On a Monday evening in January 2012, I shared the good news with my boss and many of our closest friends: we were 11 weeks pregnant! We would be parents in August for the very first time. But in the wee hours of the very next day, we lost the baby.
“No. way. TIM! You’ve gotta see this!” There I sat in the bathroom, looking at the little plus sign that appeared only moments ago on my $2 stick. We recently had decided to quit trying not to get pregnant, and given a rather rocky menstrual history, I wondered how long it might take my body to respond. Not long, as it happened! Later, my sweet husband would tell me that maybe sharing the news with him in such a fashion was less than special. Noted and never repeated.
For the 11 short weeks of this first pregnancy, my bladder woke me up every morning around 4:30am to be relieved, so when I shuffled to the bathroom that morning, eyes mostly shut, I thought nothing of the red lights showing 4:45am. But when I turned on the light, the red drops on the tile of the bathroom floor set off alarm bells in my head.
Trying not to panic – after all, many women have bled during pregnancy and carried their child to term – I did what any half-asleep person would do and stepped into the 50’s style tub, cranked the faucet, and yelled for my husband to wake up. Shortly after I sat down, the baby passed. I knew then exactly what was happening. (Do NOT do what I did – call the doctor and/or go to the hospital if you experience bleeding.)
I thought I failed. My body failed. I kept repeating the words, “I’m so sorry,” to my husband who just held me, both of us in shock. I sat shivering in the tub as the coldness sank its teeth into my empty belly. I remember the rest in vivid detail. There is no blur to distort the pain of this loss. As my husband and I walked through this, we learned a few things. If you’re walking through this now, I hope what we learned helps you.
Permission to grieve the loss.
Don’t let anyone minimize the heaviness of miscarriage, and don’t do it to yourself either. Many kind people will tell you how common miscarriage is in a well-meaning effort to comfort you. However common it may be, it is still a life, a hope, a possibility lost. Regardless of how far along or how it happens, a loss is a loss is a loss. Period. It’s okay to grieve.
Permission to grieve your own way.
Everyone experiences grief differently and at a different pace. I felt numb for a few days and then experienced mild depression in the weeks that followed. My husband took such good care of me in that first week that I was afraid he wouldn’t take time to grieve. Given the right space and time, thankfully he did. Don’t forget – husbands/significant others lost a child, too.
Know that your friends are going to support you the best way they know how; you may not always appreciate the ways in which they express that support, but try to give them grace. Conversely, you may not know how best to support your friend who has miscarried. Ask someone close to them how you can best serve them.
Permission to revisit that sadness.
When my baby’s due date rolled around, I was already pregnant again, but I still cried and memorialized that day with roses. I still think of that baby, even now having three kids. That’s okay! It’s not an obsessive kind of thinking, it’s a wondering what he or she would have been like had s/he survived.
Permission to get help.
It’s okay to grieve, but unresolved grief can physically destroy your body. You may not notice the ill effects, but others will. Give them permission to speak into your life and help you find the counseling you need to deal with the loss if the grief doesn’t pass. Seeking counseling is not weakness; it’s strength in a moment of clarity.
Additionally, allow people to help in tangible ways. It may feel uncomfortable if you are like me and like to be alone in your grief, but their help can be invaluable to you and your family. Had it not been for my mother who stayed and cooked meals for the first two days, I don’t think we’d have eaten.
Permission to talk about it.
The best therapy has been in the conversations we’ve had with others about the miscarriage. At first, it feels like an out of body experience. You will be talking about it in what feels like a clinical manner, but inside you’ll be feeling the pain again. It gets easier, and your story can help others who are afraid to be honest about their own struggles through miscarriages.
Permission to memorialize it.
Most families don’t have the ability to bury the baby for a number of reasons, but we did. Even, or especially, if you do not, I highly recommend having a personal memorial of sorts for your baby. Plant a tree. Bury a treasure box with a note to your baby. Doing something like this will help you feel like you’ve done something for your baby in a situation completely out of your control. It’ll bring a little bit of closure to the loss.
If you have experienced or are experiencing this kind of loss, or if you have a close friend or relative who is, I found this poem that I hope brings comfort, peace, and calm in the healing:
To One In Sorrow
Let me come in where you are weeping, friend,
And let me take your hand.
I, who have known a sorrow such as yours, can understand.
Let me come in — I would be very still beside you in your grief;
I would not bid you cease your weeping, friend,
Tears bring relief. Let me come in — and hold your hand,
For I have known a sorrow such as yours,
-Grace Noll Crowell