Print Friendly and PDF

Miscarriage is incredibly common—among women who know they are pregnant, 15 to 20% will have a miscarriage. But just because it's common, it doesn't mean it's easy to know how to cope when you or a friend experience one.

We talked to Dr. Jessica Zucker, a clinical psychologist specializing in women's reproductive and maternal mental health, and creator of a line of Pregnancy Loss cards, about what to say when it's hard to find the right words. Zucker, who herself experienced a life-changing miscarriage at 16 weeks pregnant, wants to make it easier for women who miscarry, and their support networks, to cope with this intense experience.

FEATURED VIDEO

What should you say to a friend who's just shared the news that she's had a miscarriage?

Here are 5 phrases to say to a friend who has just had a miscarriage:

1. “I'm so sorry for your loss. I'm here for you."

“If we keep it simple, I think we convey a greater sense of empathy. We leave more room for authentic connection than if we force our own feelings or beliefs on a friend," Dr. Zucker says.

2. “Remember you are not alone. Be gentle with yourself."

Zucker reminds us that “Women want to hear basic, simple, loving words." Miscarriage can be such a lonely experience to go through, so reminding them that you are there with them can be incredibly helpful.

3. “I'm thinking of you."

“I send texts to loved ones who have recently experienced pregnancy loss that say, 'You've been in my thoughts—how are you feeling?'" Zucker told us. "Basic sentiments that convey my care and concern for their well-being" go a long way toward making them feel loved.

“When we just keep it simple, we convey a greater sense of empathy and we leave way more room for true connection."

4. “I love you so much and I imagine you feel [awful] right now, but I just had to remind you of how wonderful I think you are."

Dr. Zucker said, “These messages can provide a life raft. By allowing someone to be where they are—to be in the dark place for a bit, that to me verifies the depth of the friendship—being willing to journey with your friend through it all."

5. “Grief knows no timeline. Take all the time you need. I want you to know that if you'd like to talk about your loss, anytime, I'm here. I'm here always."

As the months move on, it might be important to check in with your friend to see how she's doing. “It's not about digging or prodding, but instead it's about relaying genuine and consistent loving support," Zucker told us.

And that's just a start.

If you're still struggling to find the right words, you want to try to examine your own motivations before you speak, Zucker suggests asking yourself the following: 'What might I want in this situation?'

“The research states that women tend to blame themselves after pregnancy loss, experiencing feelings of guilt and shame. If we assume women are feeling these unfortunate emotions after a loss, then by reminding people how much we love them, we can help to anchor them during this difficult time in their lives."

And just as important as saying the “right things" at this time is avoiding words that perhaps are well-intended, but can be hurtful in the midst of loss.

Here are 5 phrases not to say to a friend who has mad a miscarriage:

1. “Look on the bright side."

When people are grieving, it's important and ultimately healing to allow them to stay in their grief. Avoid rushing them through the process to happier times ahead, and instead offer to be with them, right where they are.

2. "You must be devastated."

Zucker says, “When you want to say 'you must be devastated,' in a way you are projecting what you think other people might feel. Instead, listen to where they are and inquire about how [they are] doing."

3. “At least you know you can get pregnant."

“Your friend wanted this baby and is mourning this baby, reminds Dr. Zucker. "This statement is often just hurtful. [It] is also short-sighted because we don't know that she can necessarily get pregnant again. It's important to stick with feelings rather than predicting her reproductive future."

4. “I guess it wasn't meant to be /This is God's plan/ Everything happens for a reason."

According to Dr. Zucker, “These are some of the frequently-stated platitudes that sting rather than support. They don't accurately address feelings, but rather minimize the complex experience of pregnancy loss."

We cannot assume what one's spiritual feelings about a loss are, so it's best not to make assumptions.

5. “You look amazing—you look like you were never pregnant!"

After pregnancy loss, stay away from complimenting her body, Zucker suggests. “Your friend might think: 'I wish I were pregnant right now so telling me I don't look pregnant doesn't feel good and reminds me I'm no longer pregnant."

The big lesson when supporting a friend through miscarriage

Every woman who goes through pregnancy loss has her own unique experience. Zucker explains: “One's grieving process might invoke her family history, previous experience of loss, as well as social support and coping skills."

But there are some words that are generally more helpful than others—and there are some words that can unintentionally cause pain even though you might mean well.

Your best bet is to approach your friend with genuine empathy, trying to understand her needs in that moment, and letting her know that you're there for her. And you would do well to remember that she may need support—perhaps even more—as the months go on.

And if you find yourself for some reason unable to say anything to a friend—you can always send one of Zucker's super-helpful pregnancy loss cards. Sending one can help convey what words cannot.

Dr. Jessica Zucker

The very best of Motherly — delivered when you need it most.
Subscribe for inspiration, empowering articles and expert tips to rock your best #momlife.

Subscribe for inspiration, empowering articles and expert tips to rock your best #momlife.

