Miscarriages are never easy. Whether it’s a chemical miscarriage or a late miscarriage, the pain can be equal: it’s devastating and heartbreaking. Perinatal losses aren’t talked about as much as baby loss and it’s because we have this cultural narrative ingrained in us that says, “don’t announce your pregnancy until 12 weeks” and “miscarriages are quite common” (so therefore your experience is discounted) and “it was too early to even be considered a real pregnancy.”
Many women suffer in silence. They use these narratives to wipe away their loss and their pain. They use it to try and make sense of their experience. Often, the miscarriage goes unacknowledged and is swept under the carpet as a secret.
So what happens when she becomes pregnant again? How does she deal with the fear? How is she supposed to handle it? That previous miscarriage comes out from under the carpet but now it’s unrecognizable: it’s morphed from the unprocessed feelings and is riddled with fear and pain.
I’ll note here: if you’re anything like me and have been vocal about your losses, the fear is still there with each pregnancy. But I believe unacknowledged losses make for harder, next pregnancies.
When I told my husband I was pregnant for the third time, he had no excitement and I took offense. He looked me in the eye and said, “What I hear when you say you’re pregnant is “miscarriage, life destroyed and rebuilding our lives for the next six months.”” Truly, deep down though, I couldn’t blame him; we had both lost the joy that comes from creating Life. Fear had replaced any of the happiness that should’ve been there. I remember telling my step-mother about one of my pregnancies and she told me, “don’t get your hopes up.” Even my family had lost the joy and faith in my body’s abilities. (PS. This is something you should NEVER say to someone!)
So how can we support a friend who’s pregnant after a miscarriage?
- Simply ask how you can support her.
Ask your friend what you can do for her. She will probably be fear focused and unable to see reason or logic. But there’s no such thing as reason or logic when you’re so scared to lose another life growing within your body. Maybe she’ll respond with nothing. Maybe she’ll say, just listen when I need to voice my fears. “How can I best support you right now?” is the BEST thing you could say. You can treat the pregnancy like any other and offer “Congratulations” too!
- Don’t offer bumper sticker clichés.
Saying things like, “everything happens for a reason” and “just relax” don’t help. Oftentimes there’s no sense behind miscarriages so generalized clichés don’t work. Most of the time, when we are discussing the pregnancy, we aren’t looking for advice: we want an ear, not a voice. Just listen and support. Don’t judge. The Fear is leading the way and it won’t budge for anyone.
- Offer Comfort
You can offer comfort. You can say things like, “I’m here for you however you need me.” You can check in weekly or daily and see how she is feeling. You can offer to bring her things she may need. You can offer books that may help ease her fears/concerns. You can distract her with walks and outings. You can talk about the previous loss in ways that honour baby. Comfort her with words of love and kindness, not disbelief and negativity!
- Don’t Make Promises You Can’t Keep
There’s a fine line between being positive and being unrealistic. Saying things like, “this one will take” or “this is the one” is declaring the un-declarable. You don’t actually know if this one will talk or if this is the one so don’t give false hope to her. You can promise to stand by her throughout everything. You can promise to pray for a healthy pregnancy and baby. You can promise to wipe her tears if another miscarriage happens. You can promise to listen. You can promise to be a good friend.
- Take a Cue from Her
Maybe she likes to be informed on science-based information. Maybe she likes to watch documentaries. Read her cues: perhaps sending her information on miscarriage anxiety from a university study is something she would appreciate. Maybe a new documentary on parenting in other cultures is something she’d like. Maybe she mentions she’s researching foods and supplements to help prevent miscarriage. You could buy her some. Maybe she doesn’t want to talk about it at all, so don’t bring it up until she does. She is trying to navigate emotional stability alongside fear and bonding with a new Life growing within her body. Her hormones are changing and her body is most likely in a ‘fight or flight’ mode. Read her body language. Take her cues.
Pregnancy after loss is a scary, unstable place to be. You want to bond with baby but you’re scared. Walls are erected to protect your heart but your heart races and eyes fill when you see that flicker of heartbeat on the ultrasound screen. It doesn’t feel real so you don’t let it become real until it’s “safe” (which for some can be at birth!). Our tribe is so important during those early weeks; we need support and comfort and a safe place to vent the fears that are consuming us. We need our friends to be excited for us, to be there for us and to be there when it could go awry. Using these five ways, I think you’ll be offering beautiful support to your friend.
United, we rise,