I am incredibly fortunate to have a circle of girlfriends that I refer to as my Moai. As a Health Insider staffer, I learned about the Moai concept when researching an article on longevity. Moais originate in Okinawa, Japan where they are one of the reasons why this area of the world has one of the longest lifespans on earth.
A Moai is a group of lifelong friends. It’s a social support group that provides varying support from social, emotional, financial, health, or spiritual. In Okinawa, people are often put into a Moai at birth.
Here in Canada, my Moai is a group of women that have been my friends since my son was tiny. We are there for each other when times are tough and cheerleaders in times of success and joy.
On a recent getaway spent with my Moai, the conversation at some point turned to our children. Children that we had birthed, adopted and the would-be children that we lost during pregnancy. We reminisced, cried, and offered each other shoulders upon which tears could safely fall.
This kind of vulnerable conversation with people we trust about the most challenging moments in life helps us get through traumatic events such as pregnancy loss.
A miscarriage can have a profound impact on a woman’s mind, body, and spirit. Depression and anxiety are common after a miscarriage. A 2019 study found that almost a third of women who experienced early pregnancy loss met the criteria for PTSD one month later and 18% after 9 months.
Women may feel negative emotions towards their bodies after a miscarriage, including anger, guilt, disappointment, or frustration. As the body starts to recover, women may find it hard to reconnect with their bodies.
Miscarrying is a physical and emotional event for a woman however, both parents can be emotionally impacted by a miscarriage, so this advice pertains to both mother and father.
Healing is possible. Here’s what my Moai recommends.
- Lean on Friends. Invite your trusted circle of friends (your Moai) into your world and open your heart. Sharing stories with selected people will help process your emotions.
- Mental Health Support. Reach out to a mental health provider for counselling especially if you have a history of depression and anxiety or think you might be suffering from PTSD. If you have a family doctor you feel respects your emotions, open up about your mental health.
- Extended Support System. Not everyone has a Moai, and not everyone is comfortable sharing intimate life details. What is important is that you have a support system to help you get through feeling like you are not alone in this journey. If you don’t have a close circle of friends whom you trust (or even if you do), seek out dedicated miscarriage support groups, or a trusted therapist.
- Self-Care. This is a very important time to invest in your self-care practice. Try to eat well, hydrate, sleep and get out for fresh air and walks. If you can afford it, treat yourself to a therapeutic massage.
- Remember that miscarriage is not your fault. Most of the time, there is nothing that could have prevented it. A recent survey found that almost half of women and men who experienced a miscarriage felt guilt, and 78% want to know the cause of the miscarriage.
- Do not go back to work too early. Take time to heal. Many people do not know that they may be eligible for Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits if your physical or mental health prevents you from doing your job, even if you were not the pregnant person. You must meet the eligibility requirements, including working 600 insured hours in the year prior to your claim or since the start of your previous claim if you had one.
- Remember that you will likely be able to get pregnant again. Around 85% of women who experienced a miscarriage will go on to get pregnant.
The reality is, pregnancy loss is very common, particularly in the first 3 weeks. The current estimation is that 50–75% of pregnancies end before getting a positive result on a pregnancy test, which generally happens only after the third week of pregnancy.
Most people who lose a pregnancy will never know that they were pregnant, though some may suspect that they were because of symptoms.
For those who are aware they are pregnant, 10 to 20% experience a miscarriage, with 80% of miscarriages happening in the first trimester.
After Miscarriage: There is Hope
It’s important to remember that at least 85% of women who have had one miscarriage will go on to have a successful pregnancy, as will 75% of those who have experienced two or three losses.
Taking the time to heal physically and emotionally will help prepare you if you intend to get pregnant again.
Consider consulting a specialist in maternal-fetal medicine, genetics, or reproductive endocrinology if you:
- Have had two or more miscarriages
- Are over age 35
- Have an illness that may affect your pregnancy (such as diabetes)
- Have experienced fertility issues
As I sat with my friends on that warm summer evening on the shores of a crystal clear Ontario lake, the summer air crept into the space around us with its soft embrace.
We talked of the children that we’re now ushering into adulthood, of our partners and their ability (or inability) to support us in difficult times, and of the friends who are there for us in our darkest moments.
These are the healing moments none of us will ever forget.
“Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye
You were bigger than the whole sky
You were more than just a short time
And I’ve got a lot to pine about
I’ve got a lot to live without
I’m never gonna meet
What could’ve been, would’ve been
What should’ve been you
What could’ve been, would’ve been you”
Taylor Swift – Excerpt from Bigger Than The Whole Sky