When I experienced my first miscarriage over Christmas 2017, it came as a huge surprise and I found myself wholly underprepared…
I’ve since learned that about 1 in 4 pregnancies don’t carry to full term and end in an early miscarriage which is a really shocking figure…
And I know that miscarriage is a very personal and sensitive subject, which people often prefer to keep to themselves.
But I also just can’t get away from the feeling that if I’d already known some of the stuff I’ve learned now, then perhaps the whole ordeal might have been a little less stressful. And that’s why I’m choosing to write about the subject so regularly here in this space…
So here are the 10 things I wish I’d been told about miscarriage before it happened to me:
1.Miscarriage isn’t always a very sudden or instant thing
I know this is how it usually comes across in TV shows and the movies, but this is the very same Hollywood that makes it seem like you can have a baby in ten minutes too!
But the truth is that sometimes the body moves slowly… My first miscarriage unfolded naturally, and very gradually, dragging on for a whole, entire month… which is pretty emotionally draining. But sometimes a D&C procedure just isn’t a safe or recommended option.
And even if physically speaking, your miscarriage is over quite quickly, you should still be prepared for the emotional recovery to take a little bit longer…
2. Early miscarriage loss is just as valid as any other
It can be easy for those who have never experienced an early miscarriage before to think that it isn’t that big a deal; after all it’s really just the body’s natural way of dealing with a pregnancy that isn’t healthy.
But the truth is that any type of miscarriage is a still a loss, and not being pregnant for very long doesn’t make the disappointment any less real. Because chances are that as soon as you saw those little lines on a pregnancy test, everything changed in an instant.
And regardless of how short a time you’ve actually known that you’re pregnant for, there’s still a very real sense of disappointment over dreams already mentally made, and sadness over the loss of a life that might have been.
3. It’s okay to not be okay for a while
It’s so tempting to try to be a hero, to want to look like you’re holding it all together, and to act like nothing has happened; but it has. And just because not many people know about your pregnancy doesn’t alter that fact.
And I get it, because I absolutely felt that way too. I just wanted to draw a line with a bad experience, to move on from what had happened, and to have another baby as quickly as possible…
But the truth is that suppressing your negative feelings is not a quick route to emotional healing. And you will almost certainly need to give yourself some time to process what has happened, and to grieve that sense of loss.
So be prepared to slow the pace of life down a bit, give yourself permission to free up your calendar a little and to cancel unnecessary commitments. Take some time off work (your employer should support this) or out your regular routine, and allow yourself some space to begin to physically and emotionally heal.
4. Like any form of grief, processing a miscarriage can happen in phases
Shock, numbness, disbelief, anger, disappointment, sadness, and just bucket loads of tears … And this list isn’t exhaustive or written in any particular order, since there’s no one ‘right way’ to process your loss.
But my advice is to be extra kind to yourself for a while and practice lots of good self care; make sure you eat well, exercise, sleep enough, get plenty of fresh air, treat yourself lots, listen to what your body and emotions are trying to tell you, and spend time with the people you love.
5. Talk to other women who have been there before
I know its not something you always feel like right away, but once you’re ready, try to share what’s happened with some close friends and family. Because I really don’t think we were created to deal with loss in isolation; it’s just too heavy a load to lift on your own.
And personally, I found talking to other women in my life who had been through something similar one of the single, most healing things of all.
It’s amazing to hear others say, ‘Me too. I’ve been there too. It’s hard, it’s unfair and life really sucks right now, but it won’t be this way forever.’ Suddenly you’re not so alone with all your questions and worries…
And if you don’t have those women around you, in your immediate circle, why not look online for a blog or support group instead?
6. Be prepared that grief can come in waves.
Grief is a process, but it’s definitely not a linear one with a clear start and finish point. So even when you think that you are over your loss, sometimes unexpected moments knock you sideways again…
Things like small, unintended comments from a work colleague about when you are having another child, or a friend’s unexpected 12 week healthy scan photo suddenly appearing on facebook.
The truth is that all kinds of unexpected things can come up from nowhere, which insensitively press on your pain again and leave you in floods of tears – even months and months later.
So just be prepared that it will be like this for a while, but trust me, the sting will lessen over time…
7. It’s good to talk …
Another aspect of miscarriage that I really wasn’t prepared for was the extra emotional stress and pressure that it can place on your relationship.
You may find that you have some very different feelings, reactions, and ways of processing your loss to your partner, but it’s good to talk about it together as a couple as well.
For example, I am an external processor who likes to talk out loud about everything as it happens, but my husband is much more of a quiet reflector who didn’t want to hear minute by minute updates. But it didn’t mean that he wasn’t hurting or didn’t care.
In fact, I don’t think I’m being too dramatic when I say that how you handle something like this, can literally make or break your relationship. So don’t shut each other out, or struggle on alone; it’s always good to talk. And just because it’s a well worn phrase, doesn’t make it any less true.
8. It can help to find a way to process your emotions
Whether it’s talking to a counsellor, or regularly journalling about how you feel, or something else entirely … it can really help to find a specific tool or outlet for exploring your emotions and regularly expressing how you feel.
I don’t fully understand it, but there’s just something about writing them down on paper, or speaking them out loud, which just helps with the processing. It’s actually the reason why I first began blogging about the issue.
9. Be prepared for your recovery to take a few months
Most medical professionals will tell you that there’s no reason why you can’t go on to get pregnant again as soon as you feel ready after a miscarriage. But in reality, most women I have spoken to about their experiences say that it’s actually taken about 3-6 months for their bodies to fully heal and for their fertility to return.
So don’t feel pressurised to rush right back into having another baby very quickly, as your body may well not be ready, and that dynamic of trying to get pregnant but failing to, can just add on another layer of stress.
10. You don’t have to accept those well-meaning but unhelpful platitudes
There’s just something about our pain that raises some difficult questions which demand to be listened to, and held, and wrestled with for a while. Questions like: ‘Why did this happen to me?’, ‘Did I do something wrong?’ and ‘Where is God in my pain?’
But sometimes people can be so keen to just sweep them under the carpet quickly, with well-meaning but unhelpful platitudes like: ‘It just wasn’t meant to be’, ‘It will happen at the right time’, or perhaps worst of all, ‘It’s all part of God’s plan’.
And honestly, I think that most of it is rubbish and you don’t have to take it on board. Yes, I believe that God is sovereign, and that good can eventually come out of anything. But I don’t believe that miscarriage is ever a part of His will, because how could that be so? Can a God of love be the source of death or suffering or pain? Personally, I think this is just lazy theology.
The truth is that life doesn’t always go the way that it’s meant to, and sometimes really awful, unexplainable things happen…
In summary …
… So there it is; my list of the ten things I wish I’d known at the start of my miscarriage journey.
But it’s by absolutely no means an exhaustive one, so if you have any other comments or suggestions to share, I’d really love to hear them …