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Question of the Month
Miscarriages: I had a miscarriage. My friends say it's no big deal because 1 out of 4 pregnancies end in a miscarriage. I feel like I don't have a right to grieve but I feel so horrible. Am I normal to feel this badly over a miscarriage?

Ann DouglasFrom Ann Douglas . . .

Some people who have not themselves experienced a miscarriage can find it difficult to understand the grief that can be associated with experiencing the death of a baby during the early weeks after conception. (I say "some people" because many others seem to intuitively understand that a miscarriage may be a very significant loss to a woman and her partner and needs to be treated as such.)

Sometimes people mistakenly assume that because a miscarriage happened early on in pregnancy the mother didn't have a chance to become attached to her baby. Nothing could be further from the truth. Studies have shown that parents (and the mother in particular) start to become attached to their baby the moment the pregnancy test becomes positive -- and that the attachment can be significant. What they are grieving when a baby is miscarried is what might have been: all those special times that they were looking forward to sharing with their baby.

The fact that miscarriages are relatively common doesn't take away the fact that you may grieve the death of your baby. That's kind of like saying that you shouldn't grieve the end of a marriage because divorce is relatively common in our society today. Or that you shouldn't grieve when your parents die because everyone's parents are going to die eventually. There's no logic to that argument at all.

With regard to your final question, it's not at all unusual to have a strong grief reaction following a miscarriage. If you feel that your grief is making it difficult for you to move on with your life, you may want to consider speaking to a therapist who specializes in perinatal bereavement (grief issues related to the death of a baby prior to or shortly after birth). Some bereaved parents find this tremendously helpful and healing.

I hope this helps to bring you some peace.
Ann Douglas

Marilyn HeavilinMarilyn Heavilin . . .

You are very normal to have such feelings. When your body starts to form a child, your motherly feelings and instincts also begin to form. When the baby leaves the body early, the feelings are still there. As a mother, you began to love your child, and it is very natural to grieve when the child dies whether it was still in the womb, you got to hold the baby, or the child lived in your home for a length of time.

It is easy for others to claim something is no big deal if they have not experienced such a loss or when they have not allowed themselves to grieve sufficiently over a similar loss.

I would suggest you name this child so that you can speak specifically of this baby and acknowledge its personhood,

Much love,
Marilyn Heavilin

Sherokee IlseSherokee Ilse

When do you remember wanting to have babies? When did you begin to love your future children? Do you remember when you were a little child playing "house?" As you grew did you pick out possible names, ponder your parenting style, make plans for how many children you might have and when? All of this is normal preparation for parenthood and it begins for most of us very early in our lives.

Therefore, it makes sense when a precious wanted baby (even if not wanted exactly at this time) dies in miscarriage that our hearts hurt and grief overcomes us at times. It's not that you were only pregnant for a short time, but rather that this baby due in 6 or 7 months (or whenever) will not be known to you, will not take his or her first steps or say first words in your presence-you will miss all of that. It is about the past preparation and love and the future you had planned and who this little one might have, could have been. Besides, do you only love someone relative to the size of their body or how long you have known them? Surely not, you love them just because. Size or time does not directly relate to degree of love. Love is. It just is.

Of course you have every right to grieve and feel horrible. A precious treasure has died. Your treasure, still being formed, was surely already loved and hoped for.

Don't let your own misconceptions about your rights to grieve and love get in your way. Don't let others' views and judgments keep you from doing what your heart tells you to do.

Don't let society demean the value of this little one.

Let it be, go with the flow, miss your baby as much as you need to. Name him or her if you want. Have a service, even if months or years later, if it would help. Do what you can to make your baby more real to yourself and others if it feels right (this inevitably helps you gain support from some people.) Rituals, names, memories are all things that can give you comfort over time, but don't feel pressure to do any of them if it doesn't seem right. If you spend some quiet time thinking and feeling, I believe you will know what is the right thing to do.

In the meantime, remember this - Your loss and pain IS VALID. Your little one has died prematurely, but your love need not. Hold them close to you always, if you wish. They'll never be replaced and I have a feeling they'll always be remembered.

Love and hugs,
Sherokee Ilse

Laura Randolph . . .

Statistics show that over six million broken bones are reported each year in the United Sates alone. Does the fact that broken bones are common mean that it will not hurt if we break a bone? Unfortunately, no. The same is true of miscarriage. Even if we know the statistics and know there is a possibility of miscarriage that does not guarantee it will not cause a great deal of physical and emotional pain if it does happen.

On the other hand, just as with physical trauma, the response to emotional trauma can vary widely among people. As with any loss, there will be a wide range of reactions to the tragedy. Just because your best friend, your Aunt Mary, or your co-worker says they had a miscarriage and they just went on with life because "lots of people have miscarriages" does not mean you are wrong to be deeply hurt and grieving. I encourage you to get in touch with support groups dealing with miscarriages such as MIS (MIS- Miscarriage, Infant Death and Stillbirth Call: (301)460-6222 for information on groups in your area.) There may be a support group nearby but even if there is not MIS will be able to send you information and possibly support newsletters. Support groups such as MIS and the Support for Losses Forum on StorkNet are great resources and can be very helpful when you feel alone in your pain.

I am sorry for your loss and hope that despite what others may say you allow yourself to grieve and seek out support from those who understand your pain.

Laura Randolph

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