My sister called me about two weeks ago to tell me the good news. She got a positive on her pregnancy test. That put her due date at August 15th, about 6 weeks after mine. While part of me was a little jealous that I’d have to share our mom, I was kind of looking forward to us going through our pregnancies together. This is my last, her pregnancy would have been her first baby.
But last night I told Scott about a dream she had. I’ve been thinking about her the last several days and was meaning to tell him about the dream for a while, but kept forgetting. Last night, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so I told him. She had a dream that I came to her and told her that God told me that within the next 6 weeks, she was going to lose her baby, but she would be able to have a baby with her next pregnancy.
This morning she called me in tears. She started bleeding. I spent some time reassuring her that it’s normal, especially after intercourse – that it happened to me during my pregnancy with Madison. I shared my experiences with her, and told her that if it would give her peace of mind, to go to the ER. But I really thought that everything was fine.
I got a phone call from my mom a couple of hours later. The doctor diagnosed her with an ectopic pregnancy. They wheeled her into the operating room and removed one of her fallopian tubes almost immediately.
She lost her baby.
So now I’m sitting here and my heart is broken for her. The doctors did say she could still have children, but I don’t think her husband quite gets that she will still mourn for her lost baby. I just read an article on miscarriage and found it to be full of truth. Women who miscarry are often not taken quite as seriously as say, a woman who’s lost a child who’s been born. Since most miscarriages happen early in the first trimester, and she doesn’t look pregnant, people tend to forget that the mom-to-be is actually mourning a real loss. There is no body to bury or visual evidence of a baby, so people just can not relate to the loss. Even the dad-to-be can have a hard time understanding, because he isn’t going through the physical changes a pregnancy brings, and at that point in pregnancy, isn’t seeing any evidence of a baby (other than mood swings and perhaps some vomit), so the loss can be hard for him to comprehend (although this is not true for all men, many men grieve just as much as the mom.)
When my mom called me tonight, she told me that when they finished with the surgery and brought her back to her room, my sister’s husband said something like (and I can’t remember exactly how it went) “The doctor fixed your brain, honey!” I guess he made a joke about how she came out of major brain surgery and her brain now works. Oh how my heart broke when I heard that. I wished that I was there, maybe to punch the idiot in the mouth…okay, I probably wouldn’t resort to an act of violence, but I could have coached him a little bit in how to respond to her loss. When my mom told me about that, all I could say was, “She just lost her baby…” because all of it just took me back.
I’ve suffered a miscarriage before, and hearing what my brother-in-law said took me back to one of the few days that will forever be marked as one of the worst days of my life. We all have a history book in the back of our heads, and many of us have pages that record our worst and best moments. My miscarriage has been permanently inked on one of my life’s pages. Tonight I went back and re-read that page.
I had people, well meaning people who cared greatly for me, say stupid, STUPID things. Those words still play through my mind when I think about losing my baby. I’ve finally gotten past the hurt those words inflicted on my already broken heart, but I still remember every word. And now that I’m a bit older (and wiser?) I can see that those well-meaning people really just didn’t know what to say about such a loss, and they simply tried their best to say something that might comfort me.
That thought takes me back to a comment I read on another woman’s blog. This poor woman was told she was miscarrying her baby, and she blogged about it that day. Another woman commented that perhaps God removed the baby from her womb and put them in another woman’s womb to bless her. Maybe her children were actually living on in another mommy’s tummy! What the hell!?! I was so infuriated when I read this that I began to comment. But I found myself getting so angry, that my comment would have been longer than the grieving mother’s post. I wanted to get in that woman’s face and ask her if she really thought this woman wanted to hear that God was so cold that He would take away this mom-to-be’s baby and give that baby to another woman? “Oh, here you go. Let me give you this baby. Just kidding! Let me just take that little sucker outta there and hmmmmmm…here we go. This woman over here is much more deserving of your child! Muahahahahahahaha!”
Okay, so I know that’s not how she meant it. Her intentions were to give hope and to comfort, but her words were all wrong. I ended up deleting my comment before publishing it because I felt my words would have only brought more turmoil to this woman’s grieving heart. She didn’t need me starting a debate on her blog.
