by Linda Kelly, MSW, RSW
This is a personal story, shared for the purpose of acknowledging and normalizing the experience of pregnancy loss.
9 weeks, 1 day. 2 days before Christmas. The probability of miscarriage on the day of my ultrasound was 3%. I knew this because I had been avidly following the Miscarriage Probability Chart - cautiously, optimistically, waiting for the day I would see my tiny baby bouncing around on the screen.
The tech was fast. Almost too fast. Snap! - a picture. The blurred movement and snap! another picture. Quick, too quick. Why was the screen empty? That’s not what a 9-week ultrasound should look like.
“I can’t find a heartbeat.”
My heart stopped. No. My body went cold as she traced the yolk sac, measuring 6 weeks, 3 days. It was almost to the day that I had caught that terrible cold. 6 weeks. How could I have not known? Why did my body still think it was pregnant? No fetal pole. So there was never a heartbeat at all? I didn't want to understand.
I looked over at my husband, embarrassed, ashamed. Had I made it all up? All the symptoms I had excitedly told him about as he had been working out of town, the nausea, fatigue, weight gain, had I imagined it?
Without answers, we went home. I hurriedly hid the “big brother” gift that I had prepared for my 10-year-old son. The space for ultrasound pictures left in the back of the wedding albums for our parents, I filled with a newer picture of the three of us and a thank-you note.
And then I got into bed, covered my head, and cried silently. Then loud, ugly crying. My throat felt engorged, like it was choking the life out of me. My summer baby - so wanted for so many years - was not coming after all. Our family wasn’t growing.
This isn’t an article about what to do and how to cope. This is about knowing that this quiet experience happens to many, many people, and no one talks about it. But I talk. And I write about my pain. That is how I cope. And this experience SUCKS.
You know, I loathe the word “miscarriage.” It implies fault, like you failed to carry this child to term. You must have done something wrong. You are to blame.
Realistically, 25% or more of all KNOWN pregnancies end in miscarriage. 1 in 4, after a positive test, never result in a healthy baby. And we all think that these are just statistics until it happens to us. I was that naive too.
My chances of success might have been higher because of my lifestyle and a successful previous pregnancy. My doctor was optimistic, my blood panels were perfect, my nutrition was optimal, no sugar in literally 3 years, I had even been off of caffeine for 5 months because I’m not one to turn down a dare. And there was nothing I could have done.
I lost my baby.
And then there was the limbo period in which you know that you’re not carrying a viable fetus, but you’re still pregnant. It takes time to get in to see a doctor, and no one wants to squeeze you into their busy schedule no matter how desperate you are for a reprieve from the nightmare. For me, the upsetting intrusive thoughts kept me company throughout the holidays.
Seeing two friends announce their pregnancies on Facebook. The ads for maternity wear. Hearing my mother make loud hints at me in front of the family about wanting a granddaughter. Playing with my friend’s twin babies, and loving them just the same, all the while knowing that MY baby was dead inside of me, and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do.
Two more weeks went by before a nurse took pity on me and managed to get me in for the D&E, which is the surgical procedure to remove the fetal tissue. For me, it was a peaceful way to end what seemed like months of effort for horrendous disappointment. The worst part about it was hearing a sonogram going on in the next room, the heartbeat that was theirs to enjoy was something I'd never hear with this one.
D&E (Dilation and Evacuation) procedures are done when medications taken to end the pregnancies do not work, or the pregnancy has progressed too far to ensure natural miscarriage is complete. Later miscarriages (usually after 24 weeks) are completed by inducing the woman into labour, which can be another trauma in itself.
Truthfully, losing the pregnancy was only half the heartache. If I could predict that I would get pregnant right away and carry to term without issue, maybe it wouldn’t hurt so much. But it was the thoughts, the fears, and the anxieties that amplified the pain.
Maybe you waited too long. “But,” I whispered to myself, "I didn’t have a choice…I worked on my career like everyone said I should. It took a long time to find my forever-husband and build a stable home. I did everything I was supposed to do."
It's your fault for not loving every minute of your son's baby years.
"But it's normal to have trouble adjusting to parenthood…"
You’re going to have more miscarriages.
Your eggs are no good.
You’re not meant to have any more.
It’s your fault for not being a good enough mother.
It’s your fault for working too much.
You’re not good enough.
You deserve this.
You’re barren. Valueless. Worthless. Not even a woman.
How could you have not known? Stupid.
You shouldn’t have talked about it. You jinxed yourself.
You don’t deserve to have your own family.
Logic will tell you that this is false. These are emotional thoughts that should have no bearing on reality.
But in an emotional situation, negative thoughts dominate because they give you a false sense of control, like if you didn't do all of these things, maybe you could change the outcome next time. And then anxiety takes over because you have no control over what happens in the future. You don’t know if you will ever get pregnant again much less carry one to term. You just don’t know.
And just like with grief, there is no absolution.
It just is.
All you can do is give yourself permission to feel it. To cry, scream, create something beautiful or terribly ugly, or to write about it. Whatever you need to do to purge the pain and heal.
And that's what I'm going to do.
Resources on Pregnancy Loss:
Expecting Sunshine: A Journey of Grief, Healing, and Pregnancy After Loss (Book)
#missedmiscarriage # miscarriage #pregnancyloss #infertility #grief #rainbowbabies #depression #anxiety #healthanxiety
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