I first wrote this piece in late February, just after I experienced my 4th pregnancy and 3rd miscarriage. It was intended to be published to a website that disbanded. It’s been sitting on my google drive for months, and I’ve finally summoned the courage to post it here (a fabulous start-up website that I share with two other Moms), instead. But it is a bit out of date. Since writing this, I’ve gone on to experience another pregnancy and loss, as well as finally receive a diagnosis/explanation for my losses. I promise to write more on my journey as it unfolds. But without further intro, here are my thoughts from earlier this year:
There is so much silence, (and dare I say, “taboo”) around the topic of pregnancy loss. Why are we made to feel like we shouldn’t talk about something that is so common and such a natural, yet tragic part of life? I’ve seen statistics thrown around about pregnancy loss; some say 1 in 5 pregnancies end in loss. And I’ve even heard stats as high as 1 in 4! Yet, before my own miscarriages, I had never spoken to anyone about their pregnancy loss, ever. Once I began to open up about my own losses, other women opened up about theirs. I entered this whole private world of hurt and loneliness. Through talking about my miscarriages, I found healing. It hurts to think that so many women (and yes, men, but I will be writing this post purely from the woman’s perspective as it’s the only perspective I know) bear this pain alone. Many women I’ve met in the online pregnancy loss world keep their early pregnancies and losses secret because of the hurtful and misguided things they’re afraid to hear people say. Or because they feel ashamed of their losses (and this last reason breaks my heart the most). It is my hope that over time we can learn to treat the tragedy of pregnancy loss as a publicly recognized, significant loss. One that we can talk about unashamedly with our friends and family in order to heal and find peace. The first step in accomplishing such a thing, though, is having the courage doing just that: Take a deep breath, grab a tissue (or a whole box of them), and talk about it.
So, tell me about your miscarriage.
And let me tell you about mine, too.
Seeing those two little pink lines early one December morning instantly changed my perspective and priorities in life. They made the career plans I had been working on that year seem suddenly so unimportant. All the deadlines and challenges I was worried about last week were now insignificant, comparatively. There was something growing inside of me that was more important to me than life itself. I was going to be a Mom. There was no going back.
I still remember how my husband cried with happiness when I revealed my surprise to him later that day in the form of an early Christmas present. We had been officially “trying” for a few months, but we had dreamed of and planned for this day for much longer. I was on top of the world, more excited about anything than I’ve ever been in my entire life. I thought to myself: “there is another human life growing inside of my body. I, alone, am responsible for keeping it safe and healthy. And when this baby gets here I will love it and care for it more than I have ever loved or cared for anything.” As the days passed, I ate, slept, and breathed the excitement of my pregnancy in a way I never knew I could anticipate anything.
The cramping started one morning when my husband and I were relaxing on the couch together. “I’m cramping,” I said, slightly alarmed, but hoping that it was likely just another one of those explainable symptoms I had looked up on the Internet since finding out I was pregnant. Dr. Google assured me, once again, that what I was feeling was normal. As long as it wasn’t accompanied by bleeding, it was likely fine. A few minutes later, a trip to the ladies’ room (a VERY regular occurrence since becoming pregnant and having apparently lost all bladder capacity) revealed a streak of red blood on the toilet paper. A shaky phone call to the on-call doctor, plenty of reassurances that it was probably fine, two trips to the hospital lab for blood draws and two and a half agonizing days later, it was confirmed. I was having a miscarriage.
This happened to me over two years ago. I have a healthy 1 year old baby boy now. But recalling my first pregnancy and loss still brings tears to my eyes and an ache to my chest. I was due on September 1st, 2012. I will remember that date forever. That’s when my first baby was supposed to be born. No subsequent children or other happy life events can ever change that or bring that baby back.
After I lost that pregnancy, I felt the intense need to be pregnant again as soon as possible. My purpose was gone. Those priorities I had had before my very short-lived pregnancy hadn’t magically become important to me again. My life felt suddenly, startlingly empty. Was I still a mom? If a grew a very tiny being for a couple of weeks, never saw it, never held it, but knew it was there – what did that make me? I remember being left with this awful feeling that I’d dreamt the whole thing up.
Our second pregnancy happened so quickly compared to the first. I blinked and I was pregnant again. I was reassured by every doctor and friend and family member that the first loss was a fluke. I was a healthy, 28 year old woman. Experiencing two losses in a row is so rare. Be positive. Relax. I tried. I tried so hard to be positive. This time something didn’t feel right from the beginning. And yet I didn’t feel like I could tell people that or even fully admit it to myself. I had to be positive for the new life growing inside of me. But then the cramping again. And the bleeding. And the blood draws. And the bad news.
