My Miscarriage: Lessons Learned Through the Loss of a Dream
*Originally published on Alamo City Moms.
At 1:12 A.M. on June 1st, 2015, I sent a text message to my husband, who was traveling for work and had just landed in Boston after hours of weather delays. Two pink lines had gleamed up at me from my pregnancy test strip merely an hour earlier, and now, beyond excited and unable to sleep, I couldn’t wait to share the good news with my love. With the click of a button, I sent a photo of the positive result to my husband’s phone and awaited his reply.
“Is that…a pregnancy test?” appeared on my screen a few moments later. I smiled as I typed, “Yep. Looks like we’re gonna be parents again!" And so began the next month and a half, a blur of excitement, disbelief, wonder, and dreams.
Determined to start off this pregnancy on the right foot—particularly after having developed preeclampsia with my first—I watched what I ate, kept a careful eye on my blood pressure (which remains as low as it has in six years), and pampered myself as much as you can when you’re in the company of an energetic six-year-old who’s just out of school and eager to tackle summer. My husband and I decided to tell our daughter about the pregnancy—for a long list of reasons—but only after blood tests confirmed that my HCG levels were, in fact, doubling as they should. To say she was thrilled is the understatement of a lifetime.
The days ticked by as we dreamed of our baby and life as a family of four. We talked about names, perused Pinterest for nursery décor ideas, and quizzed each other daily as to whether we thought we were going to have a girl or boy. Whichever we got, we agreed, we really didn’t care—just so long as we had a healthy baby. (And I know everyone says that, but we really meant it.) We went to doctor’s appointments, marveled at the sonogram of a tiny heart beating strong within a blob of black and white, and shared our good news with our closest friends and family members. I can honestly say I’ll never forget the day we told my parents: how my daughter proudly paraded inside their house wearing her “Big Sister” tee-shirt, the look on my mother’s face when it all clicked, and how we watched together that night as American Pharaoh crossed the finish line to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978 and considered it a lucky sign.
Every evening, my darling daughter—so excited to be a big sister—kissed my growing belly and told her baby brother or sister goodnight, and every night we went to sleep dreaming of the days ahead and how much our lives would change come February 10th when we greeted our Valentine’s baby.
And then, it was gone.
The day began like any other: a morning playdate at the splash pad with friends, a lunch date with one of my besties, and then some R&R at home. But a trip to the bathroom and a tiny tinge of pink upon the toilet paper soon prompted a call to my OB’s office. I was confident everything was fine—certainly something so minor couldn’t indicate anything significant—but per my OB’s request, I loaded up my daughter, hopped in my car, and sped off to the Med Center. Thankfully, my mom met us there. I don’t remember how long we waited, but I do remember playing hide ‘n’ seek with my daughter behind the changing curtain and glazing over questions about stirrups and various models of female anatomy in between smiles. My doctor came in after a few minutes, his familiar warm grin greeting us as he shook my daughter’s hand. I was comforted when he couldn’t detect any bleeding—“Are you sure it was vaginal?” he asked—and as he rolled in the sonogram machine, I quickly set my phone to camera mode and rested it on my swollen belly so I could capture a picture of the screen that would surely confirm all was well.
Needless to say, I never got that picture.
I saw the screen. I saw the blob. And I saw nothing else. No tiny heartbeat as I’d seen merely two weeks before, no movement. The image on the screen was as still and silent as everyone else in the room. I watched helplessly as my doctor quickly turned the screen away from us, shielding our view, his brow furrowed and smile fading, and I knew at that moment that something was utterly wrong. He continued to take a few measurements in silence for the next few minutes and then told me to sit up. “I’m just so sorry,” he said, with a steadiness and sorrow in his voice that told me while he’d repeated these words thousands of times before, they never got any easier. “The baby appears to have passed away about a week and a half ago.”
Thus began the death of a dream—at least this particular one.
