“It happens to about 1 in every 5 pregnancies, so if you know anyone with 2, 3, or 4 kids, chances are they’ve experienced it. We just don’t talk about it.”
I was standing in my kitchen when my doctor gave me those numbers. My baby no longer had a heartbeat. At 11 weeks, I had a miscarriage. But I couldn’t stop thinking about what she said, “We just don’t talk about it”. At first, I was angry, even annoyed. Why not? Why don’t we talk about it?
I was quick to get pregnant with my first, so I naively expected the same with my second. I know women and have friends who have taken months, even years, to get pregnant but most things about my first pregnancy were textbook so the thought of having any issues the second time around never crossed my mind.
At my 8 week ultrasound, the baby was measuring a couple weeks small. The same was true with my first child, so I chalked it up to miscalculation on my part. When the doctor had me schedule a follow-up, I thought nothing of it. The second ultrasound came and went and everything was seemingly fine. The baby’s development was on track for the new timeline and I mentally and physically prepared to “redo” weeks 8 and 9 all over again. At 11 weeks I was feeling great, so we decided to secure our spot in daycare, let my boss know, and tell some close friends. Within just 2 days of sharing, I started spotting, which I knew could be normal. The doctor had me come in anyway, just to make sure. I went to the appointment alone, not seeing a reason my husband should miss work for yet another checkup.
There I sat while the on-call doctor, a man I knew nothing about, failed to find a heartbeat of my baby, but I still didn’t believe it. Then came an ultrasound to confirm. No one ever came out and actually said the words so I kept sitting in disbelief, thoughts spiraling, trying to process what was going on as they explained my options. I felt like I was in a tunnel, barely able to hear or see, with no idea what to say or do. They kindly ushered me out and told me to take some time and think about it. I was in a haze. I tried to stop by the checkout desk, but when the woman at the desk asked if I needed a follow up I didn’t even know what to say. I stumbled over my words trying to figure out what I was even trying to do when a nurse stopped by and said: “you can call, you can just go.” I called my husband from the car. Somehow without a single memory of it, I drove home.
Thankfully, once my doctor heard she called to follow up. She told me everything I couldn’t remember and made sure I was ok. I had no idea what choice to make. I felt so guilty like maybe I had taken this pregnancy for granted. I was so lost. I lived in a fog moving between my bed, the couch, my office. I kept working but stayed home, telling no one and trying to keep myself busy. It felt like an endless waiting game until it was finally over. The next morning I was exhausted but glad it was over.
A couple days later I told my husband I was ready to go back to work. I couldn’t stand being in the house anymore and I needed a distraction. That night I started feeling extremely sick. I was weak, exhausted, and suddenly had a 104-degree fever. I called the doctor and they told me to go to the emergency room. After running some tests they said I likely had an infection from the miscarriage and scheduled me for a D and C. My body had failed me. The guilt came back strong. I couldn’t even have a miscarriage the “right way” I thought. (Believe me, there is no right way. It’s just what my warped mind kept telling me).
When I woke from my surgery I remembered very little. Just that the nurses and staff were unbelievably kind and my doctor held my hand as I went into surgery. Overwhelmingly though, I just felt like I could finally breathe, it was over.
After my miscarriage, I was so worried to tell people that it happened. How do you follow up on the “we’re pregnant” conversation with an awkward explanation of loss? But that’s the problem – it’s awkward because we don’t talk about it.
We can’t keep quiet. We need to be there for women in the time of loss. I was shocked by the number of people who told me they also experienced miscarriages or loss after knowing my story. If I hadn’t shared, my road to healing would have looked a lot different. Instead, we were surrounded by support, by friends calling, sending flowers, and praying for us.
It’s ironic that the first response of those who have gone through loss was to tell me about it. Those women who have experienced it know that what it takes to get through it is to know you aren’t alone. Someone is there. Some else knows and shares that experience.
If you’re going through loss in your own life, I hope this brings you a little bit of peace. Take your time to heal. Know you aren’t alone. Do not blame yourself. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a doctor, a friend, or a family member if you don’t know where to turn.
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month and October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Around the world lost babies are remembered by families who light a candle at 7pm in their local time zone – together they create the Lights of Love International Wave of Light.