One in four pregnancies end in miscarriage.
Almost every article I have read about miscarriages, and believe me I have read a lot, mention that statistic somewhere in the first few lines. But I think it bears repeating – one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage.
The reason I think it is worth emphasising is that despite the fact that miscarriages are happening all the time, they are still rarely discussed. We are told to keep our pregnancies secret for the first trimester in case anything goes wrong, and so when it does, we feel that we can’t talk about it.
In February last year, my first pregnancy joined that statistic of one in four and I found the culture of silence around miscarriage suffocating. One of the consequences of miscarriage being pushed into the shadows is that many people don’t know how to talk about it. I found many well-meaning loved ones tried to be supportive, but couldn’t quite find the right words. So if you know someone who has had a miscarriage, here are a few things to avoid saying and a few suggestions of what to say instead.
1. “Don’t worry, you’ll fall pregnant again”
It is true that one of the concerns with miscarriage, especially when it is your first pregnancy, is that you will never have that longed-for baby. However, in the immediate aftermath of a miscarriage you aren’t thinking about falling pregnant again. To me, what I had lost wasn’t a pregnancy, but my baby. It may have been a baby that no one else saw or felt, or even knew existed until it was gone, but it was a baby to me all the same. In those early days, the idea of falling pregnant again almost felt like a betrayal to my baby. To me, saying I would get pregnant again so soon after the miscarriage was akin to if my husband had died and people were saying “don’t worry, you’ll get married again” at the funeral – you just wouldn’t do it.
2. “You can always have another baby”
This is a different version of saying you’ll fall pregnant again. But they don’t want another baby, they want this baby and they need to be given the space to grieve the loss of this baby.
3, “It wasn’t mean to be”
This one always baffled me. Why isn’t it meant to be? Why were women all around me having babies left, right and centre and yet mine wasn’t meant to be? I was also told that perhaps my body wasn’t ready yet and this was a way of preparing it. Comments like that can just compound the feelings of failure, and perhaps even guilt, that the woman is already likely feeling.
4. “At least you didn’t know your baby”
There is no doubt that the pain of a miscarriage in no way compares to the pain parents must feel after losing a baby they have held in their arms, but that doesn’t make the pain any less real. You may think it wasn’t a real baby yet, that it was just a cluster of cells, and technically you may be right. But I know for me, as soon as I found out I was pregnant, I loved that baby with my heart and soul and when I miscarried, I not only lost a pregnancy but the dreams I had for the future.
5. “Don’t worry, I know a woman who had 5 miscarriages and she went on to have 3 kids”
While it may feel like sharing this story is a way of showing that there is still hope, to me it just freaked me out even more. My miscarriage was traumatic enough and the thought of having to go through it multiple time before having a baby was enough to give me a panic attack.
So what should you say? For me, the greatest comfort I received was from those who acknowledged that I had lost a baby. Acknowledge that the baby was real and so too is the loss. Give them time to grieve, to talk and to cry. Reassure her that it wasn’t her fault. Most importantly, just be there for your loved one. It can be hard to understand the magnitude of grief a woman (and her partner) can feel after a miscarriage – I know I didn’t until I went through it myself – but even if you don’t understand, just being there and listening can make the world of difference.