Tanya is a mid-thirties woman who has two stepchildren and will eventually have one of her own.
The Unspoken Truth of Losing Your Child
Miscarriage is a whisper amongst women. Why is it that we celebrate the joys and endless love that comes with the birth of a new child, yet we never quite speak of the underlying fear we all carry (and, furthermore, the reality many of us face)? One in four pregnancies ends in a miscarriage. But, judging by your social media feed and your friends and family, it hardly ever seems to happen!
After suffering my own miscarriage, I aim to give some words of advice and comfort to anyone who has experienced this traumatic, terrible experience and shed some light on what happens behind it all.
I started trying for a baby a bit later than my friends. Life never seemed to offer the right opportunity to start a family. Sometimes it was a wavering boyfriend, lack of financial resources, or just the shaky uncertainty that comes with having a child. By the time I decided it was time, I was thirty-one years old. I spent six months trying to conceive with no luck. Finally, after one unsure week of a late period, I woke up early and took a pregnancy test. It was positive! The first test I had ever seen positive, too!
I couldn't believe it. I just stared at the stick, wondering if things were finally going to happen. I was going to start a whole new chapter in my life! My boyfriend and I hugged, cried, and began to prepare almost immediately. It was already the first mistake I had made.
Being fresh into my thirties, I still had that sense of invincibility that came from all the rawness of my twenties. I thought there was no way I could lose this baby. Things like that just didn't happen to me, or anyone I knew for that matter! So I celebrated in my own way: I made a baby registry for myself, and I started picking out cute onesies and deciding on names for both boys and girls. Basically, I jumped the gun. (Later I'll explain why there is nothing wrong with that, either.)
Cut to my first ultrasound. The doctor began the ultrasound with an excited tone, and I suddenly noticed that she was getting a bit more quiet. I watched on the screen and noticed that there wasn't much going on. She said to me, "I'm sorry, Tanya. But I don't see anything here." After some bloodwork and a sad discussion in her office later, it became clear that my HGH stopped rising and my womb was empty. The baby was gone. I had a miscarriage.
The word "miscarriage" sometimes seems almost too clinical at first. You can't emotionally wrap your head around it. But when the reality hits that suddenly there is no baby, no onesies, no celebration, no anything . . . it rocks you to the core. At least, I know it did for me. And the first thing I want to tell you is what I wish someone told me:
Grieve. Grieve like you lost a family member. Because you did.
It's a burden that we sometimes don't know how to accept. You feel as if you didn't even know this child. Some people may roll their eyes and say that it's not the same as even having a child. But whether you were pregnant for one day or nine months, it doesn't matter. That baby existed in you, and you felt it. You experienced being a mother, no matter how long it was. So never feel ashamed or that you have to justify your feelings. Grieve however you see fit. You lost your child, and you are entitled to grieve however you so choose.
I had a very hard time at first. Nobody knew about my pregnancy other than my boyfriend. I never quite felt like I could speak to anyone about it. But I knew that to get through this painful moment in my life, I needed someone to talk to.
Speak to Friends and Family
If you feel you need to talk to someone, reach out. You may be surprised at their reaction. When I spoke to my parents, I expected them to be judgmental or tell me to "get over it". Instead, I was met with love and compassion and understanding. They helped me through my terrible journey, and for that I will always be grateful.
So always remember that some people may bring you much more comfort than you can expect. If they don't, that's okay, too. Some people simply won't understand. You can't judge them for that—just find the catharsis in telling your story and continue your journey.
Never Apologize for Your Feelings
Whatever you feel after your miscarriage is okay. Grief isn't a blanket experience; it's nuanced, complicated, and scary. Some people may find that they push back into normal life immediately—routine is what keeps them happy. Others may need to take time off from work and be alone. Whatever gets you through is perfectly okay—and again, you don't need to justify your behavior to anyone. Obviously, use of drugs and alcohol during this time is never recommended; it can lead to depression and spirals.
I personally felt anger and jealousy. I thought the world had betrayed me. Why could all my friends get pregnant and have their families and I couldn't? Why were there pregnant women sitting around me at the doctors' offices with big bellies and hopeful smiles? Why not me?
Obviously, in retrospect, I see that it's a silly question. But in the moment it isn't. In fact, it's a very real observation. Many women experience miscarriage. Most first pregnancies are not successful, but you would never know that through assumption. It's always important to remember every woman is fighting her own battle—and many are sharing yours.
Whatever emotion you may feel (sadness, numbness, depression, anger, jealousy), is perfectly okay. Don't fight it; embrace it and allow yourself to feel these things. So often we tell ourselves that it's not okay to feel these emotions, but they're healthy in small doses. Furthermore, they're the most accepting when you've just been through something so traumatic! So cry it out, yell into a pillow, or just take a long, deep breath. You've earned it.
Seek Support If Needed
If you feel you don't have anyone to speak to, there are plenty of resources on the internet. Many pregnancy loss groups are out there for you to speak with fellow women who have shared in your experience. Many of them can be anonymous if you so choose, too!
There are also some excellent books on the subject if group discussion is not for you. I'll include some links to books that helped me through my miscarriage. They were recommended to me by my doctor and friends. I'll also include a link to a book that is non-religious.
Whatever calls to you, never feel ashamed or embarrassed by the decision to seek help. It's perfectly okay to need support during these times, and that's what these resources are for!
- A Grief Workbook for Skeptics: Surviving Loss Without Religion: This is an excellent source for someone grieving who is non-religious.
- It's OK That You're Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn't Understand: The message is simple: There's nothing wrong with grief. This is a very forward, welcoming book!
- Sunshine After the Storm: A Survival Guide for Grieving Mothers: This book is specifically about miscarriage, and it's a very enlightening read!