Miscarriage: The hidden tragedy
Miscarriage is very common and affects one in seven pregnancies. Sometimes medical attention is required with admission to hospital, but often a miscarriage occurs at home, with a brief GP or hospital visit to confirm what has happened.
Parents are left alone and bereft, their baby has died, but there is no body to bury, no ceremony and often no one else has even known about the existence of the baby. Most miscarriages occur in the first 12 weeks of pregancy, when traditionally parents tend to keep the knowledge to themselves.
In our culture there is no forum for mourning the loss of the invisible baby. A baby, that for the mother and father has been very much a reality, does not seem to signify for other people. From the moment of conception a woman begins to have a mental image of her baby and begins a loving relationship with the imagined person. The mothers body changes in order to hold and nurture the baby and for this reason perhaps, the loss is more acute for women than for the men. Women experience feelings of terrible saddness; emptyness that is sometimes physical and a sense of fear that it may happen again and that they can no longer trust their bodies.
It can be a very lonely time as the bereaved parents don't feel understood by others. Well meaning friends and family can be experienced as insensitive, when they focus on the next pregnancy. It can therefore feel very difficult to share the deep and painful feelings of loss with anyone else, leaving parents and especially the mother isolated and unable to mourn.
All bereavments require a period of mourning and miscarriege is no different. This will take longer for some parents than for others, there is no right or wrong way to feel after a loss. Many women experience unexpected emotions such as numbness, depression or anger. The anger may be aimed at yourself or, very often your partner or other people who just don't seem to care or realise how sad you are. Women usually return to work and normal life after the miscarraige, which might be helpful for some but for others might get in the way of mourning, as there will be a tendency to push feelings down, in order to 'get on'. Miscarriage is traumatic and parents are entitled to feel unhappy and ask for support or space for themselves at this time.
Everyone responds to miscarriage in their own way and loved ones, even the baby's father might not appreciate what the mother needs from them at this time. You may have to be very persistent in order to get the attention you need, maybe even approaching your GP or a therapist. It is important to talk about how you feel and to share thoughts and feelings about the end of the pregnancy. There was a real, hoped for baby that is now lost and this painful experience deserves attention, it will be hard to begin to feel better unless the saddness has been properly acknowledged.
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About Katie Leatham
Hove based counsellor specialising in work with parents who are experiencing emotional problems. I see mothers who are struggling with postnatal/perinatal depression and anxiety, issues with bonding or just not feeling confident as a parent. I also support parents and couples who are finding family life and managing their children very difficult.