Thursday, 5 November 2009

10 things you should never say to a woman who miscarried

Inspired by Nikki's meme on teenage motherhood. I created this list based on my own experiences, as well as asking other mums who have miscarried. Obviously each person is a little different, and often what made a difference WHO said it.*

1. It was probably for the best.
No matter what the circumstances of the pregnancy, miscarriage is still a loss and deserves the dignity of any other death.

2. Miscarriages are really, really, common. Then list all the people you know who have a had a miscarriage.
Lots of bad things are really common, but that doesn't make the pain go away. The only person this is likely to be comforting from is a woman's doctor otherwise it just feels like her experience just doesn't matter.

3. You should have taken better care of yourself.
Nothing like telling the woman who has miscarried that she did something to end her own baby's life. Babies are born to women who smoke, drink, or have too much coffee as well as to women who do all the things considered healthy for the growing fetus. Both groups of women also miscarry. Why should your words confirm the self-condemnation and uncertainty the woman is already feeling?

4. It wasn't really a baby yet/was likely deformed.
This may be true but it is no comfort to hear it. Women want to believe it was a perfect baby, and that's who they are grieving for.

5. Nothing
Even saying 'I don't know what to say' is far, far better than not saying anything at all. For a start it is something honest and also acknowledges what happened.

6. At least you weren't further along in your pregnancy.
Women often start bonding with their baby quite early on in their pregnancy. So it doesn't really matter if it happens a few days after the positive pregnancy test or at week 19, miscarriage sucks.

7. You've already got healthy children.
For me, one of the most painful experiences of the last few months has been watching The Child interact with babies and toddlers. I immediately wonder about that sibling she won't meet.

8. At least you can get pregnant.
Whilst I'll freely acknowledge that infertility sucks, surely people get that the goal of pregnancy isn't simply a positive pregnancy test but a baby at the end of it?

9. Everything will be fine next time.

Actually you don't know if it will be fine. If there is one thing I've learned in this crazy procreation process, it's that so much of it is really up to chance. Hearing false platitudes makes those who go onto have more miscarriages feel miserable.

10. You can always try again.
This may be true. Remember, though, that the woman was anticipating the birth of this child. Some women may feel that the best way to get over a miscarriage is to start trying again immediately and that's ok. But 'trying again' can also be terrifying knowing that you could easily go through another miscarriage or something worse. As for me, I'm following the adage that you are ready to start trying again when you aren't looking to replace the baby you lost.

And in case you are wondering what to say "I'm so sorry" is always a safe bet.

As is:

* I've been thinking about you and hope you are doing ok.
* Acknowledging the baby.
* Telling her about your own miscarriage. Tell her the things that helped you--they are very likely to help her, and even if they don't, she will appreciate the sentiment.
* And the big one: talking about the pregnancy if the woman brings it up. Just because the pregnancy ended in tragedy doesn't mean it was any less of a pregnancy. There is nothing worse than sitting around and hearing other women talk about their pregnancies and have people uncomfortably change the subject when you talk about the 2 months you spent chucking as if NOTHING happened.

Any other suggestions?


Azlemed said...

I agree with so much of what you have written, having a miscarriage is horrid, you do start bonding as soon as you get the wee positive line on the pee stick. And the attitude that it was deformed or not meant to be is just yucky to deal with. Esp if like in my case it wasnt going to be a baby because it was ectopic.

as for trying to have another baby again, it doesnt replace the one you lost... it never can, its always going to be its own wee person.

thanks ex expat for being so open. D

Nikki said...

Good shit Expat. Well. Not good shit that you had a miscarriage (oooo first foot in mouth!) but thanks for providing a list of things to say for gumbies like me who just have no idea.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for having written this. I'm so sorry for your loss.

Christina said...

your list made me cry. I miscarried three weeks ago, after 9 weeks of pregnancy, three years of trying and one failed IVF. I still can't believe how much it hurts. I had actually started to accept that I wasn't going to be able to have a baby, which somehow makes many of those comments seem even more cruel.

Anonymous said...

The first thing that comes to mind for me is 'I have no idea how you're feeling right now but it must be awful.' I only found out about your loss after you went home from the baby shower the other week. As a mother I've had nightmares about losing my child. I spent the first two years of his life sleeping with the light on(the proper light, not a nightlight) just in case he died.

People who claim you don't bond early are talking rubbish. I KNEW I was pregnant even though the first test came back negative because I just knew that he was there. The reason why I didn't have an abortion even though it would have been the more sensible decision was because I had already bonded with him before the test came back positive.

One of my aunts had a miscarraige. It was buried on my grandmothers farm and my cousins always tend the grave. They consider it as much a sibling as the ones that are still alive. (I can't remember its name but then I can't remember all the names of the live ones either)


homepaddock said...

" It was probably for the best."

When people said it was better my sons died I wanted to ask, "If this is better, how bad would worse be?"

The ex-expat said...

Christina now I'm crying too. I can't even begin to imagine how you must be feeling. *Hugs*

Homepaddock the 'for the best' is the comment that really grates on me the most because it minimizes grief as something inconsequential when it really is quite overwhelming at times. Our 'for the best' came from a psychologist (for the child) but she should have bloody well known better than to say something like that to The Suit.

Craig Ranapia said...

In my experience, the only useful thing you can say to a woman who miscarried is "How you take your tea, and would you like a biscuit." Then STFU and let her talk as little, or as much, and on whatever subject, she wants.

Otherwise, my ill-informed medical advice, fake psychic predictions and life coaching is neither welcome nor required.

Craig Ranapia said...

Oh, and here's something else that really fucks me off -- and I think it applies to grief and bereavement in general.

You just have a good cry.

Oh, fuck off. People trying to process the complex and contradictory emotions around death and loss don't need to have the extra burden of wondering if they're expressing their emotions "approprately". Just because you're not weeping hysterically doesn't mean you're somehow heartless or emotionally defective.

Boganette said...

I think that's a really important point Craig. My sister had a really hard time after her miscarriage. I was shocked by how cruel people could be (whether they meant to be or not). They also wanted her to act a certain way. They wanted her to stop crying and 'go back to normal' after a week.

Christina said...

Thanks ex-expat (hugs back to you too), and here's one more for your list - "It's not the end of the world" (what my mum said when I told her). I didn't really know how to respond to that!

Craig Ranapia said...

"It's not the end of the world" (what my mum said when I told her). I didn't really know how to respond to that!

That it felt pretty damn close to the end of your world for you?