Illustrations by María Luque.
In early 2017, my husband and I found out that I was pregnant. We were ecstatic.
But then, when I was 13 weeks along, the bleeding started.
When I found out I was pregnant again earlier this year, it felt like a miracle.
About 10 days later, on an international business trip, I had a second miscarriage.
Both miscarriages devastated me. The person who I was before the miscarriage died with my child. And then it died again with my second. Grief and depression are my constant companions as I struggle to heal from my losses.
I wasn’t prepared for how utterly isolating the experience would be. Most people don’t want to talk about miscarriage or don’t know how to. Some people pretended like it didn’t happen and avoided me. Almost everyone just wanted to make sure I was okay.
But, no, I am not okay.
And no, I will not be the same person I was before I lost my baby.
And no, the “promise” of a future child is not comforting.
Miscarriage is seen as shameful, so no one talks about it. It’s seen as the inability to carry a child to term, rather than simply as the loss of a child. When I told my friends who were moms that I was pregnant the first time, they told me that you become a mom the moment you are pregnant. But after my baby died, no one ever refers to me as a mother. They talk about “when I become a mother,” instead.
Below are statements or questions people have said to me, often with good intentions. In some instances, they knew about my miscarriages. In others, they didn’t.
Here’s what they said, and what I wish I would have said back:
What I wish I had said: It’s really not about that. Grief is about the child you lost. Every pregnancy is different, and conceiving once does not guarantee you will be able to conceive again.
“Don’t cry, you’ll be okay.”
What I wish I had said: Honestly, it doesn’t feel okay right now.
What I wish I had said: What exactly is the reason for a mother to lose her child?
“Have you tried IVF?”
What I wish I had said: It’s really not about not having a child. It is about the child that was lost and it’s not really your place to suggest how someone should start their family. Don’t offer opinions on this unless you are asked to.
“Tell me how I can be there for you or what you need.”
What I wish I had said: People who are grieving rarely know what they need. Please check in on me often. Don’t wait for me to reach out to you. Grief can last for a long time, so checking in for weeks or months after a loss can be more loving and helpful than one time after the initial loss.
What I wish I had said: I can’t even think about that right now. It’s incredibly scary to think about trying to have another baby right after losing one.
What I wish I had said: No. Most women who have a miscarriage do not know why. This question insinuates that someone or something is to blame.
“Maybe you should [take it easier/be less stressed/work less].”
What I wish I had said: Please stop making me feel like it is my fault.
What I wish I had said: How do you know?
“I know someone who had [XX] miscarriages. Now they have [XX] children.”
What I wish I had said: Good for them. I don’t know how their story is relevant to my situation.
What I wish I had said: Yes, but I still lost this one.
What I wish I had said: Some women don’t want children. Others have been trying but are struggling with infertility. Others have lost children to miscarriage. This question is insensitive and also sexist. (How often is it posed to a man?)
“When you have a child, you will know and learn …”
What I wish I had said: This comment assumes that parenthood is inevitable and that there are also only certain things one can learn by being a parent. That may be true to a certain extent, but it is incredibly insensitive to those who want children and/or have lost children. Losing an unborn child does not make one less of a parent.
“You are so lucky that [you have time to travel/you don’t have to pack so many things when going out/you are never late].”
What I wish I had said: Yes, I feel so lucky that I lost my two children, when I would much rather have them here with me, at home.
Instead, here are suggestions on what you could say or do to help someone you know has recently experienced a miscarriage:
Sometimes, it’s really just that simple. Acknowledge that this person is grieving.
“I am sad and don’t understand why this happened to you.”
This acknowledges both the loss as well as the pain the person is going through and doesn’t try to assign a reason or blame for why the miscarriage happened.
A person who has just experienced a miscarriage is acutely aware that it is an uncomfortable subject, but she may not feel okay about it for a long time. Let her know that it is okay for her to grieve and not be her “normal” self for as long as she needs to.
“What can I practically do to support you right now?”
Offer up some ideas of ways you can support your friend during this time of loss. This could be running errands, preparing meals, sending gifts or treats that you know will comfort or bring her a smile, or accompanying her at home while she is healing or grieving. What she needs and wants may also change with time, so check in regularly and be available.
“I would love to hear more about your baby if/when you are ready.”
It can be so powerful and moving to acknowledge a loss by asking about the child. Leave an open invitation for her to share that with you, so she knows that she’s not making you uncomfortable.
One of the most powerful things that a friend said to me during my second miscarriage was about my journey and how she saw my character shine through it. Rather than focusing her words on motherhood or a future child, she really encouraged me by talking about my identity.