Ep 66: The Japanese Art of Grieving A Miscarriage
Fertility Forward Episode 66:
Part of what makes people in the US feel so alone after a miscarriage is that we have no cultural rites of passage to help us make sense of this experience. In 2017, Angela Elson’s article, The Japanese Art of Grieving A Miscarriage, was published in the New York Times, and we are so grateful to welcome her onto the show today as our guest. Angela’s piece is one of the most poignant articles about miscarriage and we recommend it to so many of our patients, so to get the opportunity to spend this time with her was really an honor. In Angela’s article, she chronicles her experience with a miscarriage and her journey of finding out about the Japanese custom that uses the Jizo figure to steward unborn babies into the afterlife. Angela got herself a Jizo statuette and talks about how she involved it in her life after her miscarriage. She describes the way it helped her turn her loss into something tangible and how this provided her with a way of processing it. We talk about the strangeness of American customs around grief and morning when it comes to miscarriages and the importance of having effective methods to share as well as process trauma. Our conversation also covers the relationships between friends and how we can learn to help each other through pain in the best possible ways. Be sure to tune in and hear Angela’s inspiring story today.
Rena: Hi everyone. And welcome to Fertility Forward. We are part of the wellness team at RMA of New York, a fertility clinic affiliated with Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Our Fertility Forward podcast brings together advice from medical professionals, mental health specialists, wellness experts, and patients, because knowledge is power and you are your own best advocate.
Rena: Well, I am so excited to welcome to Fertility Forward today, Angela Elson, who wrote one of my all time, favorite, most poignant articles about miscarriage that I send to so many patients. So I'm really, really excited to have you on today to talk about your article and your experience. The article is called the Japanese Art of Grieving a Miscarriage. It was published in the New York times all the way back in 2017, but I feel like it was recent because I look at it all the time when I send it to people. So thank you so much for coming on and being willing to share your story and talk about your article and your experience. Really excited to have you on.
Angela: Thanks for having me. Obviously it's a topic I care a lot about, so happy to talk.
Rena: So I guess, do you want to maybe share about your story? There were so many sentences and threads in your article I could pull and say, yes, this, this is how people feel. But I think maybe if you want to share your story first so people kind of understand what prompted you to write this and then we'll yeah, just dive right in.
Angela: Yeah. So I had a miscarriage. Oh my God. It happens. And it's funny because what I don't mention in the article was that my husband, his name is Brady. He and I had already had a daughter at this point. We hadn't had any issues. It had been smooth sailing. So our second pregnancy, when I had the miscarriage, it was kind of shocking, even though it's extremely common, no one talks about it. So yeah, it really threw us for a loop and just kind of made us realize that like bad things happen to normal people, which shouldn't be shocking to anybody who's had a bad thing happen, but you know, at the time it was really surprising. So he and I had met in Japan and in Japan, they have a belief in this little Buddha called Jizo where he's like a character in Buddhism. And what he does is he helps babies who have not been born. Since they don't have any ability to collect karma in order to get to the Buddhist kind of heaven. He kind of sneaks them into heaven in his robe. And so in order to thank him for this service that he performs to these unborn babies, many Japanese people, when they suffer a miscarriage or an abortion, they choose to have the abortion, they get a small statue of him and they leave presents for the baby. They dress him up in red. Usually it's like a little hat. It's like a little coat and they take care of Jizo in order for Jizo to take care of the children in the afterlife. And so I thought it was just like a really nice, tangible way to mark what has happened. And also it gave me something to do to take my mind off it. Yes. So we got a Jizo, I think we got him on Amazon. And in the story, you know, I talk about all the time we spent taking care of this little piece of concrete and it really helped. It was just, it gave me something to mother when that is taken from you. And so gradually I was able to leave Jizo in other rooms for a while I was just carrying around the house, which felt weird. But at the same time, natural, I don't think anyone can tell you the right or wrong way to kind of deal with something like that. And eventually, you know, I made him an outfit. I was able to kind of leave him on the porch and then we made a spot for him in the yard. And it was just a nice way to kind of honor the baby who never was.
