What Women Want You to Know About Pregnancy Loss
Mothers share the things that surprised them, grieved them, and helped them during the pain of miscarriage.
I love Chrissy Teigen. No, I don’t know her. She doesn’t know me. But she is smart, and funny, and real. And her suffering right now is a parent's worst nightmare, a loss that is wordless. Her photos and words are raw, beautiful in their humanity, and timeless.
It’s not easy to share this pain with the world at large, but I’m so, so thankful that she chose to. Because we need to normalize talking about this, and recognizing pregnancy loss as being REAL loss. Women need to be able to share their stories, to connect with one another, to speak about these things they hold inside.
If you know more than 4 women, you know someone who’s experienced a pregnancy loss.
I have never suffered a known miscarriage, but I’d like to use my space here to help other women feel less alone. You see, if you know more than 4 women, you know someone who’s experienced a pregnancy loss. You might not know it, but it’s extremely common. I reached out to friends and women in my community to ask them: what do you wish people knew about pregnancy loss? What do you want people to understand? This is what they said.
Miscarriages are common.
My first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage, and I didn’t know that anyone I knew had gone through the same thing. Once I shared what I was going through, friends and family supported me and shared that they had also experienced pregnancy loss. I try to be open about my experiences now so that other women don’t feel alone.
If you’re experiencing miscarriage, you are not alone. Though the most commonly recognized statistics show that around 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage, some studies have shown that the rate of pregnancies ending in full-term birth is much lower. As a culture, building conversation and support for parents experiencing these losses is so important.
There is no comfort in “at least.”
The worst thing people told me was “at least you weren’t that far along”. Yes, it’s true. I wasn’t far along, but we had been trying to get pregnant for over a year, my heart was absolutely broken. I lost a baby, even though it was early. I’m thankful that I have my rainbow baby. But I still have days where I break down and I’m not okay thinking about my loss. Nothing can explain that heartbreak.
Any statement beginning with “at least” is of no comfort to parents experiencing the loss of their baby. Some people offer words like at least you know you can get pregnant, at least you were only three weeks along, or at least you hadn’t had time to get excited yet as attempted silver linings. The reality is that all these words do is downplay people’s pain and ignore the pain, trauma, and deep sense of loss people might be feeling.
My baby was meant to be, their loss was not.
I know what I didn’t want people to say. “ It’s ok you can just have another one!” Or “At least you still have some at home” or “It wasn’t meant to be.” But I wanted THAT baby and no other baby can replace that baby I lost. I just wanted them to simply say they were sorry for my loss and pain. I wish people knew you would cycle through grief and the pain would come and go at the most random times. Each time I passed what would be my due date was so painful!
In times of grief, some people try to offer words of something along the lines of everything happens for a reason. Some miscarriages do happen for a reason, but even knowing why the pregnancy wasn’t viable doesn’t mitigate the heartbreak of losing a baby that was wanted and loved. These losses matter.
I couldn’t stop feeling guilty.
We have suffered a few losses, all early, all hard. The honest to goodness most helpful thing was just knowing other people had gone through this, it helps alleviate the unavoidable sense of guilt. I cried with Chrissy yesterday, a complete stranger I have no connection to - I am so grateful she shared this story. I am so grateful she is being unapologetically sad, we need more of this rawness in our social media.
From outside the situation, it may be obvious that most women experience pregnancy loss by no fault of their own. From the inside, it’s not so cut and dried. Feelings of guilt are extremely common in women who have miscarried. Humans seem hard-wired to search for the whys, especially when bad things happen. Understanding in your mind that something is not your fault is not always the same as understanding it in your heart.
I felt like something was wrong with me.
I watched so many friends, coworkers, and family members get pregnant and it seemed like it was so easy for them. They didn’t wait to announce that they were expecting and none of them ever said anything about having experienced a loss. I couldn’t understand why they got to carry babies and I didn’t, and it made me feel hopeless and alone.
Losing a pregnancy is not abnormal. Women experiencing pregnancy loss are not outliers, and much of the time are able to go on to have full-term pregnancies. Because people don’t talk about it, it can be easy to feel like you are experiencing something other women aren’t, but the reality is that most of the time, nothing is wrong with you. So many women’s experiences highlight the need for more and louder conversation about this.
