October is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month

There are all sorts of recommendations that pop up when doing a search for the timing of a pregnancy announcement. Between gender reveal ideas on Pinterest and the plethora of baby items in preparation of the big event, it can seem overwhelming. For those who have struggled to achieve a hard-won pregnancy, the timing can be even more daunting. Maybe you have had previous losses. Maybe you’ve been through months or years of infertility treatment and have become frozen by anxiety. Invariably, most recommendations follow the “12-week rule.” However… not everyone follows that rule anymore. I agree that it should be based upon your own unique needs and situation. 

The loss of a pregnancy is one of the most difficult experiences one can go through. Not only is it a heartbreaking kind of ambiguous grief but there’s also the physical pain associated with it. This is a period where time seems to stand still, no matter how you discovered this pregnancy was ending and you’re terrified for what’s to come. Why do we make it the norm for women to do this alone? 

Miscarriage is all too common with 1 in 4 odds. Yes, you read that right – 1 in 4. Around 85% of those occur during the first trimester which is why mum’s the word for most women. What many women find out is that so many women they’ve already known quite well have experienced the same heartbreak. It’s like being a member of a secret sorority that nobody wants, but once initiated, you come to discover almost everyone else has already been there or knows someone who has. It’s important to choose for yourself how much you share and with whom. Share with those who will be there to support you in a non-judgmental way and not unwittingly make you feel worse.

Everyone handles loss differently but there are some common things that you might experience and some others that might help you cope. Pick and choose what might work for you or make up your own.

  1. Be patient with yourself. This loss is unlike any other. If the miscarriage occurred early, you might not know the gender or picked out a name. That doesn’t make the loss any less important. You lost your hopes and dreams which is just as significant. Grief is not a competition.
  2. Everyone grieves differently. That is extremely apparent among couples after a loss. It doesn’t mean your partner isn’t hurting. They may just be expressing it another way.
  3. Grief is not linear. Even after you feel like you’ve worked through some of your grief and things don’t feel quite as “raw,” don’t be surprised if there is a backlash that brings you to your knees again. You didn’t do anything wrong. It’s just the way grief works.
  4. Anger and guilt are common. You may question your faith, your body and your purpose in general. Please just know one thing above all else – IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT.
  5. Be aware of physical symptoms from your emotional distress. You may experience fatigue, insomnia, loss of appetite, inability to concentrate and hormonal changes. If anything is intense or you feel like you might be a harm to yourself, please reach out to your physician, therapist or nearest emergency room.
  6. Write your grief out in a journal. Although it can be difficult to get started, it may also be very cathartic to get your feelings out on paper and then be able to see your progression as you heal. 
  7. Honor your baby with something that feels special to you. Maybe a velvet-lined angel box, a piece of jewelry, a plant or tree, a tattoo or a donation to your favorite charity. Death is uncomfortable for many people and these losses often don’t have traditions or rituals like when there is a death of a friend or relative. Those things help us mourn, validate our grief and provide structure, connectedness and meaning to our loss.
  8. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a counselor, clergy, online/in person support group or trusted medical professional as you come to terms with your grief. Please don’t feel like it’s a badge of courage to suffer in silence. There are others who know exactly how you’re hurting. You deserve to be supported.