What to Say to When Someone Tells You They Had a Miscarriage

Talking to someone who has just had a miscarriage

I guess it’s time I open up and tell this story. It’s an interesting thing to be a blogger and to choose which pieces of your life to share online, and which you feel are deeply personal and not something you want to be public knowledge. And then there are the things that you just need time to digest yourself and prepare to open up about.

Generally speaking,聽there are a lot of details about my life I’m comfortable sharing, but if it shares too much of my child’s or someone else’s life I really try to respect privacy and avoid. But then there are things that just feel too deep to mention until the time has passed. It took me a year of blogging to admit I’d been divorced and that this dating project started because my husband wanted to prove to me that love can stay alive and strong when I wasn’t sure I believed. For the record, he did a good job making me a believer! It took years into infertility treatments and year after drafting my first infertility post to hit publish. Vulnerability can be a scary thing, and sometimes it’s due to our own feelings, but sometimes it due to reactions from others.

This is perhaps the reason I’ve delayed sharing this with even close friends and family, the reaction is something that terrified me, and I just decided it was better not to put them in the uncomfortable position of sharing. But the more I’ve thought about this, the more I realize I had no idea what to say to someone in this situation until I had gone through it myself. And I thought maybe opening up about it may help someone else ease the burden and offer a little more support in one of those moments of life people find most difficult to know what to say.

To say I was shocked to聽see the word “PREGNANT” on a pregnancy test this year is an understatement.

I’m so glad I took this pic in all my just-woke -up-I-need-a-shower glory because it’s the one thing I have to remind me it was real.

Our fertility problems are actually my fertility problems and stem from a lack of progesterone production in my body. I’ve had to do so many hormone balancing months to try to create an environment where I could conceive, and I just don’t ovulate without trigger shots and a lot of medical help and daily checkups. We got our miracle baby after years of treatments and balancing, and we were so shocked that a cocktail had finally worked and our baby boy was really ours! We’ve been saving up for treatments again and feeling ready to start that long hard process, and as I was ready to make that call for the first appointment I decided to take a pregnancy test just to check. I knew I was late, but I’m always off and irregular without help, so I wasn’t holding my breath. And there it was, clear as day, the explanation to why I almost threw up when I smelled someone’s perfume and wanted to drink milk with every meal. I cried such happy tears realizing another miracle baby had happened in our lives- this time a miraculous pregnancy before I had to have even one blood draw! I remember thinking, “So this is what it’s like? You just get pure joy a surprise!” it was really neat to feel like I understood that and experience it.

I decided it would be really fun to wait a couple of days and tell Jacob on Valentine’s Day, with a fun surprise gift announcing this really unexpected blessing! I set plans to go buy all the pieces for the creative announcement and get our little man a cheesy big brother shirt to wear that day too. I was elated for several days, and the reality started to set in that this was real, and not some fantasy. But Jacob and I don’t keep secrets from each other, and several days harboring this was almost killing me!

And then one night I started to feel really sick. Really queasy in ways I never experienced with the last pregnancy. I’ve heard all pregnancies are different and I figured this baby was just ready to tell me they would be different! I started to wonder if it was a girl since the wife’s tales say girls cause more illness. I downloaded all the apps and sure enough, it was right on track when most women start to feel some morning sickness. It was one of the worst nights of my life feeling dizzy and nauseous and trying to hide it, I was going to tell Jacob in 24 hours! I went to bed early and woke up early with a lot of blood. More than I’ve seen before, and so much cramping and pain. I knew what was happening instantly.

Jacob woke up for work and asked if I was okay. I started crying and retrieved the pregnancy test. It was a fancy one that still had PREGNANT clearly stated, and he was like- whoa really? I had to tell him I was going to make a big announcement to him and I’d been hiding it for days, and then had to tell him I was pretty sure I was having a miscarriage. We called my doctor who gave us hope: it could be a placenta problem, it could be a complication with my body as out of whack as it has been, and it could be a miscarriage. She recommended I head to the ER.

I was pretty upset, I hate hospitals and it was Valentine’s Day. Not only is it a huge day on the blog and a day filled with emails and reader contact, it’s a day I planned to bake heart-shaped cookies with my toddler and finish some romantic surprises for Jacob. I love Valentine’s Day, and spending an hour away felt awful. A friend from church took my toddler for me, I thought it would only be an hour or two. But it turned into six and a really awful day with a lot of wait time and a lot of emotions.