Early loss is still loss.
Last summer I knew I was pregnant for about a week- I was technically around 5 weeks pregnant when I miscarried. It was awful. Just the hopelessness and sadness. I was so anxious when I started spotting, my husband tried to assure me that it was normal and not to worry. The whole process just showed me how precious pregnancy is. Getting pregnant and staying pregnant can be so difficult. I knew that 1 in 4 pregnancies result in a miscarriage but it was so easy for us the first time.
I can’t imagine the devastation of being halfway through and losing your baby. I’ve been super sad for her since I read her post last night.
It doesn’t matter how far along a pregnancy is when it ends. Having a child is a big decision, and it’s one that many people plan for and look forward to and try for years. No matter how long it’s been since you found out you were pregnant, for many women the excitement, hope, and love for that growing kid are immediate and overpowering.
The hardest part was the next pregnancy.
My first pregnancy was an early loss (6 weeks). The loss itself was hard, because only about 5 people had even known I was pregnant There weren’t a lot of people to talk to about it, and none that had also experienced a loss. I had a gal at work who was 7 months pregnant at the time and it was hard to watch her happiness through my grief.
But honestly, the hardest part was when we got pregnant again. All that joy and anticipation of a baby was sucked out and I was so nervous and anxious that it would happen again, that I didn’t get to enjoy it. It took a long time for either my husband or I to be comfortable with the pregnancy, and even then we were both reserved about it.
The further you get from a loss, the more you learn to live with the pain. Getting pregnant again can be a huge trigger for women who have experienced pregnancy loss. It changes the landscape of feelings and fears related to carrying a baby. Remember that the numbers apply to subsequent pregnancies — at least 25% of pregnant women have experienced a loss in their past.
Sometimes the best thing to do is just listen.
I lost my daughter at 22 weeks 3 days followed by a miscarriage at 15 weeks, then 9 weeks. I felt so bad for her when I saw her post on Instagram. people sometimes say the worst things. I’ve heard it all. It’s better to say nothing, then hurtful comments. If you don’t know what to say to someone, just say you’re sorry for their loss and tell them that you’re there for them in any way they need. Don’t avoid them. Also don’t pretend that it didn’t happen. Let them talk about their baby and what they went though. Sometimes the best thing to do is just listen.
I think it’s human instinct to want to help when someone you care about is in pain. Many times, our brains try to do this by offering words we might find comforting or giving advice. It’s hard to just sit and listen, and offer support in silence, but often it’s the most helpful and supportive thing you can do.
You have to feel your pain.
I can’t say that I wish I knew anything, because it’s been over a year and I’m still processing and waiting for someone to tell me something I wish I knew. It all hurts the same everyday.
The best thing to do is FEEL your pain, in the moment, and as long as you need to. Go through it and grieve as long as you need to, but that’s something I just couldn’t do. I ignored the pain and numbed it multiple ways.
I didn’t care about anything else, I just wanted my baby. (All 3 of them) and up until this day still trying to understand why I wasn’t given that opportunity. I have a 5 year old that constantly asks me when she’s able to have a brother/sister and it just breaks my heart.
I have a friend who lost her husband when her daughter was under two years old, and she has reminded me so many times that you can’t go over it or around it, you just have to go through it. Pain and grief don’t go away, and if you try to ignore them it’s like throwing a blanket over a pile of unfolded laundry. The pile may look different, and you may let yourself believe you’ve forgotten it, but it’s still there.
People grieve differently.
Suffering a loss as a couple is different from going through one alone. My boyfriend didn’t want to talk about the miscarriage at all, and when he was turning inward, I wanted his support. It was hard to feel like he was moving on when I couldn’t. I realize now that we just had to feel our grief differently.
Not talking about something isn’t the same thing as not feeling it. People experience feelings in different ways, and just because their method of coping is different doesn’t mean they’re not having the feelings. Whether it’s within a couple or different women or family members experiencing loss, the grief won’t look the same for everybody. It’s impossible to make assumptions about what someone is going through.
Not all miscarriages are the same.
People make assumptions when you tell them you had a miscarriage, but mine have all been really different. One of them I realized when I started bleeding and having horrible painful cramps. But the next one, everything felt normal but they told me at my 12 week ultrasound there was no heartbeat.
