Raise your hand if you haven't been told how common miscarriages are after experiencing a loss, whether that's come from medical staff trying to reassure you, or loved ones in an effort to comfort you.
And it can be reassuring… the first time.
I remember the nurse telling me "it's common, it's normal, and it doesn't mean you won't go on to have a successful, healthy pregnancy". It didn't touch the sides of the pain or the grief, but relief hit some small part of me knowing that it might not be over for us yet, we might have another chance. A sense of hope was instilled.
I read the statistics online and learnt that I was 1 in 4 women who lose their first pregnancy. That didn't make sense to me, because I knew at least three other women who had sadly experienced the same thing. I guess it is common, I thought. And importantly, at least I'm not alone in this.
It can also be comforting… the first time.
Loving friends and family echoed along similar lines, in aid of comfort.
"I didn't realise how common it is."
"It's so common."
"There's no reason you won't be fine next time."
Again, I was able to feel hopeful.
But I wasn't fine next time. I lost my second pregnancy three months later.
While the same sentiments of how common it is, how it'll be okay next time were lovingly echoed, there was no comfort. Largely because it's not, and it probably won't be.
Losing two pregnancies in a row isn't common. Sadly, there are hardly any statistics on two losses. From what I can find, 2%of women have two consecutive losses. You don't get any help or support and you're not even allowed to call it "recurrent" - nothing is available to you until you've lost three pregnancies. Essentially, nothing happens. You are left alone.
Being told how common it is quickly becomes invalidating.
We are 29% more likely to experience a third loss after two consecutive losses. So while everyone around me is begging me to be hopeful, it's incredibly hard to be. I have watched my whole outlook shift.
I hear myself saying: "I need to get the next one over with so we can find out what's wrong."
I find that the only way to cope is to completely detach from my pregnancies and not to think of them as the people and the family members that they are. I still don't know how to deal with that.
I'm not trying to say that loved ones making frequent references to pregnancy loss being common are being anything less than deeply supportive, loving, comforting, and caring when they say this. Nobody would be knowingly insensitive or invalidating. Of course they wouldn't. A lot of people have no idea what to say and all they want to do is help.
I distinctly remember telling two of my closest friends how common it was, and how I just hadn't realised. It is so painful to think back to saying this to them now that I can understand how unhelpful and invalidating it can be. Of course, all I wanted to do in that moment was to let them know they weren't alone. I just wanted to help them to feel connected and hopeful.
Part of the invalidating nature of the use of "common" stems from a lack of understanding (for example, when it starts to not be common anymore). The other part is heavily socialised and ingrained in us.
I'd like you to name one other form of grief where your loved ones and all the systems around you tell you how common that loss is.
Again, I'll wait.
When hearing someone I love has cancer, I have never once been tempted to say "it's so common, it happens to 1 in 2 people. They'll probably be healthy next time". Similarly, on hearing about the death of a friend's parent I've never thought it to be comforting to say, "at least you still have the other one", which I know is the case for many parents who have experienced baby loss and have surviving older children.
I've just wanted to say how sorry I am, how awful it is. Those types of grief are just accepted. Understood. Embraced. We have an understanding that life has changed, that the person and the experience cannot be replaced.
So how has baby loss and miscarriage become such a stigmatised, disenfranchised grief? And if it’s so common, why do we hide our pregnancies for the first twelve weeks, if not longer?
To hazard a guess, I'd say a long history of a lack of understanding, a lack of relatability and a lack of care has produced this narrative. But not in isolation. This narrative has also been adopted in attempt to comfort, to provide hope, to let people know they are not alone.
So what can we say when the losses start to mount up?
My advice for loved ones would be to let the people who have experienced the loss guide you, and to think about how you would respond to any other more 'relatable' or 'recognised' grief.
Things I have personally found helpful include:
"I'm sorry this happened to you."
"I'm here if you need me", and the lovely "is there anything I can do to support you?"
I have found it so validating when loved ones have recognised how unfair it is, how hard it is, even that they don't know what to say. I found it most helpful when people have asked about our babies, whether they had names, how long they were with us.
Remember that everything said by a loved one is well-meaning and from a deep place of love and care and they would never want to invalidate your grief.
If this is something you have struggled with, I would invite you to share these thoughts with those you love and trust.
Together we can gently change the narrative.
Written by Sarah from love and baby loss