7 Things I Needed After My Miscarriage, But Was Terrified To Ask For
The evening after the dilation and curettage (D&C) that removed what was left of my miscarriage, I sat dreary-eyed on our sofa with a trashcan in my lap. I remember the crinkling of the plastic bag and the blur from my tears. I remember my husband speaking to his father on the phone about what I'd gone through, at a distance he thought would keep me from hearing him. It didn't. I remember there were so many things I needed after my miscarriage, too. I was just too terrified to actually ask for them.
My husband and I had been planning to expand our family. Our daughter was 2-years-old at the time, and we wanted to give her a sibling. Her conception, pregnancy, and delivery were so easy, it never occurred to us that conceiving a second child would be any different. I wish I could go back and tell my hopeful self to be prepared; to steal your resolve; to try your best to brace yourself for what's about to come.
I tried to get pregnant for months before I finally held that positive pregnancy test in my hands. On that magical day I could barely contain my excitement. Bursting with joy, my husband and I scheduled a Sunday night dinner to announce the news. I paid little attention to the slight cramping and discomfort I was feeling because, on that joyous night, we were happy.
The slight cramping and discomfort subsided and I went to see my doctor to confirm the pregnancy. The home pregnancy test was correct — I was pregnant. I hadn't dreamed it, or imagined it, and my husband and I were right to celebrate it with friends and family. We immediately began discussing names, pulling all the baby products we had packed away in boxes and saved in storage, and made plans for our future as a family of four.
Then the cramping returned and my doctor scheduled an immediate ultrasound. I laid with my back against the cold, unfeeling table, and for five solid minutes no one said a word. "Is that my baby?" I asked. The technician calmly moved to different parts of my abdomen, but her silence spoke volumes. Before she ushered me into the back corner room — the one farthest from the others — I knew. I noticed how she hung her head and avoided eye contract. I could sense the sudden weight of sympathy and pity as she told me the doctor would be right in, closing the door behind her. I felt vulnerable and confused. My daughter was with me — ready to celebrate her new sibling — and she, too, seemed to feel the sudden shift in mood.
The moment the door swung open and before the doctor said a word, he laid a hand to my shoulder and and I knew. He didn't have to tell me that my bay's heart had stopped beating. I knew there wasn't anything anyone could do, but that knowledge didn't erase the pain of the loss itself, or what it would feel like to go through the D&C. It didn't take a day to heal either. Not a week, or a month. It's been eight years this September, and I still carry the wound of that loss with me.
A couple years after this trauma I had another miscarriage, though it was far less of an event. I was alone and it was too early in the pregnancy to even know I was pregnant. So for one reason or another the second one hurt less — maybe because after that first loss something in me had hardened. I was already numb and concerned that I wouldn't be able to get pregnant again. It was just another day, another pain, and another disappointment. So I shoved it down and went on with my life. After all, I had one child already and she needed me. I didn't think there was time to grieve or dwell on the pain and, and everyone around me, including my husband, acted as if there wasn't time, either. So I was afraid to ask for the things I needed, including the following:
Because I had a child already, my healing felt rushed to heal. I didn't expect the world to stop turning, to be sure, but some time to process what I'd just gone through might've prevented years of internal torment. I was lotted a week, maybe two, before the miscarriage became a distant memory to everyone around me. For me, though, it wasn't. It was raw and new and painful. I continued bleeding from the chasm, however invisible.
The pain cemented me into this depression I felt I couldn't entertain, because there wasn't time for that. I wish I'd had more time. I wish I could've been left to feel however I needed to, for as long as I needed to, without opinions or judgements or indifference.
The day the doctor laid his hand on my shoulder, I cried. The tears continued during the drive home and well into the night. The next morning I woke up in tears, too, and they didn't stop. My dream of experiencing another pregnancy turned into a nightmare I couldn't escape from, and in the first couple of days my husband broke the news with friend and family, everyone wanted to share their sympathies and tales of their own losses. They wanted to provide comfort, to show me I wasn't alone, and that this, too, shall pass, but in those moments I could barely catch my breath.
I wasn't looking for sympathy. For condolence. For camaraderie in some support group I never asked to be in. I wanted and needed space. To reflect. To process. To feel. To be alone.
Sometimes grief does strange things. I folded so deeply inside myself and my pain, I actually longed for someone to break me free from it. I fell in love with my husband because of his sense of humor (among other things), but after my miscarriage even he was afraid to crack a joke. It was like everyone though it would be inappropriate and no one should laugh during such a solemn time. I craved some reprieve, though. The problem? I was too afraid to ask for it. I was afraid people would assume I was cold and heartless for no longer sobbing endlessly.
My husband held me a lot in the days after the D&C, but we didn't really talk about how I felt. I know he thought not talking was what I needed, but the opposite was actually true. Tip-toeing around and through conversations just made me feel more alone. I wanted, and needed, to talk about it.
Understanding & Empathy
I was lucky in that, for the most part, I was surrounded by empathetic individuals. I eventually had to leave that circle, though, and my "luck" ran out. Some don't know how to speak to a woman who's undergone such a loss, and at that time I did look somewhat pregnant. I couldn't handle someone asking me, "When are you due?" I just couldn't.
My daughter went through a lot after my first miscarriage, because her mother didn't come back to her 100 percent. We'd already been on quite an emotional ride from her birth up through her first birthday (and beyond) because of my postpartum depression, and I was just starting to feel "normal" again when I experienced that first miscarriage. It's really unfair, and I've carried that guilt of how it might've affected her ever (even though I'm positive she doesn't remember any of it).
I didn't get a lot of help in terms of errands or household chores, and back then, I could've used it. I barely pulled myself from my covers — for a long time — and struggled to get through my days. My husband deserved more than I could give, and my daughter did, too. I just wasn't capable and I wish I'd asked for help so I didn't feel like such a failure.
I've never been the type to ask for physical affection. It always makes me feel weak. But after my miscarriage, I needed a lot more hugs than I received. I needed someone to hold me so I felt less alone.
Over two years after my first loss, I delivered my healthy baby boy (my beautiful rainbow baby) on my daughter's birthday. I couldn't have anticipated bringing my son into the world, or dreamed it, or imagined it, and even if I had my wildest imagination would have paled in comparison. He's 5-years-old now, and worth the pain and loss I experienced prior to his arrival. I hold onto that full-circle feeling, and the knowledge that even though I felt alone after my miscarriage, I wasn't. My son was out there, just waiting for me.