It’s May, (I know, how did that happen?!) and that means it’s Mother’s Day here in North America and that can bring up ALL KINDS of complex stories, unresolved grief, and old wounds.
- What happens if you choose not to be a mom?
- What happens if you can’t get pregnant? (and you can’t afford other options)
- What happens if you choose to terminate your pregnancy?
- Or if you miscarry?
- If you do choose motherhood what happens if your postpartum experience isn’t blissfully bonding with your baby in a haze of love and euphoria?
- Or you haven’t mastered attachment parenting, preparing your own organic baby food, and creating a sensory rich environment?
- Or all the experiences reflected back at you in books, TV, and parenting websites are those of wealthy white women and don’t look anything like your reality?
It seems like everyone has very BIG opinions about what you should (or shouldn’t) be doing with your “one wild and precious life”. (Mary Oliver) ‘Oh, but you’d be THE BEST mom!’ or ‘Just sleep when the baby sleeps!’ or ‘Maybe he’s just hungry, have you tried feeding him?’ People are always happy to share their best unsolicited advice.
That can leave us feeling judged, not good enough, and afraid to share our honest, unfiltered everyday lives.
This is especially true when it comes to miscarriage, a topic these fears have kept in the dark for too long.
“Saying that I was miscarrying felt like too much information – trying to become a mom, failing at it – wrapped in one little word.” – Christina Escobar
While miscarriage isn’t something I’ve personally experienced I know that “shame exists in secrecy, silence and judgement.” (Brené Brown) And the only way we begin to heal that shame (and guilt, and grief) is by bringing it into the light and into our heartspace.
If you’ve navigated miscarriage yourself or you know someone who has, keep reading because the more we know and share the less we have to suffer alone.
“Yet despite the staggering commonality of this pain, the conversation remains taboo, riddled with (unwarranted) shame and perpetuating a cycle of solitary mourning.
Some have bravely shared their stories, they have opened the door, knowing that when one person speaks truth it gives license for all of us to do the same.” – Meghan Markle
First things first … the facts.
>> up to 20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage
>> the risk of miscarriage is 40% higher for Black women than white women (yes, systemic racism exists in healthcare too)
>> women who miscarry are at a higher risk for depression, anxiety, PTSD and suicide (they need our love and support!)
>> 47% of women report feeling guilty about their miscarriage
>> 41% of women report feeling alone after miscarriage
“Miscarriage is lonely, painful and demoralizing. [When we speak out about it] it just makes people feel less alone. My miscarriage wrecked me and I had the most supportive friends and the best doctors.” – Michelle Obama
Even though the statistics can seem a little startling…there’s hope. More and more governments are recognizing the grief that comes with miscarriage. New Zealand was recently applauded for giving women 3 days paid leave after miscarriage at any stage of pregnancy and even in cases of adoption or surrogacy.
Given the prevalence of miscarriage, it’s great to see governments stepping up to help out. As individuals, we can all support the women in our lives who experience miscarriage so they know they’re not alone, it’s not their fault, and we see and honour their grief.
If someone you know experiences miscarriage…
Don’t minimize their experience.
In so many of the stories I read, women heard things like, “At least you know you can get pregnant” or “You can always try again”. If a friend invites you into the pain of their miscarriage don’t offer silver linings to their devastation. Be present and hold space for them. Acknowledge their feelings and offer comfort and support.
“There were a lot of people who didn’t know how to handle it because it’s a different type of grief, it’s a different type of – I guess I’ll say death, because it’s not someone you knew. It was the grief of a dream.” – Stefania Patrizio
Don’t shift the focus.
This is something we all (myself included) need to work on. When a friend shares their loss with you don’t respond with a story from your life. Whether that’s your own experience with miscarriage or another type of loss.
What every griever needs is a safe space to let it all out. Time to sort through their feelings, to be deeply heard and met with empathy as they bring the most tender parts of themselves to you. Give them time to talk and process it all while you simply ‘shut up and listen’.
Keep checking in.
You know from your own experience with grief that it comes in waves. One day you’re doing okay and the next you’re texting someone to bring you more kleenex and chocolate. Grief doesn’t have a timeline and all we can do is keep gently showing up for the people we care about. A simple text will suffice to let them know you’re thinking of them while also giving them space to process their emotions.
Deal with your own grief.
When someone else shares their pain with us it can bring up our own complicated histories with grief and trauma. Their fresh pain + your remembered pain can be overwhelming and even re-traumatizing. The best thing we can do to support those we love and be the person who can hold space for others is to heal ourselves.
Be a heart with ears.
I’m convinced empathy is a superpower. And it’s a skill we can all learn with a little practice. Empathy begins with listening, leaning into the uncomfortable feelings, and being willing to sit there holding the hand of the person who’s grieving without trying to “fix” anything. Grievers want to share their story, to be heard, so again I’ll lovingly say ‘shut up and listen.’
Even when everything goes right…be supportive.
After my friend had her rainbow baby (a healthy baby after miscarriage) she suffered from post-partum depression. She told me about this weeks later and I felt like a horrible friend because I didn’t pick up on any of the signs earlier.
Yep, I needed to take my own advice. Realize it’s not about me and honour her tender vulnerability with empathy and gratitude that she felt safe enough to share it with me in her own time.
Caring for one another when we’re grieving means showing up with courage, vulnerability, and empathy. It can feel awkward and uncomfortable but we can do it. We are each other’s greatest resource and comfort when faced with grief, miscarriage, post-partum depression, and this life-altering pandemic.
I know reaching out can feel scary and vulnerable. If you want someone to walk through your grief with you, I’m here. Send me an email to hello @ innertravelcoaching . com. Or schedule a time for us to meet here.
p.s. If you want to keep reading…
Chrissy Teigan beautifully opens up about her miscarriage here. And Alanis Morissette candidly discusses miscarriage, parenting and post-partum depression here. I’d love for you to join me on Instagram where I’ll be sharing books by BIPOC authors that share an experience of motherhood that we all need to hear.