'Just Try Again' And Other Things Not To Say To Someone Who's Had A Miscarriage. Instead, Here Are Some Ways To Help Them Heal

(Photo by Selbe./Flickr CC)

Miscarriage is something that a lot of women go through. According to national estimates, between 10 and 20 percent of known pregnancies result in a spontaneous loss before the 20th week. In a 2016 survey of L.A. moms, 21 percent reported a previous miscarriage. But since it often happens before a woman even knows she's pregnant, the actual rate is likely much higher.

Despite how common it is, when it happened to her, Ambyr Amen-Ra felt alone. She's had two losses — one at 8 weeks and one at 18 weeks — and says most people she talked to didn't understand her grief.

"People are like, 'Oh you can have another one. Just try again. You're not over that already?' "

I heard Amen-Ra speak about her experience recently at MommyCon, a national convention series which offers resources to new and expecting parents. For the past few months, I've been reporting on the high rates of death for black babies in the U.S., and I was drawn to this session that sought to create a safe space for moms to talk about their loss.

Amen-Ra calls her session "Loss Mama Sanctuary," and opens it up for women who've experienced pregnancy or infant loss. Around 1 percent of pregnancies in the United States end in stillbirth.

She shared the challenges of learning to communicate through the grief with her husband and the fear she had when she got pregnant again. Her message: embrace whatever you're feeling and find support.

"I don't think we allow ourselves to be human beings," Amen-Ra told the small group of women in the dimly lit space. "We're super-moms, right? And we're super-wives and we're super-employees. We don't allow ourselves just to be human and feel things."

After her own experiences with loss, Ambyr Amen-Ra started running a session for moms who've experienced miscarriages or infant loss. (Priska Neely/KPCC)

One mom in the room cried silently for most of the session. She told me that she had a miscarriage earlier this year and that baby was supposed to be due this week. The tears she was crying were the first she'd shed.

Another mother, Brigid Randle, experienced a loss this past year and was glad to see this topic mixed in with the other conference activities celebrating the joys of motherhood.

"As well as all of the joyful cloth diapers and baby wearing," said Randle, "some of us have had this struggle and I think it's important to recognize that this struggle is part of all of that."

Eventually Amen-Ra started therapy and developed tools that helped her navigate her loss. She wrote letters to her "angel babies" and set a aside a space in her house where she'd light candles and take time to journal and reflect. She now has three children.

A 2015 study on public perceptions of miscarriage found that most people don't understand the causes or realize how common it is.

Amen-Ra created a Facebook group where moms can share their thoughts and feelings about the struggle. And there are a lot of other resources and rituals out there, too.

March of Dimes has a super helpful post for those trying to figuring out what to say to someone who's gone through this.

We asked moms to share the resources or rituals that helped them heal and honor the babies they lost. Here's what you shared:

Here's something that helped a mom who wishes to remain anonymous:

Life coach Aneet Alang shared with me a piece she wrote about "breaking the culture of silence." She's in the U.K. and recommends a miscarriage helpline there and The American Pregnancy Association, a national nonprofit health organization in the U.S.

Another mom messaged me to say that for a while she'd send a big bunch of flowers to her household on the anniversary of her baby's death each month. She got ones that would last for weeks."It was $$ but worth it."

LOCAL SUPPORT GROUPS

MISS Foundation

An international organization that provides "C.A.R.E. [counseling, advocacy, research, and education] services to families experiencing the death of a child." There's an LA Chapter that offers support groups on the second Wednesday of the month in West LA.

Forever Footprints

Provides direct services for families and educates the medical community to improve the quality of care. Offers a free monthly support group in Long Beach and Orange County.

Desert Birth & Wellness

If you're in the Coachella Valley, this center offers a birth trauma support group and will also provide one-on-one counseling for mothers who experience loss.

STATE GROUP

Healing After A Neonatal Death (HAND)

HAND is a network of parents, professionals, and volunteers that offer peer support services throughout Northern California and the Central Valley, as well as online resources on how to be supportive.

ONLINE SUPPORT

Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope

A blog where members of the "babyloss club" can submit stories about their experience.

#IHadAMiscarriage

Psychologist Jessica Zucker, who specializes in maternal mental health, created the #IHadAMiscarriage campaign to help break the silence.

Return to Zero

After their first child was stillborn, this couple made a film to "shatter the stigma and silence" around the experience. Now, their non-profit provides HOPE (healing retreats, outreach and education, peer support and community and empowerment.)

Still Birth Day

The tagline of this site is "a pregnancy loss is still a birthday" and puts a list of doulas and lots of other bereavement support in one place.

NATIONAL RESOURCES

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

Provides complimentary remembrance photography to parents mourning the loss of a baby. There are 1,500 volunteer photographers participating in every U.S. state and around the world.

Pregnancy Loss and Infant Death Alliance (PLIDA)

A professional membership organization for health care practitioners and parent advocates supporting bereaved families.

Share Pregnancy and Infant Loss

This group offers a range of supports, from private online communities, to bed-side companions. There are also local chapters in Southern California.

BOOKS

Like A Mother

Angela Garbes dives into the "science and culture of pregnancy" and seeks to answer the questions women have on things including pregnancy loss.

When Hello Means Goodbye

This is a booklet for parents whose child dies before, at or shortly after birth.

Got something else that should be on the list? Let us know in the comments below or let me know on Twitter @priskaneely.


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