Every mother heals differently after miscarriage or stillbirth. After suffering from a loss this year with my second pregnancy, I feel that it is important to take a deep breath, wipe my tears, and put this vulnerable post out there for you to read, ever how painful it may still be. These things are the advice that I would give my closest friend or sister if a miscarriage or still birth were to happen to her. That doesn't mean that these methods of grieving or healing will be what works for you and your process. My heart goes out to each and every one of you that have experienced any number of losses at any gestation. The pain is something that cannot be explained.
I'm a labor and delivery nurse. You all know that about me, if nothing else. Part of labor and delivery is, unfortunately delivering babies lost too soon. What you probably don't know about me is that I, too, lost a baby of my own too soon.
Unlike many women suffering from a loss, my own miscarriage was not the first loss that I had been a part of. The career I have chosen for my life is mostly very happy but there are days that are indescribably sad. Delivering babies with mamas that don't get to see their child grow is crippling at times. I had the opportunity to witness the pain in mothers' eyes and the sadness on their faces before I knew the pain myself.
Everyone experiences loss differently and we all grieve in our own ways. I know that my advice won't help everyone but if it helps someone, then I've done my job. It is important as mothers and as women, that we take care of ourselves and allow our bodies and hearts to heal from the brokenness that comes from the loss of a child. I've learned a lot from this time in my life. The biggest lesson I've learned that I can be OK after healing my heart the best way that I know how.
Healing After A Miscarriage
Time may not heal all wounds when it comes to the loss of a baby but taking steps to ensure that your heart mends around the scar that your baby left is important. Take care of yourself and push aside any negative thoughts or feelings that you have about what the world thinks or expects of you. These are the important lessons I learned in my recovery process after losing my son, Rory.
Don't Compare Yourself To Others
This is incredibly important. You're bound to hear about other mothers' experiences with loss and compare yourself to the way that they handled it. Reassure yourself that there is no one “right” way to grieve. Do your best not to compare yourself to people that say they felt a certain way at a certain time.
You don't have to agree just because you went through a similar experience.
It doesn't have to be as easy or as difficult as it was for someone else who experienced the “same thing”. Truly, no one has experienced the “same thing” that you have. The grief that you experience will be different from anyone else's dependent on what number pregnancy this was for you, how many weeks pregnant your were when you lost your baby, in what circumstance you got pregnant, in what circumstance your pregnancy was lost, how many babies you have at home, how long you tried to get pregnant, and the list goes on and on.
Your pregnancy was unique. Your baby and your experience with loss is completely unique. Please know that you are allowed to feel however you feel. You are normal and the way that you feel is OK.
It Wasn't Your Fault
The first stage of my personal grieving process was blaming myself. There could have been a million things that I did wrong that caused my pregnancy lost. It was hard to stop myself from wondering about them and obsessing over what I could have done differently.
I had to accept that I am no less of a woman for going through a miscarriage. I am no less of a mother for not carrying my baby to term. I'll admit that this was something I thought about a lot when my wound was still fresh. I looked at women that have two or three kids and see them as better somehow. They seemed like better mothers because they were able to carry healthy babies and I wasn't. I saw them as more desirable women because they don't have this “flaw” attached to them.
Don't let these thoughts into your heart. No matter what fertility issues you're going through or what caused your miscarriage, this was not your fault. Try not to place blame on yourself where blame should be placed on no one.
It's Ok To Be OK
I feel like this doesn't get said enough. Lot's of people tell you that it's ok to NOT be ok. People tend to reassure you that it's ok to cry and it's expected to be mourning. But what if you stop feeling sad earlier than what everyone says you will? Is acceptance a bad thing?
I mourned right away and I mourned hard. Honestly, I still mourn sometimes. Just last night at the thought of writing this post, I cried my eyes out in the middle of the night so hard that I woke my husband. But, something else? I have been OK for a long time. When someone asked me how I was doing and I said “I'm OK” or “I'm fine” or even now when I say “I'm good”, I'm not sugar-coating. I really am. Is that wrong?
I prayed and prayed and prayed again when we lost our baby. I asked God for recovery and a restored heart. As I continued to pray and ask God for answers, I gradually became more and more accepting of what happened. I'm not angry that it happened to me. I'm not resentful or lost in the “what could have been”s. Simply, I'm OK.
Going back to work in a Labor and Delivery unit could have been traumatizing but instead, it was therapeutic. Hearing about my friends or family's new pregnancies could trigger a flood of emotions but instead they make me happy. People expect me to be sensitive to baby talk or they try to avoid pregnancy announcements in front of me. What they need to know is that I'm OK.
For a while, I thought maybe I wasn't normal for feeling OK talking about what happened. At times I was embarrassed to admit that I was fine. The world expected me to be broken, sad, and consumed by the baby I lost. Although, yes, I am always thinking about it, I'm not always sad.
