October, which is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, draws attention to the one quarter of mothers who will experience a loss.
Many say the number is actually closer to one in three.
Let that wash over you for a moment.
That means if you sitting in your prenatal yoga class and you look to the women on each side of you, one of you will be in those uncomfortable shoes.
While it is a topic that we rarely discuss (hence the need for a month dedicated to the cause) it is just as normal as life itself.
Death is, sadly, a part of life.
After losing my son Jack at 36 weeks, due to to a combination of two very rare chromosomal abnormalities, I have felt called to share about this topic. Since much of my life as a prenatal yoga teacher, mother of a toddler, la leche league leader, et cetera is surrounded by women, I know many of the brave souls that I encounter each day have felt the pain, emptiness and numbness that can accompany a loss.
I know many suffer in silence because of the stigma and societal discomfort surrounding pregnancy loss.
While nothing we can say or do can bring a woman’s pregnancy back—or keep her child alive—being supportive and compassionate can help with her healing process. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
1) Understand that she might want to share.
Depending on the mother, she may want to talk about her experience as the mother to that child—even if it was for just a few weeks or months. If her child was born still, she may want to talk about him or her. The same way someone would talk about any other newborn, she may want to talk about her child’s hair color, tiny fingers, and soft skin. She may want to share pictures of her child, because that will be the only thing that she has left to remember him or her by.
While this may be uncomfortable for you, it is important to understand that her baby is just as beautiful and special as any other living baby. If she experienced an early loss, she may want to speak about that, too. Even as early as a positive pregnancy test at five weeks, a mother can have a name, a room and an entire life picked out for her child. And early loss can be devastating and scary.
Understand that a mother may have a deep attachment to that baby, and make space for her to talk about it.
2) Understand that she might not.
She might not want to talk at all, and she might prefer to be left in private to process her feelings on her own. Give her space if she needs it. Alternately, while she might not want to talk, she might not want to be left alone. Come sit on the couch, watch a movie, allow for quiet.
Know that being there, even silently, can be extremely helpful.
3) Bring her food.
This is a big one. One of the most healing aspects for me in my loss journey was having healthy, home-cooked food brought to me. Cooking, ordering take out or just going to a grocery store was extremely overwhelming. Knowing that I could depend on dinner helped me take care of myself.
Be comfortable with dropping food off at the door, as the mother might not feel open to making small talk when you arrive.
4) Keep reaching out.
She may not answer you today. Or tomorrow. Or even in a week. But keep reaching out. Just knowing that she is being thought about, and that you will be there when she is ready, is helpful for her. Tell her as much as possible you are thinking of her, and that you are always there for her. She will eventually be ready to talk and enjoy life again, and she will be so grateful that you were there waiting.
And please keep in mind, when talking to a pregnant woman:
Never ask, “Is it your first?”
This is a seemingly harmless and very common question; however, if a woman has experienced a loss before, you put her in a very difficult situation by asking this.
If she has had an early loss or a child that died, this pregnancy is not her first. This question most likely drags up memories, trauma or even general discomfort she does not want to make small talk about. And ultimately, it is not any of your business either way.
For this month of awareness—and every month—let’s bring our support and compassion to the women around us, so many of whom may be grieving such a loss.
Author: Logan Kinney MA, RYT , RPYT
Editor: Toby Isreal