One-third of women have had a miscarriage. Which means I’m a statistic. Which means that there are plenty of women out there who have gone before me who I can turn to. Which means that there is most likely someone who has just experienced it and will walk me through my grief while hers is still alive. Which means that there are plenty of people and places to console me and help me.
But there aren’t. There are no women bold enough to admit to a miscarriage. There are no women who will talk to me about this, save the ones I sought out and specifically talked to. There is no one who will help me go through this. Instead, I am left with women who have never experienced the pains of miscarriage seek me out and encourage me. And I love them for it. But oh man, do I long to just talk to someone who knows what I’m going through first-hand.
And while I’d love to post a call to women out there to shrug off society’s view of a miscarriage being a “thing” not to worry about, that it’s just a chemical imbalance, that it’s just the body’s way of figuring things out, I know there’s no way that a little blog with 100 followers will do anything. Instead, what I can do, is write a note for all those who have friends experiencing a miscarriage and help them know how to encourage this new mama in her time of need.
1. Look it up. Most often we hear that a miscarriage ends before the first trimester. And thanks to the movies, we perceive this as being a heavy period with doctors gently touching our shoulders and music swelling over the crying couple. It’s not that. At all. Depending on the week it could just be blood or it could be the actual passing of the baby. Depending on the situation, the body could do everything on its own with no help, or there might need to be a hospital procedure involved. Don’t take your cue from the movie. If you’ve never experienced this, then look it up. If you can’t emotionally understand what’s going on with your friend, then at least understand what she’s medically going through.
2. Understand that each situation and each person is different. I asked some friends to let me know what helped them the most, and what I learned was that everyone is different and every situation is unique. I didn’t pass my baby. I had doctors who wouldn’t talk to me, who treated me like a statistic, and who quite literally didn’t care what was happening. One friend was on vacation when she miscarried. Another friend had two miscarriages in the first year of her marriage. Yet another had what the doctors called a “chemical imbalance” and she “needn’t worry.” Another felt her baby move and was picking out names when she miscarried. Just as the level of excitement about pregnancy will vary from person to person, the level of grief will, too. Some people need a month to grieve. For some, it will take a year or more. After years have passed, mamas will still remember the day it happened to them. So just know that what may work for you, may not work for them. And what worked for one friend, may not work for another.
3. Give her food. We’re fortunate enough to have an amazing community up here. The day after the hospital, we had dinner dropped off by a friend who stayed long enough to hand over the food to my husband who opened the door. It was great, because the very last thing I wanted to do was cook. The next night another friend rang the doorbell, and when we opened the door, a hot meal was waiting for us. Which was perfect, because we had forgotten to eat. The same thing happened again and again, and it was perfect, because who wants to buy groceries when you’re bleeding and could burst into tears at any given moment?
4. Let her talk, if she wants. I like to talk about stuff while it happens, which is why I blog through things a lot sooner than other people might. I am so very thankful for friends who just let me talk about how mad I was at the doctors and how mad I was at God and how confused I was about why life was going like this. If you already had plans with your friend, cancel it and ask if she wants to just sit and chat instead. Tell your friend you understand if she doesn’t want to hang out, even if you don’t, because even though your life is the same, her whole world just changed. And if she doesn’t want to talk and she’d rather cry instead, then tell her of course she can cry in front of you. That’s what friends are for.
5. Don’t tell her “it could have been worse.” I had a friend who talked to me about what it was like to miscarry at 12 weeks. (I was 7.) But never once did she belittle my feelings because she passed her baby and I didn’t, so hers was worse. And while I am so very very thankful that I was only 7 weeks along, it’s just not an appropriate thing to say to a newly miscarried mama. Because chances are, she can’t imagine life getting much worse at that point.
6. Ask her how she’s doing, weeks after she miscarried. Technically and medically, my miscarriage is over. But hormonally and emotionally, I’m experiencing the same things as if I had just given birth 4-6 weeks ago. And I have no new baby to show for it, so you can add grief on top of that. So just because the gossip has died down or the “newness” has worn off, doesn’t mean a mama is no longer struggling. When people have stopped asking her how she is, you ask her. But don’t be all vague and say, “How are things?” Ask her specifically: “I know things have been rough, but tell me, how are you doing with it all?” Be careful, though. Someone asked me last week, and after not hearing the question for so long (not even from the husband) I basically just spilled my guts all over her, and I don’t know if she was ready for that.
7. Remember her husband. Although us women carry the brunt of the miscarriage, husbands go through it, too. So talk to him. Remember it’s hard for him, too. Probably harder, because all men do is want to fix things, and this isn’t something easily fixed.
8. Pray for her. If you don’t know the person very well, or you feel helpless, the best thing you can do is just pray. Pray for strength, grace, and mercy for her and her husband.