I was 11 weeks pregnant when I suffered my 7th and final miscarriage. My husband and I were on vacation with our three daughters when the nightmare began.
Admittedly, I was cautious but like many women approaching the end of the first trimester, I was feeling hopeful. The trip was wonderful and a welcome break in the middle of a long Minnesota winter. Our entire family was having a great time.
But then – the unthinkable happened.
I went to the bathroom and there it was. A light pink stain delicately seeped into the corners of the tissue. At first, I thought it was a mistake. I wiped again and stared in disbelief at one of the things pregnant women fear most. A hint of blood.
Panic settled into the pit of my stomach and I just sat there in tears staring at the tissue in my hand. It was almost as if I thought I could wish it away if I stared at it long enough. I had been down this road many times before. In that moment and alone in the bathroom hundreds of miles from home, I just knew. Something was wrong.
Things went from bad to worse. Over the next 24 hours, the bleeding and cramping intensified and I tried to be brave and smile for the sake of the kids. Luckily, our vacation was almost over and I was desperate to go home. I did not want to end up in a hospital in Jamaica. Storms hit on the day we were leaving and many of the roads were impassable due to floods.
The hotel staff informed us that it might be difficult to get to the airport and it hit me that we might get stranded in Jamaica. Please dear God don’t let me miscarry here. My husband insisted that we needed to get to the airport and by the grace of God we were able to get on the last bus and get out of the resort. It was a scary ride with waters rising up to the windows and I was in a great deal of pain. Still to this day, I remember feeling so afraid and praying our flight would not be delayed and that we could get safely home.
Luckily, we made one of the last flights out and I have never been so relieved. I was able to see my doctor the next morning and the cruelty of an ultrasound confirmed my worst fears. There was no heartbeat.
One would think I would have been better at this. After all I had been through this many times before. I laid on the table and cried praying the doctor was wrong. Look again. Please.
My doctor placed her hand gently on my leg and said, “I’m so sorry but the baby is no longer viable.”
Viable? What the hell does that even mean? My baby is still inside of me. I still feel pregnant. I am still pregnant. In that moment, I have never felt so helpless and so alone. My heart broke and I mourned for the baby that was still inside of me yet it was another baby I would never get to hold.
The cramping had become unbearable and as much as I didn’t want to accept it, there was no way out. A miscarriage was inevitable and my doctor felt I would need a D&C.
Suddenly, I found myself in a hospital gown exhausted and defeated. I felt like I had no control and there was nothing I could do. My husband tried to comfort me and I knew that he was in pain too. He felt that after suffering through multiple miscarriages, it was time to stop trying. I had kids and enough was enough.
I was in a fog and I barely remember signing the papers and agreeing to a tubal ligation. In less than a couple of hours, my entire world changed and I would wake up to face a heartbreaking double loss. I had lost yet another baby and at the same time I had lost my ability to ever get pregnant again.
The emptiness I experienced in the days ahead were immeasurable. I felt inconsolable and my emotional wounds were vast and raw. There were no words to capture how isolated and alone I felt. My heart hurt and I clung tightly to thoughts of what might have been.
I felt like I had been robbed – life had stolen a part of who I was. In truth, I couldn’t help but feel like I had lost my identity as a woman. I no longer had the power to choose to reproduce and give life. My grief was big, ugly and filled the entire room.
But life doesn’t slow down and sadly, I felt pressured to quickly move on. Invariably there was no time for my grief. I had a family, responsibilities and a job and like so many of us do, I sucked it up.
I took all of my shock, denial, guilt, shame, sadness, anger and depression and buried it deep in my heart. Frankly, I hid my grief from the world and suffered in silence for a very long time.
It was not until years later that I came to realize the deep and profound impact that every one of my miscarriages had on my life. Through my journey and in dealing with loss I came to better understand the dangers in not allowing ourselves the time to grieve when we experience a miscarriage or any kind of loss.
I share my story with all of you because miscarriage is far too common and sadly, women all over the world grieve in silence and it is ignored.
