Pregnancy loss can happen in many ways. You could have a miscarriage or a stillbirth. You may choose to have an abortion because of serious problems with the baby. No matter how pregnancy loss happens, it's normal to feel sad. You may also feel helpless, angry, and disappointed that you will never get to meet your baby.
Why Pregnancy Loss Happens
Miscarriages, stillbirths, and birth defects can have many origins. They may be due to health problems in the mother. Lifestyle choices, like smoking, can make miscarriage (also called "spontaneous abortion") more likely. Much of the time, though, miscarriage is the result of a genetic accident. The growth and development from embryo to fetus to baby is very complicated. Even if both parents are healthy, it's possible for something to go wrong.
Dealing with Pregnancy Loss
Some people aren't deeply troubled by pregnancy loss. If you're able to accept the loss of your pregnancy, put it behind you, and move on, that's great. If you're having trouble, though, there are many things you can do to help overcome your sadness.
Just because you never met this baby doesn't mean he or she wasn't real to you. You might have chosen a name, picked out furniture for a nursery, maybe even started saving for college. No one would question the need for a funeral if your baby had died after birth. Having a memorial for the pregnancy that you lost can also help ease your pain and allow you to feel closure.
Here are some ideas for a memorial service:
- Choose a location. It could be your home, a friend's home, a favorite outdoor place, or anywhere you feel safe and comfortable.
- Gather friends. Pregnancy loss is a very personal thing, so make this gathering personal, too. Invite only your closest friends and most supportive family members.
- Say a prayer together. If you're not religious, choose a favorite poem or write a message of love to the baby. Rabbi Goldie Milgram, who has developed mourning rituals for miscarriage, suggests having your loved ones recite a sentence from Psalm 185: "From a narrow place this woman [or couple] cries out, we hear her/you, we care for her/you, her/your sorrow is huge." "Narrow place" brings images of a woman trapped in sadness. The Hebrew word for "narrow place" can also mean "birth canal," a reference to your loss.
- Write about your sadness or disappointment. Then, in a safe place and with your friends around you, set the paper alight and let the flames carry your bad feelings away.
Facing Your Feelings
Women often pretend that everything is fine, even if they're feeling terrible. Maybe your partner is sad about the pregnancy loss, and you don't want to burden him with your pain. Maybe you feel silly for mourning a baby who was never born.
Burying your feelings can be very stressful. You may find yourself having trouble concentrating, lashing out at loved ones, or crying at unexpected times. Acknowledging your feelings can free up your energy so you can begin to heal.
Here are some things you can do.
- Admit what you're really feeling. It's normal to be angry that life is unfair. It's okay to feel jealous of women who have healthy babies. It's normal to wonder if you did something wrong. If you were frightened about being a mother, it's even okay to feel a little relieved.
- Write it down. Some women find that pouring their feelings out onto paper helps them overcome grief.
- Talk to a loved one. Your partner may be longing to share his feelings with you, too. If you're not able to talk to your partner, or if you were having the baby on your own, seek out a family member or friend who will listen.
- Get professional help. If you need more help than your friends can provide, ask your doctor about finding a therapist. Even a few sessions with a good grief counselor can clear your head and allow you to move on.
- Talk to your doctor. He or she can help you understand what happened, if there's anything you could have done differently, and what to expect if you try to get pregnant again.
More Support for Pregnancy Loss
The Internet is a great source for support groups and shared information.
- SilentGrief.com offers "support for all women who have suffered miscarriage and later child loss." It was started by writer Clara Hinton, who found little support after who own miscarriage and wanted to help others.
- PregnancyLoss.info has active forums where grieving parents share experiences and support. You'll find discussions about feelings after miscarriage, facing friends' pregnancies, trying to get pregnant again, and more.