October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. In honor of this, I thought it appropriate to talk about another one of my specialties, pregnancy loss, and specifically miscarriage. Miscarriage is defined as loss of a pregnancy before 20 weeks (March of Dimes, n.d.). It’s estimated that 10-15% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, however, this percentage range is said to be higher in reality because a woman can miscarry without knowing she was pregnant (March of Dimes, n.d.).
As you can imagine, this can be an incredibly difficult time for a woman (and her partner), because it is such a different kind of loss. And oftentimes, it is shrouded with an unforgiving silence. I often describe the secrecy of pregnancy loss to my clients in this way – “this is one of the worst secret clubs you could ever imagine being a part of”. The secretive nature of pregnancy loss, I believe, contributes to one of the main emotions experienced during the grieving process after pregnancy loss – shame.
It’s not uncommon for a woman to feel shame around losing a pregnancy, the very term “losing a pregnancy”, to me, connotes that she had some part or role in losing it, that it was somehow under her control. But see, that’s the thing, fault cannot usually be assigned in miscarriage, it just happens. You feel better, right? NO! Because you want answers, some kind of clarity to lead you out of the darkness of losing your child, who you (undoubtedly) had already started to envision life with 10 or so months down the road, and beyond. Some kind of explanation for the devastation you’ve just experienced. Some rhyme or reason for what seems to be a complete upheaval of your life as you know it. But, more often than not, there is not a clear-cut answer as to why the pregnancy did not continue. However, it is completely normal and expected that you’d want to try to figure out a reason, because a reason means more of a sense of control, less chaos.
Unfortunately, this sleuthing usually results in you pointing the blame on yourself as the carrier of the pregnancy. This is where this instinct to find blame, turns on you and becomes an unhealthy coping strategy and ultimately a maladaptive thought that cannot, and will not, serve you in healing from this trauma. I’ve heard women grappling with such self-destructive thoughts that call their womanhood and body into question. It’s quite easy in this vulnerable state, post miscarriage, to turn all of your anger, negativity, and inclination to blame onto yourself and your body. After all, your body has failed to perform the “basic”, evolutionary task of carrying a baby to term, right? Wrong, getting pregnant and remaining pregnant is actually quite a complex system of timing, optimal hormonal levels, luck, and proper moon phase alignment (kidding! Although, it can feel that mystical at times, am I right??). All kidding aside, refer to the statistic above TEN TO FIFTEEN PERCENT of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, and that’s not even an accurate number range. It’s actually higher, maybe much higher.
Miscarriage is not abnormal, it’s just not spoken about as often as it’s happening, or at the very least it’s not being spoken about enough. When we, as women, turn on ourselves and place undue blame, this has a hugely detrimental impact on our mental health, because our thoughts shape our reality. And if the internal dialogue that you’re contending with includes downgrading yourself, your body, and your womanhood, I think we can all agree, ain’t nobody got time for that. Your grief journey will be grueling enough as is, without putting blame directly on yourself (not to mention all of the other complicated emotions that coming along with blame). Ask yourself what you would say to a friend going through the same thing or imagine someone else telling you the awful things you tell yourself. These exercises can elicit more compassionate and protective responses that will actually help you rather than contribute to the destruction. As always, reach out to a trained professional if you’re struggling, you don’t have to go through this alone.
March of Dimes (n.d., para 1). Miscarriage. Retrieved October 3, 2018, from