It's Ok To Be Broken
You've experienced birth and death all at once. You're bound to have a broken heart and broken spirit at times. Although mothers are super heroes, you can set your powers aside for a while and just break.
I believe that a woman becomes a mother the moment she finds out that she is pregnant. For me anyway, the positive pregnancy test flips a switch in my brain that I can't so easily flip back.
The women who give birth to babies that never get to take their first breath are still mothers. Their love still exists. The place in their heart that they set aside for this baby is still there.
For me, the biggest thing that helped me heal was when I felt validated in that my loss was not a loss of tissue. We lost a BABY. I was broken by the loss of a son. I was broken because I lost a person. We lost Logan's brother. When I allowed myself to grieve a BABY and not a PREGNANCY, I felt like I was healing.
It's hard for people to understand this sometimes. When they don't have a picture of a baby to look at or a body to bury, they imagine that the pregnancy just disappeared. The baby- “poof”, stopped being a baby. The people who understood the weight of my brokenness and acknowledged what I had lost, helped me heal the most. Surround yourself with these people. Confide in the people who try to understand where you're coming from and let you be broken in your way, not in the way they think you should be.
It Doesn't Have To Be Taboo
You know how women are told that it's “safe” to announce their pregnancy after 12 weeks? Or it is suggested to wait to tell everyone that you're pregnant until you are safely out of your first trimester? It's because generally after these milestones, miscarriage is less common. We hold off on announcing our pregnancies to avoid talking about a miscarriage if it were to happen to us.
And yet, how many people do you know that have announced their “rainbow baby”? A rainbow baby is a baby born to a mother after miscarriage. Women announce the birth of their rainbow baby with pride and joy, as they should. But by doing so, they are also announcing to the world that they had a miscarriage.
Why do we feel that we have to wait to let the world know that we suffered from a loss until after we have the hope and promise of new life? Why can't we be open about our loss when it happens to us and when we need to most support?
I did the same thing. I didn't announce my pregnancy to extended family and friends until I felt that it was “safe” to do so. Social media never actually got an announcement from me because I was waiting for the “right time”. This post my very well be the first time many of my friends on social media even hear that I was pregnant a second time.
We all do it. We hide our pain for fear of speaking out on a taboo subject.
But I don't want my miscarriage to be a secret. I'm not ok with the idea that speaking about my baby is off-limits.
During a time when all I wanted to do was to be alone, I needed to know that I wasn't alone. That means that I needed people to tell me “me too”. I needed family to tell me that they were there for me. I wanted to know that people were trying to reach out, even if I wasn't ready to answer the phone.
But it's taboo. People don't know what to say. They don't know if they should say anything. They don't know if what they say is going to be “the wrong thing” because talking about miscarriage isn't something that we do very often.
I understand the friends that were silent. Really, I do. I think that sometimes I am the silent friend too because I don't know what to say. But the truth is, when something is constantly on your mind, you kind of need people to bring it up so that you can express how your feeling every once in a while. Let your friends and family know that this isn't a taboo subject so that they understand better how to help you.
A New Baby Will Never Replace The One You Lost
A touchy subject. When are you supposed to be ready to start trying again? When are you allowed to start talking about the thought of the next baby? I think frequently about the possibility of another baby. Yet again, I've thought about what people thought of me. If I mention that I want to be pregnant again will people judge me for trying to replace the baby I lost? Should this be harder for me?
The answer is No. Or it should be, anyway. Personally, the thought of a new pregnancy has nothing to do with my prior pregnancy. I don't think of my next pregnancy as a replacement for the one that didn't get to finish. They are not connected and do not have to be.
No matter how many times I read that “It usually takes a woman 3 months to a year to feel ready again to get pregnant after miscarriage”, doesn't change the way that I feel. You don't need to feel like your feelings aren't matching up to what the world expects you to be feeling.
If you feel ready to try to get pregnant again and your doctor tells you that it is safe to start trying again, please don't feel guilty about it. This pregnancy will be completely different from the last. You are allowed to mourn the loss of your child while also loving another. It's not one or the other.
Set Aside Time To Acknowledge Your Loss
There is no reason to try to forget. You're not going to forget no matter how hard you try. Instead, give yourself permission to set aside time for yourself when you know you're going to have a hard time coping.
Maybe you can take time for yourself and your husband to sit and remember your baby on the day he was supposed to be born. Expect the tears instead of trying to avoid them.
On the anniversary of your baby's birth, do something special for him. Light a candle for him, review your remembrance items, talk with your husband about how you came up with a name. The things that are overwhelming to confront on a day-to-day basis can be refreshing to face a few times a year.
Give Yourself Grace
Sometimes you will find yourself surprised by your reaction to things. It seems like my emotions boil up out of thin air sometimes. You know what question I get a lot working with pregnant women? A favorite questions patients like to ask their labor nurse is “How many children do you have?”. The first time someone asked me this, it threw me off. Surprisingly, I don't really know what to say.
