It’s now been over 10 years (and two daughters) since our miscarriage.
My pregnancy loss was the first really difficult thing (besides my mom’s early onset Alzheimer’s diagnosis) that I experienced without her support.
Yet, it made me feel closer to her because I knew she had walked that path.
Not only did she have two miscarriages before her pregnancy with me, she also had a second trimester miscarriage, when I was in second grade, that affected her for years.
Why we should talk about miscarriage
When a close friend had a miscarriage and I read Catherine Pearson’s article about miscarriage in HuffPost a few years ago, I knew it was time to talk about mine:
Miscarriage, which is the spontaneous loss of a pregnancy before 20 weeks, is one of those life events that tends to be so profoundly sad and confusing for people to make sense of that it becomes hush-hush. And that, in turn, often leads to a sense of deep isolation for women and couples struggling to come to terms with pregnancy loss — despite the fact that it is extremely common.
In reading the article, I found it particularly upsetting that many “adults think that miscarriage is uncommon” and that the majority “think stress is a common cause of miscarriage.” In actuality, as Pearson states, approximately “1 million miscarriages occur in the United States every year,” and most are caused by chromosomal abnormalities.
I think it’s time we cleared the air about miscarriage and pregnancy loss and broke through the stigma and isolation it creates.
Reliving my miscarriage
While cleaning out our master bedroom a while back, I found my freebie pregnancy planner from our miscarriage, with only three months filled out–June through August 2010–and ultrasound print outs of our tiny baby.
In reading through those few pages of notes, I relived my miscarriage–the nausea, seeing our baby’s heartbeat on the ultrasound screen, the weeks of sleepless nights with severe cramping and no answers from my OB, dizziness on our trip to California and the abrupt end of my pregnancy symptoms and then two weeks of uncertainty leading up to our followup appointment to confirm my worst fear.
I remember telling my grandmother, over the phone, that we had lost the baby. It was the first time I had ever heard her cry. I can still hear her saying, “Oh Lauren, I’m so sorry.” Cue waterworks.
I remember going through the pre-op paperwork, the day before my D&C, and learning that the Catholic hospital would bury our baby. Cue waterworks again.
I remember walking by the Target baby section weeks later while I was on the phone with my dad. More waterworks.
I remember the husband of a good friend, who had experienced multiple miscarriages, saying months later that women have postpartum hormones after a pregnancy loss. Cue a sigh of relief. So I wasn’t crazy.
And I remember running into a well-meaning, but naive, friend months later who said, “Your body probably just wasn’t healthy enough for pregnancy.” Cue grief. I had already been beating myself up, thinking that being under a lot of stress with events and trips for work and managing my mom’s care might have played a role in my miscarriage.
What we wish people knew about miscarriage
I’m so grateful to my Facebook community of courageous women for sharing their own experiences with pregnancy loss:
Miscarriage can be very traumatic, physically and emotionally.
I would like more women to know it is NOT like a heavy period after about the 7/8 week mark. It is a bloody, sad type of labor with some amount of dilation I’m sure, that is more than intense for a few to several hours. Save yourself, and have a D&C. And even before then, it is so emotional, I hate when people refer to it as something like a heavy period. It feels like you are losing your baby. – Darcy
I’ve had ones that were painless and passed easily, and I’ve had one that was literally like giving birth–and that was extremely traumatic. Miscarriage is as much like losing a child to some women as losing a living child in their arms; and less significant to other women–and within the same woman, different miscarriages “feel” and hit them differently. Miscarriage (and the pregnancy before miscarriage) produces lots of hormones that won’t leave your system as soon as the baby passes. – Heather
Miscarriage doesn’t just affect the mother.
My daughter had a terribly horrible miscarriage, and I was devastated. Not only for her, but for her hubs, my hubs, my other kiddos and myself. That was my grandbaby! I was so sad, angry, inconsolable. It just seems like part of my heart is already in Heaven. – Angie
Within the week after the miscarriage, there were two babies born whose parents I was very close to. The first newborn I held caused me to shake a bit but I did okay. Lots of my extended family was there, and they expressed their condolences. The second baby I held, I felt much more sure of myself. Both times my husband cried and was unable to hold either new baby. I guess he was so sad over the loss of ours that he wasn’t able to be completely joyful for the new births. This made me question whether I was grieving correctly. Maybe I wasn’t doing it right if I was more sad about putting down my dog of 10 years than I was about losing a baby I had known about for 9 weeks. I don’t have a resolution to these doubts currently but I’ve accepted that I grieve differently than my husband and that doesn’t make either way better or worse. – Anonymous
I feel like mine [my husband] was thrown into survival mode taking care of things while I was trying to get through it (physically and mentally and sometimes both). He had to juggle so much–including our kids. By the time things slowed down, I’m not sure he got to process some of those losses, and I only realized that when (a year later) I had a huge loss that I could not take time to really grieve because I was thrown into survival mode with it. – Heather
We had a surprise pregnancy almost three years ago. We found out we were having triplets and then wound up losing two of them. My older three girls were extremely upset (they thought they were each getting a baby and didn’t understand how a baby could die before they were born). – Cristy
We can’t just “get over it” and try again.
It’s been 2.5 weeks since I went to the doctor and found out there was no more heartbeat. … and I’m finally getting back to normal physically. Now it’s time to deal with the emotional stuff and all of the questions/pressure. My friends assume and talk as if we will start trying again right away. My mom is hard core pressing me to wait. I’m not sure what I want right now. I have a 16 month old that is very demanding. … I would like to enjoy this time as a family of three but I’m concerned that I might have another or even multiple miscarriages. What if I wait, and then it’s too late? What if I don’t wait, and I’m not ready? … It’s a process, and I’m still working through it. – Anonymous
It was beyond devastating suffering the loss even being only 5 weeks. I always wonder what that child would have been like. Would it have been my boy? But I am thankful for our 3 blessings. – Katie
I am the 1%…I have had 4. I hate talking about it because it sucks and so many people have it worse than me. I am too grateful for what I have to complain about what I don’t. I wish I knew how to respond gracefully to the questions, “When are you going to have a baby?” or “When are you going to have the next one?” because sometimes I want to scream my life of “hard knocks” at them just to make them feel as low as that question makes me feel. – Darcy
Just offer comfort and strength and space for grieving. I stopped telling people. We lost count and it seemed as if we were expected to be more “over it” each time. – Anonymous
Every miscarriage is different.
Each miscarriage is unique, and every woman (and couple) grieves each loss a little differently.
But we all have a story to tell.
We need to talk about miscarriage so that the next people to walk this path don’t feel so alone.
We need to erase their isolation with stories of survival. That’s what living in community is all about.
As you mend you move from needing help to giving help. – Suzanne Eller
[A version of this post was originally published in August 2015 at LaurenFlake.com.]