My second loss spiraled me quickly into a depression. I hadn’t even really started grieving the loss of my first pregnancy (and didn’t even know I’d have to) when the second one was taken away from me as well. Before I knew it, I was grieving the two most important things I’d ever been given. All at once. It was horrible. And incredibly lonely. Nobody else missed the life I was carrying because nobody else’s life had been so connected with it as mine had.
I am able to talk about my losses with such clarity now, but at the time, I was still discovering this new, heart breaking world. It took me awhile to accept that I had lost something profound and that I had to grieve in order to move forward. I had this impression from society that I should be able to adjust my expectations for the future and just move on and try again. I wanted to do that badly. And at first, I tried to. Unfortunately, I discovered that just wasn’t possible. I had to feel the pain, go through the stages of grief, slowly and agonizingly. I had the support and patience of my husband. I had a lot of friends and family who wanted to be there for me, but didn’t know how. I felt that no one understood what I was facing.
As I struggled through my own grieving process, I began to wonder why I felt so alone in this, when it seemed from everything I read that it was actually quite common. That’s when I started opening up about it. When the mood so struck me in conversation with friends or even strangers, I talked about my pregnancies and losses. I even mentioned my losses on *gasp* Facebook. Yes, I made my miscarriages “Facebook official”. Why shouldn’t I? They were and are a huge part of my life experience. They aren’t my fault. They are something horrible that happened to me. I hoped through opening up that I could find healing. Unexpectedly, I found so much more than that. Women I hadn’t known had experienced miscarriage opened up to me about their losses as well, and I connected with them in a way I never would have otherwise.
Meanwhile, with very little help and support from the medical community, we decided to try again. My third pregnancy happened a few months after my second miscarriage. I worried every single day of that pregnancy. I panicked at every twinge. I checked for blood every single time I went to the bathroom. It was the longest, most challenging nine months of my life.
My son was born 4 days after his due date. Healthy, happy, beautiful, amazing. Worth it. Worth every moment of pain I had been through. He didn’t erase my past wounds but he helped me sew those last few stitches through the holes in my heart. Those scars will remain forever, but they ache a little bit less every day.
My story doesn’t end there, though. I have one more miscarriage to tell you about today. I might have more to tell you about someday, but gosh, I hope I don’t. This loss is still very fresh and the pain still raw. The moment that stands out the most from my miscarriage two weeks ago was the desperation I felt when I realized a loss was undeniable. I was lying in bed, my son was napping in the other room. The physical pain was so strong and I just desperately wanted to make it stop, to somehow physically hold that little life inside of me. I had an ultrasound scheduled for a few hours later, but I already knew what it would show, that the baby I wanted so badly was no longer living. This was supposed to be my son’s younger sibling. They would have been 20 months apart. At that moment, if I could just have told that future baby how much I wanted it, how much I loved it already and what a great life we would give it someday, I knew it would stay. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do anything but lie there helpless as another life was taken away from me. The helplessness and desperation is what I remember most from losing my last pregnancy. This was the first time I was far enough along to pass visible remains. I was surprisingly grateful for this because it allowed my husband and I to hold a somewhat impromptu burial for our little embryo in our backyard under our son’s favorite tree. It gave me a closure I never got with my first two losses.
With this loss, I had a larger outpouring of support. Was it because I was a tiny bit further along? Was it because I’d been so open about my losses recently and so people had a better idea of what to do? I don’t know. But this time, friends sent flowers, cards, text messages and E-mails. People left me heart-felt voicemails and brought wine and cookies. Nobody can take the pain away, but it means a lot to have people recognize my loss as real and let me know they’re here for me while I grieve.
I wish I didn’t have go through this again. But here I am. I wish no one had to. But women go through this every day. Let’s make the process less lonely. Let’s be there for each other.
If you know someone who has experienced pregnancy loss, take the time to educate yourself about how you can support them through it. Below are some links of helpful things to do and say, as well as things you should avoid doing and saying. Of course, everyone experiences loss differently, and there is no one-size-fits-all reaction. But in my experience, the most important thing is NOT to ignore the situation out of discomfort or concern about saying the wrong thing. Your silence will be louder than your words. Instead, the most meaningful thing you can do is to take the time to sit with your friend and say, “Tell me about your miscarriage.”