By: Jaclyn Pieris
It was an abnormally warm day in England and I was sitting in a stuffy, grey colored, softly lit room in another weekly counseling session. I was enrolled in a training course to become a therapeutic counselor, and I had to undergo 50 hours of counseling. This requirement was exactly what I needed at this time in my life. Over the past three years, my husband and I had tried to conceive without respite. After a year of trying, I would fall pregnant and quite soon after miscarry. This was the never-ending loop from which we couldn’t seem to break free from. I felt bitter and absolutely drained in more ways than one. I had little energy to continue speaking to my family about our ongoing struggles, and assumed they were tired of listening to me too.
In this particular session, as we once again talked about my frustrations with my inability (yes, a lot of self-blaming occurred!) to start a family, my counselor mentioned that my parents had to be suffering as well. I paused, taken aback by this assertion, as well as the realization that I had never considered my parents’ pain.
“Each time you miscarried, you lost your baby and the future you thought you were going to have. Likewise, your parents lost their grandbaby, and the future they thought they’d be having…”. That session provided me with another view of our situation.
I think back on this time now as we enter September and near the first Sunday after Labor Day, also known as Grandparent’s Day. It’s been a couple of years since I have discussed those trying times in our lives with my mother, and I recently decided that I would reach out and ask her to share her honest feelings during those darker days. This was not a cruel exercise in re-living a sad time in our lives. This was a chance for me to talk openly with my mother about what she had experienced, something I had never done before. Our conversations only ever centered around me and what I was personally facing. What follows is some of our conversation, which felt comforting and healing for me even a few years down the road:
What do you remember from my first pregnancy?
You called me immediately after your first scan which took place at about 14 weeks. You had not yet physically miscarried and you were sent home from the hospital to decide if you wanted it to happen naturally or to have a D&C. When I heard your anguished voice on the phone, I knew immediately. In the days and weeks ahead, I felt utterly helpless to console you as we lived on different continents. I could not rush to your side, and this presented a grave problem for me because all that was left were phone calls- unfortunately there is nothing that can be said to make one feel better. It was also unfortunate that I still tried to say things to help but found that my words were not well chosen. I was so optimistic that your next pregnancy would be successful- it honestly did not occur to me that you might have more miscarriages.
Your dad and I were already grandparents of two beautiful boys. During phone conversations with you, I began to consciously refrain from speaking about your two nephews even though they were such a big part of our lives. When news that your brother’s third child was on the way, we were faced with such conflicting emotions – joy for our son and sadness for you.
Did you seek support during this time?
I turned to my faith to seek comfort. I also shared your story with friends and family members. The result was an outpouring of love and sympathy and the sharing of stories of miscarriage from people who became emotional telling their story even when their experience happened as many as 25 years ago. Listening to others helped me to understand your ongoing feelings of anguish and even hopelessness.
How has this time in our lives perhaps changed and how you view pregnancy loss?
As a result of your multiple miscarriages, I have a heightened sensitivity for the women and men who suffer miscarriage and pregnancy loss. I don’t hesitate to reach out to people to let them know that I recognize their grief and that their feelings are real. They should not feel that they have to hide their emotions and pretend to be happy for others. You have published a book to tell your story and to help others express their own story through journaling. I keep a supply of these books to pass on to others in their time of need. More than ever before, I see the birth of a healthy baby as a miracle – a miracle to be treasured and never taken for granted.
Jaclyn Pieris is a Student Affairs professional in higher education and a certified therapeutic counselor in the UK. She is originally from Pennsylvania and she and her British born husband have recently left London, England to start a new adventure in San Diego, California. She is author of the self-help/memoir book called, A Loss Misunderstood: Healing Your Grieving Heart After Miscarriage.