Earlier this week, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development came out with a landmark study about pregnancy loss, and how long hopeful moms-to-be should wait before trying to conceive again. Although previous research has indicated that women should wait at least six months after losing a pregnancy to try to conceive again, for the sake of the baby's health, the study suggested that such a long wait might not be necessary.
"Women who get pregnant after less than six months between the pregnancy and the loss should not be worried about adverse pregnancy outcomes, and if nothing else actually they should be encouraged," said Enrique Schisterman, a senior director of epidemiology at the institute.
I was heartened by the study's findings. After I lost a pregnancy, I was unsure whether my husband and I should try to conceive again. Yet I ultimately decided I didn't want to wait: I already had two children, and I desperately wanted a third. So shortly after I lost a pregnancy, we tried to get pregnant again — and this time, it paid off.
When I got pregnant after my first miscarriage, I was cautiously optimistic. My miscarriage had been very early, a mere six weeks, and I kept telling myself it had been a fluke. It was painful, yes, but it had happened to so many women (10 to 20% of pregnancies end in loss, according to one statistic) that I didn't think it was likely it would happen again.
The baby had stopped growing shortly after my first ultrasound. There was no heartbeat. My pregnancy was over.
I got past those early weeks and was able to see my baby on an ultrasound with that little heartbeat I had so longed to see. Then, when I went back in for my 12-week check-up, after finally telling family and friends about my pregnancy, that little heartbeat was gone. My midwife performed an ultrasound in one room, then another, making sure she had a clear view of what she had suspected: the baby had stopped growing shortly after my first ultrasound. There was no heartbeat. My pregnancy was over.
I was devastated as I called my family and friends, retracting the happy news of my pregnancy and replacing it with the news of my miscarriage. I scheduled a dilation and curettage (D&C) for the following day, then spent the night lying awake crying. When I finally fell asleep in the early morning hours, I dreamt that they had found a heartbeat, only to wake up and start crying again.
The procedure was worse than I had expected. The OB-GYN who performed the dilation and curettage was unsympathetic, and likened my miscarriage procedure to an abortion. I spent the entire time on the table crying, wracked in both physical and emotional pain, and when it was over I felt certain I would never again experience anything as horrible as my D&C.
The more I thought about it, the more I knew that I didn’t want to wait to get pregnant again.
As the doctor was leaving the room, he told me I could try again as soon as I wanted. He told me it might even be better for me to try to get pregnant sooner after my miscarriage rather than later. Everything "went well," he said. There was no need to wait.
I couldn’t imagine anything that would make me feel like the procedure had gone “well,” but I couldn’t stop thinking about what he had said. I was so absorbed in my grief that I hadn’t until that moment even thought about whether or not I wanted to go through with another pregnancy. I still had another baby inside of me up until this point. How could I think of anything else?
When we got home, my husband sat outside with me on our back stoop. I looked at the beautiful blue sky and the obscenely green trees. It seemed strange to me that the world was still thriving and going on as if nothing at all had happened. I mulled the doctor's words over in my head, as soon as I wanted. I wondered how soon was too soon, and I realized only I could decide that for myself.
The more I thought about it, the more I knew that I didn’t want to wait to get pregnant again. As we sat in the sunshine, mourning the loss of this baby, I told my husband I wanted to try again as soon as we could. The truth was, the pain and the loss and devastation was worth it if we ended up with another baby at the end of it all. I told him I would go through this, all of this, again if it meant I would get a chance to love another baby like I loved the two we already had.
The next month, I got pregnant. Although my pregnancy was not without anxiety and fear, I am glad I chose not to wait. In a way, getting pregnant again made me feel like I was honoring my pain, and that it wasn’t all for nothing. I gave birth to my third and final child less than a year after my miscarriage, and I knew as I held the baby in my arms that I had been right all along. It was worth all the pain and heartache in the world now that my baby was finally here.