I have written this for several reasons, one of them being that the devastation an early miscarriage can cause, can have life changing implications, and this isn’t always understood. It can sometimes be brushed aside as just one of those unfortunate things, when in reality it can be the start of years of worry, or a fertility journey that you never expected to be on.
According to Google it is estimated that 1 in 4 pregnancies, end in miscarriage before 12 weeks and that number could be even higher as most can happen before the mother even realises, she is pregnant.
HCG hormone has started to be produced, signifying the start of human life and due to media conditioning, two pink lines on a stick tell us nothing is different. When they disappear as quickly as they arrived, we are left devastated, hurt and confused as we have never known any different.
When this does happen, the mother and father have already bonded with the sensation of being pregnant, the mum due to excess hormones, and both due to the excitement of seeing those two precious pink lines. They may also have dared to walk down the baby aisle at Tesco – I avoided this aisle like the plague for five years! They are then devastated to find out that their dream has been ripped away from them.
The mother is then either admitted to hospital for surgery, if there are complications, or a very heavy period arrives, and the world sees it as no great shakes. They are told things like, ‘this is very common’ and ‘just give yourself time and you will be fine’ but the truth is we only ever discover how common it is when it happens to us and it comes as a great shock when it does.
There is also an extra level of grief that needs to be recognised if that poor couple have had to go through weeks, or even months of fertility treatment to get to that point. The feeling of failure that I personally felt each time I miscarried after fertility treatment was just soul destroying, as I felt somehow less of a woman due to not being able to carry to term, as it was something that everyone else seemed to so easily manage. This is of course not the case at all, and I didn’t fail, but merely experienced something that is sadly very natural and common. Even more so if you have had IVF treatment. When this grief isn’t always recognised in the right way, we can force ourselves into a devastated silence where that feeling is compounded.
Then there are the range of early miscarriages that you can have from an ectopic, a chemical, missed miscarriage to a molar pregnancy, none of which I had heard of until some of them happened to me. All equally upsetting and all not spoken about enough until you experience some of them. I feel that raising awareness, about the range of early miscarriages you can have, would be invaluable and would make the experience much more bearable. It would at least then come as less of a shock, when for example if you have a chemical pregnancy, you are pregnant for five minutes before the two pink lines start to disappear.
Women wouldn’t then question themselves and think- this is my fault, if only I hadn’t had that hot bath, if only I hadn’t gone to the gym, if only I hadn’t had that strong cup of coffee. It is not their fault and that need to blame themselves would subside if every woman was made more aware sooner.
So, the question is what could be done to make this experience less miserable and isolating?
Acknowledging the baby that has been lost is so important! Also, accepting that a couple’s grief is valid no matter how early on the pregnancy was lost and how long it takes them to deal with what has happened to them.
Not saying things like, “it was so early on”, “It was just a bunch of cells and not properly formed yet”, ” you have plenty of time to try again”, all of these things were said to me at some point or another and they definitely didn’t help and just made me feel much worse.
If it is a friend give them a gift, no matter how token or small, that they can keep to remember their baby by.
Just be there for them and ask them how they are 3, 6 even 9 months down the line,remind them that their feelings are valid no matter what they are.
Remember their experience and never assume that they might be finally over what has happened to them until they tell you that they are.
Always gently encourage them to talk about their experiences. This isn’t always something that you want to do if you have had a miscarriage, but it does do you the world of good to feel listened to and have your experience understood.
Education on just how common miscarriage is, through the media and schools to help couples deal with their grief would be invaluable and stop us feeling that it is our fault or that we are somehow not quite right or complete because this has happened to us.
If you know someone that has recently suffered a miscarriage just be there for them, listen to them and be sensitive with what you say and if they want to talk let them.
We ultimately need to change our approach to someone after they have experienced an early miscarriage, and this process of change will definitely not be an easy one. We need to recognise that no matter how early on the miscarriage happened, that it can be a devastating, long lasting experience for all involved and not one that you can easily move on from. We also need to recognise that whether or not you have had a miscarriage after IVF or you have suffered a miscarriage without treatment, a period of transition and decompression needs to take place so that the people involved can transfer out of their grief in their own time and space. A miscarriage changes you forever, and that process of change needs to be recognised, cared for and carefully considered by everyone.