Thanks for subscribing!

Check your email for a confirmation message.

In the middle of that postpartum daze, the sleepless nights, the recovery, the adjustment to a new schedule and learning the cues of a new baby, there are those moments when a new mom might think, I don't know how long I can do this.

Fortunately, right around that time, newborns smile their first real smile.

For many mothers, the experience is heart-melting and soul-lifting. It's a crumb of sustenance to help make it through the next challenges, whether that's sleep training, baby's first cold, or teething. Each time that baby smiles, the mother remembers, I can do this, and it's worth it.

FEATURED VIDEO

Dayna M. Kurtz, LMSW, CPT a NYC-based psychotherapist and author of Mother Matters: A Holistic Guide to Being a Happy, Healthy Mom, says she sees this in her clinical practice.

"One mother I worked with recounted her experience of her baby's first smile. At eight weeks postpartum, exhausted and overwhelmed, she remembered her baby smiling broadly at her just before a nighttime feeding," Kurtz says. "In that moment, she was overcome by tremendous joy and relief, and felt, for the first time, a real connection to her son."

So what is it about a baby's smile that can affect a mother so deeply? Can it all be attributed to those new-mom hormones? Perhaps it stems from the survival instincts that connect an infant with its mother, or the infant learning social cues. Or is there something more going on inside our brains?

In 2008, scientists in Houston, TX published their research on the topic. Their study, "What's in a Smile? Maternal Brain Responses to Infant Facial Cues", takes data from the MRI images of 26 women as they observed images of infants smiling, crying, or with a neutral expression.

The images included the mother's own infant alternated with an unknown infant of similar ethnicity and in similar clothing and position. In each image, the baby displayed a different emotion through one of three facial expressions; happy, neutral, or sad. Researchers monitored the change in the mothers' brain activity through the transitions in images from own-infant to unknown-infant, and from happy to neutral to sad and vice versa.

The results?

"When first-time mothers see their own baby's face, an extensive brain network appears to be activated, wherein affective and cognitive information may be integrated and directed toward motor/behavioral outputs," wrote the study's authors. Seeing her infant smile or cry prompts the areas of the brain that would instigate a mother to act, whether it be to comfort, care for, or caress and play with the baby.

In addition, the authors found that reward-related brain regions are activated specifically in response to happy, but not sad, baby faces. The areas of the brain that lit up in their study are the same areas that release dopamine, the "pleasure chemical." For context, other activities that elicit dopamine surges include eating chocolate, having sex, or doing drugs. So in other words, a baby's smile may be as powerful as those other feel-good experiences.

And this gooey feeling moms may get from seeing their babies smile isn't just a recreational high—it serves a purpose.

This reward system (aka dopaminergic and oxytocinergic neuroendocrine system) exists to motivate the mother to forge a positive connection with the baby, according to Aurélie Athan, PhD, director of the Reproductive & Maternal Psychology Laboratory (a laboratory that created the first graduate courses of their kind in these subjects).

These networks also promote a mother's ability to share her emotional state with her child, which is the root of empathy. "A mother cries when baby cries, smiles when baby smiles," Athan says.

While there's a physiological explanation underlying that warm-and-fuzzy sensation elicited by a smile, there may be other factors at play too, Kurtz says.

"In my clinical practice, I often observe a stunning exchange between a mother and her baby when the latter smiles at her. A mother who is otherwise engaged in conversation with me may be, for that moment, entirely redirected to focus on her little one," Kurtz says. "This kind of attention-capturing on the part of the baby can enable and cultivate maternal attunement—a mother's ability to more deeply connect with her infant. The quality of attunement in early childhood often sets the stage for one's relationship patterns in the future."

Whether a physiological response, a neural activation, simple instinct, or the tightening of emotional connection, the feeling generated by babies' smiles is a buoy in the choppy ocean of new parenthood.

And while the first smile may be the most magical by virtue of its surprise and the necessity of that emotional lift, the fuzzy feeling can continue well into that baby's childhood and beyond. It keeps telling parents, you've got this!

[This was originally published on Apparently]

Life

Chrissy Teigen is one of the most famous moms in the world and definitely one of the most famous moms on social media.

She's the Queen of Twitter and at least the Duchess of Instagram but with a massive following comes a massive dose of mom-shame, and Teigen admits the online comments criticizing her parenting affects her.

"It's pretty much everything," Teigen told Today, noting that the bulk of the criticism falls into three categories: How she feeds her kids, how she uses her car seats and screen time.

"Any time I post a picture of them holding ribs or eating sausage, I get a lot of criticism," she explained. "Vegans and vegetarians are mad and feel that we're forcing meat upon them at a young age. They freak out."

FEATURED VIDEO

Teigen continues: "If they get a glimpse of the car seat there is a lot of buckle talk. Maybe for one half of a second, the strap slipped down. And TV is another big one. We have TV on a lot in my house. John and I work on television; we love watching television."

