We didn’t go in for the first doctor’s visit and sonogram until I was 8 weeks along. We were excited and anxious to get a glimpse of our baby and hear its rapidly beating heart. The tech was silent as she performed the sonogram. We watched the image of the baby on the screen, waiting for her to speak. I finally asked “Is anything wrong?” She said the baby’s heart wasn’t beating and it looked like it had stopped growing a few days before our appointment.
I was blindsided. It was all so surreal. We just went through the motions at that appointment, shocked that the baby that had been making me so sick, that had been pulsing in my tummy, was no longer alive.
After a second ultrasound a few days later, we drove to the hospital, before dawn, for a D & C. Immediately after the procedure, both my morning sickness and my third child were gone. It was a painfully strange experience to have a pregnancy end without having a newborn nursling in my arms.
Since this was my first miscarriage, I didn’t know what to expect. When I was pregnant with my other two children, I diligently avoided articles and discussions on miscarriage. It upset me to hear how common they were and I didn’t want to consider that I, too, might experience one. And yet, here I sit, writing this article four and a half months after losing a pregnancy of my own. I didn’t realize how hard this journey would be.
I’d like to share some things I’ve learned through this experience, in hopes they might help if sadly you, or even a loved one, has to walk through a pregnancy loss.
The body, mind, and hormones are confused and it takes a few months before they get back to their normal rhythms. For example, a woman may still look pregnant for a while and it may take some time before they start up their cycle again and then a few more months before it’s back to its regular schedule.
In my follow-up appointment after my D & C, my very kind gynecologist told me that I had to let myself grieve after this miscarriage. He explained that I had lost a little baby, one whose heart had been beating, and that it’s healthy and natural to mourn that loss. This freed me to accept my sadness and stop trying to “suck it up.” It brought to mind a quote from my daughter’s book, Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Suess, “A person’s a person, no matter how small,” and that I indeed needed to grieve over the loss of that tiny person.
Sometimes it can feel difficult to breathe when overcome with sadness and emotion during those first few months. However, things start looking up after the body and hormones are back to their post-pregnancy state. I still think about the baby we lost, but it’s no longer the first thought in my head when I wake or the one that keeps me up at night. Hope and joy do return.
A miscarriage can make a person feel very alone, but in reality, many others have had similar experiences. Research estimates that between 15-20% of confirmed pregnancies end in miscarriage. Though it’s a sad club to join, when experiencing a miscarriage, it may be comforting to know that there are a lot of women with similar stories who understand the pain that the loss can cause. For example, right after finding out we had miscarried, I shared the news with three neighborhood friends who knew about my pregnancy. I was shocked to hear that each one of them had also been through a miscarriage. (Here’s a list of some recognizable women who have had miscarriages.)
Viewing social media can be really painful when recovering from this type of loss. After reading “Got to hear the sweetest sound today, my baby’s heartbeat!” on Facebook I found myself in tears, head buried in my husband’s chest and I had trouble sleeping that night, replaying the scene from the doctor’s office over and over again in my head. I wish I had avoided it.
Finally, a miscarriage can bring a mother an increased appreciation of the miracle that her other children are. I find that I study my girls more–the shape of their little noses, their pudgy bellies and legs, their sweet smiles. With a fresh realization of the difficulties that many have in getting and staying pregnant, I am so very grateful for the gift of these beautiful children and truly amazed at the miracle of human life.
To be honest, it is a bit frightening publicly sharing about our miscarriage. I have struggled whether or not to submit this article for a variety of reasons, as I know my situation may seem trivial compared to what others have experienced, yet here I am at the end of this piece. I’ve mustered up the bravery to share this, for it is my hope that the things I have learned will help to validate others who have found themselves unexpectedly walking this difficult path.
The following quote from one of Barbara Kingsolver’s novels has resonated with many a woman who has lost a pregnancy, “A miscarriage is a natural and common event. All told, probably more women have lost a child from this world than haven’t. Most don’t mention it, and they go on from day to day as if it hadn’t happened, so people imagine a woman in this situation never really knew or loved what she had. But ask her sometime: How old would your child be now? And she’ll know.”
Yes, though it is common and not often talked about with others, it is too true that one’s miscarriage is an experience and a child that will not be forgotten. If you are a woman who is currently recovering from a miscarriage, please know that you are not alone, the clouds do part and the pain diminishes.
Image via Madison Holmlund