Rena: I feel like you touched upon so many things there people can relate to. You know, one is the use of the word, tangible. I talk about that so much with patients, but usually kind of the opposite that intangible. And especially when there's a loss such as a miscarriage, it can feel almost as though it's an intangible loss, especially in the American culture, which seems to be super behind the Japanese culture here in that, unlike them, we don't have some sort of thing we do here for a miscarriage. And I think that's what leaves people feeling so alone and not sure how to grieve as you touched upon this tradition, it was, it gave you a purpose, right? It's okay, here's this little guy and he helps these babies that, you know, are not going to make it, get their karma so they can go to the afterlife. So like, we can make sense of that. Right? Okay. Good karma afterlife. That's where they're going. And we can kind of work on closure. He, or, you know, as you said in your article, you know, you had this miscarriage at 10 weeks and the nurse said, here's a Percocet, go home and sleep. See you later.
Angela: I know! This brings me to, I think our sort of customs around pregnancy are extremely archaic and designed to kind of create comfort for everyone else. You know, like we do that thing where you don't tell people until the first trimester is over in case you lose the baby. And why? Is it to like escape scrutiny? Are people going to think that you did something wrong? Is it to like, make sure your grief doesn't rub off on other people? I feel like the whole system is really designed to kind of like isolate parents, particularly mothers. And then when they lose a baby, you're just supposed to deal with it by yourself. You shouldn't have told anyone. They say don't blame yourself. But if it was really like a blameless situation, you'd be able tell people like, Hey, we're pregnant. We're really excited. And there should be no shame around that. And I think, especially when something like that happens and everyone reacts differently, I took it very hard. I was glad that I had told at least a few people because the baby was real. It was real to me. It was real to them. The baby existed for 10 weeks and that's important.
Rena: Sure. And I totally agree with the first trimester thing. It's like, what are we supposed to pretend that those few months never happened? And I think it leads people to feel even more alone. Like they're carrying around the secret. Maybe it'll turn out. Maybe it won't. And then if it doesn't then what? You're supposed to pretend, everything's fine because you never put it out there in the universe. It's a horrible system!
Angela: Right. And okay, so if you drink, I'm a big drinker. So I wasn't drinking, but I had to like lie, pretend that, you know, there's a lot of work to like perpetuate this lie that I'm not pregnant, but I actually am pregnant. And again, I think it's just for other people's comfort. And then when you lose the baby, I think a lot of people are like, just get over it. Like, it wasn't even a real baby. And there are degrees of baby. I mean, I totally agree that 10 weeks miscarriage is not the same as something later on. There's all kinds of horrific tragedies that can happen when you're a parent at any stage. Yeah. But I think you should be allowed to be sad if you want to, when something bad happens. You should lean on people and they should be there for you. And that should just be a thing that people do in society from now on.
Rena: Absolutely. And I think, you know, when you say it, it does get to be sort of this, not competition, but people don't understand how to grieve. You know, if you tell someone I had a loss at eight months, the general society understands, wow, that's horrible. That is horrendous. That's close to the end of a pregnancy. That's horrible. But when you get to either a chemical pregnancy or three weeks or 10 weeks, I think society has less of an understanding unless you're in the field of, okay, what does that mean? You know? And then that even goes back to the first trimester thing where it's as a society, especially, you know, here in America, it's like, well, the first trimester doesn't really count, so okay. And then, right. Should I be sad for you? I'm not sure what to do here. How do I help you mourn? And I think it leaves people feeling all sorts of confused and then really uncomfortable with their feelings. And like, they should just get over it because they're not valid, which is horrible.
Angela: Agreed. And I think this especially applies to like things like IVF, even if you never get to the implantation stage, like there was a collection of cells somewhere, you know, that belonged to somebody that was important to you. And like, if that doesn't work out, that's sad. I don't know why we need to have this kind of like grief Olympics. Like who's allowed to mourn depending. Yeah. Like if it's eight months versus eight weeks. Look, if you're sad, you're sad. And that's okay. I think society hates sadness.
Rena: Oh sure. It's one of the most uncomfortable things.
Angela: Yeah, but you know what else is uncomfortable? Having a miscarriage! So you know, let's just get on board. That's all I feel about it.