I cried and cried. I wanted to do things for my husband. I wanted to be in a spot to answer more emails, I’m sorry to anyone I missed. I wanted to share a lot of fun date ideas and spread love to those feeling alone. I wanted to be with my baby, and I wanted to share the happy news that we were going to have another baby. I broke down sobbing at one point and my poor nurse stopped in asking what she could do. I cried, “I want to be with my baby!” and she assured me everyone going through this loss feels that way. I sobbed harder, “My LIVE baby who is tired and needs me to go hug him and put him down for a nap at his house!” She went and got me some snacks for my clearly low blood-sugar and assured me she’d get aggressive to get me out. She did, she was amazing. Bless nurses who pick people up at their lowest moments.

The ultrasound confirmed, the blood work confirmed, I had definitely been pregnant and had definitely lost the baby within the last 24 hours. And I felt such mixed feelings of so much sadness for this baby and so much happiness that I’m lucky enough to have a healthy, happy baby. I couldn’t keep this pregnancy because I still need medical help, but I had so much hope realizing my body made a huge leap towards fewer fertility issues, and I felt grateful with a little more knowledge. I vacillated between “this is biology” and “this is a tragedy” and “this is so reassuring that we’ll be able to have another child.” There were a lot of tears for a few days, there was a lot of smothering that little one-year-old with hugs and expressions of love, and there was a lot of thanks to God that I have him. There was also an amazing husband who canceled romantic Valentine’s Day plans so I could just hug and be with my baby and be thankful I have both of them.

And so, I found myself with this event that I only told four people about it for the longest time. My best friend knows instinctively when she needs to text me, even if it’s been months. She’s always just known on my lowest infertility treatment days when to call or text. She’s been through them too and welcomed IVF twins to her family this month, so we’ve been there for each other for over a decade crying on shoulders about infertility problems and joys. My sister asked after a cryptic Valentine’s Day Instagram post. My friend had watched my child and I felt I owed her explanation even though she never forced it. I’m glad I did, she was amazing to talk to and such a big help caring for my baby! I have a friend I speak to almost daily and she’s been through several and it was so natural to drop that in a talk and know she’d react well. I’ve told a few more selectively, but it’s been a hard thing to bring up.聽And I’ve realized that the main reason is the reactions you get when you do.

“I’m sooooooooooooooooo sorry” with a long sympathetic hug.

“Well, the good news is you already have one.”

“Well the good news is now you know it will be easy to get another one.”

And perhaps the best, “I’m sorry, and I don’t even know what to say.”

 

We don’t know what to say, because how can you anticipate their needs? On the days I stop and think about the fact that I’d be far enough to announce it to the word, or I’d be finding out the gender soon, or think about how perfect it would be to have two babies exactly two years apart, I need the long sympathetic first response. But on the days I feel like this is just biology and there’s hope my biology is in a better place, that long hug in all its awkward glory just about kills me. It’s okay, it’s going to work out, I’m full of hope and this sympathetic mourning isn’t something I want to hear.

So I’ve thought long and hard about this and I think there’s one pretty universal phrase that should be said.

The one thing I think you should say when you find out someone has had a miscarriage:

“How are you feeling about it today?”聽

I think acknowledging the loss and saying you’re sorry is fine. Don’t use “at least” because there may not be a lot of hope and the person may not want any words of hope. But taking yourself and your immediate thoughts out of the equation and just asking how they are feeling changes the awkward to knowing what you should say.

If I say I’m struggling the person can tell me they are sorry and hug me and ask me what they can do to help. Or they can just be with me and let me know I’m loved. If I tell them I’m actually doing well with it, I have a lot of hope we’ll get another child easier with fewer infertility treatments, they can then let me know they hope so too! No awkward mourning, no rejoicing or offering hope for someone not ready for it. Just ask them how they are feeling about it, and be sure to add today. They may feel great overall and offer that, but if today is hard, it lets them open up with that. And visa versa, if they are struggling but having a good day and don’t want to dwell on it or don’t want to talk about it, you can move on and not dwell either.

I might also add that you may want to follow-up later with the same question should you so feel like it. Some people need support at various times. And if you get any vibe they don’t want to talk to you about it, leave it alone. It’s personal, people share how much they want with whom they want to. It’s okay to let it lie or to make sure they are still okay if that’s the vibe you feel. But please leave it in their court to share what they’d like.

And for anyone wondering, while I type this today, I’m feeling a bit sad to realize we’d be telling the world this week and close to finding out the gender. But I’m also feeling hopeful that once my body heals, we’ll have better odds and maybe it won’t take long for the right timing to happen again.

