Trigger warning: This post focuses on miscarriage, infant loss, and infertility. If this isn’t something that helps you at this time, feel free to bypass reading and take care of yourself. ❤️
October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month.
In recognition of this important month, the team at cupcakes and cashmere wanted to learn how to better support their friends and family members who have experienced loss through miscarriage and stillbirth. They asked me the most thoughtful and sincere questions, and I thank them for shining more light on this difficult subject and for looking for ways to tangibly support grieving parents.
My answers are based upon my personal experience of recurrent miscarriage and infertility and don’t speak for all parents—but I hope that it’s helpful, in some way, for those trying to understand how to help a parent who has experienced a similar pain.
First of all, how are you doing after your loss of Leo and two recurrent miscarriages?
Thank you for asking! It really means a lot. I am doing okay, and learning to be honest with my day-to-day mental health. I really thought I would be pregnant again by now, and I’m not. So I’ve had many hard days, teary days, and angry days...but I just keep moving forward, hoping that my rainbow baby comes soon. (Note: many women call their baby who is born following a miscarriage their “rainbow” baby—a rainbow after a storm.)
What were the most helpful things your friends and family did immediately after your miscarriage?
For me, it was three things. For anyone who knows someone going through the loss of a child through miscarriage or stillbirth, these could be helpful:
- Tell them “I’m sorry” and “I will sit in this grief with you.” Then, check in on them—once a day, once a week—and ask how they are. Make sure they know that they do not need to reply, but you will continue to check in. Set a reminder to do so on your phone! Consistency is so helpful and even when I didn’t have the energy to reply, it was comforting to know I was supported.
- Send them a meal and if they have a child or children, food for the kids. Gift cards like Caviar or Grubhub are great, too. If you drop off a meal, just leave it on their doorstep unless they explicitly tell you they want to see you. For kiddo meals, sites like Yumble are great and take the burden off of meal prep for tired and sad parents.
- Remember the important days. For me, that’s May 4th (Leo’s birthday) and October 9th (Leo’s due date). I have friends who texted me on the fourth of every month for a while, letting me know they were grieving with me. Send a text, write a card, send a token like earrings in the baby’s birthstone or a candle or delicious bath oil for the mama to pamper herself with.
How should I speak about the baby that miscarried?
If the parents have chosen to name their baby and shared it with you, use the name. Even in loss and grief, it feels so relieving to have others use the name.
What’s not helpful (at least for me) is to refer to the baby as an angel, as a miscarriage, or as a pregnancy. It was a baby, my baby, and he died.
I’m nervous about saying the wrong thing, so instead I don’t say anything at all.
Acknowledge that—there’s nothing hurtful about saying that and it shows you care. But, please say something. It is so much better for friends and family to acknowledge what you’re going through. From personal experience, the most hurtful interactions have been when there’s only been silence. It feels like they’re just waiting for everything to “go back to normal,” and in reality, it never will.
I’m pregnant and I’m afraid to tell my friend who’s going through infertility. Any tips?
Yes! First of all, congratulations. Secondly, I recommend you telling them in private—via personal text, a letter, or an email. Your announcement will likely bring up some feelings and it’s helpful to have space to let them feel them without being around a bunch of people when the announcement is made; even a group text is tough because there will be a lot of excited texts and constant reminders of what she longs for. Putting in the thought of telling them one-on-one lessens the blow a bit and helps them feel seen.
Is there anything I should definitely not say to someone going through loss?
A friend of mine just sent me an illustration the other day. It was a sympathy card for the loss of a spouse and all around it were people’s sentiments that are often said after miscarriage and loss, but changed so they reflected a spouse passing away: “Everything happens for a reason!” “There must have been something wrong with him” “At least you were able to get married” “Try to find the joy in this situation” “You must feel a lot of peace knowing this was God’s plan.”
This is a great litmus test. :)
How can I be a supportive friend?
Just let her know you’re there for her. There is nothing more comforting than the occasional card, text, flowers that say “I am thinking of you, here with you, and I am holding you in my heart.” Loss is lonely, grief hits randomly, and just knowing that you are being thought of and held up is gold.
If she already has a child, offer to babysit or send takeout every now and then. Loss is hard on a partnership and marriage. If you’re friends with her other friends, pitch in and get them a night away if you’re able. I had friends do that on the one-year anniversary of losing Leo—they got us a hotel, brunch, dinner, an overnight babysitter, and flowers—and it meant the world.
I don’t understand why my friend/sister/colleague can’t just move on; she’s trying to get pregnant again and I think she should really just focus on that.
Here’s the thing: Going through miscarriage, infant loss, and infertility is excruciating. I’ve never walked anything more difficult. It’s impossible to understand without going through it personally, but seeing pregnant bellies while on a walk stings, seeing baby clothes while shopping can bring tears to your eyes, and watching friend after friend get pregnant is heart-wrenching. I’ve had all of these things happen to me over the past year and a half. For anyone going through it, it’s likely on their mind 24/7—there’s no escaping it. Women going through it feel incredibly fragile, so please be gentle.
A Note to the Mamas & Mamas-to-be
I want to send a special note to all the mamas out there who have experienced the unfair heartbreak of losing a child through miscarriage or stillbirth and/or are going through infertility. You are seen. I see you when you’re just trying to hold yourself together during a baby shower. I feel for you when your heart plummets as the anniversaries come and go: six months old today, two years old, five years old.
I’m holding space for you on the days it’s hard to get out of bed because you’re so exhausted, sad, and hopeless. I’m walking with you, infertility warriors, as you take your 30th supplement of the day and follow your special diets only to have another negative test. I’m alongside you as you buy the bulk pregnancy tests and the ovulation strips, go in for blood work, get bad news over the phone...and then go back to work.
This is not an easy road, so protect yourself. It’s okay to set up boundaries. Send a gift instead of attending the baby shower and if it’s too hard to shop for baby items, send a gift card. Mute everyone you need to on social media or better yet, stay off of it for a while. Know that the anniversaries are going to be hard days and plan your schedule accordingly—get a massage if your budget allows, buy the fancy coffee drink, tell a trusted friend you need a glass of wine and a listening ear.
In the meantime, my inbox is always open. xx