You are not alone- Why I talk about miscarriage - Helen Massy
Why I talk about Miscarriage
Guest Blogger: Helen Massy
In the UK, there are approximately 250,000 miscarriages each year. One in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage. It is the most common complication of pregnancy. Despite knowing the statistics of how common it is, and understanding all the risks, it doesn’t make it any less painful when it happens to you. I say this, not as a medical and health writer, but as one of those statistics.
Why talk about it?
I have never shied away from talking about the two miscarriages I experienced and have always been an advocate of Baby Loss Awareness Week. After the first miscarriage, I was shocked to find that many of the women I reached out to, people close to me, had also suffered a pregnancy loss themselves – but I never knew. It remains a taboo subject making it a very lonely and isolating experience. Yet when discussions open up, it seems like we have all faced similar challenges; lack of awareness, lack of support, and being left to cope on your own. I don’t want anyone to feel the isolation that pregnancy and baby loss can bring.
It can be an incredibly difficult topic to talk about, and for many affected it may be hard to listen to others due to their own painful memories. However, it’s important to realise that it is ok to feel uncomfortable. It’s ok not to know what to say. There are no right words to say, and no one can truly understand other individual’s experiences, but being there to listen is an essential part of support. Just because it is painful doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about it.
It helps to be cautious.
It’s natural to want to offer a ray of hope to a grieving parent. Despite being meant with the best intentions, phrases like ‘you can try again’ and ‘you’ll have another baby’ are meant to be supportive but are sometimes not helpful. Although there is light at the end of the tunnel for many women, not everyone goes on to have their rainbow baby. However, this isn’t meant to scare anyone into thinking you may say the wrong thing. Believe me, it is better to say something than nothing. Just listening is a good way to show your support. If you are not sure what to say, then be open about that. Ask questions about what the parents want to talk about or how they want to refer to the baby. With pregnancy and baby loss being very different for everyone, and happening at very different stages, some people may have named their baby, but some people won’t have. Just follow the parent’s lead, listen to their wording, and be open to discussing a difficult topic. Simply saying ‘I’m sorry’ is the best place to start.
The Miscarriage Association has made a fantastic guide entitled ‘Supporting someone you know,’ which is really helpful if you are not sure how to support someone close to you going through pregnancy or baby loss.
The problem with the unknown.
No one prepares you for what it will feel like, look like, or what you will experience during a miscarriage. I know that isn’t easy, as everyone’s experience is very different, but a little guidance would have been welcome. Personally, I was shocked. The length of time, the ‘contractions,’ the pain, and the volume of blood were just a few of the things that I was not prepared for. The only support being a kind nurse at the end of a phone stating to reach out for help if the blood loss became too much – but how much is too much? What is normal? How long will it last? What will happen afterward? So many questions are racing around when you are in the middle of experiencing a whirlwind of painful emotions. The taboo nature of the whole experience means that you don’t really process any of it properly.
Despite seeing medical professionals leading up to the miscarriage, and being told it would likely happen, we were given no information, making it much harder. Thankfully, resources are improving, and the Miscarriage Association has a page on its website about what to expect during the physical process. Tommy’s is another website with some excellent resources like ‘what happens to my body during a miscarriage?‘ There are also personal accounts on their websites that may be useful to read. This awareness is vital to help people know what to expect. I had no idea what was going to happen.
Both my miscarriages were very different, and the first was incomplete. In total, I went through six weeks of natural management until it was all over—six full weeks. The length of time, and anguish that came with it, was another thing that I wasn’t expecting. I wasn’t signposted to any support or resources, and I wish I had been. Some wonderful charities offer a wealth of support for anyone experiencing miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, or stillbirth, including:
I was made to feel that I just had to quietly get on with it because it is common. Now I know that this is not necessary. If you are going through this alone, please reach out to the associations above for support. You can find contact details for helplines, online chat, email support, support groups, and out-of-hours support on their websites. Please remember that you are not alone.
Don’t forget about Dads, partners, and significant others.
Pregnancy and baby loss is hugely distressing for both partners. You both suffer a painful loss. Sometimes partners get overlooked, and sometimes it can be hard to know how to support each other. Partners Too is a useful leaflet that talks about some of the difficult emotions you are both experiencing. It talks about the strain a miscarriage can have on your relationship and how to cope with it. Things to expect and how to support each other. It also has useful sections on the added problems same-sex and transgender couples may face and how to deal with them.
Partners can be the forgotten grievers. Although their trauma is not physical, it is still just as distressing, and partners often feel removed from the situation. The added pressures of masculinity mean that men can feel under pressure to be strong for their partner – ignoring their own feelings. Sands United FC was put together to help fathers grieve and find support after baby loss. It offers a unique way for Dads to feel at ease when talking about their grief through their shared love of playing football. When I saw this football team on the news, it highlighted to me how partners are often overlooked. Sands United FC are setting up more teams around the UK to help bereaved families, raise funds for the charity, and help break the silence around baby loss. They are giving a voice to Dads, partners, and families all over the country.
Why is Baby Loss Awareness Week important?
All these vital resources are why Baby Loss Awareness Week is so important. It helps people to come together. It lets those affected by pregnancy and baby loss know that they are not alone. It helps people find the support they need. Sometimes, just hearing the experiences of others can lead to someone reaching out. With the added strain of the coronavirus pandemic, feelings of isolation after experiencing a pregnancy or baby loss are all the more exacerbated. Baby Loss Awareness Week is a time to unite, to stand in solidarity, and a time for bereaved families to commemorate their babies’ lives. It’s time to break the silence.
At 7 pm on Thursday, 15th October, thousands of people will light a candle, to stand together and honour every life lost too soon in the Wave of Light.
If you are lighting a candle and feel scared, alone, or isolated, please reach out for support.
We all stand together – you are not alone.
With thanks to our guest blogger Helen Massy: