I want to preface this post by saying that I know this is a homemaking / creative blog, and that I know you don't come here to read about my personal problems. Still, after some thought, I have felt led to open up a bit, and to talk about this because I think that it is important for SO many reasons. I hope you'll bear with me, but if you don't want to read on, I totally understand that as well, and hope you'll come back for more of "the usual" soon.
I decided to write about this because miscarriage is something that is far more common than many people realize. Those who have never had one (and I am so relieved for those of you who haven't), many don't realize how startling the #'s are. If you have had a miscarriage or a still birth, you have probably met a dozen or more women who have experienced a similar story. Many of you still, who have lost a little one, may be feeling alone, or hushed into silent grief because of our culture's inability to recognize miscarriage as a true loss in so many ways...
According to Fertility Truth, "Miscarriage statistics can be dramatic. Miscarriage reportedly occurs in 20 percent of all pregnancies. However, according to some sources, this may be an inaccurate number. Many women, before realizing a life has begun forming within them, may miscarry without knowing it-assuming their miscarriage is merely a heavier period. Therefore, the miscarriage rate may be closer to 40 or 50 percent. Of the number of women who miscarry, 20 percent will suffer recurring miscarriages."
I am in that 20%. This is my second miscarriage. It does NOT get easier.
Having been through this twice now, I can tell you without doubt that unless they have been through it (and sometimes not even then), people never really know what to say when a person loses a baby in pregnancy.
I went to the store the other day to pick up a pair of sunglasses so that my tear-stained eyes wouldn't shock everyone into a state of pity when I'm walking around in public. The woman behind the counter asked me how I was. How do you respond to that, when your heart feels as though it has been ripped into a thousand pieces and stomped on in an act of pure betrayal and perversion of innocence that occurred within your very own body??
I stammered on my answer, and finally decided that it was time to honor my pain. No, I'm not fine. "I had a miscarriage on Tuesday," I told her. "So I'm not great." She looked at me like I had just hit her with a stun gun. I imagine hearing something like that after asking a hundred people before me the canned "how are you?" would indeed be shocking. But I have no social filter right now. I don't think I have ever been quite so transparent. She composed herself and smiled and said, "Aww, I don't know what to say." I just told her that there is nothing she needs to say, thanked her, and left.
I have gotten all types of responses. I have gotten everything from "Its God's will" to "you can always have another," to "the baby would have probably been disabled." I have even been told that I shouldn't even be sad because at least I have two children. I won't even get into my feelings on those (and other) responses, other than that they hurt to the core. If you want to know why, I will elaborate later. For now, I will just confirm for any out there reading that they hurt. Bad.
Many people (women especially) are "fixers" and want to say something to help the grieving woman smile, or to feel some sense of justice and make sense of things. I do understand that, and I appreciate the hope and desire to help in some way when they say those things, even if the words themselves cut deep.
The truth is that there is nothing that can be said that makes it okay.
If you don't know what to say, sometimes its better to just tell the person that you know they're hurting, and that you're there for them. At least that has been my experience. That is what I would suggest to anyone out there who ever finds themselves on the consoling end of a miscarriage.
I mention this only because having experienced this twice now, I can't explain the pain that comes from trying to shake off comments that sting so much. I don't think that these people mean to hurt, and I do think they mean to offer healing words and thoughts to help. I mention this only because I think its important to know that the emotions of a woman who lost her child are erratic and excruciating at best... and most women have a difficult time making sense of things at the time, if ever. The best thing to do (in my opinion) is to just let them grieve and be there for them.
I will say that as painful as it can be, it can also be healing to share your story if you have one. It goes without saying that every experience is different, and even with MC-sisters to share your grief with, its important to note that everyone handles things differently. That is OKAY. It is good to know that you're not alone.... that *i'm* not alone. As much as it pains me to think of others experiencing this, I feel much less secluded, and more free to grieve in a real way, knowing how others have felt and dealt with their pain.
Sharing our stories also helps to spread awareness about miscarriage among both those who have and have not experienced it. Its time that we stop looking at miscarriage as the unspeakable grief in our culture. It is very real, and incredibly painful, and should be given the same understanding, patience, and honor in our society as all other types of grief (not that they are all cookie-cutter the same.... just that MC's deserve the right to be grieved in earnest, as is socially acceptable for other types of losses).
In an effort to do my part to de-mystify and humanize the process of going through this, I'm going to tell my story. I will be honest. It isn't easy to write, and it probably won't be easy to read, but if you stick with me, hopefully we can work through some things, and maybe even help someone out there who has gone through this also, to feel less alone, to feel understood, to feel justified in her grieving and pain.
My first miscarriage was at the end of 2004. We had just started trying to conceive our second child. We were elated. I felt like I bonded with the baby immediately. We had names picked out. We had told our family and friends (which, by the way, I still don't regret, even after all this). We had told Abbi she was going to have a baby brother or sister. We were planning, praying, dreaming...
