Of course, during National Infertility Awareness Week and a pandemic, I have a miscarriage. One in eight women has infertility in various forms. A miscarriage is not infertility, but a lot of people experiencing infertility also experience miscarriages.
The women I have met from the infertility community are some of the best people I know. Some of us speak about it openly, and some of us do not. We are all different people. I cannot speak for all of these women. I do not pretend to do so. I am speaking of my own raw experiences, thoughts, and feelings. Perhaps this article will offer some suggestions on how to comfort a friend or help remind someone that they are not alone in this already isolating time.
The pandemic, and efforts to flatten the curve, can make fertility issues more challenging. Treatments to assist in becoming pregnant are postponed. For me, social distancing feels incredibly isolating during this miscarriage. In the best of times, it is common to blame yourself, as I know from my own past experience. Did I drink too much caffeine? Did I eat too much junk and not enough protein? Did I not get enough sleep? (None of that is the reason. I know that. But goodness – that guilt is a hard feeling to shake.)
Everything is hard right now with the social distancing and even harder while going through a miscarriage. It is hard to be quarantined with my best friend when I feel like my body has not only failed my baby and disappointed me (again) but also crushed his hopes and dreams.
It is hard to let my seven year old see my sadness without showing too much emotion because it worries him that I am sick with the coronavirus. It is hard not to feel guilty about letting my child spend an entire day looking at a screen. It is hard to take care of myself. It is hard not to feel bad about work that I am not doing when I can barely keep from crying for more than ten minutes.
This is especially true when I am working hard to make sure my bosses know I am not taking advantage of the flexible work from home hours. It is hard (impossible?) to tell people the disappointing news when I have not even told them the good and exciting news in the first place.
Honestly, I just want to hide from the world and let my grief and loss of hope swallow me whole.
But that would be the worst thing for me to do. I need to reach out. But finding the strength to reach out is difficult. Finding that strength requires additional and intentional acts while practicing social distancing.
Picking up the phone to call or text someone when I do not have anything new to say but my sadness is overwhelming feels too hard. Waiting for a return text is excruciating. Not being able to see someone’s face react is unbearable. I cannot tell if I am intruding on their time or if they think I am being overly dramatic because, after all, I was only four weeks pregnant and just had the positive pregnancy test three days ago. (Pregnancy loss at any stage can be devastating. I know this, but it feels like my loss is not big enough for the heavy grief I feel.)
What helps me is knowing others care and love me. It is easier when that comes without me initiating the contact. But it also feels weird because I do not want to say it or talk about it. I definitely do not want to be asked how I am or how I am feeling. The truthful answer is that I do not have the energy to construct a response that is both sincere and socially appropriate.
Because it is hard to say, I have a friend that is spreading the word for me. This is super helpful and maybe the kindest way people are helping me. It feels pathetic and weak that I cannot (won’t?) tell people on my own. (It is not.) It feels like too much to ask of someone. (It is not. My friend is happy to help me.) It creates this feeling of awkwardness, not with my friend, but with those who likely know. My friend has told others that this is not a secret. The more love and support I have, the less likely I am to isolate and sink into my grief. This is also why I generally tell people about my pregnancies before I reach the magical 12th week. But that also means that I have no idea who knows which makes me uncomfortable. The silence when I am pretty sure someone knows is so uncomfortable and awkward. I am sure it is for them, too. Adding that messages of support are welcomed has helped with this.
I realize these complex and sometimes seemingly contradictory needs and wants are confusing and probably daunting for someone that wants to support me or someone else. It is confusing for me, too. (I was tempted to apologize here, but I am working on not apologizing unless I actively do something for which I need to apologize.) This is as simple as I can make it: If someone you love or care about is or has suffered a miscarriage let them know how you feel about them.
Clichés and platitudes do not help especially if the person hearing them does not believe or feel they are true in that specific moment. Recently, someone told me that my baby is in a better place. While I understand the sentiment, I immediately thought, “What place is better than in my arms?” Nowhere is better. None of this makes sense or is fair. That is uncomfortable for us all, but these sentiments do not always help and can make things worse.
What helps me is when my friends clearly say that a response is not needed, acknowledge my loss, express their love, and offer specific help. I feel especially loved when they offer something they know I like (a favorite drink/snack or pictures of things of that make me smile – for me that’s cheesecake and pictures of puppies). But checking in often and expressing their love is what I need most. These are the things for which I am grateful. Keep looking after your friends – especially ones that are having a hard time and especially during this time where we are keeping our distance.
DawnMarie White is a devoted wife, mother, and lawyer in Indianapolis.