As I lay down in bed that night, the questions loomed: How could I not have known? Why did this happen? And if I could lose a life within me so easily, what else could I lose? I still don’t have the answers to these questions—and I know I may never find them—but in the almost four weeks that have passed since that dreadful day when I learned the life my body was responsible for creating had perished and my resulting D&C, I’ve learned some valuable lessons:
I’m stronger than I thought. My marriage is pretty solid, too.
As I said in the first blog post I ever wrote, “Motherhood forces you to summon a strength within yourself you didn’t know existed.” Going through this experience has shown me what I’m made of—and it’s more than I thought. After all, I discovered I lost my baby and then had to return home alone to console my grieving six-year-old and quiet my own racing mind while my husband scrambled to fly home from halfway across the U.S. By the time you’ve done that, you feel like there’s not a whole lot you can’t handle. It gives me courage to know that I can swallow what life may throw at me, no matter how devastating.
I’ve also realized how much my husband and I love and need each other—something I’ve always known but tend to forget in the humdrum of everyday life. Jeff has comforted me night after night, listened to me talk through my grief, and picked up my slack when I emotionally and physically couldn’t. He has once again proven that he is my rock, that I can count on him to love and support me in my darkest hour. A traumatic experience has the power to make or break your marriage—and I can honestly say this one has brought us closer together. It has reminded us what really matters and renewed our commitment to each other and our family, and now more than ever do we realize that we are the only ones who could ever fully understand what our hearts have been through.
There is no “right” way to grieve.
The stages of grief—denial/isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance—are all very real, and I’ve moved through all of them over the past few weeks. But there is no “right” way to do this, nor is there a time limit on how long it will take a heart to mend. For me? Healing has required talking about it, particularly with those who have been in my shoes, a lot of time spent sobbing to my mom and husband, endless texts and PMs among amazingly supportive friends, a little bit of Xanax, and a whole lot of wine.
Mourning the loss of a dream is hard and heartbreaking—even if the dream isn’t necessarily dead.
I will not have to help my first grader make her valentines a month early next year. I won’t be soon approaching the third trimester as I celebrate my tenth anniversary in December. Come February, there will be no precious newborn to model the souvenir onesie my husband and I combed the Las Vegas Strip to find in both pink and blue merely weeks after we found out we were pregnant. Someday, there may be another baby, the second child for which we’d taken six years to decide we were ready. But it will not be the one I carried from May to July.
Sometimes it strikes me as strange how hard that is to accept—that the loss of this tiny blob who was no bigger than a grape, could wreak such havoc on my body, mind, and heart. But mourning the loss of what would’ve been—what should’ve been—when I’d expected it to be, is still painful, even though the dream of having another child may one day become a reality.
While I couldn’t control what happened, I can still control some things.
I know that regardless of why my baby stopped growing inside me, it was beyond my control. Still the guilt can creep in and whisper the cruelest ideas, stealing a piece of my peace every time: Maybe if you’d done x (or hadn’t done y), this wouldn’t have happened… How could you NOT HAVE KNOWN?! How did you not feel it or instinctively know that this had happened? So much for mother’s intuition, huh?… Enjoy this moment, Taylor—enjoy EVERY moment—because she may be your last. You may never have a six-year-old in July again.
I’ve learned that when my mind begins to do this, I have a choice. I can either entertain it and torment myself further or choose not to participate. Beyond that, I can forgive myself—for not knowing what I couldn’t have felt or known, for sharing the news of the pregnancy with my daughter so early (and thus exposing her to a level of disappointment from which I’d do anything to protect her), and for my inability to “enjoy the moment” of every day right now while I’m grieving this loss.
