miscarriage… an often overlooked or minimized loss

February 12, 2010

I had a professor who had done his doctoral project on miscarriage—after going through a miscarriage with his wife and discovering that there was very little support or acknowledgment for an event that, for he and his wife, had proven very difficult.

A recent blog post by wholeselfcoach on her own miscarriage caught my attention in being both lyrically accepting and also raw in her honesty about the sobbing feelings of loss.

My sense is that miscarriage tends to be deeply felt by expectant mothers while being minimized by our society in general—a discordance that may make healing harder for women who lose a pregnancy.

Miscarriage is a very personal, and often a highly private loss.  While there may be a tendency to trust that things are meant to be, for a woman who terribly wants a child, the loss of a pregnancy can be devastating, sometimes bringing fears that pregnancy itself is not meant to be… and sometimes this turns out to be the case.  Thus a miscarriage (and especially multiple miscarriages) can have a profound effect on a woman’s destiny, as well as her identity as a mother.

Sometimes there is a sense of shame around a miscarriage, as if the woman has failed, let down her spouse, parents, in-laws, children who want a sibling and/or friends who may have been excited to throw a baby shower and celebrate.  Of course there is no shame in a miscarriage, but logic and emotion are not always the best of friends.  In miscarriage, as in any painful situation, accurately understanding the unique emotions of the person going through the experience is a reasonably good way to love and support them.  Telling someone, for example, that you are sure that it will work next time cannot possibly comfort them (unless you have fabulous psychic abilities) as we cannot know such things and it may feel to them like you are negating and shutting down their fears, grief or even anger.

Miscarriage can be an awkward subject for friends and relatives, as people may feel unsure about what to say.  Perhaps just asking with an open heart how a persona is doing, and then really listening to what they say, while leaving them space to say little or nothing, is a way to be bravely loving in the face of squirmy emotions.  Certainly doctors seem to minimize emotions and stick to the facts, which may leave some women feeling like they are being overly dramatic if they allow their real feelings to show.

Another factor that I wonder about is that in pro-choice circles there may be some unconscious pressure not to make a big deal about miscarriage because this might be akin to suggesting that a fetus is a human life in a way that supports a pro-life position.  These are tricky waters, but my point is that women who lose a pregnancy may feel a powerful sense of loss, even when they trust that the pregnancy was either not healthy or just not meant to be.  Just because a woman chooses to terminate a pregnancy doesn’t mean she is blithely unaffected by her decision and may carry a sense of hurt and loss along with a decision that she trusts is ultimately for the best; a sense of profound hurt and loss may be all the more trenchant when a woman loses a pregnancy that she wanted to keep.  Many women who valued, and exercised, their right to choose may also feel haunted even by a decision they know was right for them and which they stand firmly by.  The road not taken, and the road taken from us, both have ways of piercing us to the core and lingering in our melancholy minds.  It serves us to keep in mind the importance of the opposites in individuation; in this case the simultaneous opposites of something being both right (or at least unavoidable) and at the same time powerfully painful may be central to an authentic healing process.

One final factor to keep in mind around miscarriage may be its impact on children already in our families, as well as on children that may come later.  Perhaps mom and/or dad go into a depression—then the attention, secure base and mirroring for an existing child may diminish, leaving that child with fear or wounds of his or her own, and perhaps growing ambivalence about having a sibling.

In exploring one’s own feelings about miscarriage it also serves us to think about, perhaps sleuth around and ask some questions, whether our own mothers had any miscarriages either before or after ourselves.  Miscarriage, for example, may create anxiety and fear for the next pregnancy, which in turn may affect a child’s development in utero; but it may also relate to depression that comes on out of our unconscious, dredged up from the depths by some uncanny parallel between our unrealized past and a miscarriage at present.

So, in closing let’s dedicate today to compassion and love for those who have miscarried, whether this means one’s self, partners, friends, parents or children, keeping things authentic, even if they are painful—in the service of all our collective children,

Namaste, Bruce

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

BigLittleWolf February 12, 2010 at 7:35 am

An important (and kind) post for those who have lived this, and rarely – if ever – had the pain and ghosts acknowledged.

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Amber February 12, 2010 at 8:18 am

I have had so many friends suffer through miscarriage alone. I often feel survivor’s guilt because my fertility is off the wall and they struggle with getting–and staying–pregnant (make sense?).

Yes, we do need to take care of those that miscarry. Theirs is an unrecognized loss.

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Alana February 12, 2010 at 10:44 pm

Thank you – for the reference and this beautiful, thoughtful post.

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Alana September 1, 2010 at 10:39 pm

Bruce – I just wanted to let you know that I have shared this post many times over. Thank you again for writing it.

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privilegeofparenting September 2, 2010 at 7:15 am

Hi Alana, I’m sorry that it has been needed that much, but I appreciate you letting me know it could be of even fleeting comfort. All Good Wishes

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