There is never an easy way to tell a mother-to-be that she has lost her baby. All her hopes, dreams and wishes come tumbling down before her very eyes. It is a form of innocence lost. How do we measure the true value of this life lost, this baby who had hardly developed its limbs and organs? Is a mother’s pain any less after a miscarriage simply because it happened “so early” in the pregnancy?
And let’s not forget the father, often the figure hovering at the edge of the picture. He is also a part of this tragedy, but his grief and pain usually ends up being neglected or buried under a stoic, macho façade. In my last article, I described some risk factors related to miscarriage and tried to dispel the common superstitions held by people. This week, I will touch on the emotional impact of a miscarriage and how couples can help each other get through this tragedy.
Let yourself grieve
After you suffer a miscarriage, you will go through a roller-coaster emotional ride. All these feelings are part of the grief you are experiencing. It may help to understand the different phases of the grieving process, so that you can come to terms with your emotions:
- Denial and disbelief: Immediately after a miscarriage occurs, you may try to avoid the reality of the situation by denying your feelings and refusing to accept what has happened. People around you may worry and wonder why you are in denial. However, you cannot force yourself into accepting the situation until you are really ready to.
- Pain: The pain may come in different forms. It may cause you to become physically ill, be unable to concentrate, or become depressed, lonely, angry and guilty. Again, this is part of grieving and you will have to ride through the pain to come out at the other end. But you do not have to go through this alone – your partner, family members and friends can support you.
- Acceptance: At some point, you will find your pain gradually easing, and you will be able to think of your lost child without feeling as much pain as before. This is because you will come to accept the situation. You will not forget your baby, but you will find a way to move on with life.
Different people react to grief in different ways. Some women just become numb and shut everyone out of their world. They lie in bed all day, refuse to go out, and stop doing their daily activities. This behaviour can seem alarming to other people, but it is a way for women to find their personal space so that they can come to terms with the loss on their own.
On the other hand, some women may express grief by lashing out. They become angry at themselves, at their partner or even at the baby they have lost. They will also be resentful or jealous of other women who have healthy babies. It’s hard to pin down an exact timeline for the grieving process – you may need to give yourself four to six weeks to come to terms with the event. The most important thing is not to rush yourself or your partner. This is a highly personal situation and you don’t have to “fit” anyone else’s schedule.
Feeling guilty and inadequate?
In my last article, I stressed that nobody really knows what causes a miscarriage. There are some risk factors that may increase the chances of a miscarriage, but you should not believe superstitious talk that blames your diet or your feng shui. Nevertheless, it is natural for women to feel guilty when they have a miscarriage. Being the bearer of the baby, they will feel that they ought to bear the responsibility. Was it something I did? Or something I didn’t do properly, you may ask yourself.
Even though guilt is a natural emotion in this situation, don’t punish yourself. Do not start thinking thoughts like, “Why couldn’t I do it right?” or “What’s wrong with me?” Self-recrimination will only cause a vicious cycle, where you experience low self-esteem about your fertility, leading to further inability to conceive again, which causes more insecurity.
How men cope with miscarriage
Society often forgets that there is a man involved in this picture as well. The husbands or male partners usually aren’t given the time or opportunity to grieve because they are expected to be brave and supportive for their wives. However, men also react emotionally to a miscarriage, and they shouldn’t have to bottle up these feelings of shock, sadness, guilt, helplessness and anger. Being macho doesn’t equal being a robot.
I know that men find it difficult to talk about their emotions, even with their life partners. In a situation like this, it becomes harder because the husband may be reluctant to bring up the topic, for fear that it will upset his wife. At the same time, a man will not feel the same kind of bond with the unborn baby that his wife has, so he may not grieve as intensely. This can make some men appear cold or insensitive, but it often isn’t the case. Both husband and wife have to understand that their emotions differ from each other’s, and neither is right nor wrong.
A miscarriage can strain your relationship, but it is not the end of the road. If both husband and wife are able to hold hands and grieve together, then they will find that it is easier to move forward with their lives.
You won’t be able to control all the emotions and behaviours described above, because they are part of the natural grieving process. However, if you think that you are going into a slump, don’t be afraid to someone about all your emotions. Talk to your partner, family members or friends whom you trust. You can also seek professional counseling or support groups to share your feelings with other women and couples who have had miscarriages.
If you find that trying to forget your baby is too painful, maybe you should try to remember your baby instead. Write down your feelings, hopes and fears in a diary. Give the unborn baby a name, keep the ultrasound photos (if any) or make a date to mark the anniversary of the baby’s conception.
No matter how painful a miscarriage is, it is a chapter in your life that you will learn and grow from.
Star newspape. Jan 09, 2008
By Datuk Dr Nor Ashikin Mokhtar