I’ve also learned that even if I never find out why this happened, I can have faith there was a reason. While I pray genetic testing will provide us with a medical understanding of why I miscarried, I also know we may never get that answer. But I’ve learned that I don’t need lab results to gain clarity and closure. I can believe that this happened for a reason only God knows, and I can trust that He knows what’s best for my family, even if it’s difficult to understand His decision. I can also choose to see the silver lining. God might’ve spared us from having to make a heart-wrenching decision further down the road or saved our baby from a lifetime of pain and suffering, and if so, I am truly beyond grateful.
“One day at a time” is a great coping strategy.
I’m not a “one day at a time” kind of person. I’m a planner, a scheduler, the type who thrives on knowing what to expect. But nothing about a miscarriage is planned, and there is no way to adequately prepare yourself for it. The unpredictability of emotions from one day to the next—in part, I’m sure, due to lingering pregnancy hormones—coupled with the physical challenges of healing from a surgery, has been a source of great frustration for me at times. How can I make plans for next Thursday when I don’t know how I’ll feel in two hours, let alone tomorrow? Why am I not “over” this yet, physically and/or emotionally? How do I know this won’t happen again in the future? I can’t imagine going through this again… The thoughts have plagued me.
But I’ve learned that nothing good comes from worrying about tomorrow and beyond. When enduring the aftermath of a miscarriage, or any loss, it’s better to focus on simply getting through the day. I can face tomorrow, tomorrow.
Miscarriage is more common than I ever knew before.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, miscarriage (defined as the unintended loss of a pregnancy before 20 weeks gestation) affects between 10–25% of all clinically recognized pregnancies. Let that sink in a moment. This means that at the table of five moms you see out at Happy Hour, at least one of them has most likely experienced a miscarriage.
Despite it affecting nearly a quarter of all medically recognized pregnancies, miscarriage remains a silent subject. There’s a societal shame in it, partly because we are conditioned to believe that pregnancies generally shouldn’t be discussed until after the 12-week mark, when the rate of miscarriage begins to significantly decline. While this is understandable, since some women don’t want the world to know when/if they suffer such a personal loss, it skews our perception of how frequently it occurs and often shames those who go through it at a time when they need support most. I refuse to be one of them.
The day before my D&C, I shared the news of my miscarriage on Facebook. While it was a little strange to know that 609 people gained instant access to my heartbreak, I learned that, personally, I draw strength from putting myself out there. Despite what society might say, I am not ashamed to admit that this happened to me, and I’ve found so much support and comfort as a result of letting people in. The more people I’ve told about my experience, the more I’ve heard, “I’m so sorry. I know how hard it is because I’ve been through the same thing.” I remain baffled that this has happened to so many I know. After all, it’s one thing to read statistics on a website; it’s another to know the names and faces of those who comprise them. Learning of similar experiences has given me courage and encouragement. I can only hope that by sharing my story here today, I’ll be able to help someone else out there know that she isn’t alone.
Something else I’ve learned? The value of kindness. As my husband and I have weathered this storm, friends, family, and colleagues have shown us love and support in countless ways. My closest friends have sent constant text messages to check up on me and spent way too much time listening to me vent. Acquaintances have morphed into much more by sharing their own miscarriage experiences and lending a listening ear. Classmates I haven’t seen in 15 years have been in touch to offer their assistance in my time of need. People have brought dinners, sent flowers, hosted our daughter for playdates, mailed sympathy cards—one even drove all the way across town and showed up on my doorstep just to offer a simple hug. The outpouring of support has touched my heart and made me feel loved at a time when I most needed it, and it’s made me realize that simple kindness is priceless. As a result, I’ve learned that it’s ALWAYS worth the time and trouble to reach out to someone who’s hurting. Believe me, it means more to the recipient than any of us could ever know.
I don’t know when or if I’ll ever fully “get over” the loss of the little life I carried inside me this summer. The wounds are still so fresh and raw, I can hardly fathom a day when my miscarriage won’t cross my mind. But when I stop to take a look at my life and all of the precious gifts in it, I’m reminded of how truly blessed I am. And I know that through faith, love, and the endless support of others, my heart will heal. One day at a time.