Below includes my experience of miscarriage. Please note this includes a frank discussion of pregnancy loss and medical treatment for such, as well as strong language.
I never thought I’d be writing about miscarriage. To tell the truth, I kind of don’t want to do it now. But I’ve come to realize that holding back is harmful to me, and imparts the feeling that my experiences didn’t serve any purpose. Not that everything that happens has a reason or a purpose, but I have the ability to take this part of my life and turn it into something positive.
I suppose every woman thinks that pregnancy loss can’t happen them. I actually go through life preparing for the worst, because I am well aware the worst CAN happen to me. But when it came to miscarriage, I just didn’t have any frame of reference or way to prepare.
Guess What? Yer Pregnant!
When I became pregnant for the third time I was really excited. I already had two children, and I never thought I’d be able to have any. We were told, years ago, that it might be out of the realm of possibility for me. At the time of my j-pouch surgery not much was known about how the surgery affected fertility, but it came to light in subsequent years that women might have some reduced fertility as a result. There’s no reason to voluntarily remain childless—women with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), ostomies, and j-pouches have healthy pregnancies and babies all the time. And I did it twice: there were bumps in the road, but I gave birth vaginally twice, and once was natural. My kids are healthy and amazing today.
So, I was excited to do it for a third time. And also nervous. When you have three kids, the little ones outnumber the parents and it’s all hands on deck. I wasn’t sure I had the energy, but I figured we’d make it work. I wanted a third baby. I had no reason to expect this pregnancy wouldn’t be like my other two.
An Unexpected Outcome
But then I bounced into my OB/GYN’s office, ready for that first transvaginal ultrasound and hopefully seeing and hearing a heartbeat. I’m chatting away with my doctor when she suddenly says “Amber, I don’t think this is a good pregnancy.” There was no heartbeat. Things didn’t look right to her. I didn’t ask for elaboration—she knows her stuff and I trust her.
We decided to give it another week, to take hormones, and just see if anything happened, but she wasn’t optimistic. I walked around numb for that week. Trying not to hope for anything but wondering if we’d manage to pull through again, me and my little fetus. I went back for another ultrasound and again there were no signs of life.
So then we had to have the discussion of what to do. I could wait until I spontaneously miscarried, but that could mean I’d be picking my kids up from school or at the grocery store when the symptoms started. It also carried some health risks, but that didn’t really concern me too much at the time. It was being at home and miscarrying by myself or with my two young children present that scared me.
Well, what’s left, then? Dilation and curettage (D&C). Which means that an instrument is used to remove the tissue from the uterus. The tissue. My baby. It was my baby. My baby that I wanted. My child. I couldn’t face it right away so we scheduled it for a few weeks later, when it was more convenient for my family. Again, I was subjecting myself to the risks of a spontaneous miscarriage. But I was, of course, hoping against hope that they were wrong and my baby would start to grow again. A ridiculous, hope, really, but I was not exactly rational. I was devastated.
Grief Is Personal
Now, there’s a woman reading this right now who is wondering what the fuck is wrong with me. I already had two children, why couldn’t I be happy with what I have? And I completely understand her thinking me horrible, when she is struggling with infertility or other issues preventing her from starting or completing her family. I felt the same way, before I had children, when I read the stories of women who were experiencing infertility after having one or more children (called secondary infertility). I thought they were out of their fucking minds and they should be happy because I couldn’t even manage to have one.
But now, I have a different perspective. It doesn’t matter. That doesn’t matter. I could have 10 children, I would still grieve a miscarriage in the same way. It’s still, to me, a baby that I wanted to carry and dream over and give birth to. Doesn’t matter if it’s the first or not. I love my children all the same.
And now I had to have my baby sucked out of me. I asked them to give me as much medication as they could. I didn’t want to hear the equipment. I didn’t want to know anything. Because I was still wondering, what if we’re wrong. What if we’re WRONG and this pregnancy is still viable?
Of course, there was no way we could be wrong. We gave it almost another 3 weeks after we discovered that there was no heartbeat. But I couldn’t get that thought out of my head. Because I would do anything to guard my children from harm.
And yes, dear reader, I still grieve my loss. I could tell you how old my child would be today. It’s OK if you can’t comprehend how I could still feel so deeply about it, and why I can’t say, “well, at least I have other children,” and move on. Everyone experiences loss differently, and there’s no right or wrong way to do it. All I know is that I didn’t have a frame of reference or a toolkit to deal with the situation. Even though I knew it could happen to me, that it was possible if not probable, I never seriously considered the idea.
Learning to Live With Loss
I still have the feeling that I’m waiting for someone. I don’t know what that means, maybe it means nothing. Maybe it means I’ll never fully get over my loss. I still feel wistful when I see pregnant women or a newborn. Every stage has its joys but the newborn stage was my favorite. There’s nothing in the world that can compare to holding your newborn and feeling their warmth and their connection to you.
My children ask me when I’m going to have another baby. I have to tell them that there will be no more babies from my body, that the time for that has passed. It hurts still.
Miscarriage is common, especially in the early days of a pregnancy. But this fact offers no comfort because miscarriage is a personal experience that brings highly individualized pain. I’ve come to understand that, for me, it’s a pain that I must sort through and endure, and find my own way forward again. It’s not always possible to eradicate all our pain, but we can learn to thrive even while bearing it.
If you’ve experienced a pregnancy loss and are looking for support, don’t go it alone. My colleagues at Verywell have put together information to help you: