In “Petal Moments” | How to Talk about Miscarriage – Holiday Edition

A simple guide to express how you’re processing miscarriage without feeling like it’s TMI.

While so many couples head into the 2020 holiday season excited as they await “quarennial” baby additions in the new year, just as many couples (if not more) are wondering, waiting, grieving, imaging “what could have been.” No “arrival” ornaments adorning the tree. No nursery gifts packaged with a bow. While I do hope they’ll indulge a bit extra in the boozy cheer, the season just isn’t the same this year. There’s been a loss.

I am talking about miscarriage. And why talk about this, YET AGAIN? Well, the holidays are emotionally charged and can be incredibly hard, a fact that is not new. And when you’re grieving miscarriage or other traumas of the sort, one of the biggest challenges is explaining to family and friends why you aren’t so gleeful or in the spirit. Explaining the process: what happened, how you feel, why you haven’t moved on – without getting into society-imposed “TMI” territory. So I’m introducing “Petal Moments.”

First, what are Petal Moments?

Petal Moments refers to the cycle a woman/man/couple goes through from finding out she/him/they are pregnant, to early ultrasounds, suspicion something isn’t quite right, the eventual start of the miscarriage, and ending in confirmation of the loss and grief. More challenging, this cycle of life and death associated with a miscarriage is different for everyone. For me, the petal moments happened in just a matter of two weeks (minus the grief) while for others it’s months. So these holidays, when we talk those around us through what happened or where the grief stems from, maybe we can do it in Petal Moments. Yes, it’s imperfect and oversimplifies the experience, but I hope it’s still useful.

Bright Pink Petal Moments

When we find out we are pregnant usually there is some flower involved. Whether it’s a bright colored rose or a peony, something with a petal is exchanged. Of critical importance to remember in these bright pink petal moments is that once a woman/man/couple finds out they are pregnant, they begin to imagine who that child will be. They build an entire future around those two pink lines. It’s exciting and joyful.
These are the first petal moments.

Pale Pink Petal Moments

Now, between the Bright Pink Petal Moments and the Pale Pink Petal Moments a lot has already happened. Maybe a couple has gone to the doctor and there was a heartbeat and it’s been weeks or months. For others, there’s no heartbeat at all.
The waiting. The waiting. Wk 5, no heartbeat. Wk 6, no heartbeat.
Then it happens. The nightmare begins. And again, perhaps there is an exchange of sorts when reality starts setting in. For me, it was a bouquet of pink and off-white roses; a gesture of support and love, but also comfort.
While I was in denial, I knew what was going on and that I had to move through these moments. I was powerless. So I just, well, waited. As I did for the heartbeat that never came. Like so many women/men/couples do.
*If you are wondering why I am using women, men, and couples, it’s because we so often think of the woman’s loss, which is very physical. But men lose too in these instances. They grieve differently. And for them it might also feel like a death. So it’s important when communicating that we’re acknowledging the partner’s loss as well. Something I wish I we talked about more and myself could have been better at.

White Petal Moments

Back in the OB’s office and you hear those words: “you’re no longer pregnant.” Just like that, from bright moments full of joy to now, white…still…quiet moments. And another kind and thoughtful gift of roses.
As I watched each petal fall from the three bouquets over the coming days I thought to myself, “these are the Petal Moments.” The moments that will shape me as a person. Change me as a person. These are the moments that will hurt forever, but will give me the strength, albeit not always eloquent, to share with others. To hopefully help them think about and express what they’ve gone through not always in the scary and traumatic reality, but in Petal Moments.

In practice, I suppose the conversation goes a little something like this:

It’s like you have these bright roses, and as each petal falls, the outlook for your future, for the little family that just a couple days ago seemed just 9 short months away, begins to change.

A petal falls. One after the next until you arrive at the next bouquet. And of course, this bouquet is not as bright, but it’s not devoid of color either. You need to live this part out. So again, as minutes, hours, days pass; petals fall. Until you finally arrive at your last bouquet. And this bouquet is somehow representative of both life, and…death. There’s seemingly no color.
Just, a fresh start you didn’t want?

Maybe there’s hope? Maybe these petals, the white ones, are reminders of an angel present. But as those petals too fall, we grieve. And perhaps the flowers in this bouquet, in the White Petal Moments, they won’t fully wilt. The petals continue to fall as if they’re never ending. Yet when I think of that last bouquet, the smallest part of me thinks of faith, hope, love, and light, even if right now I’m in pain, in the darkest moments of my life. So while I ache, and I try to process an unthinkable and unexplainable loss, I still want to hang onto those petals for forever. They are a part of me. As I look at the twinkling lights on the Christmas tree I think one day maybe I’ll have those colorful, RAINBOW Petal Moments. The reality however, is that right now, the only thing I’m left with after everything that’s happened is just a few petals on what would have been a family room floor.

These are the Petal Moments.

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