In July of 2013 I found out I was pregnant. It came as a surprise, and I still remember my mother’s smirk in the days before I took the pregnancy test, as I complained of cramping and soreness. My husband and I were nervous, but excited. I was almost 28 and we were far from financially stable, but I was itching to “grow up” and start a family of our own.
Pregnant! I could hardly believe it. We shared the news with our immediate families and a few friends, not a lot of people, but enough. I spent the next few weeks doing research and feeling pregnant – my midsection got ever so slightly puffier, I got tired easily and I was a little bit achy. But it was okay, because I was pregnant.
Then it started. At a friend’s house for an end-of-summer get together, I noticed a little blood. In a panic I did a quick Google search, finding ambiguous and entirely unsatisfactory answers. The next night at yet another social occasion, more blood, brighter this time. I contacted a medical provider the next morning and scheduled an appointment days later.
The sonogram confirmed my worst fears. I was pregnant – or at least my body thought I was, but where there should have been a teeny tiny baby growing, there was nothing. Just an empty space. I declined to schedule a D&C and went home to wait it out. I don’t even know for how long, I sobbed like there was nothing else left in the world. This was my chance. What would I tell people? Would they wonder what happened? Wonder if I did something wrong? Worst of all, I thought, what if I couldn’t have children at all?
The next morning I woke up early feeling like my abdomen was in a vice. I nudged my husband awake, telling him, “this is it, it’s happening.” He stayed home from work and spent the day trying to help me, to make me comfortable. He and my mother trudged around the block with me when I couldn’t lay on the couch anymore. I honestly don’t know everything that happened. I know I was uncomfortable for a while, and that it took two weeks for the physical symptoms to resolve themselves.
It took longer to stop feeling like my body had betrayed me. We had to tell our families, our friends, that it wasn’t happening. We wouldn’t be having our springtime baby. It was difficult to get through the days. I worked and did what I had to do, but my heart wasn’t in it. I couldn’t get in the mood to have fun, to feel normal. I wasn’t even sure how to relate to my husband. Yes, it was his loss too, but it was just so…different.
The days passed and after just a little over two months, I found out I was pregnant again. I was excited, but cautiously so. Everything seemed normal until the bleeding started. Just a little spotting, but after my previous experience, I was terrified. I saw a doctor and scheduled a sonogram for 11 weeks, steeling myself to see another empty space. Instead, we saw this little peanut, with a tiny arm moving and a twinkling little heartbeat on the screen.
Fast forward, the bleeding stopped on its own, I had a fairly normal pregnancy and I have a lovely little girl now, born in July of 2014.
In the late summer into fall of 2013, I started opening up to people and doing research, trying to figure out what had gone wrong. What I discovered was startling. Almost everyone I talked to knew someone who had suffered a miscarriage – sometimes more than one. And most of those people had other children. So even though I felt like all my dreams had been shattered, there was still hope.
My online research turned up an estimated rate of 10-25% miscarriages in all pregnancies. “Hold on,” I thought, “if nearly a quarter of pregnancies are miscarried, why do we never hear about it?”
The sad truth is that we as women blame ourselves for miscarriages. Even the term “miscarriage” gives an impression of wrongdoing, like the woman somehow mishandled this embryo. Despite being so heartbreakingly common, miscarriages are still taboo. So each time it happens, we enter the land of No One Knows How I Feel. I know I spent time there. It’s the most helpless, miserable feeling.
The fact is, no matter how alone you feel following a miscarriage, you’re not alone. You have friends and family who are there for you and more women than you know that have experienced the same loss as you. No one expects you to forget it happened, or on the opposite end, go to a support group. But you also don’t need to suffer in silence.
I can’t say that I wear my experience like a badge for people to see, but if the subject comes up in conversation I no longer feel the need to stuff my feelings down. I have chosen to be open about my experience so that when this happens to other women, they know that they aren’t alone.
As women, I think we do ourselves a disservice by pretending that miscarriages don’t happen. Unfortunately, they do happen, and if we can be there for each other, perhaps the guilt and sadness we feel can be shared instead of consuming us.
I realize I was lucky. My body handled the miscarriage with no need for procedures, and I was able to conceive and bear a healthy child afterwards. I know that not everyone is that lucky, that sometimes real health issues get in the way. My heart breaks for the women who experience loss after loss, and I know there is nothing I can say or do that will lessen that pain.
But ladies, if you need an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on, or a hand to help coax you out of No One Knows How I Feel, I’m here for you. Because I’ve been there too.
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.