Here’s a tough topic that many people don’t like to talk about: pregnancy loss. In many ways, it’s still very much a taboo subject, despite a growing movement to destigmatize miscarriage. The truth is that roughly one in four women will lose a pregnancy at least once in their lives. And because there’s so much secrecy surrounding miscarriage, many women suffer through it alone.
No two losses are the same. That’s because no two pregnancies, no two babies, and no two women are the same. But there are commonalities that unite mothers—both in their sadness, and in their healing.
We reached out to 30 women from across Canada to find out, in their own words, what helped them get through their miscarriage to find some of peace on the other side of their grief.
Connecting online with other women who have lost a pregnancy “Finding forums online with women who were going through the same experience as me. I didn't think to do it after my first miscarriage, and I really struggled with depression due to loneliness and a sense of isolation. The second time, finding a community of people who knew what I was going through helped me so much, just because I didn't feel as alone, and because I felt like I could share my sadness and fears with people who really, truly understood what I was going through.”
“If I didn’t have my online village, I don’t know who I would have turned to.”
“Honestly, just talking about it like it wasn’t taboo helped. Also, finding people who had gone through the same thing through support groups online (the only thing available at the time in my area). Until then, I had no idea that it was so common.”
Talking openly with friends and family about the loss “I lost two pregnancies. After the first, none of my friends or family talked to me about it, or asked how I was doing. I think they were worried about upsetting me. After my second, and I let them know how alienated I felt, like I was grieving for my babies alone. Suddenly, I was overwhelmed with support. It’s like they were waiting for me to say it was okay to talk about it, and I felt like a weight had been lifted.”
“Letting it out, not holding anything it, crying until I couldn't cry anymore, and talking like it’s a normal thing. Sharing: ‘Yes. I lost a baby.’ You'd be shocked how many people can relate to you when you open up.”
Finding support groups in the community “I have never experienced a loss of my own. But I have been walking the journey with my best mommy friend who lost her little boy last year. I quickly realized after talking to her … that there is very little support for moms who have had miscarriages or infant loss. So this spurred me to contact my church about hosting a small group where moms who have gone through such a loss could get together in a safe environment and talk with people who have been through what they have, and to learn ways to cope on a daily, monthly, yearly basis. I think every community should have such a support group, as it’s seem to be such a silent suffering to so many.
Having friends who check in, even if it’s uncomfortable “Friends purposely asking how I am doing, despite the awkwardness that those conversations can bring. I find that people tend to avoid sensitive subjects like death, illness and pregnancy loss. I loved when friends provided me space to voice my feelings.”
“Asking how I am, regardless of how awkward it is. Listening without judgment or advice. Providing time to heal. Another helpful item was pregnant friends being conscious of our loss but not treating us differently.”
Acting as a support for women also going through a loss “It helped me most being able to share my story with friends, and prepare them for when they went through it. After I had three losses in a row I told all my closest friends and shortly after, two of them had losses too. They came right to me to talk about it and ask questions because they knew I had been through it. Sharing my story made me feel less alone, and helping them made me feel like there was some purpose to what happened to me.”
Kind words from a compassionate doctor “Something my doctor said to me made a huge difference: That your body knows when something isn't right, and it's not anything I did. Nothing was wrong with me, just that this baby was not meant to be. The ‘not meant to be’ part really eased my guilt over it. I am really thankful for how she handled that loss with me, calling me at home to make sure I was doing okay and easing my worries.”
“My OB was fantastic. Called me every week after my blood work, after hours and from home, to give me the results and to see how I was. He also made a point to schedule appointments in his office for first thing (in the morning) so I wouldn’t be in the waiting room with new babies or pregnant women. A thoughtful gesture like that made things so much easier and I really appreciated them anticipating my feelings.”
“One of the things that really help me with one of my first miscarriages was an emergency doctor who told me that our bodies are an amazing thing. They are smart and protective. They know when things are not right, and in that case, there may have been something wrong. I was also comforted a couple years later by a doctor who had confirmed yet another loss of mine. He made sure I had the support that I really needed, and that I knew and understood that it wasn’t anything that I was doing wrong.”
Memory items “The best thing for me was a pendant I received with the baby’s birthstone on it. I wore it religiously for a long time. So I still had this tangible thing that I could carry with me every day. When I felt stronger, it would just hang on my dresser. When I needed to, I wore it. When we got pregnant again I wore it in our pregnancy announcement pictures. Maybe it’s not for everyone but it’s one of my most prized possessions.”
“My teddy. I was given it at the hospital. To start, it was just something to hold and cuddle and cry into. I have told it all the hopes and dreams I had for the daughter I lost. It was there for me to yell at and talk to when I couldn't do that to anyone else. It now watches over my daughter.”
“I knit a tiny little red heart that sits on my mantle. I love to knit anyways, and physically making and having something that is a keepsake of the baby, for me, is very therapeutic. What I was worried about most was forgetting the baby. Like they didn’t exist. So having something I can see and hold means a lot to me.”
“At Christmas, we put up ornaments up for each of the babies we lost. We have Baby’s First Christmas ornaments for each of our daughters, and our angel babies have a place on our tree, too. It makes me feel like they are still here with us, like they are still members of our family—even if they’re only here in spirit.”
Gifts of food “My friend sent an edible arrangement and it was such a thoughtful thing to do.”
“My best friend's husband—he's the cook in their family—sent me two weeks of frozen meals. He did the same when my daughter was born. It was super thoughtful, and a life saver.”
“Connecting with a local support group was life changing for me. They gave me the courage to say her name, and think and talk about her without guilt.”
Memorial tattoos “I just got a tattoo on my arm, and it’s got my three kids’ names and birth dates, each in a heart. Above it I have a set of wings, and they wrap around the sides of two of the hearts, and it says ‘RIP angels’ with the dates that we found out we miscarried.”
“Getting my tattoo helped. It gave me a way to always have her in my arms even if I couldn't hold her there.”
Laughter “It sounds strange, but finding a way to laugh afterwards helped me. We came home from the hospital and I felt so shell shocked and I just wanted to crawl into bed and never come out. But we sat on the couch and my husband put on an episode of 30 Rock that we had on the PVR, and at some point I laughed out loud and I remember thinking, OK, maybe I'll get through this and feel normal again some day.”
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