A few days after our early miscarriage, I met one of my dearest friends for breakfast. As we were so newly pregnant when the loss happened, I hadn’t yet told her that we were. I planned on filling her in at breakfast, when she dropped the happy news that she was 8 weeks along. They had an adorable toddler already, and had no reason to believe that this pregnancy would be anything but smooth. I was thrilled for her, and as we caught up and I told her what we had recently experienced, she felt awful for me. We had a teary breakfast, both of us hormonal and emotional, that went something like “I’m so happy for you!”/”I’m so sad for you!” She told me that her first ultrasound was a week later, and I made her promise to send me a picture of the little bean afterward.
A week later, the day of her appointment, I anxiously awaited the photo debut of her new addition. Instead of a photo, I received a phone call. “It’s gone.” Confused, I asked, “What do you mean ‘it’s gone’?” She repeated, “It’s gone. The baby. I’m 9 weeks, but there’s no heartbeat and the doctor said it stopped growing around 6 weeks.” At this point, we were both crying, and she was obviously devastated. She had no symptoms, no side effects, no reason to think anything was amiss. We learned that this situation, different from mine, is called a “missed” miscarriage. The body hangs on to the fetus as if it’s still viable, usually requiring a D&C and/or shot of a drug (methotrexate, cytotec) to assist with expelling it. After the shock diminished, this got me thinking about two things. One- pregnancy loss is surprisingly, sadly, common. I could not shake the horrible knowledge that when we’d had breakfast last week, we BOTH had recently experienced a loss- we just didn’t know about hers yet. Aside from myself and my friend, I personally know of 8 other women, all healthy young women with no major reproductive issues, who have gone through it in some form- and those are just the people that have chosen to divulge it. Many women keep this to themselves and are hesitant to share this information. This is a shame, as the support from others that have been through it is absolutely helpful to those who are currently experiencing it.
The second thing I realized was that pregnancy loss, and even pregnancy in general, is different for everyone and can be hard to relate to, even when you’ve been through it. When my friend called me, I later found myself thinking, “At least she was pregnant longer than me, she got more time than I did…” I immediately realized this was a crazy thought and then thought about all the things people had said to me- things like, “At least it happened early, at least you can try again, at least you didn’t need a D & C.” The longer I thought about it, the more I realized that people do this even in “good” pregnancies. People will say, “At least you didn’t have morning sickness, at least you didn’t have this/that condition, at least you didn’t have to push as long as so and so, at least you didn’t need a C-section.” Every pregnancy experience is so unique, and it seems that people are quick to compare and judge where someone else “got lucky”. No matter how good-intentioned, this “at least” business isn’t very helpful, and can feel dismissive. I have another friend who has been blessed with relatively “easy” pregnancies and deliveries, but she’ll be the first to tell you there’s nothing “easy” about it. And obviously I am grateful that I didn’t need a D & C, and I knew we could eventually try again, but there was still nothing good about my pregnancy loss experience. Saying “at least this” and “at least that” or being judgmental in other ways doesn’t really give people the feeling that you understand their experience. And you probably don’t. But maybe this post will be a reminder for you, as my friend’s experience was a reminder for me, how nice it feels not to compare your situation to someone else’s, but just to listen and be supportive instead.
Thanks for this post – it is so true that we all need to share advice on how to best support people when they’re dealing with pregnancy loss, and to make sure we’re not trying to “rank” our losses as compared to others, or be dismissive in our almost reflexive “at least” comments. Everyone means well, but it is very helpful to share advice like this with a broader audience to remind people of “best practices” when supporting others, and also just to get the conversation going so more women feel comfortable sharing their loss, and in turn receiving support.
My daughter was stillborn in June, after 26 perfect weeks of pregnancy, with no signs or symptoms of distress and no indicators that anything was wrong. The experience has been life-changing to say the least, but the greatest gift our daughter has given me is a new understanding of loss, the most raw and enduring empathy, and a new understanding of the interconnectedness we share as women and how important those connections are to our health and wellness.
Wishing you peace and love, and thank you again for your article.
Thank you so much Nicole, and I’m so sorry for your loss. My heart goes out to you and your family and I wish you a beautiful rainbow baby just as soon as your heart has healed!! xx