What to say to someone who has had a miscarriage

Would you add anything else? Has anyone else been through one and want to share what helped them the most? Or maybe what awkward things were said they think others should avoid? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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Comments

  1. Even though I already knew about this, your post still hit me like a gut punch. Miscarriages are awful and I’m so sorry you had to go through one 馃檨

    • It’s so a rough thing! But I’m so grateful for friends I felt comfortable enough to open up to. Thanks for always being that person!

  2. Sending a huge hug your way!!! I’m so sorry friend. I can’t relate to your pain of infertility, but I can relate to your pain of miscarriage. I am so glad that you chose to share your story, I know that it will bless many other women who read it. Every time I connect with another woman who has experienced that lonely grief, I heal a little bit more. Mine was three years ago last month, and it still makes me sad to think about. I love you and will be thinking about and praying for you just a little bit more!!

    • I just ached for you when I found out you’d been through one, it really is so hard no matter what phase you’re in. But you’re right, I felt so much closer to you when I found out, and hearing more stories can help with healing and isolation!
      And I sure love you too!

  3. My heart aches for the pain you’ve experienced with fertility. I’ve never had a miscarriage, but I know the trials of infertility all too well. I second that “at least” should never be said when talking to a friend dealing with these issues. Nothing shut me down quicker than hearing someone say that, even though they meant the best and I knew that.

    • I’m so sorry to hear it’s been a part of your life! It feels so isolating, and in a way, it’s nice to know you aren’t alone, but in a way don’t you just ache that someone else knows that pain?
      And I can’t agree enough, “at least” just shuts down all feelings!

  4. Having just gone through one last month, I can concur that hearing, “how are you feeling about it today?” is the perfectly gentle yet conversational response.
    And I cannot even IMAGINE having to wait in a hospital that long just to be given the news you had been dreading since the minute you awoke. I was away from Ander for a maximum of like, 2 hours and it was too much. A friend offered to babysit so I could get some alone time when I told her the news and I burst into tears at the thought. I am so happy that you have Mac and Jacob to hold tight. All the love and hugs.

    • I read your post and I just cried and was like, can’t even comment because I’m doing the same thing at the same time!
      We should so meet at the children’s museum or go eat food and a have a pity party together. I think we’ve earned it!

  5. Thank you for sharing this. My best friend and I got pregnant within a few weeks of each other and she miscarried soon after. She didn’t tell me for a few months, but when she did, it was such a hard thing for me to feel so excited about my own growing baby and feel so much sadness for her loss. It felt like the only thing I COULD say was to ask how she was feeling about it, so I’m so glad to hear you say that as well! I have followed your blog for a few years now and I have loved seeing your adorable son and following your journey. Thank you for being so brave and sharing your story!

  6. I remember your Instagram post! I knew something was happened. I’m so sorry friend! My heart aches to think about what you were going through at the time. I admire your bravery in being open about your loss. Sending love!!!

  7. I often read your blog, and am always drawn to reading about other people’s experiences with miscarriages, so I was very keen to read this particular post. And first of all, I am terribly sorry for your loss. I to have struggled with infertility- also due to progesterone- although gratefully I never had to do some of the more complicated and expensive treatments that you did. Most people probably don’t realize it because I’ve got five kids- and the last three came in very quick succession. (Horray for a body who apparently figured it out!) But, I have had five miscarriages as well. And though my last one was three years ago, reading this post bright me to tears. I agree with everything you said. The pain is so real. I sometimes still think of how old my baby would be if I’d never had that first miscarriage. And while the pain for myself has dissipated over time, and with the coming of babies that are so cherished, I still can’t help flooding with emotion for others who are in the trenches of it. The one thing that I firmly believe is that yes, it is good to have faith and hope, but it is ok to grieve as long as you need. Although, I’m sure with the infertility struggles you’ve had, you’ve figured that one out already. But by golly, if you want to cry, just do it! Good luck.

  8. Last week I lost my fourth due to an ectopic pregnancy after 3 miscarriages, all within the last year and a half. Talking about it helps, I have been amazed to find out so many friends and family have also gone through loss. Hugging my miracle toddler every day helps too. I’m sorry for your loss, it’s a very lonely feeling. Stay strong and try to find comfort knowing you are not alone.

  9. I’m really sorry to read about this (and sorry if this delayed comment is bringing up feelings) but I hope you’re doing well today, and I respect that you posted this and let people in while also trying to be there for other people going through the same!

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