By: Long Li Yann
When my husband and I decided that it was time to start a family, we had no idea that it would take that long. And when I say long, I mean this: we went through six intrauterine inseminations (IUI) and one IVF. Many jabs and tubes of blood work later, we were still at square one - childless, miserable and tens of thousands of dollars poorer.
I remember describing the journey as a rollercoaster ride: buoyed by a fervent hope that this attempt would be it, only to fall from great heights when the results were negative.
For those of you who may be experiencing similar situations, or who have gone through pregnancy losses, here are some tips from Head Psychologist, Ms Jeslyn Lim from Mind Culture and Thrive Psychology Clinic, on how you can cope with the grief and disappointment.
According to Ms Lim, couples should put in more effort to support each other during this difficult period. Remember that failures are a part of life’s journey and overcoming tough times together can help to strengthen your relationship.
However, it is important to remember that men and women do express grief differently.
“Women may communicate it more openly than men, who seek more avoidance coping methods,” Ms Lim explained. “Take the time to have honest conversations about these differences to ease any increased tension in the relationship.”
At the same time, Ms Lim advised couples to talk honestly about the situation.
“Acknowledge what has happened,” she shared. “And address the miscarriage or failed pregnancy in a gentle manner.”
Rosemary and her husband went through two consecutive miscarriages, due to blighted ovum. She recalled how her husband’s support gave her the strength to try again.
“My husband gave me the space I needed to grieve the pregnancy loss, he was there to let me cry it out whenever I needed to. No dialogue needed, just the presence of his support,” she shared.
Ms Lim shared, “Another method of coping is by looking for online communities of those who are experiencing similar losses as another method of coping.”
During my trying period, I befriended two women who were going through the same treatments as I was through their blogs. This helped me greatly in easing my anxiety and fears, as we could share our feelings openly. Today, more than 10 years later, we have formed a mama tribe as we navigate parenthood together!
“Losses and failures can cause a myriad of emotions, including sadness, anger and disappointment,” said Ms Lim.
“Couples must give themselves ample time to fully process their emotions before trying again,” Ms Lim added. “Allow yourself to experience, process and express your emotions. Understand that your emotions - both positive and negative - are valid. Eating well, finding activities that you enjoy with your spouse and even exercising can be part of self-care too.”
Things not to say
Even with these tips and techniques, it can still be hard for couples to get through this trying period.
Rosemary recalled how a careless remark made by someone who knew about her situation caused her additional pain.
“This pregnancy is just not meant to be, you can always try again’ - this very sentence broke me,” she said. “And this was said to me while I was in the process of miscarrying.”
Ms Lim explained that such statements are often dismissive and hurtful. And even though you think that you are trying to relate to them by saying statements such as “I understand your pain” or “I too have lost something precious to me”, they are inappropriate as everyone experiences and copes with grief differently.
Instead, acknowledge their loss and let them know that you are there for them.
“Active listening skills such as paying attention, providing feedback, withholding judgement and responding appropriately conveys a mutual understanding between both parties and help to build trust as well. Being an active listener shows that you acknowledge their pain and allows them to validate their emotions.” Ms Lim said.
In addition, find out how you can help the couple in practical ways. For example, buying them groceries or taking them out for a meal.
Finding the courage to try again
While it can feel difficult to stand up again after you have experienced intense grief, know that it will not last forever.
“This recovery process may take a long while and sometimes a few years for couples to have the courage to try again,” said Ms Lim. “Don’t worry, that is okay. The couple should take care of themselves mentally and physically before trying again.”
Rosemary took the necessary time to grieve before eventually finding joy. “I cried, and buried myself with work. Tears would fall in the middle of work and when I was taking public transport. The only time I overcame my grief was when I heard my baby’s heart beating through the ultrasound scan,” she recalled. “But even then, the grief only faded when I welcomed my baby, healthy, in my arms.”
As for us, our first IVF attempt failed. After lots of tears and beating our chests in resentment for the unfairness of it all, we decided to put a halt to any baby-making attempts and lived our lives as we wanted to. We ate lots, went to the gym every day, and went on a holiday – unexpectedly, we got pregnant naturally two months after the failure.
Word of advice
Loss and grief can be tricky to navigate. If you find that there is unresolved tension that leads to frequent arguments, difficulty in having open conversations about the situation or doubts about the relationship, Ms Lim’s advice is to seek professional help.
“With help from the professionals, couples can learn to cope with their emotions and thoughts,” she explained.
I Love Children thanks Ms Jeslyn Lim and her team for their valuable input.