This isn’t what I thought I’d be writing you about.
I thought I’d wait a few more weeks. I’d be writing with happy, celebratory news. I’d been dreaming about how I would share it with you: subtly, in an on-topic article, or maybe with big fanfare. You see, I thought I’d be writing to tell you that I am pregnant, that we’re expecting our second child, expanding our family to four.
Instead, I’m writing to let you know that I’m not pregnant. That on Memorial Day, while as a nation we were celebrating our war heroes, mourning the loss of loved ones, and eating great BBQ, we as a family were experiencing our own, much quieter loss.
From a certain perspective this article doesn’t need to be written. Aside from a small handful of family, friends and colleagues, we hadn’t made the news public yet. But with every person I’ve told, I’ve been amazed at how many have experienced similar (in many cases worse) challenges, and it’s not talked about. I knew that miscarriage was fairly common experience, but I had no idea just how pervasive it was – and in several cases, I had no idea that women close to me had experienced this very same thing. Hearing their stories was very healing for me.
And so, here is mine:
I woke up that Monday morning feeling normal. Maybe a little more tired than usual, but that’s common for the first trimester. I was 9 weeks pregnant, and basically feeling great. When I used the bathroom that morning, I noticed a little spotting – nothing significant, but still a little concerning, as I’d never spotted at all with my first pregnancy. I assured myself that it was normal.
A couple of hours into my day, things were feeling less normal. Every time I used the bathroom there was more blood. I started to panic. I reached out to a couple of women who are in my innermost circle, and then called our OB. He asked a few questions and then said it was impossible to know until we did an ultrasound, but he was out of town for the holiday. We set up an appointment first thing the next morning. His counsel: “No sex [like that was happening today!], no exercise, and take it easy.”
I spent the day on the couch, my feet up, trying to remain calm. I talked to my baby, telling him how much he was loved and how much we wanted to have him as part of our family. I drank copious amounts of bone broth with extra gelatin (calming for the fetus according to my acupuncturist friend), and breathed deep into my belly, trying to infuse it with extra oxygen. I dreaded using the bathroom for it meant more blood and more loss, and I convinced myself that if I stayed horizontal, I could somehow prevent from happening what was starting to feel inevitable. I reached out to my husband and a couple of close friends, and leaned on them heavily.
By evening the bleeding had increased significantly. I’d started cramping, and generally felt horrid. It was like the worst period I’d ever had. I had a mean headache from so much crying, I was utterly exhausted despite resting all day, and my stomach was tied up in nauseous knots. I couldn’t eat and try as I might, I couldn’t distract myself from what was happening.
My emotions were all over the map. Of course I felt a deep sadness and overwhelming sense of loss. But along with that I felt shame and guilt – how had this happened to me and what did it say about me? What had I done wrong? Despite my age (I turned 40 last weekend), I am very healthy and in this pregnancy was taking my self-care to a whole new place. In many ways I felt stronger than when we conceived Sia, and I was expecting a smooth and vibrant pregnancy. This wasn’t in the plans.
I also felt embarrassed, and wished I’d not told anyone that we were pregnant. I dreaded all the “untelling”, and felt like a fool for getting so excited so early. And yet, with every person we told, we experienced an unimaginable outpouring of love and support. And my embarrassment shifted to deep gratitude and relief that our community stood behind us so firmly.
The next morning, I woke up feeling completely empty. I looked at myself in the mirror with dismay. My waist had shrunk by at least 2 inches overnight (one of the few times I’ll feel sad about such an occurrence). The ultrasound confirmed what we already knew in our hearts: the baby was gone.
I’m not sure why we don’t talk about this much. I’ve never understood why we’re encouraged to keep our pregnancies a secret in the early days, just in case of this very eventuality. What that does is force these losses to be swept under the carpet, dealt with quietly and privately, without the support and love of those around us.
I’m not saying there’s a right way to do this – if you want to keep it a private matter that’s absolutely your prerogative and I support that wholeheartedly. But we’re not quiet about cancer. We’re not quiet about heart disease or losing a loved one. Why – when it comes to pregnancy – are we only able to celebrate the good news together? The time we need each other most is when the news is not good or easy.
We held each other and our precious baby girl close that day, as we reached out to family to share the news. In the process and the days that followed, I learned a lot about myself and a lot about miscarriage. What stands out most is that:
A miscarriage doesn’t necessarily say anything about you, your health, or your ability to procreate. More often than not, it’s a little set of cells that weren’t genetically viable and couldn’t have grown into a healthy baby.
Loss is loss, no matter how big or small. At first I felt like I shouldn’t feel as much grief as, say, my girlfriends who had pregnancies that failed much further along. Perhaps my experience wasn’t as traumatic, but it’s still a loss, and it’s okay – no, it’s critical – that I feel that loss in order to really move through it.
There’s nothing anyone can say to make it better, but them saying it anyways means they love you, and love DOES make it better.
There is always a gift buried deep in even the most difficult situations. Sometimes you just have to look really hard to find it. Maybe it’s a wake up call that you need to pay closer attention to your self-care. Maybe it brings you and your partner closer. Maybe it gets you really clear that you do want a child. For us, it was a combination of all of these things, along with deeper connections to many of our family and friends and a shifting of life priorities to make space for a future new family member.
Once I cried myself out of tears I resolved to share our story and what I learned in the hopes that it might help someone, somewhere to know that you’re not alone, that you are loved, and that it will all be okay. Because you’re not, you are, and it will be.
It’s now a few months later and I’m feeling much more at peace with this miscarriage. I had some great tools for helping me through this time, many of which are included in this great post on how to get yourself out of a funk by Ariana at And Here We Are.
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