It just so happens that October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month. Just a few short months ago, I experienced two back to back losses. The memory is fresh and real. So much has happened the past few months that I feel compelled to share my story in hopes that it would bring encouragement and hope to those experiencing the same things. I believe too many women are suffering their losses in silence. It is my hope to shed some light on this topic that is often swept under the carpet. There is no need to suffer alone.
Miscarriage is when the pregnancy ends on its own within the first 20 weeks of gestation. It is the most common type of pregnancy loss. Chances are, either you or someone close to you has experienced a miscarriage. Anywhere from 10-25% of known pregnancies will end in a loss. The risk of loss increases with the age of the mother. There are many reasons for miscarriage, but the most common reason for miscarriage is a chromosomal abnormality. Others reasons may include hormonal problems, lifestyle (i.e. smoking), implantation of the egg does not occur properly, maternal age or maternal trauma. (Information taken from www.americanpregnancy.org)
I have 5 living children, but have been pregnant 9 times so far. Back when I only had two living children, I had two back to back miscarriages. They were very early miscarriages, sometimes called chemical pregnancies, where a pregnancy is lost shortly after implantation. This accounts for 50-70% of miscarriages and many women do not even know they are pregnant to begin with. Thinking back to those miscarriages, I remember feeling almost silly grieving over it. I didn’t feel an overwhelming sense of sadness. I was sad, yes. But I hadn’t had time to even get excited about the pregnancy since it was over so quickly. I felt embarrassed to tell the few people that knew we were pregnant that we had lost the baby. I was embarrassed by people telling me how sorry they were. I don’t know why I felt that way, but I did. I went on to have three more children after that without any complication of getting pregnant.
Fast forward to a few months ago. We have 5 amazing children and have continued to leave the door open for more babies. We don’t have a set number in mind, other than allowing God to decide that number for us. I was feeling okay with 5 though and not really trying to get pregnant but not really preventing either. Then I found out that I was pregnant. After getting over my initial shock, I began to grow excited as I always do when I know that we are expecting. A week later I started bleeding, just as I was getting used to the idea of being pregnant again. I felt immediate sadness, but moved on again pretty quickly. Three weeks after that miscarriage, I had a feeling I may be pregnant again. I hadn’t had a cycle, so it wasn’t because of a missed period. I was right, I was pregnant. I grew excited again, but was extremely guarded and feared that the worst could happen again. I was right. This time was different. It was a whole new experience grieving over this lost baby. Not only was it hard emotionally, it was hard physically. My previous miscarriages had been easy physically, just like having a regular period, but this one was different. My body physically went into labor one day and I actually had to use some of natural labor techniques that I use in class! I was having contractions every 5 minutes, then 4, then 3, then it was like my body was in actual transition as it all happened. A few days later, I thought everything was fine, except that I was still bleeding. Suddenly, my body just completely shut down and I was bleeding very heavily. So heavy that I had to be taken to the ER! Everything turned out fine, but it was just taking an unusually long time for everything to pass. Once I finally stopped bleeding over two weeks later, I was so relieved to be done with the experience.
Experiencing this loss this way was eye opening to me. I had no idea that a miscarriage could be that difficult physically. I had never experienced the emotions that I felt this time. It made me realize that so many women are experiencing losses and don’t know how to express what they are feeling to others. It just so happened that a good friend of mine was experiencing a loss the same exact day as I was. She and I walked through this process together. We both had to go to the ER for a large amount of blood loss. Our stories were very similar and although I’m sad we both lost our babies, I was thankful I had someone that completely understood what I was going through.
Every woman experiences loss differently! There is not a right or wrong way to grieve. Some are extremely sad, others are okay with it. I think some women may even be afraid to admit that they really are okay! Here are some stories that I have gathered:
“Too often people treat it as an “oh well” if you have several other kids already.” – Megan M.
“I have never had a miscarriage, but as I get older and the likelihood increases I’m scared everyone will have this reaction since I have several children already. It’s the reason I don’t want to announce pregnancy until it’s obvious.” – Regina W.
“I have walked with many friends through miscarriage and then had my own in January and am still mourning. I think the most important thing is to grieve. Allow yourself to grieve and know that nothing will ever replace the void in your heart for that baby. I’m expecting in a few short weeks now and feel guilt, almost, because I will never physically love my “lost” baby. I won’t count her toes, kiss her lips, see her marry and have children. So I made a necklace and carry her with me. It’s a club you would never sign up for, but one so many women belong to and deserve to be cared for in.” – Kristina S.
