Sometimes in life we are given a beautiful gift. A gift we’ve wished for for so long, one that’s wrapped up in sunshine, smiles, and dreams of the future. And, unfortunately, when we open the box we discover that the gift has been stolen. It’s gone and there’s nothing there except unfathomable disappointment and tears. This, my friends, is what having a miscarriage feels like.
Brian and I discovered that we were pregnant with our first child in July of 2011. We were not planning on having a baby so soon, so we were quite surprised to discover we were expecting. Nevertheless, we were thrilled and our hearts filled with the joy that was to come. We told everyone we knew. We were elated! We shared this wonderful time for a couple of weeks and then it happened. I discovered that I was spotting. I called the doctor and was given an appointment for the next day. An ultrasound confirmed our fears. There was what appeared to be a blighted ovum (i.e., empty yolk sac). We were told that it didn’t look good but there was still some hope as I was only 7 weeks; it was possible that the ultrasound wasn’t detecting the baby yet. We were sent home to wait for an entire week, the longest week of my life. I looked for any shred of evidence that the baby was growing and it was all a misunderstanding. I felt nauseous constantly and convinced myself it was morning sickness. In reality, it was dreadful anxiety. The day of the repeat ultrasound, August 8th, finally came; a day that I’m certain I will remember for the rest of my life. The ultrasound flicked on and we waited with still a glimmer of hope. There was none. There was still only an empty sac. I sat numb on the table and tried my hardest not to have a complete breakdown in front of everyone there. We then met with the doctor to discuss the options. I could either wait for my body to naturally pass it, or I could choose to have a D&C to have it surgically removed. I opted for the D&C. The thoughts of my lost hopes and dreams still inside me another moment just made me cry harder. I had the D&C done on the 11th. Having the empty sac removed did not take away the pain. The pain continued on and even still does today.
That was my story. I don’t feel the need to share every single detail of the specifics of my miscarriage, but what I do want to share is my experience of coping with the loss. If you’re suffering with this pain, my words of advice might help you along the way, as the words of so many others have helped me. The following is what I’d like to say to any mother out there who is feeling the agony of miscarriage:
1. If you are mad and angry, be mad and angry. Feel it. Whatever you are feeling, just feel it! It’s not wrong to be disappointed or like you just can’t go on. Feelings are not wrong. They just are. I don’t think it’s wrong to ask, “Why? Why me?” Maybe if you ask, you’ll be shown an answer. I was angry with God for allowing this to happen to me. I mean, we weren’t even trying to get pregnant. We didn’t ask for this. I was given my answer to, “Why?” the moment I looked into my daughter’s eyes. You see, we found out we were pregnant with Lilly five months after I miscarried; if I hadn’t lost that pregnancy, then I wouldn’t have my sweet girl today. I firmly believe there’s a reason for everything.
2. Find other women who have dealt with miscarriage. Seek them out. If they know of your loss, chances are great they will seek you out themselves. I was overwhelmed with the outpouring of love and concern from other mothers who had lost babies as well. I would have never dreamed that miscarriage is so common. These women know exactly how you feel. It’s a powerful healing tool to see them living their lives as normal. At a time when it feels like you’ll never be able to be happy again, seeing them function normally really helps. Also, they are an invaluable source of wisdom. They can share their own experiences and ideas on how they made it through.
3. Turn to the internet. You may be thinking, “Huh?” But really, it helped me a lot. I’m willing to bet I Googled the word, “miscarriage” nearly a million times. What that did was direct me to forums upon forums of women discussing their experiences. Again, I was overwhelmed with how many people had experienced this. Their stories gave me hope. They spoke of their children that were born after previous miscarriages. I needed to hear that. I wondered if there was something wrong with me, if my body made this happen. I wasn’t certain I could even have a baby. Their discussions gave me hope. Also, do your research. After reading countless facts about the reasons that miscarriages can occur, I stopped blaming myself. The vast majority of miscarriages occur because of chromosomal abnormalities with the fetus. They very rarely happen because of something the mother has done. This gave me peace as well. I felt like my baby had likely been spared a life of pain from some sort of condition or disease.
4. Do what feels right when you’re grieving. If you want to sit in a dark room and cry for hours, or even days, then do it. If you’d prefer to just get out of the house and keep yourself busy, then do that. There is no wrong way to grieve, if there’s no harm done, that is. For me, I just wanted to be alone with Brian. I didn’t want to be around people and I didn’t want to talk. I just wanted to lay in the dark and cry with him by my side. I felt like he was the only one who could fully understand what I was going through. Eventually, I was ready to talk and get back to life and reality.
5. Don’t forget about Dad. Remember that he is grieving too. He is also hurting and is likely feeling the burden of both the loss and being there for you. Allow him to grieve in his own way.
6. Memorialize the baby in some way. I think this is very important. I wasn’t content to just try to forget about the baby. I couldn’t just pretend that it never happened. I wanted something to always remind me of our first pregnancy. So, I asked Brian to buy me a special ring for my birthday. The ring has the March birthstone on it, which would have been when the baby was due. Engraved on the ring are the words, “Always in my heart.” The ring is one of my most treasured possessions. Some people choose to plant trees in memory of the baby or some people even like to get a tattoo. Some people name the baby; even if the baby was lost too early to know what the sex was. Some people go with what they felt the baby was going to be and name it accordingly. What you choose to do will depend on your style and circumstance, but I think it’s a great way to always remember.
7. Use this horrific experience to help others. As I’ve said, there were many people who reached out to me to offer their love and advice. I will forever be grateful for this. Whenever the opportunity arises for you to offer words of encouragement to another mother who is struggling with a miscarriage, then you should do it, too. You’ll be surprised how much it also helps you to heal to be able to say, “I know what you’re going through. I’ve been there. Life does get better.”
8. Know that having another baby will not make the pain from this loss go away. It may help you heal, it helped me heal, but it’s not the only answer to your suffering. You should definitely go on to have babies if that’s your wish, but be sure you go through the grieving process for what you’ve lost. Trying to mask the pain or replace the loss will only be a temporary fix. I still think of the baby we lost every day, but I can think of our baby without tears now and there was a day I doubted that would ever be possible.
I hope that if you have suffered this terrible loss that my words might bring you some comfort and encouragement. Just know that it does get better. Life does go on. You will never be “over it” but you will learn to accept it and live your life. You will be able to smile again. You’ll never be completely the same, but life is still out there and it’s worth living.