Rena: Yeah. You went through yours and you did Jizo and you got the statue and you started doing that. Did you guys share with people what you were doing or you kept that private?
Angela: It was funny because it's a conversation starter and I still have Jizo. He still has a jacket and he's in my front yard. And so when people say, oh, what's that I go, oh, that's my Jizo. Did you ever know I had a miscarriage, you know? And that's kind of like, oh, well, you know, pump the brakes. But honestly I think the more you talk about it, the more other people talk about it and what was so powerful to me about the New York Times piece is people leave comments and they say, never read the comments because you know, they'll break your heart. The trolls will get you. But the comments on that piece where it was women who were like 60, 70 years old, men, you know, who had lost babies and they said, I haven't thought about that baby in years, but I never forgot it. You know? And I just feel like if it affects so many people, yeah. Why not talk about it? Like why not start the conversation and make it okay at any point to grieve, if you want to.
Rena: Was writing the story cathartic for you?
Angela: It really was. And then also I think getting it published in the New York Times, I mean, I feel like that's a journalistic milestone. Not everybody gets to do that. So like for me to have this story and then for it to be published so beautifully is a great tribute. It's a Jizo in its own way. It's a way to kind of pay honor to the one who got away. So, yeah. And what's funny is that my husband, he read it once and he said, I cannot ever read this again. And he took it really hard and he was so happy with the outcome, but yeah, I think it was hard for him to read too. And I think there's a whole, I mean, we could probably do another podcast on how men deal with this kind of stuff. I feel like that's its own can of worms, but yeah, there needs to be more, you know, voices out there for people who struggle with this.
Rena: Well, I think I kind of want to open that can of worms just a little. That really jumped out at me when I was rereading your article before meeting today, was that you talk about in there that Brady, your husband, and you grieved really differently. I was hoping maybe you could touch upon that a little, because I think that's something, if you're in a partnership, so many people experience and that when people are in different stages of the grief process, it can cause a lot of stress and tension.
Angela: I think there's at least for the mother, there's the physicality of it. There's the hormones, you know? So like I remember I had a miscarriage, I took a week off work. My husband didn't not because he didn't want to be there, but I just don't think they had that kind of policy at his job. You can't be like, my wife had a miscarriage give me a week off.
Rena: But they should. That’s a whole other can of worms to open that there's no policy for that.
Angela: They totally should because I spent a week just rattling around in my house, miserable. It was terrible, you know, I'd ordered maternity clothes and they arrived and then I had to send them back and I was a mess. It was just, again, everybody handles it differently, but yeah, I think there needs to be room for people to be there for each other. So yeah. So for me it was very, visceral. I was crying. I was still, I didn't feel good. You know, there was just this. Yeah. I kind of blamed myself. I know you don't have to, or you're not meant to, but what did I do wrong this time? The first time it worked out, you know, what was the difference? Yeah. And Brady was sad, but I think he was sad and then also feeling helpless, like how do I help my wife through this? What do I do to help her? But also who's helping me cause again, like if women have a hard time with this, I feel like there's even less direction for men as like, what do you do when someone has a miscarriage? Yeah. So he was very into, I think one thing we both liked was that we could make something. So like I made, I crocheted, a little hat for the geo and then Brady like planted flowers so he could have like a cute little garden, you know, and it was just a thing to do. Right? And we just did different things, but we both had a thing to do. Yeah it was really helpful.
Rena: Well, I like that. I hope people are picking up on that. I've talked about that a lot with patients as coming up with some sort of thing to mark this, whether it's writing a letter and saving it or ripping it up, putting it in the water or lighting it on fire, whatever, you know, or planting a flower or naming a star, you know, whatever multitude of, but that there's some thing to mark like yes, this happened and no, we don't have to pretend that it didn't. And that, you know, there's some sort of tangible thing to mark that this was a big deal in your life. So it sounds like that sort of was helpful to both of you, even though you're a little bit different.
