It was a rainy day in October of 2010. I took my then 3-year-old son to the local Fire Station for a field trip with his preschool class, and we had a great morning with friends and firefighters. I was 4 months pregnant at the time with my fourth child, and life was good! I remember I was just starting to feel the first flutters of life, and feeling so grateful to bring this new baby into our family. I was in my second trimester, AKA “the safe zone”, and I felt happy.
After the field trip, my son and I went to my OB/GYN for a regular appointment, and I was feeling healthy and optimistic. My past pregnancies had been quite difficult with uncontrolled blood pressure/preeclampsia, bed rest, hemorrhaging, and a few close calls…but this pregnancy I was doing really well! We had already had a few ultrasounds (because of my history) and baby was looking good, and so was my blood pressure.
We joked with the doctor about Halloween and our plans for the holidays as she proceeded to find the heartbeat. She made me move positions and said the baby was being “stubborn” today… we laughed. After several attempts, she could not find a heartbeat. I was surprisingly not concerned at this time, because the week before, a friend of mine also had a similar scare but they did an ultrasound and everything was just fine! Besides, I JUST felt the baby’s little flutter kicks that morning… surely that would be the case for me. Surely things were fine. I was sent down the hall for an ultrasound. But, as the technician slid the wand over my stomach, there was a sudden silence in the room. Her demeanor changed, and I suddenly felt like I was swimming under water as she mouthed the words “I am so sorry”…. In that very instant my entire world changed, forever.
I don’t know how I held it together. How I got dressed in that dimly lit office, while my little boy danced around and asked me if he was going to have a little brother yet. How I didn’t cry. How I walked to my car. How I drove home in the rain. I felt like the sky was crying for me in that moment. Looking back I assume I was in shock. When I pulled into the garage and saw that my husband was home for lunch. I lost it. I sobbed, because I suddenly realized my pain was about to become his, and I would have to tell our children when they got home from school. We stood in the kitchen, embracing and crying for what seemed like hours.
The next few days were a blur. I spent them in the hospital. They tried inducing labor, because a home miscarriage could have potentially been dangerous for me since I had hemorrhaged with my son’s birth. Only the baby didn’t want to come. After 2 days of labor, exhaustion, and emotionally trying to process this loss, I would never be able to hold my tiny baby. D & E surgery was scheduled and my tiny son was taken from me. I remember going home, and my milk coming in and not having a baby to nourish. Cramping and bleeding for weeks and not having a baby to hold to lessen the pain. Having our tiny son cremated and his ashes being sewn inside a teddy bear…one that still sits on a shelf and watches over our family. Having to explain to my then 10, 8 and 3 year old children that their baby brother had gone to heaven, and having to wipe away their tears while trying to be strong myself. These are the details of a miscarriage. The year that followed was one of the hardest of my life. Driving by the hospital, walking by the baby section at Target, listening to friends talk about their pregnancies and attending baby showers…they were constant reminders of my loss and my grief.
Grief comes in waves. There are days where you are ok, where you don’t even cry. And then it hits you again, consumes you and pulls you under. Learning to ride the waves is part of the journey.
“Miscarriage is taboo”
Many people don’t want to hear the details. It’s too sad. It’s too hard. It’s uncomfortable for those who can’t relate. But the truth is, 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage, and women should not feel like they have to suffer in silence. Talking about it openly with my friends and family was part of the healing process for me. The more I told my story, the more pain left my heart. I think it’s important for those close to us, and for society in general to understand that a loss is a loss, and it doesn’t matter if your child is inside your womb, or outside. You have lost a child. There is some real emotional and physical healing that needs to take place, and moms that have suffered a miscarriage need more support than I can say.
I heard things like “don’t worry, you still have three beautiful children here! Focus on the positives!” and “not to cry about it, because I have so much more to be thankful for”. Although comments like these were well meaning, and my children are indeed a great blessing and I did have much to be grateful for, my children and my blessings do not negate the child I lost, nor should they. It’s ok to mourn, it’s ok to recognize your miscarriage for what it is. It shouldn’t be covered up, or hid, and there should never ever be shame associated with expressing your feelings of loss. No one should ever make you feel like you are overreacting. You’re not.
How you can help a friend who has miscarried
Friends that just listened, and who let me cry and vent without judgement were priceless and much needed. I didn’t want advice, I wanted to get it all out and just have a listening ear. I had friends come out of the woodwork who shared their stories of miscarriage, who I never even knew had lost babies. Their honesty and their stories helped me realize I wasn’t alone. This is partly why I decided to share my story. I don’t want another mom out there to ever, ever feel like she is alone, or that she has to suffer in silence. If you feel like you have no one to talk to, look me up on Facebook. I will be that friend for you.
Weeks after my loss, an anonymous friend left a Christmas ornament on my doorstep that had our baby’s name and due date on it. Some might see that as sad, but I was so grateful for the gesture and every year I still put that ornament on our tree. I don’t want to forget my baby, so gestures that honor and remember him are precious to me.
Other friends brought meals and I can’t tell you what a blessing that was! There were days I didn’t want to get out of bed, yet alone have to cook another meal for my family. Having a home cooked meal delivered brought comfort and and peace of mind on many days where I really needed it. Don’t underestimate simple gestures like a card, flowers, food or a phone call. All of these seemingly small gestures were life savers for me.
Time does heal
I went from crying daily for almost a year, to a couple times a week, to maybe once a month, and now 5 1/2 years later, writing this article has been the first time I have shed a tear over my experience in probably over a year. Your greatest healer will be time. Life does go on, and you will face other trials and hardships, because life is hard and chaotic sometimes! But you will also grow and gain strength, and above all you will gain compassion for those who have walked your path. Your pain does and can become a blessing for others, and as you bless others with your story, you too are blessed. It truly is the beauty that comes from the hardest moments in life.
Be patient with yourself
It’s ok to fall apart sometimes. It’s ok to sleep more than you should. It’s ok to indulge in the chocolate. It’s ok to get angry. It’s ok to cry. It’s also ok to laugh. It’s ok to smile. It’s ok to go out and have fun with friends. It’s ok to be frustrated with pregnant moms who complain about being tired and having heartburn, because you would happily live with those inconveniences just to have your baby back! But as you are patient with yourself, try to be patient with others. We are products of our experiences. There will be others who don’t know what to say, who do complain about seemingly ridiculous things compared to what you’ve been through. Chances are they may never fully understand the path you’ve walked, and that’s ok. Take comfort in those who have, and don’t penalize those who haven’t.
Don’t be afraid to seek help
Sometimes friends and meals and gifts, and even time aren’t enough. If you find yourself not being able to function, if you are in a deep depression after some time has passed and life feels hopeless, you may need professional help. It’s ok. You need to do whatever you need to do to keep yourself mentally healthy, for yourself and your family. If that means counseling or medication, do not feel shame in it! Miscarriage is a very traumatic experience. Talk to your doctor about possible options that can help.
Find joy in life
Allow yourself some time to grieve, it’s needed. It’s necessary. It hurts. But on the good days, go for a walk. Listen to the birds, and laugh with your friends and family. Go see a funny movie. Bake some cookies. Serve others. Do things you enjoy. They will keep you distracted and help remind you that along with the dark and heavy trials of life, there are good things that surround you every day.
These good things in life will pull you up on your toughest, darkest days. I promise.