When a Friend Has a Miscarriage: What You Need to Know

And what not to say

Welcome back, Chaise Lounge readers, and a special welcome to our newest subscribers. As always, I thank you for your support and readership. If you read last week’s post on masking, then you know that Chaise Lounge celebrated one year of publication, a milestone for sure! And speaking of that post, I published it about an hour before the CDC published their new guidelines. Just goes to show that sometimes you can have your finger on the pulse and not even know it!

This week, we start a two-part series on the silence behind miscarriages. While the statistics are murky as to exactly how many people have miscarriages, we know that it is estimated to be about 15%, meaning that many people have had this experience. But the stigma around having a miscarriage prevents many from discussing such a tragic event. Today, we will hear from a woman who endured two miscarriages and her wisdom around the importance of talking about it. We can all learn from her. Next week, we will learn more from an Ob/GYN and a therapist who specializes in treating those who have lost a pregnancy.  But first, let’s take a look at some other news.

Global News

  • In England and Wales, marriage certificates will now list the parents of the bride as well as the groom. This brings the two countries into alignment with the rest of the UK. After hundreds of years of only listing the groom’s parents, this change is welcome and obviously overdue.

  • According to the Women Lead newsletter, elections are being held in Chile for 150 delegates to rewrite the country’s constitution. In a global first, half of the delegates will be women giving them a large voice in making sure that women’s needs are written into the constitution. We will be following this story as it unfolds.

National News

  • A recent study out of Stanford University finds that while employee performance evaluations are supposed to be meritocratic, sometimes that mindset of the evaluator imports gender bias into the process. The researchers found that if an evaluation process is poorly defined that opens the door for gender biases to infiltrate performance evaluations. Technical abilities appeared to be measured fairly whereas soft skills indicated that women were “too aggressive” or men were “soft” if they did not hew to traditional gender roles.

  • Virginia becomes the first state to launch two statewide health equity dashboards. According to NBC29.com, “the dashboards are being launched in response to two pieces of legislation: House Joint Resolution 537, which declares racism a public health crisis in the Commonwealth, and Virginia Code Section 2.2-435.12, which requires Virginia’s Chief Diversity Officer to conduct statewide equity assessments. The Equity-in-Action dashboard is designed to be a snapshot of the progress Virginia has made across its COVID-19 response and recovery and other initiatives, said Northam, that advance the equitable distribution of resources and services. The Equity-at-a-Glance dashboard is designed to be ‘a transparent assessment of social determinants of health and other factors contributing to health equity.’ Future versions of these dashboards will include an expanded set of topic areas, such as workforce diversity and criminal justice.”

  • A new study reported by Reuters indicates that 25% of women lawyers are considering leaving the profession due to burnout, mental health, or stress. Women were more likely to be overcommitted and to have work-family conflicts than men, and less likely to think that they'd get promoted. Another survey showed that many lawyers did not feel that their firms made appropriate adjustments for parents who were at home with their children during the pandemic. Given that women are entering the field of law at levels outpacing men, it looks like it is time for some change.

  • The Supreme Court has taken up a case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, that could overturn or severely weaken Roe v. Wade. At issue is the long-standing law stating the abortion is legal during the pre-viability period usually understood to be the period before 22-24 weeks. The Mississipi law extends the ban to 15 weeks. The Court says they will focus on the singular issue as to “Whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional”.

    When a Friend Has a Miscarriage: What You Need to Know

I have wanted to write about the damage that the silence around miscarriage causes for a long time. But I was not sure how to reach out to women who have had miscarriages in an empathetic way. I could write an article full of facts (and yes, they matter, too), but what I really wanted was to talk to someone who had been through the experience and could speak to it honestly. But the stigma and silence around miscarriage prevented me from doing so.

Then, on Mother’s day, I saw this beautiful post from my former teaching friend on Facebook.

I knew that she had a new baby during the pandemic and had celebrated that with her virtually, but I had not known about her miscarriages and fertility struggles. When I reached out to her to see if she would be willing to talk about her experiences, she was game. So here we are - we both hope that this conversation helps others speak up and share their stories.

Note: The responses have been lightly edited for clarity.

CL: The first thing I want to say is that I thought your Facebook post was just beautiful. You were really putting yourself out there, and then being willing to talk to me, it’s brave. What led you to make that Facebook post?

Erica: I've seen other women and friends I have do it. It just helps to normalize it for people because nobody knows. I mean, until I had miscarriages, I didn't have people coming out of the woodwork to tell me that they'd had miscarriages. Like, I had no idea how common it was. And I don't think most people do.

CL: What kind of support was most helpful to you as you were going through these experiences?

Erica: Certainly hearing from other people who had been through it, and had had similar experiences. I remember one woman in particular, who had had two miscarriages and then was now on her third pregnancy that ended up resulting in a healthy baby. That was really helpful for me to hear.

I think what ended up being the most helpful for me, and I know, this is not available to everyone. But I had two friends who were going through the exact same thing at the exact same time, I mean, their circumstances, were a little bit different. But all three of us had had miscarriages that ended up being multiple miscarriages. And you know, it was really hard. So we had a group text, and we just really leaned on each other, because we all got it.

I've found some stuff online, but when it's not in the time of COVID, I think if there are support groups that are facilitated, I think that could be really helpful. And if we're talking about a perfect world, that would be for both men and women.

CL: How can friends and family provide support?

Erica: One thing that was helpful for me to hear is that when miscarriages happen, it's because there's something wrong, right? The body knows that, and says, nope, we'll try again. As unpleasant and disappointing as having a miscarriage is, I would rather have that happen, than get full-term and find out that my baby's not going to survive because they have some terminal issue.

Also, reminding me that it's not my fault. For my third pregnancy, I wouldn't drink any caffeine. The general thought is that it's fine to have some. But because I had had caffeine in both of my first pregnancies had ended in miscarriages, I said I'm not gonna drink caffeine, right? I don't want to be hard on myself about it. If I end up having another miscarriage and think, well, maybe if I hadn't had caffeine. Just helping me know it's not that I did something wrong, and accidentally caused this to happen somehow.

CL: What about things that are unhelpful to hear?

Erica: Oh when someone says, “God's gonna decide what the right thing is. And maybe for you having a baby isn't the right thing” That kind of thing, it's not helpful or comforting.

CL: There is a common practice to not tell others about your pregnancy until after the first trimester. But that implies that if you have a miscarriage, then other people don't want to know about it, or you don't want people to know about it. It seems like this just adds to the stigma and shame around the issue. What was your experience?

We had told family because, you know, I just decided to. The people that I told, I said, “I want people to know if I have had a miscarriage because I want support.” After the first one (miscarriage), I was like, Okay, I will be more judicious about who I tell, because I don't want to have to then go and tell everyone that I've had a miscarriage again. Reliving it over and over and over is hard. So yeah, there's some wisdom to that practice, but there's also a code of silence. And then the hard part is that the people that you don't tell, don't know that you're going through something really difficult. So it's hard to decide, you know, what the right thing is.

CL: Erica, it was great to chat with you. Thank you so much for being willing to share such personal information in a public way. I am sure it will help someone else to know that there are many people who have been through miscarriages.

Resources regarding miscarriage

American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology Patient Information/FAQs

Miscarriage Hurts - a website that provides support and resources for men and women who have undergone the loss of a pregnancy

And finally, Chaise Lounge got a nice shoutout from Alexandra Cardinale of the Case by Case newsletter and formerly at Vox, The Wall Street Journal, Freethink and Futurism our story on global period poverty during an interview One More Question.

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