Angela: Yeah. And I feel like if you're not ready to like put something in your yard, cause you know, that's a powerful energy. I think we also bought like a Christmas tree ornament for the baby. Like he had a nickname and we bought something that was similar to his nickname. And so like every Christmas I hang it on the tree, I get it a good spot. If you're not ready to think about it all the time or even at all, I don't know whatever you want. I think there's different levels of things you can do to remember if you want to. If it's not every day, then once a year at Christmas or some other kind of holiday.
Rena: I like that. And I, you know, it sounds like this was a very sort of typical response when you know your partner, he watched you kind of suffer and he wasn't sure how to help. And I think that happens a lot, that dynamic where the person whose body it is that had gone through a pregnancy, they're suffering in a different way since it was physical. And then your partner feels so helpless because they're not sure what to do. And it's a really different kind of suffering to watch someone you love go through pain than be that person in pain and then have your partner by your side. So I always talk to people and try and help them understand both perspectives. They're both horrible in different ways and difficult in different ways.
Angela: Yeah, totally. I think it's very lonely for both people. Awesome insight.
Rena: And I think, you know, so there are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. And they're not linear. They're not cyclical. They bounce all around. There's no timeline for grief. But so say one partner is in the acceptance phase and like you've accepted, okay. I had a miscarriage, this happens and your other partner is in the anger phase and they're really angry about it. Maybe they're angry at you. Maybe they're angry at the event. They're angry at the doctor, whatever they're doing. So that means you guys are in totally different stages of grief in different spaces. And that can be so stressful because you know, that often leads to one person feeling like my partner doesn't care, they're not sad. They don't care. They're just moving on. Whereas they're just processing it in a completely different way. And so I think that's one of the things that can be the hardest about this too. And then cause more loneliness.
Angela: Yeah. Brady and I didn't have that. I mean, he's a stellar guy, so he was very accommodating to whatever I wanted to do. He was here for it. I think obviously communicating is really great. I just remember, like, we didn't really know what to say, but just multiple times a day we just looked at each other and just be like, I'm really sad. Cause it's hard to put into words, but just sometimes you just have to like, just connect like that. Like I know I might not look it or we're functioning and so maybe I look okay, but just, yeah, I'm really sad. I'm still sad.
Rena: I like that you have people over now and they comment and you say I had a miscarriage. It’s awesome that you’re so out there and really talking about it.
Angela: Let me tell you about my miscarriage. But no, I think again, if I don't do it, who will right? And nine times out of 10, when I say, oh, I had a miscarriage, someone's like, oh I had one too. It was terrible. You know? And like, well I guess that happens when you're kind of around other parents, but yeah. It's not something I'm ashamed of. You can't be if you're going to publish an article about it. So yeah. Why not talk about it?
Rena: I think that's awesome. How long after your miscarriage, did you write the article?
Angela: Oh, it's been, it was about two years. Yeah. I'd already had my second son at that point. So yeah, maybe two and a half years. I don't think I could have written it sooner. It was too new. You know, you have to be able to step back.
Rena: Do you have any advice for people that are listening that maybe they have had a similar experience or they're trying to find some sort of hope?
Angela: Definitely. Hope. Oh I’m sure there is hope. I think hope is hard to find. Don't look for the hope yet. Maybe just hang in there. I remember what I felt was helpful was when people who had also had miscarriages kept asking me, how are you today? And I thought that was really nice cause it was like, well, existentially on a whole, I'm terrible. You know, like this is a lot for me to process, but today I'm sad. I'm angry, I'm tired. I'm hopeful. So I think, take your time. And then I think it helps to really just get into that grief. I know it's not fun, but I think I'm able to talk about this now because I really, I had the Jizo. I mean, I went for it. Me and Jizo, I mean we ate ice cream together. We watched TV, we hung out. It was weird, but it felt good. And now I'm better. Like, yeah. I mean, I'll always be sad about that baby, always, but I can talk about it. I feel like, because I got so deep in the weirdness of grief, I was able to get hope again, if that makes sense? Yeah. So I think a lot of people might tell you to, oh, just get over it. Or you might tell yourself that like, oh, well, you know, I'll just get back to work. And obviously it depends on what kind of job you have, what kind of support you have. There's a whole lot in there. So I guess my advice would be: take your time. Do what feels right. And maybe that's nothing and that's okay, but don't rush the process and eventually, hopefully, you will feel better.
