After I miscarried an unplanned-but-happily-welcomed pregnancy in May of 2013, it didn't take a lot to trigger me and put me in a bad mental and emotional place. Among my biggest triggers was, of course, any baby aisle anywhere. The grocery store, big box stores, the "new baby" segment of the greet card aisle; they were the worst. Many of the ways I survived the baby aisle after my miscarriage were, frankly, skills I employed to survive the trauma of miscarriage in general. Still, they were rarely more useful than when I found myself facing image after image of happy newborns and their serene-looking, adoring mothers.
Of course there is no one way to feel about a miscarriage, so it stands to reason there is absolutely no one set of ways to cope with a pregnancy loss, either (if coping is even required, because sometimes it isn't). I can only speak for myself and my own experience. Still, and after talking to too many women who have suffered the same kind of loss, I know I'm not alone in either my feelings or the ways I found to deal with those feelings.
I also know I'm not the only one who straight up loathed that emotionally manipulative monster known as the baby aisle, and had to use every tool in my kit to overcome its ability to send me into a self-loathing, pitying, sorrow spiral.
I Avoided It Whenever Possible
It's not denial, it's just knowing your triggers and, call me crazy, but I knew that looking at image upon image of smiling happy infants was going to put me in a bad emotional place. So I actively avoided all things baby for a while. I dared not venture down the baby aisle — or life's baby aisle, AKA social media — where it felt like every everywhere I turned another joyous pregnancy announcement was being made or celebrated. I knew it wouldn't be healthy or practical to keep that up forever, but I knew it was the right move in the short-term.
I Babied Myself For A While
I pretty much checked out regarding anything that did not require my constant and dedicated attention for a while. So basically, aside from parenting and going to work, I was functionally useless as a friend, daughter, wife, etc., because I was focusing any remaining energy I had on myself. Four years later I am still totally fine with that decision. Sometimes "selfish" is not something one should shy away from because, in the long-run, it's better for everyone involved.
I Allowed Myself To Be A Little Bitter
Look, normally I try to stay upbeat and positive. I try not to take out my crap on other people. You know what, though? Sometimes the universe gifts you a tremendous pile of invisible crap and you can't carry it all on your own. So you give in to the dark side just a little bit and secretly push it onto other people.
So rather than beat myself up over the fact that my reaction to seeing some other pregnant woman shopping for baby clothes was annoyance and anger, I just let the surly part of my brain take over and say, "Look at that smug jerk with her not miscarried baby. F*ck that lady." (In my head, of course. Not out loud. I am way too New England-y to externalize the rude thoughts.)
I Eventually Reminded Myself That My Bitterness Was Actually Sadness
As helpful and necessary as it was to project my angry feelings onto other people (without their knowledge, because I really did try not to make other people knowingly suffer because I was hurting), every now and then I would gently remind myself that I wasn't really angry at them. The obnoxious, irrational anger was really just misdirected sadness. Admitting I was sad even and especially when I was angry was important. In the end, the anger wasn't cathartic without regular check-ins with reality.
I Let Myself Cry
And cry and cry and cry. Even if I was actually in the store, because when you suffer pregnancy loss there is nothing to be gained from pretending you're some unemotional robot. I'm a crier under normal circumstances, and not-all-that-normal circumstances (don't you judge me, as I have a feeling you'd cry if you saw how cute that cartoon bunny was, too). I didn't pretend things were any different after my miscarriage, so I just gave in to my weepy tendencies.
I Talked To My Partner
At first I didn't, because it was a little too real and I wasn't ready. Also, he wasn't nearly as affected as I was, and that initially made me bitter and angry. Then I decided, "Hey, he's entitled to his feelings. That doesn't mean he can't help me through mine." And wouldn't you know it, the old boy proved himself a good partnership choice once again.
When I was ready, getting everything out of my brain through my mouth and into someone else's ear was helpful and therapeutic.
I Didn't Talk About It When I Didn't Want To
Even when well-meaning loved ones would tell me, "Hey, the baby aisle/friend's birth announcement/visibly pregnant person standing right there. This must be tough for you right now. Do you want to talk about it?" I would refuse if I didn't fee like it.
Because no. No, I do not want to talk about it. Your heart is in the right place, but sometimes talking is only going to pull me deeper into it and that's just not where my head or heart are right now. There's a time to wallow and there's a time to put the blinders on and right now I need you to join me in enjoying some good old-fashioned avoidance peppered with just a little bit of denial.
I Ate My Feelings
Just blow right on by that baby aisle and head over to the freezer section. If there can't be a baby in your belly at the moment, you should have as many pints of ice cream inside of you as possible. They will be your baby now.
I Tried To Make Peace With The Idea That I Wouldn't Have Any More Children
My miscarriage occurred when my first child was about 18 months. While many pregnancies will end in miscarriage, perhaps even the majority, in fact, my mind couldn't help but go straight to the possibility that I wouldn't be able to have another baby, despite wanting one. I had certainly heard about women who had no trouble getting pregnant once, but thereafter could not carry another baby to the point of viability.
It's not good, in my experience, to dwell on a "worst case scenario," but I think it's valuable to face it, toil with it, and accept it as a possibility.
I Didn't Give Up Hope
Even as I faced the possibility that more babies were not in my future, I didn't let myself sink too deeply into the worst-case scenario to give up hope completely. Not even upon accidentally stumbling into the infant clothing section of the store and sobbing at the sight of a particularly tiny onesie.
In the end and always, you can buy into an idea without signing a contract to make it official. Part of this was practical: most women who have a miscarriage will not have trouble having another child. Part of this is just that irrational, persistent, wonderful hope that has kept many of us afloat through all manner of bad times throughout history.