Miscarriage is the most common type of pregnancy loss according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Studies have shown that anywhere from 10 to 25 percent of all clinically recognized pregnancies will end in miscarriage.
In short, miscarriage happens often and when it does, it can turn a woman’s life upside down. By the way, I am not minimizing the deep and profound impact miscarriage has on men. It is a difficult loss for both the mom and dad.
Unfortunately, society does not do well with grief in general. People are uncomfortable talking about grief. Often times, people don’t know what to say and therefore say nothing at all. It is easier to avoid it or pretend everything is okay. Or – friends and family will try to offer their support but despite good intentions end up saying things that make things worse.
- “At least it was early – you were only 6 weeks along”
- “Well, you can try again soon”
- “At least you already have children, some people can’t have kids at all”
- “Obviously, something was wrong with the baby, it is better this way”
Do any of these sounds familiar?
Following a loss, people often feel like they have to hide their grief. They feel misunderstood and alone. This leads to isolation and ultimately a suite of issues that can get in the way of finding happiness and healing the heart. An inability to truly grieve can lead to anger, resentment, sadness, distraction, guilt, shame, despair and depression. It can steal a person’s joy.
Miscarriage can be even more complicated when it comes to grieving and healing. Women often feel like they need to keep the miscarriage a secret and they suffer in silence. They often feel guilty, ashamed and inadequate. Somehow it is easy to blame ourselves when we lose a baby and women can easily become obsessed with everything they did or didn’t do during the pregnancy. A miscarriage can leave a woman feeling less than or imperfect – what’s wrong with me?
In addition, society has created the golden 12-week rule. A majority of miscarriages occur in the first 12 weeks or first trimester. It is a time of fear and while excited, women often hide their pregnancy from the world. They avoid sharing the wonderful news with family, friends and co-workers for fear of something going wrong. However, choosing to not share can lead to a conundrum if the pregnancy fails and a miscarriage occurs. No one knew about the pregnancy and therefore no one will ever know about the heartbreaking loss of a baby.
In the end, miscarriage and its aftermath can be a very lonely and dark place for far too long. It has been many years since I had my 7th and final miscarriage and I still have moments where I find myself riding the wave of grief. It will hit me without warning and the slightest thing can trigger the pain from all of those years ago.
Please don’t suffer in silence and alone if you have had a miscarriage. Here are a few important things to remember when you are healing from your loss:
- Your grief is real. Losing a baby and having a miscarriage regardless of how far along you were is a deep life-changing loss. Do not minimize it and recognize that it is normal to grieve.
- There is not a rule book for grief. There are no time limits and no right or wrong way to grieve. Grief is personal and you need to allow yourself the time to grieve and in whatever way is right for you.
- Miscarriage is a silent and secret grief journey. Don’t isolate yourself. Reach out to people who care about you. We all need family and friends when we are hurting. You do not have to walk this path alone. Remember, it is estimated that 1 in 4 women will have a miscarriage. There are people out there that understand and have been down this painful road.
- There are no rituals when grieving a miscarriage. When a loved one dies there is often a funeral and other rituals that take place. Sadly, when a woman experiences a miscarriage, there are no rituals to help bring closure to the loss. There is often no baby to hold or photographs to keep. There are many resources out there that can offer hope including support groups and counseling.
- Your partner is grieving too. Lean on each other, encourage, support and communicate.
- Practice self-care. Be gentle with yourself. Make sure you are taking the time to rest, exercise and eat healthy. Surround yourself with positive people and create time to do those things you love.
Miscarriage is devastating. It can leave a hole in your heart for a very long time and like any loss, it will always be a part of you. It can change your life but it is important to remember that you can heal your broken heart.
If you have suffered a miscarriage my heart is with you and I am sending you so much love. It is impossible for me to know exactly what you have been through but I do understand.
We have all lost something valuable and important. We have lost a baby and the dream of that specific child and what could have been. That is not something to hide or ignore. Grieve and heal your heart. You deserve it and my wish for you is that you will once again find peace and joy.
In Peace and With Love