It has been more than 10 years, but the pain of losing her first pregnancy remains for Jennifer Fitzgerald.
“I was almost 18 weeks pregnant when I lost that pregnancy,” recalled Fitzgerald, noting the first miscarriage was not her only one.
“In total I suffered seven miscarriages from basically when I started trying to have children until I finished.”
Fitzgerald is now a mother of two, but for a time the naturopathic doctor dedicated to helping her patients get pregnant could not stay pregnant herself.
“I had three losses prior to having my first son and then I had four in between the two of them,” she said.
It was a dark time for Fitzgerald.
“I spent a lot of time grieving during that process, it wasn’t a happy time of my life,” said Fitzgerald.
“I think we hear about miscarriage and we kind of know what it means but we don’t necessarily know what it means for the particular person.”
As co-founder of Conceive Health Clinic in Toronto, she said she focuses on creating a natural treatment plan for her patients to support more traditional fertility treatments like IVF. Many of her patients have experienced miscarriage along their journey to having a family.
“I see women that are afraid to get pregnant again or afraid to make that step because they’re afraid of what could potentially happen and it was a horrible experience and they don’t want to experience that again,” said Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald recalled receiving some hurtful comments following one of her miscarriages.
“The one that comes to mind most often is, ‘Are you over it yet?’ I still remember the moment when that was said to me and how horrified I was that this person still said it to me,” she revealed.
“It’s been 11 years and I’m still not over it.”
Her suggestion is for people to consider the language they use when approaching women and men who have suffered such a loss.
“If we don’t know what to say, the best thing to say is, ‘I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve been through this’ or that ‘you’re going through this’ or ‘you’ve been through this,'” she said.
“You just have to show that you’re there and willing to listen.”
Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day falls every year on Oct. 15 in countries around the world, including Canada. While the grief is felt year round, this one day is meant to recognize the loss many families have experienced and offer information and resources.
Amira Posner, a social worker dedicating to helping couples through their fertility journeys, said she counsels many patients who have experienced miscarriage.
“You are so elated that you’re suddenly pregnant and then you’re not anymore, so giving them a space to talk about it and to normalize it and help them see their body as a way of learning it’s a process,” she explained.
Posner runs a six-week mind-body fertility support group and uses mindfulness as a technique to help her patients.
“Often times our minds are so active and when we experience a loss we tend to ruminate and we tend to be so caught up in with happened and it’s difficult to move on so mindfulness helps to rein us back in,” she said.
Like Dr. Jennifer Fitzgerald, Posner suggests people listen to those experiencing loss and reminding them they are there to support them.
“Just telling them ‘you’re there for them,’ it’s so common,” she said.
“Many of us have been through it, so once you start to open up about it often times you find other people who are also struggling.”