I have one. I had two for a brief time. This question was a punch in the gut. I still don't know what to say sometimes. I know that I can say anything I want and that it's completely up to me what my answer will be. But the fact that I don't know what I want my answer to be was a surprise.
Give yourself grace when you find yourself struggling to speak when a question surprises you, when you find yourself holding back tears every time you hold your older children, or your heart starts beating out of your chest when you find the onesie you couldn't help but buy the moment you found out you were pregnant.
No matter how “OK” you are, sometimes you still find your broken parts scattered across your home and around your life. Give yourself grace and allow yourself moments to be weak. It's alright.
Give Your Baby A Name
This one is totally a personal choice. I didn't know that naming my baby would give me so much closure until we did it. It's uncomfortable to say “the baby” or “the baby I lost” every time I speak of him. I feel like using a name that my husband and I chose for a baby gives me a son. It helps me remember something solid. Something real. Rather than something that could have been. I use his name in conversation, in text, and on my remembrance items that I have for him.
This was probably the most helpful part of my recovery.
Telling people his name is hard sometimes. Especially because no one ever asks. People assume that he doesn't have a name because he was born so early. It's just part of the things that people don't understand. Maybe this will change in time.
Be Proud Of Your Story
Proud may not be the right word. But you know what? It's your story. Talk about it. Be vulnerable in front of the people who love you. Not only does telling the story of your baby's life give your baby's life value that people can understand, but sometimes the things that people say in response to your vulnerability is surprisingly refreshing. It's ok to want to be validated.
When I let go of shame and embarrassment and spoke out-loud about my miscarriage, it was more healing than anything else I could have done. Vocalizing what had happened to me and how I felt about it helped me overcome some of the pain. I felt like I was being heard and I didn't have to do it alone.
The first few days I didn't want to talk to anyone because I didn't want to hear other people's tears. I didn't want people crying in front of me. I didn't want extra sadness because I had enough of my own. But when that stage had passed, I knew that I wanted to talk about it. I knew that I didn't want this subject to be off-limits. I knew that I wanted Rory to be loved and known.
It's Not A Total Loss
It was important for me to feel validated in my loss. It was important for me that people understood that I lost a baby. I didn't lose the idea of a baby. My loss wasn't just a pregnancy. I didn't lose the thought of a baby. I lost A BABY. It was important to me for people to acknowledge that. The most painful thing that people could say to me was mentioning the thought of what was going to be. Rory wasn't going to be. He was. My baby wasn't going to be a boy. He was a boy. My baby's name wasn't going to be Rory. His name is Rory. We weren't going to have a baby. We had a baby, I saw him, I touched him, I loved him. I miss him.
There is good news, though.
I haven't completely lost my baby. Neither have you. I don't know what you believe in, but I believe that our souls live on. I believe that God is taking good care of Rory in heaven. What that looks like, I'm not sure. I don't know what to expect when I get to heaven. All I know is that Rory will be there. I may have one son on earth, but I have two sons in God's eyes. One of them I only knew for a moment but I will love him forever and I find joy in knowing that I will see him and hold him again one day. I've only lost my baby temporarily. It's not a total loss.
Things That Helped Me Move On After Miscarriage
This may not be what you want to hear. It may even be the exact thing that you don't want to hear. And that's fine. But I want to tell you what I believe in my heart:
My miscarriage DID happen for a reason. I don't know what the reason is. I probably will never know. I'm sorry, but I refuse to believe that Rory's life and death happened for nothing. There can be a million reasons why or maybe just one. I don't know. The nurse side of me knows that sometimes your body will miscarry because the baby wasn't healthy and your body knew that the pregnancy wasn't viable. The logical side of me knows that sometimes there is no medical reason at all and it is a complete mystery. The spiritual side of me knows that God has a plan for each and every once of us. God's plan doesn't have to make sense to me or anyone else.
My miscarriage taught me a lot. It gave me more of an appreciation for what I already have. It have me more loving eyes for my patients who have suffered from a loss in their past. My heart is more tender with the people I love. I squeeze my son a little tighter each day and I give him a couple extra kisses for Rory every night. Maybe I'll never know Rory's true purpose, but I do know that he left an impact on the world without even taking his first breath. He had purpose and reason. And that helps me heal.
I hope you can find reassurance and healing in this post. If nothing else, you've found a friend who's been in shoes similar to yours and I'm here for you.
If you have experienced loss and you feel lead to help other mothers going through the same thing, feel free to share in the comments what helped you heal. You aren't alone.
“Miscarriages are labor, miscarriages are birth. To consider them less dishonors the woman whose womb has held life, however briefly.” – Kathryn Miller Ridiman
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