“They said I didn’t know him, but I did. I patted him and talked to him and lovedhim, I had hopes and dreams for him and wanted him so much, I knew him, I just didn’t get to keep him.”
The time after a miscarriage can be cruel; a mother’s body can still bear strong reminders of the baby that was never born, including bleeding, the production of milk and other changes to her body. Other women’s pregnancies and new babies can be difficult. It can be a lonely and sad time, full of unresolved grief for both the mother and father. Well-meaning comments from others such as “at least you know you can get pregnant” or “it’s for the best” are often unhelpful.
Pastoral Services Manager Jenni Ashton at St John of God Murdoch Hospital says in a society that doesn’t always recognise this grief, it can be hard to acknowledge your loss. “It’s important for people to recognise their grief and have a safe place in which to do so, openly and honestly,” Ms Ashton says.
“Families are often expected to ‘get over’ their miscarriage at some point but we should remember that sometimes, grief has no time limit.” In reality, grief can be ongoing and can reappear at milestones, such as on your expected due date or the anniversary of your miscarriage. Feelings of loss can also reappear with pregnancy or when your own baby is born. Miscarriage is common. It is estimated that up to a quarter of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. As more people undergo fertility treatments, so too has the number of miscarriages risen. Reactions can vary greatly from an experience of little significance to a devastating life event.
Ms Ashton says her team at the hospital aims to provide people with support that is appropriate to how they are feeling. “We use whatever we can to help people cope with their loss. Support can come in the form of someone to talk to, comforting words, naming and recognition of life certificates, facilitating cremations and creating memorials,” Ms Ashton says.
“We encourage people not to be anxious, to ask questions and to be open to the process of grief that often impacts people in unexpected ways. We try to help them to understand their reactions and look for ways to adjust to their loss.” St John of God Raphael Services offer counselling and support for patients experiencing mental health issues around prenatal testing or pregnancy loss. You can contact them by phoning 1800 524 484.
For further reading
Taylor, Zoe. Pregnancy Loss: Surviving miscarriage and stillbirth, Harper Collins 2010.