From the moment of conception, most women start fantasizing about how their lives will change following the birth of their baby. They begin to wonder about whether they will have a son or daughter, what their baby will look like, what kind of personality their baby will have, and what kind of toddler, child, and adult their baby will grow up to become. When a baby dies before birth, the intensity of grief that some women experience can be surprising—these women not only have lost a baby but they have also lost a part of their dream for the future.
When pregnancy loss occurs early during pregnancy, most women feel like they should not talk about their loss with others. As a society, we feel uncomfortable talking about death to begin with. There is also a cultural expectation not to announce a new pregnancy until the end of the first semester due to the high rate of miscarriage during the first trimester. As a result, many women who experience an early pregnancy loss believe they must grieve privately. However, many women report that sharing their feelings of loss with other women helps them heal. Women who share their loss with others begin to very quickly find other women who have gone through a similar experience. These women are able to validate feelings of loss and provide hope about future pregnancy success.
When I experienced a second trimester pregnancy loss, I felt damaged. I was ashamed that I was incapable of reproducing. I felt like a biological failure. As I shared my story with friends, I discovered that I had just become a newly initiated member of a secret club with many members. I was shocked to learn how many women had had a similar experience and then went on to have successful pregnancies. I realized I was not in fact damaged and my feelings of loss were not out of proportion to my circumstances.
As a therapist, I of course believe in the power of talking to feel better. In the case of unexpected pregnancy loss, I also believe in the power of talking with others to help you cope. I promise you have a friend out there who has been in your shoes and can help relieve your pain. It is not necessary to grieve privately unless you want to. Friends, family, clergy, doctors, and therapists will understand that pregnancy loss often leads to a serious grief reaction which can include depression and anxiety.