Rena: I love the advice of how are you today? I think that's fantastic. And just, you know,
Angela: it's cliche for a reason, but yeah. Don't try and be okay too soon, right? One day at a time.
Rena: Yeah. And it's okay to not be okay.
Angela: Yeah. And I think not only that, I feel like it's a feminist act to kind of put your foot down and make this matter. Or at least that's what I told myself. You know, you don't let people, I'm sorry. It's inconvenient that I'm sad because I experienced the thing, but I'm going through it and I'm telling you about it in my own way. And I'm allowed to do that. If you want that space insist on it for yourself because the world needs changing not you when it comes to this.
Rena: I love that. I'm sorry my sadness is inconvenient to you.
Angela: I feel like all women could have that written on a shirt and apply in every situation. Yeah.
Rena: Did you do any sort of support groups at all? You know, speaking as meeting with other people that maybe in real time are going through something similar who would not find your sadness inconvenient, but in fact could really relate?
Angela: No, I should have. I had a one-year-old at home, two year old. Yeah. So like there wasn't a lot of getting out. I had a lot of friends that were like, oh, by the way, it happened to me too. And they were just lovely. But yeah, no I'm, maybe I should have gone to a support group. I think because I am a writer, writers, at least maybe it's just me. I tend to just like go inside myself and shrivel for a few months and then I process it by writing it. But if that doesn't work for you, then by all means, please go find a support. And if you can't get out and do one, I think Facebook is great for stuff like that. You know, there's always like a group and then you can do it on your own time when you're feeling sad. Instagram, whatever, like social media it's for more than stalking your high school classmates, like you can actually learn and meet new people and find new things to help you.
Rena: Yeah. And I think today, especially with telehealth and everything, you know, being on Zoom, there's so many out there on zoom, so you can just kind of dial in. I refer to pregnancy last support program, P L S P they have groups they're fantastic. Postpartum support international. Really wonderful. So those are great resources and we can link to those notes also for people.
Angela: Yeah. I want to mention for better, for worse. I got pregnant with my son immediately after the miscarriage and I was really happy, but I'm not sure I did a good job separating the two babies in my mind. The whole pregnancy, I was terrified something would go on. It was quite miserable. 10 months is a long time to be afraid. It's very exhausting. So yeah, I wish I would have maybe taken my own advice and realize sooner that like, Hey, I'm not okay after what happened. I think some ongoing support would have helped me through the next pregnancy or just to check in and be like, okay, these are different babies. You know, lightning doesn't always strike twice. Sometimes it does. But that would have been useful.
Rena: Yeah. I work with a lot of patients like that, who they have a loss or even they just went through rounds and rounds of fertility treatment. Then they get pregnant and it's not this sort of like rainbow and butterfly situation. It's extremely anxiety producing because you’ve been through a trauma whether it's a lot of rounds of IVF or a miscarriage and that carries through, I think people often think, okay, well next time I get that positive pregnancy test. Like I'm good. I can go off into the sunset. It's not like that, you know, that trauma stays with you. And especially because you're basically keeping yourself in it's recurring situation, it's so difficult. And I hate that you went through that when you say 10 months is a really long time to feel anxious and horrible. It is. It totally is. So glad you said that not that you had the experience, but to at least normalize that and other people, you know, reach out, you know, get a great therapist who understands and can help you both process your trauma, but then also hopefully get you to a place of being able to enjoy the pregnancy and not feel 10 months of horribleness and walking on eggshells and anxiety.
Angela: Yeah. I had a really hard time. I was very anxious. I didn't even buy my son any clothes. I mean, he had his sister's hand me downs, but I just remember thinking like, I'm going to jinx this and like, you're supposed to be excited about a new baby. So yeah, plus one to a therapist in any situation you got a miscarriage, you know, anything, literally anything. Get a therapist. I think the pandemic especially has highlighted to me that I think everybody thinks they should be stronger than they are. I think it's quite easy for people to get worn down by pandemics, miscarriages, you know, big traumatic things, small stresses, things that happened in the past. Nobody needs to be this strong. It's okay. It's okay to get tired and need help. That's fine too. That's another thing we don't talk enough about.
