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Pregnancy loss is real and such a hard pain: don’t underestimate it

Women who lose their kids at some point of the pregnancy receive less attention and compassion then women who lose a child after birth

Imagem: Isabel Svoboda

No grieving process is comparable or can be classified in a hierarchy (although our society does that all the time) But it is possible to say that among underestimated grieving processes or that are not `suffered properly`, pregnancy loss, is particularly cruel.

If you want to help someone who has been through a pregnancy loss, the first thing is not to underestimate this pain. It is as strong as a mother who loses a child right after birth. Having premisses of respect and empathy, the positive atitudes towards parents who have gone through this loss must be equivalent to the ones towards a mother who lost a born child.

– Don`t underestimate pregnancy loss suffering.
– Don`t act, towards bereaved parents, as if nothing had happened.
– Don`t tell them: “you will have other kids”.
– Don`t ask them if they are already trying to have another baby.
-If the baby had a name, call him or her by the name to express your feelings.
– Ask if you can help in any way.
– If the person wants to talk about it, be prepared to listen.
– If there is a funeral as in the case of late losses do not think of missing (you do not miss the funeral of a child already born).
– In your conversations with family avoid blaming the medical staff, the hospital or how to choose childbirth or anything that only compounds the suffering.
– Avoid referring new professionals for “the next time”.
– Do not tell mom or dad that they have to overcome quickly.
– Allow the couple to have time of grief. There is no limit or normal rule for the sorrow to go away.

There are support groups for pregnancy loss and neonatal like From grieving to struggling (Do luto à Luta) gathers testimonials from those who live or have lived this drama, information and useful and inspiring guidelines to help parents at that time. To understand what is happening in the heart of a mother who suffered a miscarriage I interviewed a dear friend, Clarissa Oliveira publisher, which last year lost his first son, Martin, at 40 weeks of pregnancy.

What, beyond the pain of loss, was hard for you, your husband and family, in facing a child’s death before birth?
The most difficult was to understand “who I was” after the death of Martin and come back to life with this new identity, this tragic story to tell. The first month, despite the immense pain and infinite longing, I was more assured to stay protected, surrounded only by the closest people, and felt a lot of love and gratitude for having lived with him, even for such a short time. But having to see the “horror” of the people when confronted with my loss haunted me. In the end, it turned out to be less terrible than in my fantasy.
For my husband and my mother, the sense of injustice was very bad. As I had dealt with the indignation of “why me? Why me “before (since we went through a series of treatments to get pregnant), I did not have that expectation of justice, so I was spared such torturous thoughts.

Are hospitals prepared to offer acceptance and respect in this situation?
I attended a private hospital by a humanized team (composed of obstetrician, anesthesiologist and assistant), and rely on the presence of my companion, two doulas (professional focused on the emotional support of childbirth and postpartum) and my mother. The induction took place in a dark, quiet room and I gave birth in the operating room, in which I was allowed to stay almost an hour with my son. Considering other stories I heard, I think I was privileged. I had a natural birth, the way I wanted, without lacerations or obstetric violence, and had an intimate moment with Martin and my companion. Cleaned, I kissed, dressed and talked to him. It was the most sublime moment of my life.
However, I would have had the opportunity to spend more time with him – to take him to the room, for example, instead of feeling pressured to release the delivery room to the operating room. I was also offered a remedy to dry my milk, I refused. I wish they had asked me about it, because if I was not a questioning and suspicious person, I would have taken the medicine and wouldn’t go through the process of producing and donating milk, which was very relevant in my healing process.

What, among the support network of family and friends helped you?
The “shield” that my family, my friends, my team at work and my doulas did was essential that first time. Messages of love and presence at the funeral (and later) were also very important. Does analysis have an established relationship with a professional instead of seeking help from a stranger? After a month or so, I sought contact with people who have also gone through pregnancy loss or neonatal and feeling of not being alone was comforting.

What did not help?
The lack of contact with some friends and the unspoken blame – but obvious –of a few relatives. While I understand the difficulty of others in dealing with this kind of tragedy, and I understand that naming a culprit is unavoidable for some, I expected more empathy and presence of some people.

What would you like to say (or do) to someone who lived the same loss?
I would say that I’m sorry, we’re together. I would ask and say the baby’s name who died, and respond with the name of my son. I put myself at the disposal and if one wanted to, indicate groups of virtual or in-person support. Say that love is infinite, but the pain is immense, and ask them to give permission to feel it and to grieve.

Did or do you search some specialized therapeutic help?
I was already analyzing for years and continued with the same analyst who follows the Jungian line. I went to a meeting of a support group for pregnancy loss in my town, and it was good, but I did not return because I preferred working my grief in my time, in a more individual way. But it was important to have gone and connected with people, and indicates the group who had a similar experience.

How was your return to work? Is there anything you would suggest in the workplace to help those who go through a loss like yours?
It was difficult. I asked to go back before the end of my leave, 3 days per week schedule. I wanted to “return soon” as encouraged everyone, but I was afraid to face the “real world.” My work environment is far above average. The staff is very welcoming and the company scored top marks. But it was painful, especially because some colleagues did not know how to broach the subject and chose to ignore it completely. There was a day when I cried on the computer table or in the bathroom and that’s fine, there was understanding. What I find important is that it does not turn into a taboo and is not ignored.

Do you feel that pregnancy loss is underestimated by society in general?
Yes and no. My loss was a late loss. I was about to complete 40 weeks. I do not think anyone underestimated my pain. However, as the baby did not exist for most people, the reaction is as if the pain of frustration, not the loss of a real person. This is very difficult, because I heard things like “soon as you get pregnant again” and there were the ones who never spoke the name of my son (including floated not to go to the funeral because they had “surgeries scheduled at that time”, which certainly would not have said it was the burial of a child who came to live outside the womb). The realization that my son did not exist for the world is terrible. In this sense, I think it’s an underrated loss. On the other hand, “losing a child”, in our imagination, is the worst that can happen to a woman, then, in a way, it is too overestimated.

How do you believe that people could sympathize more and understand better who undergoes a miscarriage?
I think empathy is the solution to almost all ills. I believe the only way to get to sympathize is to allow yourself to be in an uncomfortable situation. Feel the pain together. But this speech does not match the values of our short-sighted “anti-pain” world. So if you cannot put that terrible place at least one has to make an effort not to deny or exacerbate the pain of others. Some small gestures would make all the difference: not pretending it did not happen, not comparing pain or loss, do not rush the grief, look in the eye and, above all, tell the deceased’s name. There is much power in a name.