I am a reluctant member of a particular type of sisterhood entrenched in grief. If there were a list of prerequisites for this membership (beyond miscarriage, of course) it would include: experiences of medical gaslighting, being told how to grieve, and being told repetitively that “Miscarriage is normal, just try again!”
Part of this membership allows access to a plethora of online support groups, with titles like “Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss Support” or “Rainbows After a Storm.” Within the groups, people share their heartbreaking and devastating stories. And then comes the onslaught of comments. “I’m sorry for your loss. Have you tried baby aspirin?” “My heart breaks for you. Did your doctor check your progesterone levels?” “It’s not your fault. Don’t blame yourself.” “There is nothing you could have done.”
This is a reflection of the dismal standard of care. I know this not because of the stories shared or the comments offered but because of the responses to the comments offered. They normally sound like this: “My doctor told me I have to wait until I’ve had three miscarriages before they’ll do testing” or “I was told there is no explanation for miscarriage.” This type of “care” is reactive rather than proactive and it robs many of their chance to carry a pregnancy to term and birth a living child.
Miscarriage is dismissed. Medical professionals, friends, and family expect us to take the hit, stand up, dust ourselves off, and get on with it. Once the physical experience is addressed, we’re supposed to be fine. The emotional, mental, and spiritual impact of miscarriage and its impact on our ability to care for ourselves or continue to provide for ourselves is rarely addressed.
I suffered three miscarriages before my ob-gyn recommended a grief counselor. And only because I asked for an antidepressant while sitting in his exam room. I was digging my fingernails into my hands and hadn’t not showered for at least a week so it’s not as if my struggle was invisible. As he handed me the list of therapists, he laughed and said: “don’t worry! We’ll make the next one stick.”
The narrative that miscarriage is common (and therefore, normal) or unexplained is damaging and dismissive. Furthermore, it doesn’t lead to answers or solutions. I’d like to propose that there are things that we can do. Lots of things, actually. This starts with a shift in narrative. It starts with compassion and genuine care. We must ask the hard questions, get the right testing, make the necessary adjustments, do the hard work, and show up for ourselves and each other far beyond the status quo placations. As patients, we must advocate for ourselves and demand better.
Laura Fletcher, CD the Founder & CEO of Selah Fertility and author of The Grace in Grief: Healing and Hope After Miscarriage