Pregnancy Loss and Miscarriage: When It Happens to You

sad bereaved couple huggingPregnancy loss and miscarriage are not common topics of conversation. Our society doesn’t like to talk about when a baby dies early in pregnancy. We don’t talk about the panic and fear that arise when you see blood that’s not supposed to be there. We aren’t prepared for how to handle the heartbreak that comes when the doctor says, “I’m sorry. We can’t find a heartbeat.”

Mothers aren’t supposed to have to be prepared for these moments. Babies don’t die. Parents are supposed to die before their children. This is the 21st century; babies don’t still die in pregnancy or at birth.

Except yes, they do.

Babies die and leave behind heartbroken, bewildered parents every day. Often, these parents are left floundering in the silence and discomfort following the loss of their baby early in pregnancy.

Here are a few basic rights of parents who experience early pregnancy loss:

1. You Have the Right to Grieve

There is no right or wrong when it comes to grief after a baby dies in pregnancy. Some people feel immense grief and loss. Some feel relieved. Some feel sad. Some feel numb. Some feel a mix of all of the above. In still other instances, postpartum depression or postpartum psychosis might set in. No matter how far along or how early in pregnancy your baby died, you are allowed to feel whatever you feel, and seek help for any mental health issues that arise.

When you experience an early pregnancy loss, it is common to feel like no one wants to talk about it or to feel like people want to you to be “over it” in a matter of days or weeks. You don’t have to be over it on their time frame, and you are allowed to talk about it.

Length of life isn’t necessarily equal to depth of love. Just because a baby lives only a few weeks during pregnancy doesn’t mean that he or she is less loved than a baby who lives to birth. Love and attachment can be formed in a moment. It can be formed long before a baby is conceived.

It isn’t just a “fetus” or “tissue” that dies in miscarriage—it’s a baby, and the entire lifetime that was envisioned and dreamt for that baby. You are allowed to grieve for your baby and the entirety of the life you won’t get to share with him or her.

Length of life isn’t necessarily equal to depth of love. Just because a baby lives only a few weeks during pregnancy doesn’t mean that he or she is less loved than a baby who lives to birth.

2. You Are Allowed to Name Your Baby

I sometimes hear people say that they couldn’t name their baby because it was too early to know the sex. Regardless of when your baby died, naming your baby can be very healing and can be a sweet way to honor his or her life, however brief it may have been.

Some people like to choose gender-neutral names. Others prefer to simply decide whether their baby was a boy or girl. Some say they suspected their baby would have been one or the other, then name the baby accordingly. Others have sweet nicknames for their baby during pregnancy, such as “pumpkin” or “peanut” or “little one,” and choose to make that their child’s name.

Whether you had an ectopic pregnancy or your baby died at six weeks, 10 weeks, or later, you are allowed to give the baby a name if you want to do so. Your baby lived, and you have the right to acknowledge him or her.

3. You Are Allowed to Talk about Your Grief without Worrying about Others’ Reactions

Often, parents who have experienced an early miscarriage find it difficult to talk about their grief, sadness, and loss because they say it makes other people uncomfortable.

Here’s what I tell people I counsel about that: Other people’s reactions and discomfort are none of your business.

If you need to talk, talk. If you need to cry, cry. If you need to be angry, be angry. If you need a hug, ask for a hug. If you need to be alone, be alone. If you need company, ask for company. If you think therapy would support your healing, contact a therapist.

People will have their own reactions based on their own personal stuff. If they react poorly to your feelings or needs, it is not about you. Perhaps more importantly, it does not make your feelings or needs wrong. It just means they aren’t the people to support you in that moment. Find someone else who can and will.

4. You Are Allowed to Call Yourself a Mother or Father

The moment you loved your baby and planned a life with him or her, you became a mother/father. No one can take that gift away from you, not even death. You will always be the mother or father to your baby. The way your role of mother or father plays out in this life with this baby will be different than you wanted or anticipated, but that doesn’t change the fact you are a mother or father.

