Miscarriage, Stillbirth, Loss After Birth: You Don’t Need Experience To Be A Friend (And A Way To Give)

Right after I had my son, I was spending time with a friend. She looked at me, glanced away and said softly: I had a miscarriage.

The room paused. I wasn’t sure if the space was awaiting my reply or absorbing her words. I had no experience with miscarriage. I didn’t know what to say because I had no personal experience to draw from, but I know how to listen so I invited her to tell me more about it if she wanted. The story was sad and the medical professionals involved were not helpful or kind. I had to go soon after she finished. We hugged, and I went on to take care of my baby and she went on to take care of herself as best she could.

I don’t regret how I handled the moment because I believe making space for another person to tell the story of their loss is a gift we who have not experienced the same grief can give. I do, however, regret not following up. I don’t recall ever asking after her or her baby again or sending a token of love or strength her way to help or let her know she was in my heart.

Over the years I’ve read more stories and heard more experiences on miscarriage, stillbirth, and loss after birth, and I understand now that while listening is important, acknowledging the days, weeks, months and years later are also part of being a friend.

These conversations can be intimidating particularly for a friend or acquaintance who doesn’t have personal experience with losing a child. The way I approach now it is:

Me: How are YOU?
Friend: Okay.
Me: I was think about {child’s name} and his beautiful mop of dark hair the other day.

The friend may smile or start talking or change the subject, but I’ve let them know the door is open and I remember too. I then trust her to chose what to do next, and I follow her lead. I also make sure to use the child’s name because she doesn’t get to hear it enough. I suspect that I have said sometimes said or done something foolish because I don’t intimately understand, but as a friend, who is kind and doing more listening than lecturing, it’s been okay and far better than the alternative of pretending nothing happened.

Don’t be afraid. Parents don’t forget their children whether they are walking this Earth or in their hearts. I’m not going to startling someone into grief or remembering. It’s already on her mind. And every conversation around a child won’t be to be sad or long. Sometimes, just hearing the child’s name spoken by someone else or sharing a quick memory can be a gift.

One of my readers, Keren, lost her son, Michael, at 34 weeks and 2 days. She founded Raindrop Memories in his memory along with another mom, who has experienced child loss, Elizabeth, in memory of her son Ryan who she lost at 19 weeks.

They provide care packages to moms after miscarriage, stillbirth or loss after birth.

The basic box provided to hospitals for patients includes personal care items (lotion, lip balm, tissues), a journal and pen, a sympathy card for staff to sign, a charm, a sachet, a teeny tears diaper, and blanket if available.

They currently support eight North Carolina hospitals so no mom, who has experienced such a loss, leaves the hospital empty-handed. They also take orders for individuals around the country.

The blanket in the photo is hand-sown and sized for a preemie. They also make matching sibling blankets. I’m currently working on a premie blanket to donate in the memory of all the moms I know who have experienced great loss, but especially to the first mom who shared her story with me.

If you would like to make a blanket, the tutorial is below. It’s easy and adds so much to the care packages.

If you are not at all crafty, you can support Raindrop Memories by donating items off their wish list or donating directly to them. My amazing advertiser, RVA Home Team, donates a portion of her earnings every month to a different charity, and recently, she donated $125 to Raindrop Memories when I mentioned the good work they were doing. Thank you!

Preemie Blanket Tutorial

You will need: soft flannel fabric, scissors, ruler, marker, un-sharpened pencil, iron.
On a flat surface lay two pieces of fabric down, right sides together. Use the ruler and marker to draw a 12 or 18 inch square on the WRONG side of the fabric.
Cut the square on the outside of the line.
Sew 1/4 inch from the edge. You can use the guide on your machine. If you don’t have a machine. you can totally hand sew these with no problem. Be sure to LEAVE AN OPENING BIG ENOUGH FOR YOUR HAND so that you can turn the blanket to the right side. Feel free to trim the outside edge to reduce some bulk.
Now flip the blanket to the right side, and use the un-sharpened pencil, or any blunt ended item to push out the corners of the blanket. (Sharp things will push through and make a hole.)
Use the iron to press the seams open and flat.
Use the iron to press the seams open and flat.
Now top stitch about 1/8 in from the edge. This keeps the blanket from bunching as well as closes the opening. Keren likes to use a contrasting thread because it adds some interest.
Finished Blanket. The perfect preemie size. Also, a matching sibling blanket can be made.

Blanket Tutorial Download (pdf format)

I hope that you will participate by making a blanket or by supporting Raindrop Memories another way in memory of personal loss or a friend’s loss or just because they are doing great work.

The blankets, wish list items, and non-paypal donations can be sent to:
Raindrop Memories
PO Box 5381
Greensboro, NC 27435-5381

PayPal donations can be made by clicking here.  (Note: Raindrop Memories has filed for non-profit status but is awaiting approval so donations are not currently tax deductible although they are greatly appreciated.)

