The recent photos after Chrissy Tiegen’s miscarriage sitting alone and then with her husband, John Legend beside her, haunted me, triggered me, and at the same time provide some comfort because it legitimized my own pain and grief when it happened to me. Chrissy Tiegen’s grief exhibited in those photos showcased the deep loss a parent experiences after a child dies in utero. This pain is often private and not shared with anyone outside of a few people. Many times there is a shadow of guilt and self judgment lurking around a miscarriage. The things we say to ourselves: “If only I had taken better care of myself”, ” I should have…”, “if only I had….”. Those questions whisper to us, torturing us, as we fall asleep or wake in the middle of the night.
Perhaps one of the reasons we do not share our miscarriages with others is because of the misguided attempts to comfort and the often inappropriate responses we receive when a miscarriage is announced. For example, when we lose a parent, people do not respond with, “Well you can always have another parent.” Or perhaps you will hear, “It was early in their development, it was probably for the best. It was Mother Nature taking care of this.” One of the worst things to ask a woman after a miscarriage is, “How far along in the pregnancy were you?”. It does not matter. That was your baby, your hopes, your dreams, and all that comes with a positive pregnancy test. Even if women did not know initially they were pregnant, discovering the loss of a potential baby can be terribly sad.
Years ago, I took a wonderful training from the Los Angeles based Our House Grief and Loss Support Center. As it so often happens in our profession, we mental health practitioners discover that we have to sort through our own personal trauma before we are able to support our clients. With the Our House Director’s help during a training exercise, I was able to process my grief for the miscarriage and loss of my unborn child. During the exercise, she never once asked me any questions about my pregnancy timeline. It was powerful and allowed me to feel safe enough to process the pain without feeling defensive. After the classroom demonstration with me, the attendees in the training had a chance to ask questions to the director and myself. One attendee did ask how far along the pregnancy was. Before I could answer, the director stated firmly, “You never ask that question around miscarriages during grief processing.” It was so refreshing to hear that!
Miscarriage is also referred to early pregnancy loss during the first trimester. According to the March of Dimes, around 10 -15 percent of all pregnancies result in a miscarriage. 80 percent of those miscarriages occur during the first trimester. Miscarriages in the second trimester and third trimesters (otherwise known as embryo loss or embryo death) make up 1 – 5% of all pregnancies. The numbers for miscarriages are higher with patients utilizing fertility treatments. Based on recent studies, miscarriage rates can be as high as 15 – 20 percent. (Verywell Family, Dr. Krissi Danielson) When miscarriages occur, depression and anxiety often follow very quickly. Anger and distrust of one’s body can ensue. It can be confusing and a deeply upsetting period. This can be especially true if your physician or emergency personnel lacked empathy and kindness during your time at the hospital, clinic, or emergency room.
It is important for you to take time to heal both physically and emotionally after the loss of your baby. According to Georgetown University School of Nursing, caring for your body is critical for healthy miscarriage recovery. You must stay hydrated, eat healthy meals and enjoy light exercise. Proper sleep will help with the body’s healing. Try something new like a hobby or a an activity that brings you joy and allows a space for an emotional release. During this time it is important to invest in self-care, more than ever before. Be gentle to yourself and try to disrupt the critical self talk with meditation, spiritual practices, or favorite inspirational words. Throw post-it’s up on your bathroom mirror or buy yourself flowers. Be kind to yourself.
My hope is that thanks to the recent amount of brave women opening up about their miscarriages, the conversations will begin to take place more often and healing can occur. It is important to take note that if symptoms of depression appear to be taking over your every day life or your anxiety becomes too much to handle it is recommended that reach out to your physician and seek mental health services with a therapist or counselor trained in pregnancy loss or a professional who specializes in grief counseling. There is no reason to try to handle this loss alone. There is a sisterhood of women who know this pain and it is about time we speak about it, openly with respect and compassion.