Child Loss & Grief

Baby Loss Awareness – What Not to Say to a Woman Who’s Had a Miscarriage

Rhiannon  |   8 Apr 2020

Baby loss affects so many around the world and this pain can feel so isolating and unbearable. Our aim is to tell other peoples’ stories, to get people talking and to raise awareness. The feelings you’re having matter and they’re normal. This week we spoke to Rhiannon, who has a blog called ‘The Mother of All Secrets’. Rhiannon highlights how women are made to feel like their despair and bereavement is measured on a sliding scale, when asked how far along they were in their pregnancy, for example. Hear what Rhiannon has to say from personal experience.

Over to Rhiannon… | @themotherofallsecrets

Have you had a miscarriage? Do you know someone who has?

The most recent statistics suggest a quarter of all women have experienced a miscarriage. An estimated 1 in 50 will have had two and 1 in 100 will have had three or more. Despite this, when I experienced my first loss, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you the name of anyone I knew who’d gone through it. But, as I cried into my friend’s blouse or explained my absence to colleagues, it turns out I knew quite a few women who understood exactly what I was going through; they’d just never felt comfortable talking about it.

All the women I spoke to had lost their baby in the first twelve weeks. And, as is tradition, most of them had not shared their happy news yet; making it all the more difficult to share the unhappy news.

Women are made to feel as though a loss of a baby before twelve weeks should in some way be expected and it is immensely unfair to think that this expectation should moderate their sense of loss.

Finding out I was pregnant, the first time, was one of the happiest moments of my life. I was going to be a mother! I had put my hand to my belly, where I roughly guessed my uterus was and promised to look after him/her forever. In the short time we got to enjoy this status, we made plans, talked about names, we even went to a baby shop and looked at prams. Just because we could. I was so bl***y excited.

This is what is lost when someone loses a baby: a future, a version of it anyway – an imagined and hoped for version. You also lose an innocence. The next positive test is a more cautious one, the pregnancy a little more anxious. You are afraid because something you hadn’t even thought about before has now become a reality for you.

What is not helpful is to ask a woman how many weeks along she was.

Why does it matter? By asking the question, there is a suggestion that there is an answer that isn’t sad. The loss of a baby, one that had been wanted and wished for, no matter how far along, is sad. As such, people have the right to grieve and they should not be afraid to express that grief to others or feel the need to justify it by providing a number. I am not saying that as weeks go by, that the loss is not exponentially worse, but I am saying the loss is all on a scale where the starting point is already incredibly sad.

It is also not helpful to say something along the lines of, ‘twenty years ago, you wouldn’t have even known’.  Science has come a long way, very quickly, and it may well be true that years ago a home test would not have been sophisticated enough to confirm early pregnancy. But so what? What on earth is someone supposed to do with that sentence? We live in this time, with this science and these tests. You can’t un-know something, and for me, I knew because I’m regular; I knew because, by the time I fell pregnant, I was familiar with my cycle in intimate detail. If you’re trying, even if you don’t know for sure, you still think you do.

What would be helpful, is to simply say you’re sorry for their loss.

That is all, because there are no words other than this that can help at that moment. It’s not original, but it is the only appropriate thing to say. Before it happened to me, I don’t know what I would have said. I can’t know I would have said the right thing. But now that it has, I at least know some of the things you shouldn’t say. To many, miscarriage is just a word. It is something you will never experience, but, for those that do, please try to remember all of what the word means – not just the number of cells, not just the number of weeks but the fact that someone who was celebrating the thought of becoming a parent is no longer.

In case you missed @mrskmeaks personal story on recurrent baby loss, you can read it here.

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