Rena: Totally. And I think people go through the, you know, as we get older and we have more life experiences, I think people think they should go through it and then be the exact same person they were before. So you have a miscarriage, the next day, well, I should just get up, keep up with my routine, be 110% at work, be at the gym, be, you know, if I already have another kid at home, be a great partner, like dinner on the table, look really great. And it's like, whoa, slow your roll. You do not have to be the same person you were before, nor are you. And so I think it's that mentality to just power through that's so detrimental. And so I really encourage people to stop and think, okay, who I was before that traumatic event, who I am now and who I want to be and who you are in the midst of a trauma, be it a miscarriage or fertility treatment and or illness, or you know, any other loss or difficult life event. It doesn't mean that that is who you're going to be for the rest of your life. But it's, you are in that moment. And I think it's really important to check in with yourself. Okay. I need help. Who can help me? What can I do for myself? How do I help myself get through this? And I think that's so hard for people to do.
Angela: I think it's especially for women because I feel like women are already put under tremendous pressure. If you want to work and have a family, you know, you have to do both at a hundred percent. I think there's this myth of self care where people are like, well, go get a manicure and then all your problems will be done. And I'm like, oh, you know, I think we need a bit more than just a spa day. I think there needs to be more resources, more help, you know, more money, more daycare, more of everything. So I don't want to warn people against manicures, but I'm like, if you like manicures, go get them. But I think the narrative is, oh, well, as long as you meditate for 10 minutes a day, you're going to be, you're going to be great. And it's like, no, it might need more than that. And I think that's where therapy comes in. That's where asking for help comes in and just taking your time. Another thing I did almost obsessively was I made hats for premature babies in the hospital and I like made blankets. I don't recommend doing this if you're not a crafty person. And then when it came time for me to actually donate them, I got upset. Cause I was like, why do these babies get all these nice hats? But it just, again gave me something to do with my hands. And I ended up making blankets for my future baby too. So like it all worked out. But yeah, I don't know if crochet counts as self-care not a manicure, but I did a lot of it. And, I felt like a Madame Defarge french revolution, but it was useful. So maybe this idea of self care, isn't something normal or something acceptable. Maybe it's not going to the gym. Maybe it's something completely weird, but you feel compelled to do it, then figure out a way to make it happen.
Rena: Sure. I think it can be. And I think too, it sounded like it gave you a purpose outside yourself and that that purpose ended up being kind of hurtful, you know, just to do something outside of yourself, I think is always kind of recommended as a way to get out of your psyche and out of your head a little.
Angela: I made hats and blankets for babies and that was like, whoa. And then I also made, what is it called? It's like a fetal demise pouch where it's just almost like a little handkerchief for miscarriages that happened in the second trimester where they're still an entity, you know? And so apparently some places when you have to like deliver a baby from like 15 to 20 weeks, they can put it in something pretty and then send it off to wherever it goes next. So again, I know I said avoid the grief Olympics, but part of me was like, well, at least I didn't have that. In some ways it was sad that there wasn't like a body or like a physical representation of this baby. And then in other ways it was kind of a blessing at least to me. So yeah. I appreciate a lot of stuff for a lot of different reasons and ultimately, it made me feel better.
Rena: Wow. That’s super therapeutic.
Angela: Yeah. You know, you're like, there's a whole range of things that go right and wrong and it's all yarn and I’m sure there's a metaphor in there. Maybe I'll write about that.
Rena: I think really works to kind of refocus your brain too and give you something else to focus on and get you out. You know, if you're having sort of these cyclical thoughts of grief and can't get out when you have a project it gets you out of that. Well, it sounds like you, I mean, really turned to sort of tangibles for coping with grief, which I think, you know, again, it's really helpful. And then you, you know, were open about it and you continue to be open. I think it's so brave that you shared your story and you talk about it and you know, I feel so lucky that you ended up getting published in the Times and I read about it and could share it with others because I, you know, I know from feedback, it really touches people and makes just so much sense. So I think, you know, it is such a shame our culture is so behind and sort of how to grieve a miscarriage. I think we really, really need to catch up there so that there is this sort of societal understanding of what that means and that it's a huge loss and how to help other people going through it instead of either not validating their grief or kind of being like a deer in headlights, you know, it’s just unhelpful.