Disclaimer: This isn’t a sponsored post, and I wasn’t compensated. This is in keeping with my efforts to support my readership’s writing, art and good works and because I care.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

16 thoughts to “Miscarriage, Stillbirth, Loss After Birth: You Don’t Need Experience To Be A Friend (And A Way To Give)”

  1. Although your blog is called “Late Enough” I think this is a gesture that falls under “Never too Late”.

    I hope our friend knows how you’re helping spread the word to support this charity. She would be happy.

    I’ve had some miscarriages. I’ve been pregnant but have nothing to show for it. Yet, I’ve had all the stories of pregnancies. Morning sickness, strange hungers, change in appetite, etc. Yet, when my sisters or friends would share their pregnancy stories and I wanted to add mine they pretty much did not allow it. Oddly enough I always felt that they viewed the miscarriages as a virus they could catch if I talked about them too openly.

    Listening is a big big gift you can give even if you feel you didn’t do enough for your friend.

    1. One of the first conversations Keren and I had about collaborating was the hope that this post would help breakdown the idea that miscarriage, stillbirth and loss after birth are “catchy.” Thank you for talking about your experiences with that feeling because you are so not alone in it although I’m sorry that you were made to feel that way. We can swap pregnancy stories any time.

  2. My little sister lost a baby through miscarriage and has not been able to conceive since then. My heart breaks for her on a constant basis. We’ve never actually talked about it. Thank you for giving me the push I needed.

    1. It makes me tear up that this post helped you to reach out although I’m so sorry for your sister’s loss and struggles. Thank you so much for sharing that. Your family is in my thoughts.

  3. One of my best friends lost her son at two days old and now another friend of mine is pregnant and found out her baby has a rare incurable heart defect. In other words, I can relate to the challenges of knowing how to be the “best” friend in these situations. What can you say? But I’ve learned it’s more important to hold their hand (metaphorically speaking) and say the wrong thing than to not be there or say nothing at all.

    And it’s those weeks, months and years after the loss that they really need us the most. Thank you for writing this post.

  4. This is a beautiful post Alex and one that is sadly needed. I have also had girlfriends and sisters of girlfriends walk down this road. I think they would greatly appreciate and agree with this blog.

  5. Thank you for posting this and helping such a great cause. I lost my son when I was 23 weeks pregnant and I cherish the little handknit hat and blanket we got from the hospital. They are some of the only tangible things we have that we’re truly his. It seems like such a little thing but when most people have forgotten I was even pregnant, they prove that he was here, even if only for a moment.

    1. Thank you for sharing about your son and his hat and blanket. I think it’s so important for others to understand how much those items mean when you leave the hospital under such terrible circumstances. I’ll be thinking about you and him with my hand stitching, and I’m sending you a hug and love.

  6. What a sweet idea. When I was pregnant with the twins, I had 3 other friends pregnant at the same time, and one miscarried. I was at a loss for what to do. I kind of shut down and disappear when someone is in need and I don’t know how to help. But I finally called her and we talked. I offered to accompany her to her procedure. And in turn she kept me company when I got stuck on bedrest, sewed curtains for my girls’ room, and let me cry to her when i was miserable on hospital bed rest. She said later that doing those things really helped her work through some of her grief. We need others.

  7. Thanks for posting this – I lost my daughter at 38 weeks (on Jan 19th) and while I completely shut down for a while, my good friends kept calling/emailing/or texting. I didn’t respond until weeks or months later but while I just couldn’t communicate, it comforted me to know my friends were thinking of me and my daughter. All of those voicemails and emails helped get me through some of the darkest days and when I was finally able to talk, they have been here willing to listen (and I love to hear my daughter’s name.)

  8. Oh Alex. I saw the title of this post the day you posted, but just couldn’t come read. I’m glad I finally did. I made a donation because when I had my miscarriages, well, it was different. The first time the only thing anyone said or did was the book on grief a secretary at my school slid in my mailbox and then awkward talk about the weather. The second time I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t want it to be like the first time…so awkward and full of weird. My therapist tells me that I am still dealing with PTSD because of never dealing with the emotions of the miscarriages–of pushing them off as nothing and trying to ignore that they happened.

    Anyway, what I’m saying is…this is beautiful. Donation made.

  9. I had no idea what to say to my friend. None. I listened too and just hugged. I do avoid talking about it because it’s uncomfortable…for me…and that is totally selfish. Totally.
    This is an amazing charity that I think goes a long way to help women heal.

  10. I just came across your post while trying to come up with ideas for miscarriage care packages. I would like to make a suggestion. It wasn’t clear whether the care packages are also delivered to doctors offices. I think they could really use them too! As I too have suffered a miscarriage and had a horrible experience with my doctor’s office. I didn’t have the typical miscarriage, I never went to a hospital. I learned I had miscarried at my doctor’s office and they seemed very ill prepared. I’m still suffering from anxiety and depression 2 years later. I plan to try to donate care packages to local OBGYNs and I would highly encourage others to do the same. Thank you.

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