Teigen wants the shame to stop, not just for herself but for all the other moms who feel it. (And we agree.)

"Hearing that nine out of 10 moms don't feel like they're doing a good enough job is terrible," she said. "We're all so worried that we're not doing all that we can, when we really are."

The inspiration for Teigen talking publicly about mom-shame may be in part because of her participation in Pampers' "Share the Love" campaign. But even though Teigen's discussion coincides with this campaign, the message remains equally important. Advertising can be a powerful tool for shifting the way society thinks about what's "normal" and we would much rather see companies speaking out against mom-shame than inducing it to sell more stuff.

Calling out mom-shame in our culture is worth doing in our lives, our communities and yes, our diaper commercials. Thank you Chrissy (and thank you, Pampers).

News

Dear fellow mama,

I was thinking about the past the other day. About the time I had three small boys—a newborn, his 2-year-old brother and his 5-year-old brother.

How I was always drowning.

How I could never catch my breath between the constant requests.

How I always felt guilty no matter how hard I tried.

How hard it was—the constant exhaustion, struggling to keep my home any kind of clean or tidy, how I struggled to feed my kids nutritious meals, to bathe them and clean them and keep them warmly dressed in clean clothing, to love them well or enough or well enough.

FEATURED VIDEO

Those years were some of the toughest years I have ever encountered.

But mama, I am here to tell you that it doesn't last forever. Slowly, incrementally, without you even noticing, it gets easier. First, one child is toilet trained, then the bigger one can tie his own shoelaces, then finally they are all sleeping through the night.

It's hard to imagine; I really really get it.

It is going to get easier. I swear it. I'm not saying that there won't be new parenting challenges, that it won't be the hardest thing you have ever done in your life. It will be. But it will get easier.

These days, all of my kids get the bus to school and back. Most of them dress themselves. They can all eat independently and use the toilet. Sometimes they play with each other for hours leaving me time to do whatever I need to do that day.

I sleep through the night. I am not constantly in a haze of exhaustion. I am not overwhelmed by three tiny little people needing me to help them with their basic needs, all at the same time.

I can drink a hot cup of coffee. I do not wish with every fiber of my being that I was an octopus, able to help each tiny person at the same time.

I am not tugged in opposite directions. I don't have to disappoint my 3-year-old who desperately wants to play with me while I am helping his first grade bother with his first grade reading homework.

And one day, you will be here too.

It's going to get easier. I promise. And while it may not happen today or even next week or even next month, it will happen. And you will look around in wonder at the magnificent people you helped to create and nurture and sustain.

Until then, you are stronger and more resilient than you can even imagine.

You've got this. Today and always.

Love,

A fellow mama

Life

I am broken.

It has happened again and I am breaking even more. Soon, the pieces will be too small to put back together.

The negative pregnancy test sits on my bathroom sink like a smug ex-lover. I am left pleading, How could you do this to me again? I thought it would be different this time. I had hope.

We are still trying. It has been 11 months and 13 days and there has been no progress. No forward momentum. No double solid lines. The emptiness of the space where the line should be mocks me.

I am broken.

FEATURED VIDEO

No amount of planning and scheming and effort is enough. I am not enough because I cannot make a chemical reaction happen at the exact moment it needs to happen. I cannot do what I want but oh how I wish I could.

It almost happened once. Two months ago, I felt different. Sore breasts and aware of the world like never before. I felt not empty. The blankness had been replaced by someone. I was sure of it. And I was late. Six days late and I thought this is it.

I didn't rush to test because I didn't want to jinx it. Or perhaps I just didn't want to let go of that string of hope. Without evidence that you're not actually here, I can pretend that you are.

So I waited. And I Googled early pregnancy symptoms and I kept an eye out for red spots I hoped I would never see. I finally couldn't wait any longer and decided the next morning would be the test.

But when I woke up, I knew it was just me. The feeling I had been feeling was gone and I knew, just knew, what I would find.

This test had words instead of lines. 'Not pregnant' it blared loudly, obnoxiously, insensitively.

I am broken.

It was four in the morning and I stood in my tiny bathroom apartment silently sobbing. Alone.

Perhaps you were there for a brief moment, but then you were gone.

I stared again at the stick.

Not pregnant.

Not pregnant.

Not pregnant.

It was taunting me now.

I wrapped it in a paper towel. Walked down three flights of stairs to the front of my building and threw it in the garbage can outside.

Later, when my husband woke, I told him I was wrong. There was nothing there after all.

And I mourned. All day long, I mourned. While I walked to work. While I said hello to my co-workers. While I answered questions and pretended to smile and tried not to think of the broken body I was living in.

The next day the blood arrived. Furious. Both of us infuriated it was there once again.

Can I keep doing this?

Am I broken?

Will I get to the point where I just… stop? Stop hoping. Stop praying. Stop wishing. Stop. Trying.

Am I broken? Or can I keep going?

Life
Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.