Angela: Yeah. Yeah. I know. I feel like I should come out with like a toolkit, you know, like you're, you're my friend had a miscarriage tool kit or you know, my wife had a miscarriage toolkit, what do you do? What does that look like? I don't know. But I think the easiest way to find out is just if you know somebody going through it just be like, what do you need? How can I help? You know, maybe it's nothing.
Rena: If people had asked you, would that have been helpful for you for people to say, what do you need? How can I help.
Angela: Yeah, my answer would have been nothing. I'm miserable. Just keeping being friends with me, even though I'm kind of a buzzkill right now. But just the fact that like people were thinking of me, it's like really nice, which of my coworkers. I told them and they gave me, I remember they gave me like a gift card to like Panera bread so I could have dinner delivered for my two-year-old. And I just remember thinking like, that's so nice. People sent me flowers. Why not? You got flowers when a baby's born, you know, this is kind of like a very early birth, but you know, it just felt right. Like, well, these are cheering me up, you know, we're celebrating this very small life that didn't get off the ground. You know, I felt good anytime someone did anything nice for me, I was like, wow.
Rena: I think that's so important to share and for people to hear, I think a lot of times people say sort of like, do I text her? Do I not text? Do I ask, do I not ask, do I send flowers? And then people kind of end up deferring to not doing anything because they think they're upsetting someone, which I think usually is the wrong response. I think people like to be checked on. And even if they don't respond to you doesn't mean that it didn't touch them. They didn't hear it. It didn't make them feel good for a brief second to know like, okay, this person out there is thinking about me, validating my feelings. And so I do think that is so important. You know, always send the text, always, you know, acknowledge and then they respond. They may not respond and that's okay. But it's so important to let someone know you're thinking about them and reach out.
Angela: Yeah. And I tend to be kind of direct. So like if I know I've had a couple of friends go through something similar, sometimes I handle it better than others to be fair. But I think for the most part, I tend to be like, Hey, are we talking about this? Are we talking about the miscarriage? You know? And that person has the opportunity to be like, I'm not talking about this. And I'm like, great. Now I know where the boundary is. And then sometimes that person will say, yeah, sure. I would love to talk about it. And then I'm open to it. So I think, you know, if you don't feel comfortable being like, how are you? I think you can just say like, Hey, do you want to talk about this with me? Because if you do, I'm here, but if you don't, I respect it too.
Rena: You know, the best direct friend because that's what I tell people. I say, look, you have to set people up for success and it's sucks because it's another thing you have to do if you're the one going through a loss or fertility treatment or whatever, but you have to tell someone, yes, I want to talk about it. Please ask me, please text me, please check in on me or no, I really don't want to talk about it. If there's something to share, I'll share it with you. But otherwise off limits let's move on. But I think it is so important to communicate with people, right? Are you that person that wants to talk about it or not, and show them how to be a friend. So someone has to support you, whatever that means to you.
Angela: And that boundary, I think is different for different people, you know? And like I've had very good friends go through hard times and like, you know, I want to be there to support them. But, since maybe I'm so direct, I don't have the best bedside manner. So I think you can overwhelm people with your good intentions and just be like, Hey, how are you? Let me help you. You know? And it becomes this kind of good friend Olympics. I don't know how to explain it, but sometimes like you're not that friend that that person wants to talk with. You're that friend that that person wants to drink beer with and that's okay. That's how you support them. You know? So like let the person going through the hard time kind of steer, but just let them know like, Hey, I'm here. If you need anything, I'm open to whatever.
Rena: I love that. And I think, you know, as life evolves, if you have three kids at home and they were all easy pregnancies and you didn't have a loss, are you going to be the person that your friend going through fertility treatment and a miscarriage wants to talk to you? They might look at you and think this person really doesn't get it. I want what they have. And I just can't. That's okay. Sometimes you vibe, sometimes you don't, that's when I think it is important to either find support groups, find people who get it. So then you don't lash out in anger at friends, or you just kind of broaden your horizons and realize that there are other people out there like me who have this experience, who, who get me, who understand me and that's what I need right now. And so really building out your village.
