Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. RESOLVE New England honors this day by sharing a personal story from one of our members about how friends and family can help someone going through recurrent miscarriage. We hope you’ll share this article with them. This article is a first in a series of posts on how friends and family members can help others dealing with aspects of infertility.
By Valerie, a RESOLVE New England Member
I have been suffering from infertility for nearly three years. My situation is even more painful because it isn’t private. In June 2005, my husband and I lost our first child, Dylan, to a stillbirth only five weeks before his due date. Since that time, we suffered an early second trimester loss followed by a late first trimester loss.
I have endured countless invasive medical procedures and surgeries. Topping it all off was the necessity of recounting our loss history time and time again to various medical professionals and therapists. Unfortunately, so few people in our large circle of friends, family, and associates were truly comforting after Dylan died that I kept the communication of subsequent losses to a tiny group of friends.
Yes, I have limited our friends’ ability to comfort me, but I have also limited the painful awkwardness that comes from a person who responds with complete silence or worse, an insensitive or unintentionally painful remark.
Infertility is a situation that requires extreme amounts of patience and fortitude. It never ceases to surprise me when we see friends after a four- or five-month gap and the first thing they want to know is, “Are you making progress on the infertility?” I don’t appreciate answering to the rest of the world about a very private health issue. If our friends are impatient for us to have a baby, imagine how we must feel.
Clearly, after such a public loss, everyone wants us to have a baby. Asking about it doesn’t solve anything or advance the ball; it just reminds me that everyone is monitoring me. Meanwhile, it is nearly three years now since we lost our child and every year makes the questions more unbearable and more insensitive. We know you are concerned, but in my fragile and emotionally sensitive state, the inquiries feel more like pressure and judgment.
I wrote this article as a resource for those experiencing infertility as an easier way to express what is commonly felt by many of us waiting to start or add to a family. Handing out this article is probably easier than a direct response to the well-meaning inquiries and will hopefully result in some honest, supportive interactions.
How to Handle if Your Friend or Loved One Experiences Recurrent Losses
It is highly likely that your friend is dealing with recurrent losses. Some people are fortunate to resolve their infertility issues after one or two treatments, but I’ve met people who have done up to eight IVF treatments, suffered multiple miscarriages, and some who have had all medical treatments fail, all at a big cost both emotionally and financially.
Every loss, every failed procedure, and every negative test put your friend back at square one. You may be feeling very uncomfortable because you used your short, but entire chest of sympathetic words on her first loss.
Now what do you say? Say that you are sorry for her loss. Acknowledge how painful this must be for her and her partner. Tell her that you are here for her when she wants to talk or cry or be silent, but doesn’t want to be alone.
You can take care of her so that she can emotionally recover. You can bring food, so that she will eat. You can listen to help her process her feelings. You can call, write, and show up to tell her that you care. ou can tell her that you love her and that she is a person full of special gifts. She probably doesn’t feel too good about herself right now and that type of encouragement truly is comforting.
In conclusion, remember that your friend, sister, or daughter is relying on you as a friend or family member to be supportive and helpful, not to cause additional grief. If someone hands you a copy of this article, consider it carefully and please pass it on to others.
This article originally appeared in the RESOLVE New England Summer 2008 Newsletter.
We understand the unique pain of dealing with miscarriage and pregnancy loss. If you’ve recently experienced a loss, or are approaching a loss milestone and need support, consider attending our Pregnancy Loss Topic Discussion Support Group and get the support you need. See link for dates, times and location.