But reading that did get me thinking more about miscarriage and how people really do not understand the pain unless they’ve experienced it first-hand. Let me share a little bit of what she is going through. When a woman is going through a miscarriage, she is mourning over
the death of her child
the fact that she will not get to hold her child or meet her baby face to face
the knowledge that she will not get to watch her child grow up and will always wonder if her child was a boy or a girl, she will not get to see her child’s personality develop or see her child achieve his/her dreams
her empty womb – she may still feel all the symptoms of pregnancy, but her brain now knows that there is no baby in there. There is a void there.
a sense of failure. I haven’t met a woman yet who’s miscarried and hasn’t wondered if it was somehow her fault. She failed, her body failed, she’s being punished for a past mistake, she shouldn’t have eaten this or drank that – all of these thoughts can easily play through the grieving mommy’s mind.
If I were there right now with my sister and the rest of the family, I would remind them of these things that are probably going on in her head. I would tell them that there isn’t ANYTHING that they can say that will make her feel better. There may be some things they can say that are okay to say, but she isn’t going to suddenly snap out of her grief and feel like throwing a party. The best thing they can do is listen to her, ask her how she’s doing, ask her if she’s comfortable or if there is anything they can do to help her through this, especially since she just went through surgery, they could pray for her, and share God’s truth with her.
But most importantly, remember to let her mourn, and understand that after the first few weeks, she may seem okay for a while, but the reality of her loss may hit her at the most unexpected moment. I remember when I was pregnant with Joshua, I still cried over my miscarriage. I remember driving on a highway with my mom to pick Scott up at the airport. They were doing major construction and it was dark and kind of a scary drive. This song popped up on my CD – it was a song that was played at church the Sunday after I found out I was miscarrying. I bawled. My mom just about begged me to pull over for fear that I was going to run the car into the barricade. When our friends had their baby girl on what was supposed to be MY DUE DATE, I lost it, even though I was pregnant again. The pain does not just go away in a day.
The last thing a person should do when they find out a woman lost her baby is:
Imply there is something wrong with her or her body – this is sending the message that it’s her fault
Try to crack jokes about what she just went through
Tell her that she can just have more babies (she probably already knows she can try again, but it doesn’t make her feel any better, especially because she just lost the baby she was hoping and dreaming and planning for).
Try to assign blame to anyone or anything. Sometimes things just happen and telling her it “could be this” or “could be that” or was “probably this” will only get her mind reeling at all of the possibilities and probabilities and preventative measures she could have taken to save her baby from this loss.
Imply that her loss isn’t that bad or compare her situation to someone else’s loss. This will do NO good and will not comfort her in any way.
Refer to the baby as an embryo, fetus, or tissue (as the doctors kept calling mine). To the mom, she had a baby inside her, don’t be afraid to say baby. This will also help validate her need to mourn for somebody real. (Thank you Deborah for this important point!)
The right things to say:
I’m so sorry for your loss
I’m praying for you and your family
Is there anything I can do for you right now?
If you ever want to talk about it, I’m here.
If the grieving mom does open up to you, then be sure to say the following:
You know this is not your fault, right? There is nothing you could have done to prevent this.
Be honest. If you don’t know what to say, just simply say, “I wish I knew what to say but I just don’t know what I could possibly say to make you feel better. I am here for you though.”
It’s okay to grieve. That baby was real and a part of you. This is a real loss and you can take the time to grieve over your loss. Say this, but don’t push her. She may need to grieve in her own way.
I know that it’s hard to know what to say when situations like this occur, and that’s why I felt so strongly that I should blog this. If you’ve gone through a miscarriage before and feel that I’ve missed something or would like to add more to this post, please leave a comment. If there’s something I need to add, I’ll gladly add it to the post (giving you the credit, of course!)
And please, no harsh or judgemental comments. I shared some of the responses I know about simply as an example of what not to say, and to show that people who have not gone through this may not understand how their words might impact the mom. I know my brother-in-law probably just wanted to make his wife laugh, to see her happy, and he probably hasn’t figured out how to handle this loss, or help his wife through this. It’s a tough situation to be in for everyone involved.
Purplepolkadotz suggested the following book for parents who’ve gone through a miscarriage: “I’ll Hold You In Heaven” by Jack Hayford. Check it out at Amazon.com.