Angela: Yeah. And I think, you know, I know when people, friends go through hard times, I'm like, Hey, do you need distraction? Okay. If I'm not your bosom buddy, right now, if we're not soulmates, you just want to go out and like go to a movie, take a walk. We don't have to talk about it. And nine times out of 10, if the person is still having a hard time, they'll be like, not now. I'm not ready. I'll be like, okay, I'll check in next week. Keep saying no, say yes, whatever. So yeah, I think just being that open is helpful. And again, if you're not the person for the heart to heart, you can be the beer person or the pizza person. That's okay too. Yeah.
Rena: So many ways to support. Right. I love that. I'm so, so happy that you came on. I think you sound like, you know, such an amazing friend too, and really how to help others and be that person. So I think sounds like anyone in your life is so lucky to have you.
Angela: That’s so nice. Thank you. Probably not that great of a friend, but I think I try and like you eventually, hopefully you'll figure it out or put yourself out there and I'm here for you. I'm here for you, Rena.
Rena: I feel it. I think I was totally, I mean, I read this article. I sent it to patients for, and it came out probably in 2017 and you know, I just think oh big writer in New York Times, you know, whatever. And then I dunno, maybe a month ago I am working on this ebook and I wanted to put it in there. So I blindly emailed Angela. She responded. The real Angela very quickly and I got this little pitter-patter oh my goodness. I just couldn't believe it because I just am such a fan of this article. So I'm so grateful you're this real person who came on and so brave to share your story initially, and then come on here and talk about it and share your time. So thank you so much.
Angela: Thanks for having me. And again, this is how I honor the baby. So yeah, it's a joy that here she gets to live on, you know, with this love. Right? I love this baby. I love the world. That sounds weird. But like, if you're having a hard time, there is love there for you. If you need help, you can email me, but hopefully you have other people in your life that love you too. And you'll be okay.
Rena: Well thank you so much. I like to end these podcasts on a note of gratitude, I said, I've been kind of discovered that, but always gratitude. So something you're grateful for today.
Angela: Alright. Is it rude to say my kids, if people are struggling? No, I'm grateful for them. I know we've all been trapped in the same house for a year and a half almost, but they're five and eight and they have just been absolute troopers through this whole pandemic. And I'm also grateful for Brady because he's a mensch, just greatest partner and father I could ever hope for.
Rena: I love that and I hope your story inspires hope to, and people who are struggling and maybe, you know, they have one kid at home or, or no kids, maybe they're having, you know, tension in their partnership. But to hear that, you know, you went on, you have this wonderful partnership and you know, you went on to have a healthy baby, I think is always really inspiring to people.
Angela: I hope so. I wish I hope everyone gets what they want.
Rena: Well, I love that message. And I will say I'm just really grateful to connect. And again, that you responded, I've been reading your article for years and that you responded and took the time. I mean, I think time is the biggest gift. You can give someone and I know you're so busy. You are a writer. You have a day job. You're in the middle of a heat wave on the west coast, but I really, really appreciate you taking the time to do this and come on and share. So thank you so much.
Angela: Oh my pleasure. Good luck with the book and the whole thing. I love that you're supporting people. You're my people and you seem really cool and fun. If you ever want to get a beer on the west coast, call me!
Rena: Likewise. Come to the east coast and we'll do a part two. Yes. Well thank you so much and take care and we'll link everything on the show. And so you said, if anyone's interested, they can buy a Jizo on Amazon?
Angela: Yeah or Etsy. Obviously buy on Etsy, support local artists, but they don't deliver Amazon will. God love them.
Rena: Okay. Well thank you so much. This has been fantastic.
Angela: Bye, Rena, thank you.
Dara: Thank you so much for listening today and always remember: practice gratitude, give a little love to someone else and yourself. And remember you are not alone. Find us on Instagram at fertility_forward. And if you're looking for more support, visit us at www.rmany.com and tune in next week for more Fertility Forward.