“Just the other day I reread the post I made shortly after our loss and all of those emotions came crashing back. The loss, the pain, the heartache and the anxiety. That baby would have been almost 3.5. I will always remember that baby. I wanted and craved that baby so badly. I don’t think I would have gotten through it without my faith. I know that. One thing I often struggle with feeling like I don’t have the right to mourn or have grief since we lost the baby early. I struggle that I never really got to see that baby since it was so early. But have to remind myself that I did still lose a baby and that I do have the right to grieve.” – Andrea B.
“I was very grateful we had good support from the few people who knew we were pregnant with our second baby. Thankfully (and sadly), I had two good friends who really helped me by sharing their experiences. One friend is very vocal about her miscarriages and it is truly her ministry to other women. It helped my husband and I to name the baby. We also made a memory box of items we had collected: the beginning of my pregnancy journal, cards we received, etc. I certainly wouldn’t have gotten through it without my faith and knowing that I will meet that baby someday. The hardest thing for me now is acknowledging that little life when people ask about our kids or pregnancies. I want to be able to say we have been pregnant three times, not two and not have the awkwardness that follows. I certainly think it needs to be talked about more!” – Rebecca G.
“I’ve had miscarriages. I think I process them differently than most people. I was sure disappointed to lose those babies, but I was not really surprised as we had done so much IF treatment to get pregnant. In fact I never really connected with my first babies during pregnancy. I don’t know if I can speak for all women who went through IF but I didn’t feel mourning, I don’t even remember when those babies would have been due….it was just another huge disappointment on the journey to parenthood along with all the other failed medicated cycles and negative tests. My last miscarriage was before I conceived my 4th baby. I was so shocked to be pregnant then a month later, I wasn’t. I was out of town at a family wedding. I went through the whole family event without telling anyone what was going on. I smiled (and popped meds) through the weekend and tried not to bleed through my fancy dress. When I got pregnant a year later I was again shocked but I promised myself that I would celebrate every second of that pregnancy and not ever go through a m/c alone again. It was the first pregnancy that I celebrated and I had a blast! I did photos and crafts and loved every day…and he arrived alive! When anyone asks why I dote on my son I can’t stop smiling. He is the baby I thought I wouldn’t have but that I chose to enjoy for every second we had with him. I am still smiling!” – Maria M.
“My family was very cold when I went through mine. They expected me to “get over it” within a few days. They completely ignored the fact that I lost someone who I was already in love with, someone who we were picking names for and making plans for. Someone that was already real to me.” – Mary H.
“When I had mine, it was very similar. It was my first miscarriage and I felt very alone. My own mom said sorry once, but wasn’t there like I thought she would be. It was the hardest thing physically and emotionally that I had ever been through.” – Jennifer B.
“Maybe it does take going through to understand. I’m not sure. I definitely got mixed messages from close family, at the time they and their actions made feel even more guilty, like I had done something to cause it. My in laws took us out to lunch, 3 days after, never said a word about anything much less ask how I was – I felt like they were celebrating while I was mourning. My mom had spread that I was pregnant to anyone who was breathing, but left me to tell I miscarried. My grandma said it was God’s way of helping special babies that couldn’t survive outside the womb (I found great comfort with that).” – Amanda J.
I think people just simply don’t get it, if they haven’t been through it. But, that is no reason to not give love and support to any woman going through it! I know there’s so much controversy over when ‘life’ begins….but even with a miscarriage at 5-6 weeks, it is a death. It was something that was alive……There is a grieving process, just like with any death.” – Amy W.
“I have lost two babes, and with the first one, it was very much an unsupported time. My mom has lost four babies, and even she was of the mindset that okay, the bleeding has stopped it’s time to just pony up and get over it. My mother in law looked at my tears with this confused look on her face and said, “sorry, I’ve never had a miscarriage so I don’t know what you’re going through,” and she left it at that. It was a callous time, and we were going through transitions in our life so I never felt like I had properly mourned. With angel baby 2, I not only had my husband (he had a crazy work/school schedule with the first), but I had friends who gave such incredible emotional and spiritual support. My parents, after hearing others stories and knowing what their support had done for me, were able to mourn the loss of their babies, and lay them all to rest in their minds and hearts.” – Ana L.