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O.K. ...The Article:
Grief issues special to miscarriage
As we women regard our foetus’ as part of ourselves, miscarriage is a complex grief that leaves us particularly vulnerable and involves a number of other potential significant losses and additional suffering which is not necessarily present with other types of bereavement, except a stillbirth which is a similar loss occurring after 20 weeks. Not only have we lost our baby, we are suffering from the effects of both a birth and a death. Miscarriage is unique (unless someone has disappeared) in that we have very little remains to bury, sometimes because no baby has formed properly or it is unfortunately passed when using the toilet. When this happens, or even with a later miscarriage and an identifiable little body, our loss can be minimised and invalidated by others, which leads us to question our feelings of grief. However, unrecognised or not, it is the strength of the bond with our baby not the length of the pregnancy that determines the depth of our grief. This mothering bond can have begun to form as early as us playing with our dolls as little girls, so our grief is a normal reaction to a broken bond. For recurrent miscarriers, the grief can be compounded by earlier losses.
- the loss and the feeling of being cheated of the joyful experience of pregnancy and birth and possibly future ones and also the festivities around that
- the loss of our dreams for this child and the future our family would have had together - we had made plans for life
- the loss of being able to call ourselves a mother (if no previous pregnancies)
- the loss of access to successful womanhood (in our own or others eyes)
- the loss of trust in the body we feel has betrayed us
- the actual physical loss and the fear that can be felt from the amount of blood passed
- the confusion and dismay when experiencing a 'blighted ovum' when there is only an empty sac
- the loss of innocence for future pregnancies
- the loss of the belief system we didn't even necessarily recognise we held that says "this won't happen to me"
- the loss of our basic trust in life and the insecurity of a less predictable world
- the loss of control over our expectations of life
- the loss of the achievement of a goal we had set for ourselves (this may not have been experienced before)
- the loss of self-confidence
- the loss of control of our feelings
- the threat of loss of our identity
- the failure to reproduce when the body is giving monthly signals of fertility
- the illogical but real sense of shame, guilt or embarrassment
- the worries or fears that this amount of grief (over what is often seen as a minor blip in life) cannot be normal
- the feeling we should hide our loss and not talk about it as others think we are over-reacting
- to be unable to do what other women seem easily able to do as a 'natural part of life' and our jealousy and anger of that
- the loss or change in relationships (sometimes permanently) as we experience others lack of understanding and the isolation and loneliness this causes
- dealing with others' inappropriate comments, some with the best of intentions
- dealing with the thoughtless attitude of others, who have children without experiencing problems, which can be complacent, smug or pitying (perhaps unintentionally)
- dealing with our feelings over others' pregnancies (relatives being even more difficult), especially when they are due around the time we would have been and then later their new babies
- our strong reaction when we observe children being mistreated, feeling how precious they would be to us
- the 'what ifs’ or 'if onlys’ that may result from us not even knowing we were pregnant
- the thought that we didn’t love our baby enough to keep it alive
- the thought that we have somehow killed our baby, or we did something wrong
- the longing for our baby not to be taken away with a D&C even when we know he or she is dead
- the difficulty in understanding how hard it is to miss someone we have never met
- the difficulty adjusting back to normal life again, missing not having to be consciously aware of things that may affect our baby; like what we eat or drink and the limitations we may have put on physical movement
- the loss of our last chance of having a child because of our age
- the loss of our last chance to conceive because of the inability to pay or be eligible for further IVF treatment
- the feeling we have let our partner/others down
- the guilt and confusion if we have previously had an abortion
- the sometimes harsh judgments we make about ourselves
- the little anticipation of grieving when the miscarriage happens very suddenly with no warning
- the pain of not knowing the baby's sex
- the pain of not ever knowing the cause of loss
- miscarriage is a grief with no picture memories and so few others
- continuing to grieve for what might have been - all those possibilities
- the realisation of the price paid preparing to become a mother and the fear that we may have to experience the same loss again
- the subsequent anxiety felt for the physical safety of our children when or if they are born
In this century with the expectation of ‘instant everything’ and ‘women can do it!’ along with perhaps not experiencing any one's death previously, there is also not the sense of acceptance and resignation of life's realities as in other times, which could help with the acceptance of loss.
It is a basic function inherent in all human beings to reproduce so it is normal to have strong feelings about sex, pregnancy and birth and an innate mothering instinct that sometimes can be beyond reason and control. It is a natural part of living and no shame or embarrassment should be attached to how we feel after the loss of a baby at whatever stage of their development. As women (certainly in New Zealand) now have their children later, average age 30 years, and their genetic signals intensify, they become aware of their biological clock ticking (DEL), so their reaction to loss can be stronger.
Women are born with about 2 million eggs although only about 400 of these will be released in our lifetime. Something many women are not aware of is that, the perfection of these eggs decreases with a woman's age beginning at approximately 27 and from 35 years on, the rate of decline accelerates. This leads to a higher rate of pregnancy loss and can also create problems even if the baby is carried to full term. Women can feel pressured (by themselves or others) to try again quickly, often not taking the time to allow the grief from their miscarriage to pass (3 to 6 months is a guideline). This can have consequences such as partnership stress and/or post-natal depression later following a successful pregnancy.
Women are always looking for answers to 'why' and, although there are reasons, they do not usually find out what they are, so miscarriage grief is not so much about finding the answer they yearn for, as learning how to live without one.