Several years ago I had a miscarriage during the last week of May – right before my birthday in early June. One of my friends family members recently had a miscarriage, and started sharing about her experience several days ago. For the first time, since I miscarried, I hadn’t realised it was my Miscarriage Anniversary this week.
Right after I miscarried I remember the whirlwind of emotions and thoughts I went through:
~I’m young & healthy, why did this happen to me?
~I did ‘everything right’ why did this happen to me?
~Will I ever be able to get pregnant?
~Will I miscarry again?
~Will I ever have children?
~What did I do wrong?
These thoughts added a lot of pain and sadness to my life. However what felt worse, at the time, were the reactions I had to navigate through:
~Oh, miscarriage is normal, you told everyone about the pregnancy too early anyway, you’ll be fine
~You can always try again
~Things will work out, don’t worry
~But you are so young
~I am so sad for you, are you going to try again?
Now I am writing from my personal experience. So if you’ve had a miscarriage and don’t agree with something I’ve said, that is fine, I am not trying to set any golden rules….just trying to make this a topic that is not taboo, and also help people understand how to communicate with someone who’s just miscarried.
1) You’ll be fine/It’ll be fine/Don’t worry:
This is not helpful. You do not know how to tell the future. In fact you don’t know if everything is going to be fine. And it might not be fine. And thats ok too. But saying this doesn’t give any comfort, in fact it adds to the stress level of the woman who’s just miscarried, and probably wondering herself if ‘everything will be ok’.
2) You can always try again:
I remember right after I miscarried – there was a flood of fluid, liquids, and tissues streaming from me 24/7. This continued for about 1 1/2 months. I was ‘lucky’ according to a nurse, because I successfully passed everything on my own. Sometimes, however, women have to use medical assistance to get the ‘remains’ of their pregnancy removed. This procedure can be painful, and traumatic – and there is no way to prepare yourself for that experience. Chances are, right after you miscarry, that you won’t want to think about sex. In fact I remember not looking at my vagina or body for about a month. I wanted to numb myself and separate myself from everything I was feeling. I drank heavily, and cried a lot. I didn’t shower unless I had to. I didn’t leave my apartment unless I had to take my dog out. Luckily I had the support of friends and family to get me through that difficult time. Needless to say ‘Trying Again’ is not what is on someones mind right after this happens. And I wouldn’t bring it up unless, please, unless the person who has miscarried talks about it first. And even then, don’t make promises or predict the future, just remind them you are there to support and love them.
And that is the general theme I want to convey. Don’t predict the future, don’t tell them how sad you are -because they are definitely experiencing more sadness than you in this moment- don’t make any promises about kids/pregnancy/fertility. Just be there for them. If someone isn’t ready to talk, chances are after you say “I love you, and I am here to support you however you need” they will reply “thank you.” Done. Conversation over. When they are ready to talk they will start asking questions or sharing their ideas with you.
The only thing better than saying ‘I love you and I am here to support you however you need’ is to share your personal story. I remember, after I miscarried, how alone I felt. Like there was something wrong with me, or that this was a dirty secret that no one could know. Then my students, colleagues, friends, family, even friends of friends started reaching out to me and sharing their stories. Only then did I realise how common this was and how I WAS NOT ALONE. Reading “30% of women go through miscarriage” doesn’t hold the same truth as dozens of women and men approaching you, or writing you about their experience(s). I felt like I wasn’t alone not only in numbers but also in spirit. There were people from all walks of life with a story like mine and I felt empowered to carry on and continue with rebuilding myself back to a place where I could live life again.
Here is my story:
I was sitting with a friend at a restaurant when I felt something unusual. I went to the bathroom only to retreat immediately as I saw blood in the toilet. We called the hospital and they told me to come in. I changed out of my clothes, into sweats, and jumped in the car with my friend.
After sitting in the waiting room of the emergency room for a while I was finally admitted. I spent hours just sitting in a bed alone. Finally I was taken downstairs for an ultrasound, and work up. The nurse forgot me down there, and I waited alone for what felt like hours in an empty hospital wing.
I was finally brought back to the main room where my friend came to sit with me. I remember the doctor asked me about dates and times. And I couldn’t even remember what day it was. I said something and they told me the news that I was in fact miscarrying, and that the pregnancy had stopped developing after several weeks. I was heartbroken. I remember having this weird thought pounding in my skull “How can I fix this?”
Once I was home I showered. It was early in the morning – around 2 am. I remember thinking I should do yoga. It wasn’t because I thought I would enjoy it. It was a part of my ‘routine’. This is what I did every morning. I do yoga. Thats normal right? This is normal right? Everything is going to be ok right?
As I started to practice I noticed I had positioned myself with modified form, suited for someone who was still pregnant. I stepped my feet back together. Back to my ‘normal’ form. As I inhaled I reached for the sky. As I exhaled I folded forward for the ground. Then I felt it. My belly. Like a saggy water ballon getting pinched by my sweat pants. I stopped myself. I stood up again. Time to engage my bandhas – a hollowing out of the abdomen after an exhale. As I inhaled I reached for the sky. As I exhaled I engaged and folded for the earth – I am empty.
Two breathes later I was sobbing silently. My breath moving with my body. One breath. One movement. Like a clumsy dancing elephant I did yoga. I would get into a flow, only to have a snapshot in my mind pull me back to what was, and that flow started pouring from my eyes instead of out through my practice. I felt heavy and empty and alone.
From there I showered, and checked the time. It was early, but not too early. I called my friend and told them the news – I had miscarried.