It is common for women who have lost their unborn child to have feelings of guilt and start thinking about all the things that they should or shouldn't have done.
Imagine you and your partner, have just been given some wonderful news from your doctor, that you have both been waiting patiently to hear. Imagine feeling joy that is indescribable, the eager anticipation that your new unborn child will arrive within the year, family and friends excitedly become involved with preparations for the big arrival. The special day is even more momentous and emotionally charged, especially if it has been a difficult journey with multiple unsuccessful attempts to conceive a baby.
Then one day you lose your unborn child unexpectedly, due to a miscarriage. Sadly, this unfortunate event is experienced by thousands of women and expectant couples on a global scale daily.
There are some cases, when the woman unknowingly miscarries. She does not realise the full significance of the spotting or light bleeding, that eventuated at an unusual time in her menstrual cycle. Only to be informed by her doctor, that she was actually in the early stages of her pregnancy.
Meghan Markle the former American actress, nowadays better known as the devoted wife of Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex. Is the most recent famous figure who has courageously shared, her vulnerable story of experiencing a miscarriage during her second pregnancy last year. The Duchess of Sussex, wrote about the emotional impact it had on her and her husband, in a prominent American news publication. She was open and honest, sharing how her and her husband freely wept, upon receiving the heartbreaking news that they lost their unborn baby.
So what is officially defined as a miscarriage? A miscarriage also known as a spontanteous abortion, is when an unborn baby dies spontanteously before the 20 weeks of gestation. It is not uncommon for women who are near their forties, like Meghan Markle to have a heightened risk of having a miscarriage.
The woman’s age when she conceives, is an important factor for elevating the risk of a miscarriage. Women in this age group who are able to conceive, are close to transitioning into peri-menopause and are inevitably not far away from menopause. Menopause is the end stage of a woman’s reproductive life. There is a definitive shift in her hormonal balance.
One of the major factors that precipitates a miscarriage, is the woman’s progesterone levels. Having progesterone deficiency, can occur regardless of whether or not a woman is peri-menopausal or belongs to a younger, predominantly more fertile demographic. In my former years, working as a women’s health and fertility clinician. This hormonal imbalance was effectively managed, with natural progesterone treatment.
Women and couples who have experienced the death of their unborn baby, can often experience a broad spectrum of emotions. In certain rarer cases, some young women have expressed relief because it was an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy. Most obviously are the common feelings of immense sorrow, grief and guilt.
I vividly recollect, one grief stricken woman confiding to me her feelings of loss were so overwhelming that she wanted to die. The woman had miscarried her baby over 20 years ago, but even to the day she was sitting in my office. I could feel and see her overwhelming pain and sorrow as tears streamed down her face. Time as they say, does not always lead to healing. The emotions were sadly still fresh and very raw and real, despite the passage of time.
Sometimes women would talk to me about their “angel baby”. You may be thinking, what is an angel baby? Some grieving parents especially the mother, sentimentally refer to their unborn baby that died during pregnancy, as an angel baby. This is part of the parents, grieving process and a loving gesture to mark their unborn child in their hearts. Feelings of guilt and thoughts about what it should or shouldn't have been done
It is not uncommon for women who have lost their unborn child to have feelings of guilt and start thinking about all the things that they should or shouldn't have done.
This is especially the case, for the mother who may wonder if she was inadvertently responsible for the loss of her unborn baby.
I have had several women over the years who staunchly believed, that GOD is "punishing" them for having pre-marital sex in their teenage years. That consequently got them pregnant and ended, with them deciding to have several induced abortions. Obviously this is not true, but it was sometimes very hard to change their mindset about this. When they were so adamant that this was the "hand of GOD".
Some expectant fathers blamed themselves for their partner’s miscarriage. They questioned if they were physically present, to assist the expectant mother, at the time of the miscarriage. That they could have prevented the loss of their unborn child.
A miscarriage can provoke feelings of heartbreaking sorrow and intense guilt. These strong emotions may become insurmountable. If neither parents have social and psychological support, whilst they experience grieve alone in complete isolation. They mournfully, just suffer in silence. Wuhan virus pandemic has heightened the miscarriage trauma
The Wuhan virus pandemic has exacerbated the miscarriage trauma, with the socially isolating, home quarantines and state wide lockdowns. In addition, depending on where the grieving mother resides. The pandemic has also affected her and her partner’s ability to quickly and effectively access the necessary medical assistance and the choice to seek face-to-face grief counselling.
A client of mine several years ago, who had experienced the loss of her unborn baby 18 months prior, shared that her husband “holds onto his grief and doesn’t like to talk about it”. This is a strong example of how it can be psychologically, for grieving father's who have lost their baby through miscarriage. Although it is unintentional, when an expectant couple experience the loss of their unborn baby. The focus is centred more heavily on providing support, to improve the mother's psychological well being.
That is not surprising, considering she is the parent who viscerally experienced the physical, spontaneous termination of the pregnancy. Meanwhile, the grieving father does his best to remain "strong" for his partner. When he is equally or in some cases that I've witnessed, is seemingly more devasted about the loss of his unborn baby than his partner. So he internalizes his grief and loss by shutting everyone out, including his partner and buries himself with longer hours of work or other projects to escape the emotional pain.
Through my clinical work, I have had the priviledge of being included in the emotional journey of these grieving parents. Then witnessing how some of them gradually heal, when they come to terms with their loss.
However for other individuals, miscarriage can also take a very long time psychologically, for the grieving mother and father of the unborn baby to process. The time to heal emotionally and mentally is not always short and finite for these grieving parents. For some couples, it may even last a lifetime, long after the physical pain has healed.
I think that there will always be an emotional scar. That may not fade away, especially when there is a resurrgence of emotions around the time of their unborn baby’s death anniversary. The experience of having a miscarriage and the healing process is always going to be different for every parent. Despite this, one common ground that they all have is the eternal love, that they hold deeply in their heart for the unborn child. That they never got the chance to kiss and hold in their arms.. their sweet Angel Baby.