There are many different aspects and nuances to living after your baby dies in pregnancy—too many to be named or discussed fully in a brief article. In the end, it comes down to this: You are allowed to grieve—and to grieve in whatever way helps you move forward.

Your baby’s life matters. You matter. This is the foundation of anything that comes after loss.

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The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Annie

    Annie

    July 2nd, 2015 at 8:15 AM

    You never think that this could happen to you until it does and your entire world falls apart. You feel as if people are looking at you and thinking that you need to get over it and try again but what if you don’t think that you can ever even think about trying again? The pain is so great and the fear is huge that even if you successfully get pregnant again that you will lose this one and have to go through it all again.

  • Keb

    Keb

    April 28th, 2018 at 3:19 PM

    Wow annie what you wrote finally made me feel normal i feel just the same! No one gets it not family / hubby. Im so scared now to relive it!

  • Caroline

    Caroline

    July 3rd, 2015 at 6:59 AM

    Such a sad, sad thing when this happens to a family.
    The loss that you feel when you lose a child is something that will never go away, but I think that if you take the time to grieve and allow yourself that time, then you can feel happiness in your life again.
    It might not be immediate, but it can happen, slowly and eventually. That does not mean that you forget your loss, but there will be a day when it is more sweet than sad.

  • Tim

    Tim

    July 4th, 2015 at 7:27 AM

    When my wife and I experienced this loss, not only did it feel like we had lost the only child that we would ever have, but it felt like we were losing our marriage right along with it. She thought that I was trying to get over it too quickly and I felt like she only wanted to wallow in self pity and grief for far too long.
    Ultimately we were both wrong. I should have let her have the time that she needed and she could let me grieve and get through it in a way that felt right for me.
    there are no right and wrong ways to go through something like this, but there is a better way, and that is acknowledging the pain and working on this not only on your own but understanding that you too have to work on it together.

  • Andrea

    Andrea

    July 6th, 2015 at 12:09 AM

    This happened to me a few years ago and I’ve never dealt with it, and now I am starting to. Weird thing happened this weekend I met a random lady who said she had an ability to receive messages from people who have passed, well she randomly said to me “you had a miscarriage” and she told me the baby was a boy… it was to early for me and was not able to find out the sex of the baby… crazy things happen. But it kind of made me feel comfort wether she was legit or not

  • rebecca

    rebecca

    July 6th, 2015 at 1:58 AM

    I didn’t have a loss thru pregnancy, I lost my baby girl when she was born, aged 9 weeks, from trisomy 18 aka Edwards syndrome. The feeling of loss is incredibly strong, no parent should lose a child before them. From experience, while this only happened to me in January 2014, no one can tell you how to grieve, you need to do that itself everyday you feel like god just take me to be with them, but it does get easier, not the way that you will forget them, but to remember them. Some days will get harder than others, but your baby wouldn’t wanna see you sad. 😢 I went on to have my rainbow baby a lb and he keeps us strong. You can see a resemblance of my daughter in him and in our hearts she will forever live on. Fly high baby girl love you poppy xxx, love you lots mummy and daddy and to all the other baby angels took to soon rip lil ones.

  • joel m

    joel m

    July 6th, 2015 at 6:44 AM

    The pain and sadness are both so real, so tangible, and yet I think that more people think of the loss of the mother and not so much the dad. But believe me, the hurt is there for the men too, and even though we could express it in a different way, that doesn’t mean that we are feeling that way too.

  • Cyndi

    Cyndi

    July 7th, 2015 at 11:30 AM

    This is such an emotional time and experience for any couple or family having to live through it. It isn’t right to make them feel any worse about this loss than you would for any other loss that they have been through. They should be allowed the freedom to grieve just like any parent who has lost a child, and should be given the same comfort that other parents are offered at times of loss such as this.

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