We’re almost to October—Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month. Approximately 25% of all women will go through a miscarriage in their journey to become a mother. I went through it, and it changed my world forever.
For many people, a miscarriage is the most painful experience they have ever lived through, and the pain never truly leaves. Taking care of yourself after a miscarriage is important for emotional and physical healing.
I wrote about my miscarriage here in this post. It was an experience that I would never wish on anyone, and I felt no one understood me. When this is the case, be the one to advocate for yourself and what you need to heal.
Here are some possibilities for caring for yourself and your health following the loss of your baby.
Take as much time off of work as you need.
My employer offers 3 days of sick leave without a note required. Between 4 and 10 days, a doctor’s note is required, and for more than 10 days, they like to have prior approval (for things like scheduled surgeries.)
My miscarriage started when I was at a workshop for my job. About 40 of my colleagues were there, and they saw me. They knew I hadn’t been feeling well, but I’m sure they were surprised when I just took off.
I only planned on taking Monday and Tuesday off. We were scheduled to have a meeting on Wednesday with our entire staff. They’re an amazing bunch of people, but I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be probed with questions about where I was or what happened to me at the workshop. Most of them are only acquaintances. My mentor had already asked casually if I was alright (he knew that I had called in sick 3 days in a row.)
From research on forums, it seems like everyone takes their own time getting back into work. Many women took between 2 and 4 days off. One woman took a month off for her first miscarriage and 2 weeks off for her second—that made me feel significantly less guilty about taking off 3 days.
Sometimes, trying to get back to normal life can help, and sometimes taking some time off is what you need. The honest truth is that only YOU can tell yourself how much time you need. Talk to your doctor and get a note if you need.
Allow yourself to grieve.
When I got divorced, I downed a third of a bottle of scotch and wrote out all my feelings as I sobbed. And that was it. It took a few hours and I was done. The marriage had felt over for months, years even, so I had plenty of time to prepare myself mentally and emotionally for the loss. The last thing to do was cut the cord and move on.
With this loss, I was completely unprepared. I had spent three weeks turning my life upside-down to make space and time for a new baby, in my environment, in my mind, and in my heart. Three weeks doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but they were the longest three weeks of my life.
I spent plenty of time crying, especially that first night. It was nice to have a shoulder to cry on—my husband was wonderful, even if he was upset too. I would hear a song that I planned to sing as a lullaby and I would start crying again. I even saw a terrible car accident when I was out once and started crying, thinking of how terrible it would be to lose Phil. (And then of course I texted him every 30 second for the next ten minutes until he texted me back and I knew that he was okay.)
I took it hard.
Every instance of grief is going to be different. So allow yourself to do what feels right. Don’t hold those tears in. Let it all out.
Acknowledge all your feelings.
Throughout the process of healing from my miscarriage, I didn’t just feel grief, I also felt powerless, frustrated, angry, guilty, and myriad other emotions.
It helps to keep a journal or at least give yourself some time every day to reflect on how you are feeling. When I was feeling frustrated or angry, I would take those emotions out on the people (or animals) around me. (My poor dogs… if they so much as flinched while they were waiting for their food, I made them wait longer while they obediently sat there drooling.) If I would finally acknowledge that how I was feeling had nothing to do with them, I was able to calm down a bit.
Rely on your partner or a close friend or family member. I’m lucky to have a guy that really cares, and just about every day, he would ask me how I was feeling and if I was doing okay. When the heavy bleeding stopped and I was finally able to take a bath, he was a little concerned. (He knows that I usually only take a bath when I’m stressed out or feeling a little off.) So I sat down with him and told him about the anger that I had been experiencing.
If you feel normal, don’t assume that you’re back to your normal self. There were several times over the past month that I felt completely recovered, only to discover a day or two later that I was suppressing my anxiety or rage. Moving on takes time, and don’t be surprised to discover that you’re still having residual feelings even after months or years.
Treat yourself… a little.
Personally, I like to indulge in sweets (chocolate!) and new clothes. I find a measure of enjoyment from those things, so small doses of them can be therapeutic. Finding joy in a few little things can help bring you back to the right path. So I made some brownies and went to Marshalls and found a vest and sweater. It helped me to get out and do some active things to take my mind off everything.
But beware the slippery slope! Don’t over-do it, throwing yourself into indulgences to cover your pain is not the way to go. If I had ONLY eaten brownies or spent hundreds of dollars on new clothes, I’m pretty sure it would have just caused more problems.
I walked at least 30 minutes each day during and after my miscarriage. Sometimes I took as many as three 45 minute walks a day. I did yoga in the mornings and lifted weights every other day. The exercise actually made my cramps/contractions worse during the exercise, but when I rested afterwards, my body felt much better. Exercise promotes good circulation, which was also important, since my blood volume was likely decreasing.
I ate plenty of leafy greens and foods high in andioxidants like blueberries and healthy fats like avocados. After a few weeks of intense pregnancy hormones, my body was settling back to normal and the best way to support that change was to make sure I was getting proper nutrition.
Personally for me, after my miscarriage, I continued my abstinence from alcohol and caffeine, and I continued to take my prenatals. It helped me feel like I was doing the best I could for my body (doesn’t my body deserve the same kind of treatment that I was willing to give my 7 week old fetus?). I also started taking royal jelly every day for fertility and energy. You might want to talk to you doctor or alternative health practitioner about supplements you can take to help your body heal, or supplements that will help you get pregnant again (and that will be safe for baby after you have conceived.)
30 Days to Healthy Living is a program that has helped many women get their hormones and reproductive systems back into shape to successfully conceive, so this can help you stay healthy if you’re thinking of trying to conceive again.
Make sure you don’t have any complications.
Following a miscarriage, even if you think it’s a normal, natural miscarriage, you will want to follow-up with your doctor. Things like bleeding so heavy that it soaks a pad in an hour, or a foul smell from down there can mean complications or infection. Plenty of medical websites can point you in the direction of what’s considered normal or not. If you suspect that you might have a complication, call your nurse or doctor.
Your reproductive system is particularly sensitive after a miscarriage, so follow your doctor’s orders. Typically, this will mean being on pelvic rest (nothing in your vagina) until the bleeding has stopped. No baths until the bleeding has stopped. I bled for a week, and continued to spot occasionally for an additional 3 weeks. Two weeks is pretty average, unfortunately, so if it lasts longer than your period, that would not be unusual.
Find a community.
Even if your friends haven’t been through a miscarriage, tell them what’s going on. We had told several of our closest friends and family members that we were pregnant very early on. I had a lot of people checking in on me and making sure that I was alright as I went through the miscarriage.
If you haven’t told anyone that you were pregnant but still want the support of other people, look for a community online or a forum. Words, even in written form, can be comforting to hear, especially from someone who has gone through the same terrible loss that you have.
No matter which path you choose to heal from this terrible loss, make sure that it feels right to you.
If you have gone through one, what sorts of things helped you out when recovering from your miscarriage?