A month or so ago my friend Jackie mentioned that she working on a blog post listing those unexpected challenges of losing a baby that I mentioned. (Jackie shares about her miscarriage here.) The more she talked about what she planned on sharing, the more I wanted to join in on her project. I’ve been impressed by her willingness to talk about her struggles and I’m honored to come alongside her and share my thoughts as well.
Jackie - If you've ever been pregnant or know anyone who is/has been, you're probably aware of the hormone craziness that happens during pregnancy. This can cause nausea, vomiting, moodiness, etc. When you miscarry, it takes your body quite a while to regulate your hormone levels -- in other words, your body still thinks you're pregnant for days or even weeks after losing the baby! This was especially hard because you're already emotional about losing your baby, but then you have extra emotional-ness (I know that's not a word) because your body is still so confused. If someone you know is experiencing this type of loss, be aware that it may take some time for the hormones to level out. Be patient!
Laura - The extra emotional-ness is NO FUN. I remember bursting into tears while my mom was cutting my hair a couple weeks after John died. She asked what was wrong and I said, “I don’t know!” It’s hard to differentiate between grief and emotions that are caused by hormone levels. You might ask your doctor if there are any medicines or natural remedies you can try if you’re struggling with something in particular. I took melatonin occasionally to help with insomnia, and I considered going on an anti-depressant but ultimately decided to wait and see if the “fog” lifted.
Jackie - To add some salt to the wound, the baby weight doesn't disappear right away. (No, not everyone gains weight super early in pregnancy, but for me and baby #2, there was definitely some spreading of the hips and pudge in the gut.) Just like after delivering a full-term baby, it takes a while for everything to go back to its place (if it ever does). I find this especially hard because you don't have a baby to "justify" the excess weight you're carrying. Instead, you're left with the daily reminder that you did have a baby and now you just have the weight. (Disclaimer: I am NOT saying being a certain size or weight is the goal here, rather that having the weight gained from pregnancy -- even a minor amount in early pregnancy -- is a difficult reminder of what didn't last.)
Laura - I had quite a lot of weight to lose since I lost my baby in my third trimester. Even though my baby was itty-bitty, my body still thought I was carrying a normal 34-week old! Several people asked me if I was pregnant after I had just lost my baby. Ugh! I was often tempted to use food as a comfort from my pain, but ultimately found that cooking my own meals and taking longs walks both calmed me and helped me to lose my baby weight. If you lose your baby later in your pregnancy (or shortly after giving birth), you also might have to deal with lactating and other bodily…issues. I was overcome with grief when my body started producing milk and I had to bind my chest to stop the flow. I had been so looking forward to the sweet connection that comes with nursing a baby. The incision scar from my c-section was also a tough (and ugly) reminder of my loss. Thankfully it looks much better now.
"At least" comments
Jackie - Before I lost my baby, Laura shared with me that “at least” comments were hurtful for her to hear. I now understand what she meant on a whole new level. This is when you're discussing your situation with someone and they respond with, "At least _____ didn’t happen to you." Having used this phrase myself, I know that it is used with great intention. When having a conversation with someone in pain, our goal is to encourage them and maybe even cheer them up. BUT, when using "at least" comments, it feels like you're down-playing my pain. It sounds like you're saying, "Being upset over your situation is pretty silly, because it could have been worse." When you're hurting, you know there are situations worse than your own, but the pain you're experiencing is still pain. If you know someone who is grieving or going through a hard time, don't disregard their emotions with "at least" comments. Instead, use words like, "I am so sorry you are hurting in this way. I hate that this has happened to you. Can I help or encourage you in any way?"
Laura - Have you seen this video about empathy? The concept of “at least” comments being hurtful is brought up, and I found such comfort in realizing that I wasn’t crazy for hating hearing those words! I echo Jackie’s suggestion that instead of making comparisons, voice your sadness and ask how you can help. Also, “at least” comments aren’t the only hurtful things people say. Try to refrain from saying, “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” I was also told, “God must need your baby more than you do.” Um, no. That’s foolish talk. A hug, a hot meal and/or a bunch of prayers will help someone who is suffering much more than empty words that don’t contain an ounce of truth.
