birth or death. Mothers can never be detached from their children to the degree fathers can be, and maybe this is one of the reasons that explains why. We are made for connection; we are made for relationship. It permeates our being and our very bodies. Our children always remain our children.
In the moments of greatest suffering and feeling alone, I found my strength in turning to God and working through my pain and anger to come to acceptance and hope. I needed someone bigger than life, bigger than death. I needed to let go and it was hard. I often contemplated my sorrow in front of a crucifix. It helped me realize God understood my pain and could redeem my suffering. I felt accompanied. I found more healing. It gave me reassurance and grace.
I look back and see that these very challenging moments for myself and my marriage were quite difficult. Time helped us work through it together. It wasn’t easy, but we held on. We worked at it. We turned to people for help. We had to overcome, and we chose to push forward together. These trials brought us closer as a couple. We weathered these storms. We solidified our marriage because of these unique circumstances. Those moments allowed us to talk to our children about life, death and suffering. They equipped us to be more compassionate and understanding to those facing similar tragedies. They helped us grow in our humanity.
It’s been years now since I miscarried my two children. They are very alive to me still, though time has healed my sorrow. Although people know I have ten children, I do not mention the two others I miscarried, since people are often speechless to begin with. However I know many who, when asked about their families, will say, “I have four children, two in school and two in heaven. I miscarried them and they now look out for us from a better place.” Though the hearer might be taken a bit off guard, it is a wonderful way to give testimony to the lives given and the sorrows faced.
We are each different. This in no way can sum it all up, or come close to what you might be going through in your circumstances. I offer it only as a possible help. Miscarrying a child is heart breaking. Only time can heal. The support of others helps. Turning to God allows grace to enter where no one else can. May He heal your broken heart and give you strength to go forward with hope.
Here are some excellent resources for you to consider when you or someone you know has miscarried:
Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness – a service provided by Sunnybrook Hospital
The Story of Baby Rabbit – a book to help you talk to young children about miscarriage and stillbirth