October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Month, and October 15 is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. If you’ve experienced the pain of miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death, or SIDS, you undoubtedly think of your baby everyˆday. This October, take the time to honor your baby’s life in a way that feels right for you. For many grieving mothers, remembering your baby is an important part of your emotional healing, no matter how long it’s been.
- Miscarriage and Infant Loss: More Common than You Think
- The Healing Process: Taking Care of You
- Share Your Story on National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day
Miscarriage and Infant Loss: More Common than You Think
Thanks to medical advancements and safe sleep practices, the rates of stillbirth, infant death, and SIDS have fallen steadily for decades. That said, tragedies do still happen, and parents are left reeling. Infant deaths due to issues like severe chromosomal abnormalities or extremely premature delivery aren’t always preventable. It’s nobody’s fault, of course, but that doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking.
And then there’s miscarriage, which is the death of a baby younger than 20 weeks’ gestational age. Many miscarriages happen because a chromosomal abnormality makes the developing baby incompatible with life outside the womb and are therefore not preventable. Others are related to the mother’s health issues, like diabetes, lupus, or blood clots. In any case, it’s common for expecting mothers to blame themselves for their pregnancy losses. You should know that if you’ve experienced miscarriage, it isn’t your fault.
Many pregnant women miscarry before they’ve told anyone they’re expecting, and some don’t realize they’re pregnant until after the miscarriage has begun. Because pregnancy loss is still a taboo subject, it’s common for grieving mothers to feel like they shouldn’t talk about their experiences. Know that if talking will help you to find closure, there’s nothing wrong with expressing your feelings about the loss of your baby. It doesn’t matter if you were in the earliest stages of pregnancy; if you need to talk about your baby, you should. You’ll soon find that you aren’t alone, as 10-20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. That means it’s very likely that your mom, your sister, your best friend, or your next-door neighbor understands what you’re going through.
The Healing Process: Taking Care of You
There’s no one right or wrong way to process the loss of a pregnancy. You’ll likely experience a wide range of emotions, from shock, disappointment, and anger to numbness and even relief. Know that whatever you’re feeling is normal.
As you navigate the grieving process, here are a few tips for self-care and recovery.
Ask for What You Need
It’s not always easy to admit that you need help, but now’s the time to speak up for yourself. If friends or family ask what they can do for you, don’t be afraid to be honest. If you’re not up to cooking, tell them you’d love a pre-prepared meal or a DoorDash gift card. If you have other children at home and feel too exhausted to give them your all, ask a loved one to come help you for a few hours. If you can’t bear to be in the same room with a glowing pregnant woman, skip the office shower for your coworker. You also can ask the receptionist or nurse at your OB/GYN’s office to escort you to an exam room as soon as you arrive for your follow-up visit. If you’re uncomfortable sitting in the waiting room with dozens of expecting mothers, say so.
Maintain Open Communication with Your Partner or Spouse
When you’re the one who has miscarried or lost a baby, it’s easy to feel like you’re all alone in your grief. Remember that there’s someone who may also share in your pain: the baby’s other parent. Be open with your partner or spouse about how you’re feeling, and allow them space to grieve in their own way. Be mindful of the fact that everyone mourns losses differently. Some people are open books, while others find it hard to put their emotions into words. Know that healing will take time for you both.
You’re on Your Own Timeline
Well-meaning people who learn of your loss are likely to comment that you’re young and can try again when you’re ready. It’s true that many couples who experience pregnancy or infant loss go on to welcome healthy, happy babies, but don’t rush yourself. You should ask your OB/GYN when it’s safe for you to try to conceive again. If you needed medical management during your miscarriage, like a D&C procedure, your doctor may ask you to wait several months. And, of course, you should wait until you and your partner feel emotionally ready. Some couples choose to take some “time off,” while others are eager to get pregnant again right away. Only you know what feels right for you. (Note that if you do conceive again soon, you should ask your care provider about covid-19 and pregnancy safety to prevent any complications.)
You may find yourself sad and angry for months to come. You can even find yourself grieving your prior loss and feeling guilty when you’ve become a new mom. If you find that you’re unable to cope with your grief in the long term, don’t feel ashamed to ask for professional help.
Share Your Story on National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day
If you have something you want to share about the baby you never got to meet or met only briefly, this October may be the time. It’s not always easy to speak up about pregnancy or infant loss, but when you do, you’ll realize how many women share your experience. Here are some ways you might ask people to remember your baby with you:
- Make a post on Facebook or Instagram, even if you simply share a pregnancy and infant loss remembrance.
- Join an online community where you can speak openly about your experience with other mothers.
- Ask your partner or a friend or loved one to join you in planting a tree, lighting a candle, or saying a prayer in honor of your baby.
- Tell someone your baby’s name and ask them to use it too.
Wishing you peace, strength, and hope as you remember your baby. Remember, you are not alone, today or ever.