On Dec. 24th I started bleeding. On Dec. 30th the miscarriage was confirmed by blood test. I was 7 weeks along. For months and months I grieved. It was so painful that I couldn't speak about it out loud without falling into heaps of sobs, so I just didn't. I fell into a deep depression and wound up having to go on anti-depressants to make it through.
We named the baby Hope. Kevin bought me a mother's ring with Hope's name, the date of her miscarriage, and her "birthstone" (dec) on it. I wore it every day for years. I still do, when I am particularly missing her, thinking about what color her hair would have been or how Anna would have loved playing with her four year old sister today at the park. That part of the grief never leaves me. It just sits quietly in the rafters of my mind until it hits me hard that someone is missing from this family of ours.
17 months after that miscarriage we had continued to try, and try, and try to get pregnant successfully. Finally, Anna appeared as a little double line on an EPT.
Then, in April we found out that we were expecting again. We were shocked, and excited and nervous all in one. I got sick... really really sick. Sicker than I have ever been in my life. I counted the days until I could get up out of bed without falling over, or be able to eat a meal without feeling like I had food poisoning.
Eventually the nausea passed, and I felt good. I felt happy again, energetic, and started to really feel excited about the pregnancy, and began to bond with the baby more. We were talking about names... we'd told our family and friends. We'd gotten out the baby stuff from when we had Anna, watched our favorite pregnancy movies, and ooh'd and ahh'd over photographs of babies in the womb at 8, 9, 10, 11 weeks... We read about fetal development at every stage, how the heart was beating, the baby was sucking her thumb, how she could feel pain at this stage...
Kev left for his TDY out of state... I went to go visit mom with the kids... all seemed right with the world.
But somewhere, somehow, something went wrong. I started bleeding. I rushed to the hospital and got blood tests, urine tests, and a physical examination. We listened for a heartbeat that wouldn't echo through the empty sounds coming from the doppler the nurse pushed around on my newly distending belly.
I was told things like "sometimes this just happens," and "let nature take its course." But every cell in my body ached to hold on to the little life inside me. It didn't feel like nature taking its course. It felt completely unnatural. Sick. Wrong.
I went back to mom's house praying that this wasn't the end... maybe it was just random spotting, and everything would be fine. I slept fitfully, and dreamed of fear, and being pregnant, and woke up to a stomach ache, as I cradled my youngest sleeping peacefully in my arms.
I would have been 12 weeks exactly that day. "The safety zone."
Over the next 20 minutes I started bleeding heavily, and having contractions that felt like nothing less than second stage labor. My water broke. I started sobbing, and soon after, the baby came.
I know how difficult it is to read that part of the story. I'm shaking as I type it, trying to hold in the sobs so that I dont wake my sleeping family. I am writing it only because I had no idea what a late first trimester miscarriage was like, and I think that as horrifying as it is, it is important for people to understand the TRAUMA that a woman has to deal with as a part of her grief as well. It isn't only the sadness over the loss that she has to stomach day in and day out. There is much, much more to it.
As a result of this, we have also decided that we won't be having any more children. This was our last shot. I can't risk even fearing this again, much less ever experiencing it. Kevin agrees wholeheartedly.
I know that I can't, but if i could, I would just get a hysterectomy.... i hate my uterus right now. I know that sounds weird, being that its an inanimate *organ* - but its how i feel. I feel like my own body betrayed me, and worse, it betrayed my child... a child that was completely vulnerable and weak, that depended solely on me for protection, and that could feel pain. I think that as irrational as this feeling is, its part of that wanting to scream to the world that this is just sick and wrong and shouldn't have happened. I'm angry and heartbroken and want it to stop.
I am trying so hard to handle the grief of it as best as I can, but I am also really struggling with the images and physical feelings I experienced and can't seem to shake them off of me no matter how hard I try.
I "want" to be back to normal.... I dont want to feel this deep all-encompassing grief life this. Part of me wants to forget all about it and pretend nothing happened so I won't hurt anymore... and part of me wants to own every single piece of the pain and scream my grief from the rooftops. I suppose this is that part of me right now.
I think in a lot of ways its better to verbalize it... to give these feelings a sense of solidity and value... It is "getting it out" in a way so that hopefully it doesn't just circle around and around your mind on a constant basis, leaving you feeling trapped in a world where you want to, and you don't want to, forget. In the end you NEVER forget... but talking about the experience is almost a release in that for a moment you can stop feeling like you have to remember every bit of it all the time, because you can trust that someone else knows, and has heard, and the life you knew and loved won't be forgotten.
I have done my best to tell my story, but in the end there are no words to describe the anguish, confusion, and utter sadness that storms in my heart right now. I pray for those of you who have never experienced it to never know this pain. For those of you who have, we share a piece of our hearts with one another - missing pieces that can never be replaced, but that will never, ever, be forgotten.
If you made it this far, I thank you. This is a story that needed to be told. While we will be grieving and trying to heal this broken family here behind the scenes, I promise that I will try to get this blog back on track to its primary purpose soon...
With all sincerity,