Friday, October 12, 2012

5 Minute Fridays: I am a Habitual Aborter (otherwise known as Recurrent Pregnancy Loss)

photos via here and here

There. I've said it. I am a habitual aborter. At least, that is what it says in my medical chart. I had my fourth miscarriage a few weeks ago. It sucks. We told very few people we were pregnant. "I don't want to jinx it this time," I told my husband.  Having to go un-tell people is awful.

I hate when people feel sorry for me.  I feel like it is my pain and they are somehow not entitled to be sad for me. Being sad for me inevitably leads to awkward silence. Or worse, the "comforting" things people say when they don't know what to say. "You should be more grateful for the children you have." "Maybe it's God's way of telling you that you shouldn't have anymore." "Infertility and miscarriage are natural selection." "It is usually a chromosome issue. It's better you lost the baby now." "Don't worry, you'll have another." "You'll see those babies in heaven." I've lost track of all the truly hurtful things people have said to us in their quest to say something comforting. There are also the people who just avoid you because they don't know what to say. Some people pretend nothing ever happened. That's painful too. That's why we just stopped telling people whenever I'm pregnant.

Even more, I want people to feel sorry with us. The feelings of loneliness can be overwhelming for those experiencing the loss of a pregnancy. They feel as if no one can understand how much they hurt or how much they miss that little baby-even though it was only a part of their world for a few short weeks.  Studies have shown that the grief experienced in a miscarriage is just as intense as someone losing a loved one. Because that baby is a loved one. And to lose a baby is a very isolating experience.

So what can you do to help? Be informed! Become educated about infant/child & pregnancy loss. In fact, October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month. Here are a few resources:

The Compassionate Friends
Miscarriage Support
The truths about grieving a miscarriage or infant loss
Coping as a couple after a loss

Here are my tips from personal experience:

1. Don't just assume because it is not talked about it's not happening. 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage (that's over 600,000 in a year).  1% of couples suffer recurrent miscarriage (defined as 2 or more losses in a row). 1 in every 148 babies is stillborn. 3 in 1000 babies dies shortly after birth. 27,864 infants die every year before their first birthday.

2. Don't assume because those who experienced the loss are not talking about it that they are over it. In fact, for a more accurate list of the do's and don'ts I recommend reading this article.

3. Don't forget that loss affects both mother and father. See this essay from and OB regarding his personal experience with miscarriage.

4. Don't say "comforting" things. Honestly, the brutal truth is that nothing you say right now is going to make the hurt less. But not saying anything can make it hurt more. Just say you are sorry.

5. Grieve with us, not for us. Acknowledge that sometimes life just sucks. If you don't know what to say, just say so! And then share your time lending an ear or a helping hand. Share a meal. Call, write and basically be a good friend.  Do something thoughtful that shows your love. After our 3rd miscarriage my best friend (who, unfortunately, has also experienced more than her fair share of miscarriages) sent me a pinata filled with candy. She sent it "just in case I needed to hit something". It was the best thing anyone could have done.

6. And to those of you who have suffered, please know you are not alone! I'm suffering right along with you as are many others out there. You are not alone.

Lastly, I just want explain why now? Why am I coming forward to share our experiences in such a public way now? The answer is simple and honest.

I am tired of this being "our little secret". 

It's not that we planned it that way, we just felt we didn't have support. Emotionally we couldn't handle the stigma. And I don't want others to feel that way. Pregnancy loss is not something to be ashamed about. I feel like talking about it now will help me get over the stigma surrounding it. And maybe in sharing our story I've helped you too.

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