Written and shared by our guest blogger ~ Namrata Goswami
I’ve had a horrifying experience. It is not easy to talk about it yet, I choose to simply because it’s something that needs to be explained. It’s extremely painful for me and it’ll be very uncomfortable for you. Despite that, I ask you to bear with me, my story of struggle and complete loss of hope. This is a page out of my journey and it is not exclusive to myself. It is a page that many have written in their lives yet choose to hide with a curtain of secrecy. This is my experience of losing our first child through a late miscarriage; a word too awkward to discuss in today’s society. However, in no way could I have imagined that this awkwardness could lead people to such a level of ignorance that thousands suffer in silence daily.
I choose not to dwell on the details of my pregnancy not because I don’t want to but because you can’t handle seeing agony and fear personified as myself though the honest image I’ll create via my words. It’ll break your heart and I choose not to put you through that. But know this; miscarriages and stillbirths are happening as you read this. Maybe to a stranger you don’t know yet or your closest friend. It’s such a random and common occurrence that can even happen with you. I permit you to hate me for having said that but I’m not heartless. In fact, I’m as normal as you are. I never had a tendency of this happening to me. I’m a healthy individual who has her daily chores and duties just like you do.
Have things ever happened ‘out of the blue’ for you? A miscarriage takes that statement to an entirely new level. You cannot bear it; you cannot comprehend it; you cannot control it, yet here you are, nothing more than a disorganized mass of flesh and soul facing this present joke of what they call a life. What makes it worse are the blind perceptions of people and their futile attempts to make you feel better when they’re doing much worse. For some, my child wasn’t ‘real’ since he wasn’t born yet, or still in the process of ‘being made’. You didn’t get a chance to hold him, but I did.
I am that mother who heard her child’s heartbeat, who saw and felt him jumping about in her womb, who cherished his presence, who didn’t sneeze fully in fear that it might disturb her resting child in her tummy. I am also that mother who had to sign her baby’s ‘permission for autopsy’ papers before she even got a chance to hold him. I am that mother who delivered her dead baby in that part of the hospital where you get to hear other babies being born alive; the mother who went back home empty-handed; the one who instead of buying a crib bought a small box to keep whatever little memories and infinite dreams she had gathered over a lifetime. I am the woman you don’t even consider as being a mother since I didn’t have to wake up at odd hours all night to cradle a crying child, or clean his mess. Then what am I? If love is quantifiable by the time spent with the person, then what am I? Do you dare call me only Half a Mother?
A mother isn’t made because of the daily chores to bring up her child. That’s only part of the journey to see this individual you gave birth to grow and blossom. A woman becomes a mother the day she watches her baby on the screen at a doctor’s office. That’s when it becomes ‘real’ for her. So let me request you that whenever you meet somebody going through this experience, and that you will, please don’t ignore them just because of the awkwardness. Talk to them just like you choose to talk to somebody who’s lost a family member. The grief is the same. I tell you that from experience. I am still grieving yet I have this invisible compulsion pushing me to inform you of the various things my loved ones said to me but how my mind perceived it.
This is a very COMMON thing.
It happens to a lot of families. I get to hear this a lot when someone is attempting to console me. My furious mind wonders how cancer occurs quite suddenly too. It is a random mutation of some gene that makes the entire body go haywire. That is quite COMMON too. Imagine the world where people respond with a miffed tone to somebody who just discovered he has cancer as ,”Oh it’s very common. It happens to a lot of families.”
A cancer patient doesn’t know what lies ahead and how much time is left . Having a miscarriage has no guarantees either. You’re clueless on how many times you might have to see your future babies die before you get a ‘viable one’, as they call it. However, cancer patients have hope with a word they call ‘Chemotherapy’. Most of the times it works and sometimes, sadly, it doesn’t. But at least its hope. With a miscarriage, you hear, “Even after all the blood test results, there’s a 90% chance we’ll never know why it happened.” You have people researching for cures to Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis etc. Here is a condition that happens to 1 in every 4 women and nobody is funding research into this mystery. Instead of using the word COMMON as a futile effort to help a bereaved mother , is it not smarter to use it to help address the seriousness of the condition? I fear that someday in the future when miscarriages and stillbirths reach an all-time record high is when people would wake up and smell the coffee.
You’ll get pregnant again.
