Miscarriage is a tragically common outcome of pregnancy. Most women I know have been touched by pregnancy loss in one way or another. Considering its prevalence, it's surprising that it's still considered a taboo topic. For me, part of the grieving process was talking about it. If I hadn't sought help from family, friends, and medical professionals, I would have continued to torture myself with the unforgiving thoughts I had during my first miscarriage.
I got pregnant with my first child after just a few months of trying. We had her nine months and a day after our wedding. We planned on trying again just after her first birthday. However, a few months before our daughter's birthday, high on a full night's rest thanks to sleep training our baby, we threw caution to the wind. I ended up with a positive pregnancy test a few weeks later. I knew about my baby for less than a week when I started to bleed. By the time I got to the doctor a day later, my hCG levels already indicated I was no longer pregnant.
It was a loss that I felt profoundly. Honestly, I never thought it would happen to me. Already beset by major depressive disorder and postpartum anxiety, I subjected myself to emotional self-flagellation. If you have any of these thoughts as a result of a miscarriage, I want you to know that you're not alone. But perhaps more important, know that none of these are true.
Despite assurances to the contrary by providers, partners, and their own mothers, I think every mom who suffers a miscarriage feels like there's something they could have done differently. Maybe they had a drink before they knew or they exercised too heavily. I wasn't taking my prenatal vitamins yet, and I'd started wearing bug repellant daily because of Zika. But truth be told, if your miscarriage was caused by a genetic abnormality (as most are), there's nothing you could have done to prevent it.
I was giddy when I found out I was expecting, but then I immediately did the math and realized my baby would be born in December. I actually said out loud, "I don't want my child to have a Christmas birthday." In retrospect, it seemed so trivial and thoughtless (especially with all the deserving couples that are unable to conceive) that I couldn't help but feel like the universe was punishing me.
I turned 35 a few months after I lost the baby, so I knew my next one would be high-risk due to my advanced maternal age. Add to that the fact that my husband was deploying soon, and I definitely felt my window closing. It took me that long for my cycle to normalize, and the added pressure of a deadline didn't help the situation. At all.
It was ridiculously easy for me to conceive the first time around. We started trying once we got engaged and were pregnant by the time we got married, about four months later. I just assumed it would be that simple the second time. In a way it was, only in that I got pregnant after one time. But I wasn't able to carry that pregnancy to term, and I was not expecting that.
When a pregnancy ends suddenly, many moms are left wondering what went wrong. Often, they look to their own bodies. I thought that perhaps all my good eggs were used up or that my womb had somehow become inhospitable since it last housed a fetus. The fact is, while 10-25 percent of clinically recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage, most women will go on to have a healthy pregnancy.
My mom was visiting when I got my first positive test, and I had her look at it to verify. My toddler was very interested, so grandma handed her the pee stick with instructions to "go play with her sister." I bought my husband a six-pack of beer and made a sign to enjoy my designated driver status, which would expire at the end of the year. I wistfully thought that if I'd just kept it to myself, somehow the outcome would have been different.
It was so early, I told myself. I shouldn't need to grieve a life not even lived. But once I knew I was pregnant, that life was real to me. I started to imagine who they would be and how they would fit into our family. I loved my baby, and I mourned the child I never got to meet. As someone who is vehemently pro-choice, it was hard for me to reconcile my feelings. What I've realized is that grief is individual and personal, whereas timelines are arbitrary and irrelevant.
Perhaps the cruelest thought I endured was the notion that I lost my baby because I'm not meant to have another one. Like, maybe I'm just a sh*tty mom and should be grateful for the child I have and focus on her. I know that's not true, but it did occur to me.
What I know is that I experienced a loss. It did make me hold my baby a little tighter, but it also reminded me the importance of being kind to myself. Miscarriage is hard enough, so we might as well give ourselves a little grace.