If a woman’s husband dies, she has a memory and physical picture that she can see and hold to help her grieve. Her family and friends surround her with love and support because they have a common memory and love for the person who has died. They can be there for her, helping her every step of the way.
This is not always possible for a mother who has had a miscarriage. Her friends and family might not even know about this, making them unable to share her loss and grief. This often results in this mother being alone, burying her sadness and be unable to grieve.
This month is pregnancy and baby loss awareness month. According to statistics, one in four pregnancies result in a miscarriage.
This just shows us how quite often baby loss happens and we are not supporting women who go through this incredible loss. Society must give space to women who have had this loss and allow them to grieve as they would for any other loved one.
We need to remember that when a woman falls pregnant, she thinks of her baby and not of a fetus. She starts to imagine a life with hope and dreams for her baby. One where she will hold her baby in her arms.
Now compare that to the trauma of losing her beautiful baby.
Normally it is alone in a bathroom full of blood and clots, with the realisation that all her dreams for her baby are being flushed away down a toilet. The feeling of loss is incredible and now her arms are empty. She needs time and space to grieve and support allows her to do so.
How much support and understanding she gets from her partner can vary. This depends on how much he has bonded with his baby. Fathers tend to bond with their children at different times: when being told about the pregnancy, at the first scan, during the birth, or when the baby starts taking.
It can be very difficult to empathise with the mother if the father has not yet bonded with the baby. Some fathers are more able to do this and be supportive.
To help a mother grieve her loss, we need to understand that words like “It is ok, you can try again”, “at least it was early” or “ there must have been something wrong with it” do not acknowledge the mother’s loss and can be more harmful than intended.
Knowing that this time is so difficult and sensitive for a mom, here are some ideas on how you can support her:
- Watch your language. Talk about her baby and not a fetus.
- Say that you are sorry for her loss or that you cannot imagine how painful losing a child can be.
- Talk to her about her baby and let her know she is a mother.
- Help her pack up her nursery.
- Let her grieve.
If a mother has lost her baby she can use the ideas below to help work through her grief:
- Name your child.
- Have a memorial service.
- Plant a tree in your baby’s memory.
- Allow for time to grieve.
- Keep a keepsake: first scan, pregnancy test or a blanket to remember your baby by.
- Talk to your future or present children about the baby. Let them know that they have a brother or sister.
- Understand that it is okay to stop trying for another baby. Continue when and if you are ready.
- Be mindful that grief can take time.
- Find a support group that you can feel comfortable with to share your loss and grief.
- Talk to a grief counsellor or psychologist if you need more support.
Not being able to hold a baby in your arms after loving him with all your heart is a terrible loss. There is no reason why a mother who is experiencing this incredible loss should be alone or be made to grieve by herself. Society needs to start doing better for mothers.
For my little one:
I never saw your twinkling eyes
Or touched your precious feet.
I never shared a tiny yawn
Or rocked you fast asleep.
I never kissed your tiny hands
Or saw your little smile.
I never held you in my arms,
But I held you for a while.
Although I never saw your face
Or heard your precious laughter,
You’re still my child whom I love
And will forever after.
Author: Mary Cathleen
- Registered Dietitian
- Certified Lactation consultant
- I became a dietitian because of my interest in breastfeeding and nutrition. However, only when I had my two children both prematurely died, I realised how much help and support mothers need. No textbook can prepare you for NICU (a neonatal intensive care unit, also known as an intensive care nursery). My breastfeeding experience with my children is why I became a lactation consultant. I now help mothers in their homes with breastfeeding issues. Another of my dreams was to establish My Breastpump. This was created to supply mothers with affordable, quality, hygienic and comfortable breast pumps. This desire came from my struggles in finding a breast pump that worked for me. While overseas, I learnt about the Ameda brand of breast pumps which is internationally recognised as a leading breast pump in technology and focus on mothers. My Breastpump hires out closed system hospital-grade pumps and supplies personal pumps and accessories. To learn more about My Breastpump go to www.mybreastpump.co.za