Over the next few weeks, Jamie Killian will be working on a series that asks a series of questions of those who have been through a difficult time, providing some guidance for how you can support someone in a similar situation. This week, we have Lisa O’Dell, a mother who has experienced a few miscarriages.
Ten percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage–yet many women feel like they have to deal with the emotional and physical fallout on their own. I spoke to Lisa O’Dell, mother of four, about her miscarriages. Below, she gives us some insight into her experiences and how to support friends you may know in a similar situation:
Can you give us a timeline of your experience with miscarriage?
“My oldest kiddos were a few months shy of 4 and 2. We decided a third would be a fun adventure. My sister was due with her first just a few months before my due date and I was excited about the idea of a pair of cousins growing up together. The day before my first ultrasound, which happened to be the day of my sister’s ‘big ultrasound’, I started spotting. I talked to my husband, had a good cry in the shower, and went into work.
“I called my OB to confirm what I knew — there was nothing to be done. I remember sitting at my desk with a coworker that afternoon when my sister texted that she was having a girl. I was so excited for her but dreading what I was increasingly convinced of. The next morning I was terrified to go into the OB, as if it wasn’t real until they’d confirmed it — blighted ovum they said — an empty sac.
“The next few months had such a dark cloud.
“…Eventually, we tried again and were blessed with two more beautiful girls but suffered another [two miscarriages] along the way.”
When you found out about your losses, what were friends and family saying that you found most comforting?
“I told my family that I wasn’t up for talking about it. My mom and dad showed up with flowers, hugs, and ‘I love you.’ That was really helpful.”
A lot of times, people on the sidelines feel really helpless or don’t want to intrude but want to do something. How can they show they care in the most meaningful way?
“Miscarriage sucks. You’re in a life stage where people are expecting news that you’re pregnant, and folks around you are getting pregnant or giving birth or trying to conceive and you just know that no one wants to hear your downer story about loss. Knowing that someone is available to talk if you chose to is helpful, but I really appreciated a sincere hug — knowing folks were there for me without having to talk about it.
“The best thing I can think of to say is ‘This really sucks’ and ‘I’m so sorry you and your family are going through this’.”
Has anyone said anything with good intentions that left you shaking your head? What shouldn’t people say?
“People want to try to ‘find the bright side,’ but there is no bright side. From the outside, it’s easy to want to move past it. There’s no body to bury. Often few people even knew this child existed. But I knew. People say things like ‘I’m sure you’ll have another child’ or ‘At least you’ve got two kids already’ which I heard as, ‘This baby was replaceable’.
“Or they say, ‘This is nature’s way (or God’s way) of preventing a serious birth defect.’ which I heard as, ‘The world is better off without your baby.’
“I’ve also had a lot of well-meaning people who didn’t know about the miscarriage ask when we’re having another or say things like, ‘Don’t you wish you had another one of these?’ Eventually I started answering with a flat, ‘Yes, I do.'”
What do you wish people knew about your situation–particularly, experiencing the loss of a pregnancy after you have had a child?
“Admittedly, there are complex feelings when people become pregnant or give birth around the same time as a miscarriage, but it is absolutely possible to be heartbroken over my own loss and happy to celebrate your news too. Don’t feel like you can’t talk about it with me. All children are gifts and I’m so happy to celebrate with you. Just please don’t be offended when I need to pass on something because I know I won’t be able to leave my cloud at home. Even if I don’t feel up to shopping for baby clothes with you today, I appreciate you asking.
“None of my children are replacement children. Each one, whether they’re throwing milk on the floor, dancing to ‘Poppy Music’ before bed, preparing to take over the world with Legos, or waiting for us in heaven, are part of our family.”
Photo Credit: Lisa O’Dell
This story was written for CharlotteFive’s latest channel for parents in the QC, called QC Playground. Sign up for the weekly QC Playground newsletter here.