5 things (not) to say to someone who's miscarried.
With hospital pillows propping me up, I looked over at the school-hall style chair by the door in the ward of four. Having been admitted just after midnight, I’d spent restless hours trying to sleep, but all the time knowing what was happening inside my body.
Now looking over at the chair I thought “I want to be that chair, because it doesn’t have to feel anything. Nothing means anything to you if you’re a chair.” I just simply didn’t want to have to feel.
I’d already accepted in the early hours that we’d lost our baby. Or that I had ‘miscarried.’ Somehow it is easier to disconnect from the growing form that had for some reason stopped growing if I say I had a miscarriage, because you don’t risk connecting it to an actual being.
Just three days earlier, Stuart had proposed to me. Happily engaged, I had sat in the hotel restaurant at dinner that evening, wondering in amazement at the sparkly ring I was wearing and revelling in showing off a tummy that was starting to swell in my close-cut dress. Yet now here we were, with a full stop being abruptly put to all that celebration and frivolity.
Coming home from hospital I felt let down by my body, numb and terribly sad.
Over the following weeks, being told ‘It’s so common’ just made me feel worse. Rather than being comforted by those well meaning words, it somehow gave me the impression I shouldn’t feel so bad really, because it happens to lots of women. So what? I’m not lots of women, I’m just me, and telling me that it is common subtly informs me that it shouldn’t matter as much. But it does. It’s a uniquely deep pain, that should never be diminished just because it’s a common occurrence.
A friend innocently asked “Do you think it's something you did?”, as if somehow I’d contributed to the reason I lost the baby. This caused me to question every choice I’d made during those previous few months. I now realise I hadn’t done anything. For reasons we will never know, that pregnancy just wasn’t meant to continue.
Having a miscarriage is like planning the trip of a lifetime only to have it cancelled overnight, with no reason given by the travel operator you’d booked it with. Of course, there may be chances for future trips, but you were really bloody looking forward to this one.
I found having a miscarriage to be quite a unique experience. You’re essentially in mourning and in grief, but it’s so often not a tangible experience for others to ‘get’. And in many ways, it’s unfair to expect others to get it. It’s an intimate process that’s most likely very privately happening while the rest of the world selfishly keeps on turning.
However, my Mom was someone who did just get it. She kept a check on me without smothering, seeming to understand the sadness without me needing to spell it out. This was my second miscarriage and when I told her I simply couldn't face the prospect of trying for another baby for the fear of ever having to go through this again, her reply?
"Never say never". I think that she must have known there really wasn't any more that could, or should, be said.
Because, whilst I can tell you what not to say, unfortunately there aren’t really any words you can offer a couple who have miscarried that will soften the blow. But here's the thing; you don't need to.
Simply acknowledging it has happened is key. You're awkwardness around the subject won't compare with the sadness they are likely feeling. So ask them how they are feeling. Their response could range from a brief "yeah, I'm fine" to an emotional outpouring (or something in between the two) but the important part here is that you've asked. This act of kindness won't go unnoticed.
They don’t need to be buoyed by “Well at least you know you can get pregnant” or “At least you weren’t too far along” (a crushing, pointless statement). They just need to know you are there for them, feeling their loss and accepting of how they need to deal with it. No diminishing it with cheery encouragement for “next time.” They just need to feel seen and cared for.
If miscarriage is something you have been unfortunate to experience, are there any more what not to say's you would add? Or maybe there were certain actions or words from others that you found to be comforting in some way.
Please share in the comments below so we can help and support each other.