Having a miscarriage can be one of the most heartbreaking and devastating moments in a mother’s life.
At the time, it’s hard to imagine ever being able to move on. It doesn’t matter how far along the pregnancy was, and it doesn’t matter if you were able to hold that baby or not – the loss of a life you didn’t even get a chance to know is what hurts the most. Years afterwards, you will wonder “what if” that baby had survived. But as with all things, only time will heal the pain.
Moving on after a miscarriage doesn’t mean forgetting about it.
The word “miscarriage“ is used to describe an early pregnancy loss. This is the time frame during which a baby could not survive if delivered, usually anything less than 20 – 24 weeks.
If the baby dies in the womb after 20 weeks, it is referred to as a stillbirth.
If a baby is delivered after 20 – 24 weeks, but is alive, then it is a premature birth and doctors will do everything in their power to save that baby’s life. Premature babies as young as 22 weeks gestation have been known to survive outside the womb.
Miscarriage is more common than we think it is. The rates are around 10 – 15% of pregnancies and are higher in the first few weeks (less than 8 weeks) and continue to drop each week as the pregnancy progresses. It’s common for women to wait until the end of the first trimester to get their hopes up about a pregnancy, but miscarriage can still occur well into the second trimester.
There are several different causes of miscarriage. Whatever the cause is, it means that the pregnancy was just not viable. Often, there is no way to avoid it or stop it from happening. There are some things you can do to try to prevent another miscarriage from happening but these are not foolproof options.
My Miscarriage Story
Three months after my husband and I were married, I took a pregnancy test after having a late period. It was positive! I was thrilled, because I had gotten a negative test result the month before. I immediately made a doctor’s appointment for the next day and went to bed with my little secret. The next morning, I woke up to blood. If it wasn’t for the positive test, I would have assumed it was my normal monthly period. My doctor confirmed that it was a miscarriage caused by a chemical pregnancy.
I was pregnant for less than 24 hours but the news of this miscarriage still hit me hard.
Why was I so affected by this news? It was barely a baby – just a fertilized egg. I didn’t even have time to dream of the future or buy a tiny baby outfit. But despite all of that, I felt sad. I grieved the loss of this tiny baby that could have been. After that, we stopped trying so hard to have a baby. I wasn’t sure that I could handle another loss like that.
Four months later, another pregnancy test came back positive.
A small part of me felt terrified, but mostly, I was excited. I felt ready to try again. I had read about how common miscarriage was and it felt like I had gotten it over with and could now focus on moving forward.
This time, I insisted that we tell our family about it. If, by chance, the pregnancy did end in miscarriage again, I thought it would be better to have some more support. We wrapped up a tiny pair of baby shoes and presented them to each of our parents. Seeing the joy and excitement on their faces was 100% worth it.
As my pregnancy progressed, I experienced normal symptoms. I had cravings, tender breasts, gained weight and an occasional moment of morning sickness. When I made it to 12 weeks, I let out a huge sigh of relief. We excitedly announced the pregnancy to our friends, co-workers and all of social media.
One afternoon, at 14 weeks pregnant, I felt like something just wasn’t right.
I don’t know what it was exactly, but I had some pain in my lower back and just a bad feeling overall. Hoping that I was just paranoid, we went to the emergency room on a Sunday night, where we waited for several hours to see a doctor. As we waited there, the pain got significantly worse and was accompanied by cramping, as well as lower back pain.
We finally got in to see a doctor who reassured me that everything was fine. He performed an internal exam and confirmed that the cervix was still closed. He also listened to the baby’s heartbeat. (Now, if you’ve ever tried to listen to a fetal doppler, you realize how confusing it can be to an untrained ear. There are blood gushing sounds, static and you can also hear mom’s heartbeat. So when a trained doctor told me that he heard baby’s heartbeat, I trusted him.) They sent me home with an ultrasound appointment for the next morning. I slept well that night, knowing that my baby was safe and sound.
The morning of the ultrasound, I was excited to get my first look at our baby.
That first ultrasound is something every mother looks forward to – no matter what the situation is. My husband and I went in there with high hopes, certain that everything was perfectly fine. The ultrasound technician performed an external and an internal ultrasound. When he pulled out the wand they use for the internal ultrasound, it was covered in what looked like old, dried blood.
I didn’t think much of it. I didn’t even bat an eye when he said he would be right back and came back into the room with another technician, who looked at the ultrasound images, and then they both left again. But then a doctor came into the room and introduced herself.
“I’m sorry, but we weren’t able to detect a heartbeat.”
What she said after that was mostly a blur because I was in a state of shock. I felt completely blindsided by this news. After getting checked out the night before, I felt reassured that my baby was fine. In fact, I thought it was silly that I was worrying over nothing.
She recommended a D & C procedure since the miscarriage had not spontaneously happened on its own. I’m pretty sure I only nodded while trying to hold back tears, but as soon as she left the room I burst out crying and collapsed into my husband’s arms.
My husband took care of the arrangements for the procedure, helped me get dressed and led me out into the car. He called our parents with the news and asked them to let everyone know what had happened.
I just stared. I barely blinked. I didn’t say a word. He didn’t say a word either, but simply held my hand and drove. He drove and drove and before I knew it, we ended up at the lake. It was one of our favorite getaway spots. We sat side by side on a bench by the lake and he held me as I cried. It was our way of saying goodbye to the baby that would have been.
Moving On After Miscarriage
Two short months after that miscarriage I became pregnant with who is now our 8 year old son. My previous experience ruined the first few months of my pregnancy with him. I didn’t acknowledge the pregnancy and wasn’t excited or anxious to tell everyone this time. I was just waiting for the other shoe to drop. But life has a way of surprising us…
At 8 weeks along, I woke up in a pool of blood.
“Oh no, here we go again” I thought, but I wasn’t even sad this time. Part of me felt liberated for being right not to get my hopes up. We were living a real-life Groundhog day as we ended up in the emergency room that night. After explaining what we had just gone through, the doctor brought in a mobile ultrasound machine so that we could have some peace of mind.
I refused to look at the ultrasound screen. In my mind, I was mentally preparing myself for another round of bad news.
“Your baby looks perfectly healthy”
And there, on the screen, was a tiny little cashew, squirming and dancing around. It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen in my entire life.
Shortly after that incident, my baby gave me a constant reminder that he was thriving. It came in the form of hyperemesis gravidarum for 9 long months. No matter how sick and nauseated I felt, I knew it meant that my baby was still alive.
Now that life is consumed with my three healthy children, my two lost babies don’t often come up in conversation.
I think about them when I hear of someone else’s loss.
I think about them every time I see a pregnancy announcement.
I think about them whenever I am in an emergency room or getting an ultrasound.
I think about them when I am sitting by the lake.
But mostly, I don’t think about them at all.
Thankfully, I’ve been able to move on from the loss and grief and sadness and find happiness in my other children. But just because I don’t talk about it, or even think about it, doesn’t mean those babies didn’t mean the world to me. Moving after after miscarriage is a normal part of the grieving process and no one should ever feel guilty for doing it.
October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day.
Light a candle at 7 pm to remember all the tiny lives we never had the chance to get to know.