The road to, through, and during motherhood is infused with so many conflicting emotions. Often women do not feel comfortable admitting to, or even openly expressing, the extreme emotions which surface. As women fall into the expectations of society, family, and friends, most do not recognize their experiences create a significant change, and therefore a need to grieve.
In the second of this five-part series we will explore miscarriages, discovering the unique emotional challenges of losing a baby before it reaches full-term, and the importance of processing the accompanying emotions.— — —
Part Two: Miscarriages
Miscarriages are an emotional journey, encompassing a roller coaster of emotions, and happen far more often we realize. According to the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada, roughly 15 to 20% of Canadian pregnancies end in miscarriage. 1
Many times, this is an unexpected loss and one we have little time to prepare for. There are two different kinds of miscarriages; one involves the end of a pregnancy any time within the first trimester and the other involves a stillbirth which can occur around or after the 20-week mark. While one might assume, the woman who has experienced a stillbirth, may suffer more extreme emotional pain, due to the length of the pregnancy please do not overlook the fact grief is individual. Regardless of the duration, the loss is experienced 100% on an emotional level and the length of the pregnancy does not dictate the emotional impact.
Grief is wanting things to be different and the accompanying unrealized hopes, dreams, and expectations. With our busy lives women can adopt a belief their travel, diet, career, etc. were the underlying cause of the miscarriage/stillbirth. Some women, not sure if they will be able to adjust to the demands of motherhood or the change in lifestyle, can blame themselves for “wishing the pregnancy away”. These thoughts can be followed by feelings of regret or a sadness.
When I miscarried our first child, I was hesitant to talk to others about my feelings because many replied with intellectual statements that were not helpful. For example, “You are young, and you can still have children”.
With a background in Early Childhood Education, I was aware, on an intellectual level, that sometimes our body aborts the baby, naturally, due to abnormal chromosomes. When I would express these thoughts, I would be accused of being uncaring and not reacting in an appropriate manner. I felt like my feelings weren’t important and quickly learned to hide them away. I felt like my need to try to understand the loss of my baby attracted statements of judgement from those who had not shared my experience.
I did what I was taught, and I replaced the loss by getting pregnant again right away. The hopes, dreams, and expectations for our first baby were suddenly transferred to our second pregnancy, without taking the time to grief the first miscarriage. When my first loss was not processed, the unresolved emotions had no where to go, and as a result my next pregnancy was filtered through the uncertainty and fear of repeating the experience. I realize now, after years of supporting others through their grief, that it would have been next to impossible, to resolve my unresolved emotions, because I did not have the correct steps to take in the first place.
Finally, there were the unsaid communications. Because I couldn’t articulate how I was really feeling it made it even more difficult to share. I was so wrapped up in my emotional turmoil that I didn’t even consider that my husband had also experienced a loss. Again, we did what we were taught, and we tried to process our emotions in isolation. We remained strong. We never really spoke of this experience, to one another, let alone to anyone who might be able to help us work through the emotions we were having.
It has been almost forty years since my miscarriage and yet I never fully processed the experience until I discovered The Grief Recovery Method® in 2016. I learned why the intellectual statements of others were not helpful. I learned my need to understand and explain the loss was not helpful either. I also learned that to complete this painful experience I would have to move from my head to their heart.
Today, we are still not encouraged to talk about the end of a pregnancy or the feeling that surround this experience. As a Grief Recovery Method Specialist, I would encourage women to take the time to feel their emotions, not to hide from them. To talk to a friend, to journal, to reach out for professional support if they are feeling stuck and unable to move forward from this unexpected experience.
Finally, I would encourage women to talk openly and honestly about their experience. This allows other women the same opportunity for healing. When we are honest, we give others permission to do the same.
If I have learned nothing else, as a grief specialist, I understand the high cost of running away and burying our unresolved emotions. In the case of miscarriages, and the commonality of them occurring, it becomes even more important to take away the stigma and to encourage open and honest discussions.
Tammy Adams, Certified Coach Practitioner offering support, in-person or online, Canada-wide. She is certified in The Grief Recovery Method®, Personality Dimensions™, Reiki, Access Bars®, and Mindfulness. To learn more about the services she offers, book a 20-minute free phone consult, or visit her service tab on her website at http://tadams.ca/