Pregnancy loss is a varied experience. Some women lose their pregnancies before they even found out about them, but realize they’re not just having a normal period. Others lose their babies much further along, at 12 or 18 or 22 weeks. Some women bleed or spot throughout their pregnancies, some don’t. When you find out that someone has experienced a miscarriage, you can’t assume that you know what they’ve gone through physically.
Miscarriage is messy — physically and emotionally.
I have had three miscarriages throughout my life. Each one was difficult in its own ways and circumstances, but the first was very traumatic. I was 14 years old, in a deeply religious family, and miscarried at between 3–4 months along. My family did not know of the pregnancy and I had no medical or emotional support.
The pain and guilt of that loss stayed with me for years. Even to this day, my heart still mourns the loss of Malachi. Not having proper and healthy emotional support for processing that loss broke me in a way that left a huge scar on my heart. I feel that it gave so much weight to the loneliness felt with my future miscarriages. Like they were a secret to be hid and no one should see.
I held a guilt for feeling somehow irresponsible for letting it slip away. Like feeling that the miscarriages were due to my failure and neglect somehow. Even though I cognitively understood that miscarriages are a very common occurrence, those feelings of responsibility overshadowed them. It wasn’t just the feeling of having “a loss”, it was a more active feeling that “it was a loss because I’d lost it”. Does that make sense?
Miscarriages are not discussed in our culture nearly enough. They are often kept in the shadows and the weight is all placed on our broken hearts to carry.
Miscarriages are not discussed in our culture nearly enough. They are often kept in the shadows and the weight is all placed on our broken hearts to carry. In addition to the support needed for the emotional affects, there also needs to be education about the lingering physical affects as well.
Miscarriages are not a simple processes that happens quickly and then its all done. Its not a neat little package you can tie up with a bow. It can take days for the miscarriage to physically happen but also your hormones go completely cattywampus for a long time and this greatly affects your mental state. It wasn’t until my third miscarriage that I even understood that was a part of it. Once I had just that little bit of knowledge, it gave me such a better perspective and compassion for myself. It gave validation to my reality and with that came a power to make it past that point in time.
Not all miscarriages are grieved.
I was around 6 or 7 weeks pregnant when I miscarried, and I didn’t even know I was pregnant. I was not trying to conceive, and neither my husband nor I was ready for a kid. We didn’t grieve our loss, it was just a thing that happened, and that’s okay too.
Some women do not experience immense pain or grief following a pregnancy loss. That doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with them. Everyone has different things going on in their lives, different circumstances, different hopes, and dreams. We experience things differently, that’s one of the things that makes us human. Whether you are devastated or relieved or blasé or sad, you are allowed your feelings.
Pain changes, but it never goes away.
This is a topic that is not talked about nearly enough. It’s every parents worst nightmare. I think the hush-hush attitude, and others not wanting to speak/ask about a lost child can be a heavy burden to carry. It’s a lifetime of pain that never goes away. It does get easier, but it’s always there.
One mother shared that the people saying there would be other babies was the hardest thing for her to cope with:
This has me so emotional right now. It’s the worst experience of many people’s lives, mine included. Even though I have a beautiful rainbow baby now, I still mourn my loss. The worst thing people can say is that there will be other babies. My own parents said that to me even though they experienced a loss before my oldest sister was born.
Not long after mine, I came across this podcast episode about how grief comes in waves, and you never know when another wave will come and knock you down. How you can think you’re finally doing better and moving along in life, then another wave comes. There is so much truth in this. Even though it’s been almost 2 years, seeing Chrissy’s post cause another wave.
A TED talk I heard shortly after was also about grief and that you do not move on from it, you move forward. That is so important. You never forget that baby, they’re always in your heart.
Everything we experience in our lives makes us who we are. Losing a pregnancy becomes a permanent part of your story, the same way having a child does. Grief may shift, fade, or move further from the surface of everyday life, but it never goes away completely.
I want to thank all of the women I spoke with who shared their stories and experiences with me. Every single one of them is contributing to a world where women are able to feel less guilty, less alone, and more loved, heard, and supported when they experience pregnancy loss. If you have experienced a loss, what is something you wish people knew?
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