The "When are you having a baby?" question
Jackie - As a married lady, I find that people's go-to question is, "When are you having a/your next baby?" This is not a bad question in and of itself, but when dealing with miscarriage, it's just another reminder of the loss. I would simply advise you to be careful when asking this question.
Laura - Ah, this one is hard! I respond to this by saying, “I don’t know. I had a stillbirth last summer. We are hoping for a healthy pregnancy in the future.” Maybe that seems like a harsh response, but it’s the truth!
Jackie - Kevin and I got new health care knowing we were trying to have a baby (and because ObamaCare said we had to). We opted for really good coverage because hospital stays and baby deliveries are pricey. (Gideon's total was $36,000 before insurance -- NOT including the doctor fees. Granted, I was in the hospital for six days because I had pre-eclampsia and hopefully that won't happen again, but you never know.) Our specific insurance plan is pretty expensive monthly, but for having a baby, we would have a one time copay of $20 to the doctor and a $350/day hospital fee (with a max of $1050), making it cheaper in the long run than a less expensive policy. (Trust me, I did all the calculations.) When I had my first doctor's appointment after becoming pregnant, I paid that one-time $20 copay. BUT once I lost the baby, this no longer applied, and I ended up owing for every appointment I had, plus lab tests and shots I had done prior to losing the baby. Receiving the bill for this was a huge slap in the face. Had my baby lived, that $20 would've covered all my doctor's costs, but since I lost my baby, I owed money. (Luckily, it wasn't an enormous amount, but it still made me feel sick.)
Laura - Medical bills add major insult to injury. I wondered, “Isn’t it enough that I had to go through losing my baby? Why should we have to pay thousands of dollars when we got NOTHING in return?” You know your bank account will never be the same once you get pregnant, but you also think that you’re going to get a beautiful, healthy baby in the end.
Jackie - After losing my baby, I found myself going through a whole list of what-ifs (and still do at times). What if I lost my baby because I drank coffee while I was pregnant. What if my baby died because I stepped in a neighborhood cat's poop and tracked it through the house, so of course I needed to clean it up. (Cat poop is a big no-no while pregnant.) What if that time Gideon jumped on my stomach killed the baby. What if helping paint the exterior of our house caused the baby to die from the fumes. What if, what if, what if. The day we found out our baby was dead, my doctor assured me it was nothing I did (she must have read my mind because I didn't say anything.), but the what-ifs still arose. I guess my advice in regard to this one is to NEVER (I hope no one would do this anyway) try to diagnose why it happened. Don't ask how much caffeine she had or if she lifted heavy boxes or whatever reasoning you've read/heard for miscarriage. Most likely, she wasn't responsible at all; it just happened.
Laura - I didn’t go over too many “what ifs” in my head after we found out John was dying, but I DO have a lot of what ifs swirling around when it comes to any future pregnancies. What if we can’t get pregnant? What if my next baby dies? What if I spend the rest of my life getting pregnant over and over but losing each baby? I hear those questions in my head every day, but I also fight every day to rest in God’s faithfulness and to have hope for the future.
Jackie - I want to start off by saying that this one is very specific to me; it may or may not apply to someone else. This is tricky to explain because on one hand it was very helpful and encouraging to have people supporting me throughout this horrid experience. I had people bringing me meals, texting me, praying for me, etc. I appreciated all of that, truly. BUT, in the midst of receiving lots of encouragement, it often felt like pity. I honestly hate when people feel sorry for me. I much prefer to have everything together and under control. All and all, this is just proof of my massive amount of pride. So really, the tough part of this wasn't actually receiving sympathy, rather recognizing how prideful I am through receiving it. Through this miscarriage, God wrecked my idol of appearing tough/organized/all-together. The reality is I'm not any of those things. When people would ask me questions regarding my loss, I cried (and still do at times). When someone would send me a text saying they were praying, I would cry. Losing my baby was harder than I ever imagined and showed me (and others) how weak I truly am.
Laura - I can definitely relate to struggling with pride. I felt the need to “keep it all together” a LOT, which is ridiculous. I would never expect someone who just lost a baby to have it all together. We are much harder on ourselves than we are on others. I also battled a lot of guilt and lies right after losing my baby. I wrote about how I found grace through my grief here.