This article originally appeared at The Mighty on November 15, 2015.
I have miscarried two babies, Ruby in 2010 and Gus in 2015. I had two very different experiences with my miscarriage. In 2010, the doctor treated my experience as a medical event and was unemotional. It took months for me to be OK with how I was treated, and his treatment of me compounded my grief. In 2015 when Gus died, I was treated with compassion and given options. I was able to move forward more quickly because I wasn’t struggling with mistreatment from my healthcare provider.
Here’s what I wish I heard from that first doctor in 2010.
1. I’m sorry. Please tell me you are sorry or that you will be thinking of me during this difficult time. I know you see miscarriage happen often, but this is my first miscarriage. Even if I have had more than one miscarriage, I would still like to hear those words.
2. Offer a kind touch or a hug. I may be really sad, and it’s helpful to know you care. This is not a medical event for me — it is heartbreaking. Placing your hand on my shoulder helps me feel deeply cared for and will improve my experience.
3. Please tell me what to expect. I have never done this before, and I am scared. I don’t know what my body and mind will experience. It’s helpful to know if I will be in pain physically as well as emotionally, and I will need to know a little bit about how to handle that.
4. Please give me options. It may be hard for me to live with having a dead baby inside me. Please help me understand the best options for my body and help me understand why. If I am anxious, please help me through that with medications or resources. If I am in pain, please offer me pain medications or resources. I need to know you are there for me if I need help. I will also need some sort of timeline. If you don’t know how long this process will take, it’s OK to say that. Just help me understand what to do if the process is taking a long time.
5. Prepare me for what I might see. I have never seen a very tiny baby before, and my baby may be so tiny that they aren’t very visible. Please prepare me for what to look for such as gray tissue or what the placenta may look like.
6. Please tell me not to flush. I may feel guilty and shameful if I flush my baby, so please give me something to capture my baby in and tell me where to keep my baby or what to do with my baby.
7. Tell me it’s OK if I do flush. If I do flush my baby down the toilet, please tell me that does not mean I didn’t love my baby or didn’t care. I need to know that many women have done this and it’s OK.
8. Explain my situation to your staff. If I have to share my story with your staff, they may think I hung up because I have become silent. Sometimes I cannot form the words, or my tears swallow my voice. It’s helpful if your staff already knows and can be comforting to me on the phone.
9. Help me know that I can bury or cremate my baby. I may want to bring my baby home, bury my baby or have my baby cremated. If you don’t tell me this is an option, I may not feel at peace about where my baby went, and I may struggle later. Please share the options I have for my baby’s remains.
10. Share with me that I can take time off work. I need to know it’s OK for me to take some time off not only to complete the miscarriage but to recover emotionally. If you don’t tell me this is an option and that it’s OK, I may go back to work and regret it later — especially if I spend the days crying in front of coworkers and clients.
11. Please don’t minimize my experience. I know not all women will grieve miscarriage the way I am, but that doesn’t mean my grief isn’t worthy or valid. If I call my baby a baby, please reciprocate. I didn’t refer to my baby as “products of conception,” “embryo” or “fetus.”
12. Let me know I will survive and move forward. Right now, time seems to be standing still. I can’t imagine stepping outside and seeing how the world is still turning while my world has been crushed beneath me. I need to know I’m going to make it through this even though it will be hard.
Want this sent to your doctor? Download Miscarriage Handout for Care Providers.
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