I Lost Twins At 20 Weeks & This Is What I Learned About The Grief Of Pregnancy Loss
"I'm sorry, dear. We cannot save the pregnancy..." All of the words coming out of my doctor's mouth after those first two life-changing sentences became a muffled blur. As I looked at him, the room seemed to expand into nothingness trapping me in an inescapable nightmare. The debilitating terror that had consumed me from the moment my water broke unexpectedly earlier that morning had now transitioned to emptiness as any remaining hope I had vanished.
After a long and sleepless night waiting for the contractions to start, I delivered my twins the next morning without the joy that was supposed to accompany my first delivery. As I said my goodbyes to them, it felt like my soul was dying as well, leaving me unrecognizable to myself long after this ill-fated day. After years of failed IVF cycles, the loss of my twins was the sucker punch that finally brought me to my knees. I was unable to pick myself back up.
Grieving any type of loss is heartbreaking and traumatic. And yet, pregnancy loss has an added layer of hardship because of the stigma surrounding the issue. It is not a topic that is widely discussed both by those who experience the loss or the general public. Why is it so hard to talk about pregnancy loss openly and honestly?
Well, October happens to be National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. So let's start the discussion.
Why we struggle with talking about pregnancy loss.
One reason pregnancy loss is so difficult to discuss is because it is often tied to failure and a shattered sense of self-worth. When I lost my babies, I spent a lot of time in my head ruminating, desperate to find the answers to my questions: What did I do wrong? Why couldn't I hold on to a pregnancy? What could I do to prevent this from happening in the future? All of the unanswered questions fueled the shame I felt stemming from my inability to get pregnant and then stay pregnant. The years of fertility struggles caused me to identify myself as a failure and morphed my entire life's purpose into conceiving a child. So when I experienced a loss, I was too ashamed to talk about my failure—how my body failed me and how I failed my babies.
One in 4 women experience pregnancy loss, and yet somehow we still feel so alone when it happens. We carry the weight, the burden of our experience, our inadequacy, and our sadness in silence and on our own. We are reluctant to share what happened for fear of judgment and in fear that the flood of emotions that surfaces will consume us. Thus, the lack of conversation around this important topic propagates the taboo of speaking up about pregnancy loss.
How can we end the stigma of pregnancy loss and help people feel supported in their time of grief?
One way to begin is to share our stories of loss. One story at a time, one voice at a time, we can expand the conversation making it less taboo. The conversation, openness, and acceptance is a beautiful way to raise awareness and help one person feel less alone.
If you aren't comfortable sharing, however, know that it is OK because it is your story and you have the choice of how to heal yourself and honor your story. It can be helpful simply to listen to other stories even if you aren't ready to share your own.
If you are trying to support someone who has gone through loss, simply be there for them. Be open to leaning into the uncomfortable conversations so that you can be a source of comfort for someone going through loss. The best way to support someone going through pregnancy loss is to create a safe space for them to share when and if they feel ready. Sometimes knowing that there is someone available to support you, if needed, provides solace.
And to the person reading this who has experienced loss: I see you.
I am so sorry for your loss. From someone who understands your pain and the heaviness that you feel, please know that you are not to blame and you are not alone. Give yourself permission to feel the full expression of your feelings and be vulnerable to your anger, your sadness, your shame, your emptiness, and your guilt. All of it is OK and valid.
If this feels too overwhelming, pause and take a deep breath of nourishment and calm. Give yourself the time, space, and compassion to heal without a need to explain yourself or your process to others. If you feel broken and don't know how to piece yourself back together again, reach out to your partner, your family and friends, your fertility tribe. In this dark season that you are in at the moment, know that one day the light will begin to make its way back into your life and your being. Along with that light will come the hope and the strength that you need to begin again.
Josephine Atluri is a writer and mindfulness expert who specializes in fertility, motherhood, meditation and in helping others overcome adversity to find joy. She received her B.A. from The University Of Chicago. Through her unique journey on her path to become a mom of five, Josephine weathered many ups and downs with miscarriages, IVF, international adoption and surrogacy. Channeling her experience to find calm and courage and to focus on perseverance, she now helps others navigate life’s curveballs through online meditation training, fertility mindfulness workshops, and her “Responding to Life” podcast. Josephine is a regular content contributor for Motherly and Red Tricycle and she is also a preferred mental wellness provider for The Fertility Tribe, The IVF Warrior, Robyn, and the Fertility Circle.
Through her channels, Josephine shares practical stress management tips including tools to help ground yourself via the free meditation videos on her site. For a free monthly video meditation and wellness tips, be sure to sign up to receive her monthly newsletter on her site. For daily inspiration, be sure to follow her on Instagram.