My first miscarriage happened just before my daughter turned 3. Her birthday party was planned and, because my husband and I had been trying for six months to get pregnant, it was an exciting time. So the loss was unexpected and turned our world (temporarily) upside down. At the time, I was really hard on myself, clouded by grief, confusion, and questions about what went wrong. I wish I'd had someone tell me some of the undeniable truths every woman should remember after a pregnancy loss because, maybe then, I'd have forgiven myself.
By the time my doctor confirmed the loss, I couldn't focus on my daughter's party. Like, at all. Instead, all I could think about was the steps I'd have to take that would at least get me out of that doctor's office, and how to absorb this new reality, all while I sobbed uncontrollably. The procedure to remove the fetus was scheduled for the next day so, in theory, I could move forward as quickly as possible. If only it were that easy. I had to have my mom drive me home and my daughter's birthday, although important, seemed so insignificant at a time I was in such despair.
I'll always wonder what could've been, but at the same time, had those events not occurred, I wouldn't have my amazing rainbow baby now. Still, and regardless of how the loss transpired or the events that followed, it was hard and life-changing. I've learned a lot since I heard the unthinkable, and those lesson reminded me of things women who've lost need to hear — these important, undeniable truths I want you to hear. Let them soak in and, eventually, believe them, because some day you'll look back on your pregnancy loss (or losses) and understand that it's not your fault. Here are some other things I want you to hear:
"I'm Not Alone"
No matter how devastated I felt in the aftermath, I was reminded by others — including those who've also lost — that I wasn't alone. Solitude was a hard feeling to fight, even with a loving partner and daughter at my side, because this kind of hurt is so private and because, honestly, I didn't know how else to feel.
Reminding yourself you're not alone won't erase the pain of the experience but, at the very least, you'll feel understood and supported by those who care or have even gone down similar paths.
"This Is Normal"
Even under the worst circumstances, it's important to remind yourself that miscarriage happens and it's normal. The frequency in which women experience pregnancy loss doesn't, and shouldn't, diminish your feelings. Miscarriages happen to the healthy, the viable, and the most eager of women who hope to be mothers, and often has little to do with any one specific variable.
As my doctor told me, "The heart just stopped beating, and it happens all the time." I didn't feel better because it may be true, but because the words reminded me I couldn't have changed a thing.
"It's Not My Fault"
It doesn't matter how many times I tell myself that my miscarriages weren't my fault, I still struggle with accepting that reality. It was my body that carried the baby, and my body that didn't sustain my baby. It's hard to get past those facts, regardless of a doctor's reasonable explanation.
However, it's important we all repeat these words as often as possible, if only because they're true. In both of my cases, there's nothing I did to contribute to the losses, and nothing I could've done to prevent them.
"I Need To Take Care Of Myself"
After my first loss, self-care fell to the bottom of my priority list. It wasn't on purpose, it was just because I was too distracted by my own tears to care about exercise or putting on makeup. For the sake of finding my way through the grief, I had to remind myself how important self-care. After all, not only did I have myself to worry about, but I had my (then) 3-year-old daughter to care for, too. She needed me, and in order to be the best mother for her, I had to go easy on myself.
"It Doesn't Matter What Anyone Else Thinks"
When you go through a miscarriage, everyone has feelings about it. While I'm sympathetic to other people's pain (like my husband), this was about what I went through. Don't let others circumvent your pain so you feel theirs. Take care of you.
"I Can Grieve As Long As I Need To"
Every year, on Sept. 29, I still go through a grieving process. There's no time limit on pain, so if others wonder why you haven't "moved on" yet, forget them. Grief and healing will take as long as they want. There's little you can do to control any of it, even when you're proactive. Pain is stubborn but, after something like this, it's OK.
"I Have So Many Great Things Around Me"
While enveloped in my miscarriage, it was easy to lose sight of the good I had in my life. My husband, my daughter, my family — all the things I had before I ever knew I was pregnant.
In the immediate aftermath of a loss so surprising and severe, it's hard to remember to pay attention to the little things that bring you joy. I still, remember a few days after I arrived home from the hospital, my daughter presenting me with a craft she made while I was away. At the time, it was everything.
"I'm Allowed To Feel Whatever I Want"
It doesn't matter if you're sad, happy, depressed, or strangely OK after a pregnancy loss. Whatever you feel is the right feeling. I went through a slew of emotions. From confusion to acceptance and everything in between, there's no right way to feel about what happened inside your body.
"I Will Get Through This"
It may not feel like it at the time, but as someone who's been there (twice), please remember that this, too, shall pass. Maybe not the regret and maybe not the pain or curiosity of what might've been, but the days will pass and some day you'll look back and see you were all you could be, doing all you could do for a baby you'd have loved to the moon and back. That's enough.