Just over a month ago I published this post about our miscarriage. It was scary to post for many reasons, but mainly because talking about miscarriage is hard. And because it’s hard we just don’t do it. Which makes it harder. It’s a vicious, horrible circle. But we can be better. Learning to talk about miscarriage in a way that carries, supports, rescues and weeps-with, not in a way that undervalues, under-estimates and brushes off, is important.
Nobody likes grief and nobody wants to witness a tragedy. Especially not one we don’t fully understand. But given the numbers, I know that you know someone – or multiple ‘someones’ – who has had a miscarriage – or multiple miscarriages. You might even know someone who is struggling through this heart-wrenching experience right now. And I know, from experience, that it is so tempting to run for the haven of seemingly safe answers. I’ve said of all these things, to others, and myself. How I hang my head in shame when I remember how I callously threw out the ‘at least you know you can get pregnant’ and other such lines. Before I was living in the ‘after’.
I wish that someone had told me what to say when I stumbled upon a friend carrying the weight of this particular sadness. So in case no one has told you, I’ve gathered up a few unhelpful responses here (and why they’re unhelpful) and a few that you could try instead.
Try not to say this:
1.Anything that involves stats
Stats and numbers are not super helpful – chances are high we’ve already scoured the internet for hours and encountered the ‘roughly 1 in 4 pregnancies miscarries’ stat at every turn and probably know the numbers.
2.’It happens to lots of women. It’s so common, it’s no big deal’
Saying that miscarriage is common desperately undervalues our grief. The frequency of these tragedies makes them neither easier nor alright.
3. ‘My friend/aunt/mother/cousin had X number of miscarriages and now she has a perfectly healthy baby’
That’s wonderful for her, and we are so thrilled she is in a happy chapter in her story, but this story – our story – that we are living right now has had a tragic turn. It’s also unlikely that you know our whole medical story and whether or not miscarriage could always be a very highly likely outcome for us, or even if we’ll ever be able to get pregnant.
4. ‘Don’t worry you have plenty of time to try again’,
Maybe we do. But right now we’re pretty sad that we’ve lost our little one and all the ‘would have beens’ that should have been ours.
5. ‘I’m sure it’s getting better by now’ or ‘you don’t feel good right now but you will soon’
Honestly, I’m not sure we will ever feel ‘better’ when it comes to this. Who we are has fundamentally changed. Before this we weren’t parents, now we are. True, our baby is not here with us now, but they were, for a few short weeks. Imposing your timelines on our grief is not always helpful.
6. ‘There must have been something wrong with the baby’
You may be right. But I was in that room and I saw the ultrasound and the little flickering heartbeat and to me, my baby was perfect.
7. ‘You can always have another one. And you’ll feel better when you do’
But we wanted THAT one. And yes, we might feel different if we do ever have more children, but jumping quickly to this response undervalues the little life we have just bid goodbye too. How about asking when our due date was instead?
8. ‘At least it was early. It was barely a baby and you didn’t even know it yet’.
There is no ‘at least’ in miscarriage.
9. ‘I’m sorry to hear about your miscarriage. Let’s look at these pictures of my friend’s baby/talk about babies to make you feel better’
Often we will initiate these conversations. We love you, and we love your/your friend’s babies. But sometimes there are rare occasions when we don’t want to talk about babies or ooh and aah over their pictures. It’s not often, but it happens. So maybe, we can talk about something else? :)
10. ‘At least you know you can get pregnant’
Yep. But right now I have a 100% failure rate at carrying that pregnancy to full term.
What you could say instead:
It seems to me that there is only one thing worth saying and it goes like this –
“I am so sorry friend, that you have had to go through this terrible, horrific loss. I am sorry that you are experiencing this. I am sorry that for now, you won’t get to meet your baby that you so desperately wanted. I am sorry that you have had to spend so much time at the Dr’s and in waiting rooms. For the pain that you’ve gone through and the loss you must feel. I know it must be a very lonely time, I don’t completely understand miscarriage but I want to support you in this, I don’t want you to feel lonely or like you are facing any of this on your own. Should I cook dinner/run errands for you/come over and watch tv? Tell me how I can help’.
And then please don’t disappear because this got hard and sad and heavy. We need you to check up on us, encourage us and grieve with us.
And when I say ‘check up on us’ I don’t mean drop in to see if we’re over it yet and ready to be fun again. I mean taking the time to ask the important questions like ‘when was baby due?’ and then following up in that week. Speaking about the baby and how we’re really feeling, we might not want to talk about it, but then again, we might and we might just jump at the opportunity if someone offers a listening ear. How about popping in for tea ‘just because’? Or indulging our Turkish Delight addiction (I’d never say no to a Turkish Delight, the cheapo £0.69 are the best). Or holing up at ours for a series marathon, or coming over and cooking brunch. And praying for us because that always helps.
It’s hard. This ‘walking through life together’ thing. But isn’t it what we’re here to do?