I’m sure we’ll get to see a happy baby in your arms soon. This is something that comes naturally to people when they want to help a bereaved mother. As much as I appreciate people now for trying to give me hope, it’s my duty to inform you that saying such a thing isn’t the best idea. I remember my mind screaming back, I know, I can get pregnant. That’s not why I’m draining my eyes dry. And no you do not know if I will have a healthy baby again. The fact is that I’m officially in that group of women who do not have successful pregnancies. However, I’m NOT a baby producing machine. I just tried it for the first time and failed at it miserably. My guilt makes it hard for me to breathe and here you are telling me I can do it again. NO, I CAN’T… At least not right now. Getting pregnant is not the difficult part for women like me. It’s the fear of not being able to keep that pregnancy that crushes our soul.
As a friend or family member, it is better to acknowledge the child that has just been lost. You can do that by simply asking what day the baby was due or passed away and just be present on that day. Even after years, these are the dates that could never be forgotten.
When you meet somebody freshly going through such a loss, ask them how they are. They might have a weary smile at first followed by an empty ‘I’m O.K.’, but ask them again how they’re really holding up. Although you can tell a bereaved mother that she can call you whenever she wants to, she’ll never do it. Even if you’re her own sister, mother or best friend. She won’t. Your confusion is valid as to when is the best time to talk to such a couple but there is no ‘best time’ so you might as well do it as often as you can. Be there. Take them out for a coffee. Help them get out of the house and change their routine.
How is she? How’s her health? Take care of her.
Another frequent assumption people make is that it’s only the mother who’s suffering. But no. Her better half suffers just the same. Yes, for a woman it’s a physical ordeal and she does have her challenges cut out with her machine of a body snapping back into action. However, its more of a mental situation than a purely physical one. Ask the father of the child how he’s doing. He’s in pain too. Call him frequently and show him your availability for a beer or just a chat. Help him change his routine. He’s glued to the TV probably to avoid facing the pain.
When you talk to him, first ask him how he’s faring and then ask about his partner . Advice him to talk to his partner constantly and the importance of ‘release’. Men do process it differently, simply because they’re men. The advice on how to handle the relationship at such a time is all they need to know because they’re clueless and in shock. Men have a great ability to shield their emotions by keeping busy with other tasks. But the mother might see that as ignorance. Tell him to explain to her that it’s just a coping mechanism and he feels horrible too. She’ll feel good that he’s sharing a part of himself with her. At the end of the day, it all comes down to communication.
At least you still have another child.
Though I had this experience with my first baby, there are many who experience it after having children. Would you ever go to a person losing their father and say that at least they have their mother or siblings left. It’s unnatural. Yet people say it to a mother who just miscarried and has another child. Why? Please don’t. She’s already going through a heartbreaking ordeal of explaining to her child why his baby brother or sister could no longer come and play. Don’t make it worse for her.
There are numerous other things people say but sometimes it’s just good to say nothing and just be there. Face the uneasiness and act. Don’t just sit around waiting for the bereaved parents to call you one day. Make those calls yourself. No Facebook or WhatsApp communication, please! It’s a huge shock for them; it deserves more attention than a simple text message.
People understand grief when it’s retrospective i.e. when somebody with whom memories were made passes away. However, with a miscarriage or stillbirth, the grief is perspective i.e. of the future with dreams being brutally crushed in an instant. I am here to tell you that this is an equally difficult grief and its exclusive to that select group of people who had to lose a child in such a manner. I’ve lost my first child. He has a name because he existed. Respect him. Acknowledge him. Love him. Pray for him.
Holding your dead child in your arms changes you. When I saw death being so spontaneous looking at it right in the eye, I stopped fearing it. I’ve faced my worst fear and for some reason, I’m still alive. I have a choice to give up on people, on God, and everything that made me who I was prior to the incident or I can choose to accept this new person I’ve been forced to become. My definition of a problem is much different from yours now. You hit your steering wheel in anger when you’re stuck in a traffic jam making a lot of frustrated grunts in the process. I look at you and wonder how immature you are. Traffic jams are a ‘problem’ for you. I look at lucky new moms who complain how their child is so difficult to handle because they act up or throw tantrums all the time. I deal with the craving to have at least one chance to experience that. What I wouldn’t do to have a naughty child who gives me a hard time.
Break the taboo around the silence of miscarriages. Help such a couple when you meet one, and that you will. I am not Half a Mother; I’m more than a mother you might ever meet. For I have loved my baby and lost him. Respect such a woman when you come across one. She’s much wiser than you.
That smile you see on her face isn’t there because she’s healed. It’s there because she’s developing a heart of steel and choosing to exist despite crying herself to sleep every night.
Like most women, I’m handling this loss in silence and reaching deep into my soul to understand what just happened. Though I’m well past the stage of expecting peace in the arms of my loved ones, I pray nobody has to go through what I did. But if somebody does, I wish that the people around them are more sensitive and understanding of the situation.