Coping With the Grief of Recurrent Miscarriage
One in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage. It is the most common complication of pregnancy and can be highly distressing.
Recurrent miscarriage is when you have three or more miscarriages consecutively. It affects about 1% of couples trying for a baby, and can be devastating. Whilst it happens to 1%, it happens to 100% of the person who is going through it, so the statistics can seem of little comfort if it happens to you. To have miscarriage after miscarriage takes its toll emotionally on the individual, and on the couple, as people deal with their loss in different ways. Each time a pregnancy begins it brings new hopes and dreams, but with that comes anxiety about what may happen. And together with all these emotions, may come the feeling that your life is on hold again, and again, and for how long, as you try, and try for a baby.
Recurrent miscarriage often leads to feelings of low self-worth, sadness and depression. Anxiety is often at a high level at this time. These feelings can become worse with each loss. It has been shown that it can help to understand some of the common causes of miscarriage, as this may alleviate some feelings of blame which women sometimes go through. They blame their bodies, their stress levels and their diets. It is important to get support at this time, otherwise these feelings of self-blame and low self-worth can become entrenched. Seeing mothers and fathers everywhere pushing prams and being desperate to join the family “club”, it can feel as if your body is playing a cruel joke on you, as each pregnancy starts then fails. It is so hard for partners as well, as they can feel marginalised, they feel they can’t do very much and they may feel guilty, having to watch from the sidelines, whilst their partner goes through medical procedures and changes in her body.
Surrounding yourselves with understanding people who can support you through these heartbreaking times is vital. It takes about five positive things to offset one thoughtless comment or action, so choose the people you spend time with carefully. Communicate your feelings to those who are close to you, be they family or friends, who don’t seem to be appreciating what you are going through. Sometimes people will find it harder to support you with each miscarriage as they may think that you are getting used to the loss and are more able to cope. People usually know what to say when someone has a serious illness, but because of the mystery, fear and confusion surrounding recurrent miscarriage, often people will avoid the subject, which is tremendously hurtful for the person and her partner. Calmly and firmly explain how you really feel, and hopefully those people will respond positively to your feelings. People have the ability to help or hinder you at this difficult time.
Above all prioritise yourself. Think of one thing that you can do for yourself every day, however small, to nurture yourself. Use the resources out there, such as The Miscarriage Association, and also Relate, if you feel that you need help with your relationship. Sometimes just knowing that you are not alone can help.
Allow yourself time and space to grieve your loss. This can be difficult and complicated, and it could be important to seek specialist help, or not. There are no rules about how you should feel; everyone grieves differently, but it is important to acknowledge your feelings around your loss. It is very common to go through the emotions of bereavement, the sadness, anger, loss, fear, anxiety and guilt, and other feelings. Grief tends to be cumulative, the current loss unearthing the previous losses. This is why self-care is so crucial.
There are many books currently being published on miscarriage, most containing chapters on recurrent miscarriage. An informative and accessible book specifically on the subject and published this year is “Not Broken” by Dr Lora Shahine, director of a recurrent miscarriage clinic in America. She takes inspiration for the book’s title from the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by using lacquer dusted or mixed with gold. As a philosophy it embraces the cracks in the piece as part of the object’s history; to be highlighted not hidden. I would like to end with her words:
“To me this means there is beauty in our flaws, our grief, our experiences, good and bad. We are not broken by our tragedy, our loss, our miscarriages, but made strong by what we learn from them.”
“Embrace the cracks, you are not broken”
The Miscarriage Association
0300 100 1234 Recurrent Miscarriage