A miscarriage is often a silent and invisible grief. I can only speak for myself and my own experience, but I’ve had two very different experiences with miscarriages.
Sadly, my first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. I was almost 30 years old, my husband and I were ready to have children. The pregnancy was wanted and planned. I did everything “right.” I ate healthy foods, rested, took pre-natal vitamins, had outstanding prenatal care. Everything was going well.
I was well into my fourth month, and went to my regular OBGYN appointment. I lay down on the exam table, excited to hear the baby’s heartbeat. As she listened intently through the stethoscope, I could tell by my doctor’s face that something was wrong. She said she wanted to do an ultrasound, so she got the equipment ready, squirted the gel over my belly and peered at the picture on the machine as she slowly ran the ultrasound back and forth. Her face was serious. She called in the high-risk doctor, and they both peered at the grainy picture. My heart was racing and I felt sick.
I’m so sorry…
I knew at that point that something was terribly wrong with my baby. My doctor was very caring and explained to me that I had twins, but the pregnancy was not viable. I would miscarry, or she could do a D&C. She explained what would happen with each, and let me make the decision. I had to tell my husband, and we decided the best option would be a D&C.
I can’t describe how sad I was. I had been reading all the pregnancy books that I could get my hands on. I knew that typically a miscarriage happens before you’re three months along. With me, I had passed that three-month mark and fully expected everything to be fine. I had breathed that sigh of relief, and my husband and I felt free to tell everyone that I was pregnant. We could start planning for a baby.
But that was not to be…
I was heartbroken and grief-stricken. I couldn’t understand how this could happen to me. I had done everything right. This baby was wanted and loved. I remember walking through the mall with my mom before I had the D&C, and it seemed like every woman there was pregnant. I remember going back to work, and how sad everyone was for me. I started researching and reading everything I could about miscarriages and why they happen and what I would need to do differently next time. It was my complete focus. My doctor had assured me that there was nothing that I could have done differently, but I still wanted to have control over it. I wanted to believe that there was something I could do so that this wouldn’t happen again. Of course, I was being totally unreasonable, but I think it was my way of working through my grief.
One thing that was comforting to me was the support from other women. I discovered that after I had the miscarriage, lots of other women told me about their experiences with miscarriage. They happen a lot. But miscarriages do not come up in casual conversation. Instead, we carry them buried within us, and handle them in very individual ways. Hearing other women’s stories helped me with my own.
Later, after having a healthy pregnancy and a healthy child, I suffered another, more typical, miscarriage. It was sad, too, but I will say that my experience with that miscarriage was different from my first one. After having a healthy pregnancy, I could put the miscarriage in perspective. I didn’t dwell on the second miscarriage as I had the first one. I didn’t blame myself or look for answers. Instead, I looked at the beautiful child I already had, and the family that I was building and felt fortunate, even lucky, despite grieving a lost pregnancy.
Miscarriages are sad. They are deaths. They just are…. I hope that women can accept and support one another through them in all the contexts and complications of our lives. If you know someone who has suffered a miscarriage, it doesn’t help to say, “Don’t worry. You’ll have another child.” Instead, just be a kind, listening ear if she wants to talk about it, or a friend to do something with or a just a kind shoulder to lean on.