Miscarriage is not something that was supposed to happen to me.
I don’t mean that I have some magical uterus or perfect eggs that prevent miscarriage. It was always just this far away, intangible concept. I knew it happened. I just never thought it was something that would happen to me.
My daughter was just over 2 years old. We had been trying to get pregnant with our second child for a few months and it happened! We found out I was pregnant the week before Christmas, which seemed like the perfect gift.
I thought Christmas was the perfect time for a pregnancy announcement for our families, so I bought this book (“I’m a Big Sister”) and wrapped it up neatly for my daughter to open on Christmas morning. They were all so surprised and excited.
I knew it was early and they say you aren’t supposed to tell people until the second trimester, but it was Christmas for goodness sake! And besides, miscarriage wasn’t something that was going to happen to me.
But it did.
A couple weeks after Christmas, I was a little worried that I hadn’t yet experienced any morning sickness. I was anticipating severe nausea since I had been so sick with my first pregnancy. I tried to put the worries behind me since I had heard over and over that all pregnancies are different.
That Friday it started snowing. It was fairly warm out, so the snow turned to ice and the roads became slick and treacherous. The town shut down.
My husband and I were watching a movie after our daughter went to sleep, when I started feeling crampy. Again, I didn’t think much of it since cramps can be normal during early pregnancy. Later, we paused the movie so I could go to the bathroom, and that’s when I knew something wasn’t quite right. My underwear had a streak of brown blood in it. I still had a thread of hope since it was a very small amount and I had read even light bleeding could be normal for pregnancy. Still, I began to cry and worry and cry and cry. I could barely sleep that night hoping everything was still okay. But it wasn’t.
The next morning, I woke up to heavy bleeding and the worst cramps I had experienced since being in labor with my daughter. I knew then it was over.
The weekend was terrible. I felt like I was in labor, but knew there would be no baby at the end. There was nothing I could do. We couldn’t even go to the doctor since the roads were icy and even urgent care was closed.
Eventually, what I think was the amniotic sac came out and my husband and I didn’t know what to do with it. For some reason, we put it into a plastic bag and put it in the fridge. We weren’t sure if we needed to bring it to the doctor for some reason. I think grief does some funny things to the brain. Several times throughout the day I would go to the fridge and just stare at it, wondering why it happened and crying, feeling like I failed.
My body had failed doing the one thing that was supposed to be so natural and maternal. I had failed to give my daughter a sibling close in age. I had failed to notice the signs earlier – could I have done something to prevent it?
Was it my fault? I had had a bad tension headache earlier in the week and took Tylenol, which is supposed to be safe for pregnancy, but could that have been it? Was it the one cup of coffee I had had that day? Did I overdo it helping move furniture the week before? The guilt was unrelenting. I knew that the majority of miscarriages are completely unpreventable and a result of the fetus not developing properly. Yet still there was a constant, nagging question of WHY DID THIS HAPPEN and a need to place blame somewhere.
When the roads finally cleared Tuesday, we went to my OB/GYN. They did an ultrasound and blood work and confirmed I had lost the baby. They made me come back and do more blood work every 2 days to make sure the HCG levels were going down. (They do this to make sure they hadn’t missed an ectopic pregnancy, which could be very dangerous.) Let me tell you – it feels like cruel torture to be grieving the loss of a pregnancy in the one place full of pregnant women – the waiting room of the obstetrician’s office. It was full of happy couples gushing over their ultrasound photos and hugely pregnant women whose bodies weren’t failing them, whose babies were alive and well. It was the last place on Earth I wanted to be.
In the following weeks, it started to get a little easier as the freshness of it all started to fade. Little things triggered me, though, and I still cried daily. Two women at work announced their pregnancies the week after my miscarriage. Talk about a gut punch. Don’t get me wrong – I was so extremely happy for them and they had no idea what was going on with me or that I’d be sensitive hearing their news. I just couldn’t think about their pregnancies without also thinking about how mine was over. After the news spread of the new pregnancies, one well-meaning male coworker popped into my office just to ask “So now that Rebecca is pregnant, when are you going to have another baby?”. I wanted to punch him in the throat, but politely told him we would be ready whenever it happened then excused myself to cry in the bathroom.
I knew it was unfair, but I could not look at pregnant women without getting upset. I didn’t want to attend a baby shower. I didn’t want to see bump photos on Facebook. Every pregnancy announcement I saw just made me upset.
We did share the fact we had had a miscarriage with those who knew we were pregnant along with some close friends. I think everyone truly meant well, but I found some words to be less encouraging:
“At least you know you can get pregnant”
“You are young. You can try again”
“At least it was early”
“I wonder if I have ever had a miscarriage and didn’t know”
I think the worst part of having the miscarriage was the immense sense of failure and loneliness. I felt like I was the only person in the world this had happened to or could be feeling this way.
What did help me was hearing others’ stories of their miscarriages. At first, I was feeling ashamed and shy about sharing, so I watched YouTube videos and posted anonymously on message boards to get my feelings out and seek support. Eventually, I opened up to a friend who then shared that she also had recently had a miscarriage. I opened up to my mom, who had had 3. My aunt had also had one. And my boss. Did you know that 1 in 5 pregnancies end in miscarriage? One in Five!
I realized I was not alone. Miscarriage is scary, and gut-wrenching, and emotional and painful. And no one talks about it. It’s the scary “M” word that no one wants to speak aloud. I am going to speak about it. I am not ashamed. I am still sad. But I will share my story in the hopes that it can help someone not feel ashamed or alone or scared.
I realized how powerful it can be to have a good emotional support system. People really do mean well and can help you in so many ways if given the opportunity.
I learned to be grateful for the things I have. I have a wonderful, beautiful, curious and imaginative daughter who loves me more than life itself. I have a supportive, handsome and caring husband who is a fabulous dad. I have a great job that pays well and that I like showing up to every day. I started keeping a gratitude journal to keep myself focused on thankfulness instead of spiraling into feelings of despair.
I was worried we wouldn’t conceive again, or worse, that we would and I’d miscarry a second time. But I did conceive again, sixth months later, and now have a beautiful, perfect baby son.
They call a baby born after a loss a “rainbow baby” because it symbolizes beauty after the storm. And I think that’s really what a “darkest teacher” is — an experience that is dark and stormy, but that comes with wonderful beauty on the other side.
This is Day 3 of my 30 Day Writing Challenge.
Feel free to join me by writing about your darkest teacher. Full disclosure: I was not familiar with the concept of “the darkest teacher” and found this post informative.
Post a link in the comments below and I’ll be sure to read and comment.