Ask Mary Jo
Dealing with loss that’s very emotional
Q.I’m 15 and I was pregnant, but I had a miscarriage. I was only 11 weeks. I have a couple of questions. The doctor said I had a spontaneous abortion. I know that’s what he said because I made the nurse write it down. That’s not true. I didn’t have an abortion. I thought about having one a lot but couldn’t do it. Did I do this? I don’t smoke or drink, and I was careful. But I didn’t want to be pregnant, and I didn’t want the baby. Is that why I lost it? And if I didn’t want it in the first place, then why now that I’m not pregnant anymore do I feel so sad? My gramma said that this was for the best, that I’m probably being punished for being bad. Since it’s summer none of my friends even knew I was pregnant, so now none of them know I lost the baby. I didn’t even tell my old boyfriend, who was the baby’s father, because we broke up. I keep crying. I can’t even look at a stupid diaper commercial without crying. Can you help me get it together?
Mary Jo’s response: I’m sorry for your loss. Many women experience feelings of grief and loss when a pregnancy ends. It’s normal to feel sad and even angry. Your situation is more challenging because you are without a support system. I will be happy to be part of a support system. I’m a certified childbirth educator, and I’ve prepared women for childbirth since the '70s. Many of them experienced miscarriages. Let’s meet for coffee ASAP.
First and most important: You didn’t make this miscarriage happen. Your fear and confusion about your unplanned pregnancy didn’t cause the miscarriage. ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) states that miscarriages are surprisingly common, occurring in about 15 percent of known pregnancies. Contrary to myths, no research suggests that a woman’s stress, physical activity or sexual activity during pregnancy cause a miscarriage. Please do not blame yourself. You are not being punished.
A miscarriage is the loss of a pregnancy before 20 weeks. The medical term for a miscarriage is a spontaneous abortion, but it is not an abortion as the word is commonly used.
Most miscarriages that occur in the first trimester (you were in the first trimester of your pregnancy) are caused by chromosomal abnormalities in the baby. You may have learned about chromosomes in school. Chromosomes are threadlike structures that carry a person’s genes. Sperm carry 23 pairs of chromosomes and the egg (ovum) carries 23 pairs. At fertilization, when the egg and sperm join, the two sets of chromosomes create a unique embryo. Genes determine a great deal about a person, like sex, hair color and blood type. An embryo with an abnormal number of chromosomes often will not survive, and the pregnancy ends in a miscarriage. There are other possible miscarriage causes – speak with your health-care provider to create your accurate health history.
You’re crying for many reasons. Your hormones are changing; emotionally you may feel like you’re on a roller coaster. The grief process is different for each person, but feelings of deep loss after a miscarriage are not uncommon.
The website http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancyloss/mcsurvivingemotionally.html offers support for a pregnancy loss and lists the following common emotions: numbness, disbelief, anger, guilt, sadness, depression and difficulty concentrating. As a teen you may also feel that all you’ve gone through has been for nothing. Telling your family, dealing with morning sickness while in school, facing judgment because of your age – these difficult experiences are over and suddenly so is your pregnancy. You may feel empty and lost. You may also be afraid for the future. Fear that you may not be able to get pregnant and have a baby can cause a young person to make risky choices. When we meet let’s talk about ways to delay sexual involvement or use protection. Trying to replace this pregnancy with another will not make your grief disappear.
Well-meaning people may say things that are hurtful in an attempt at comforting. Your gramma may not realize your sadness. She’s not alone. Often family and friends do not know what to say after a teen losses a pregnancy; saying “it’s for the best” or “you shouldn’t have been pregnant in the first place” may make you feel more alone. You may feel older than your friends. The fact that none of your friends or your ex knew about your pregnancy means that people who can support you are few. Are you comfortable talking with a trusted adult in your family? School starts soon. Sharing with your guidance counselor may help. I’d like to meet with you weekly. Feel free to continue texting any time.
Do you have any ultrasound pictures from your pregnancy? You may want to save anything that connects you to this loss. Your pregnancy was real. Your miscarriage happened. Grieving may mean facing the emotional and physical losses it caused. Your due date may be painful when it arrives. Don’t expect your sadness to just disappear – please give yourself time to heal.
My papa was fond of saying “This too shall pass.” Right now your sorrow is a huge part of your life, but in time you will feel less pain. Remember that you’re not alone.