The taboo "m" word. I said it, and I experienced it.
A short time ago, I miscarried our second baby at 8 weeks. I had something called a "blighted ovum", which actually means that the baby never really developed. But my body didn't recognize that, and continued to grow a gestational sac for a baby that had stopped growing at 5 weeks. I'll share the full story in a future post, but for now I just want to share a few thoughts.
Here are 10 things I've learned from my experience:
- Miscarriage is rarely talked about; it's an unspoken agony. I understand why people don't talk about it. It's painful, both physically and emotionally. But it's also painful to feel like you're alone in the experience. Given the statistics, I'm certain I know women who've had a miscarriage, but I don't know them by name.
- Speaking of statistics, it's estimated that 1 in 5 pregnancies will end in a miscarriage, and 1 in 4 women will experience a miscarriage in their lifetime. Miscarriage is so common that it's the reason many couples don't share the news of their pregnancy until after the first trimester, when the risk of miscarriage decreases significantly. We had only told close family and friends, and it was just right for us. Enough people to feel supported, but not too many that I had to share news of the loss before I was ready.
- Because it's taboo to talk about it, those who experience a miscarriage may feel forced to go about their days in silent suffering. I miscarried over a time period of about a week. And all the while I continued to go to work, pick Maddie up from daycare, smile and make small talk with complete strangers. I went to the grocery store, a football game, and even had our fall family photos taken. I didn't know how to handle it all... call in sick? cancel plans? cry in front of everyone I faced if I tried to explain what was happening? Nobody even knew we were pregnant in the first place. So I just went about my days.
- Physically, it can be really painful, and quite traumatizing. I wasn't prepared for that in the slightest. After having a successful first pregnancy with Maddie, I had the "it'll never happen to me" mentality about miscarriage, and therefore had never really read anything about it.
- And the labs, oh the labs. I had 5 blood draws and 2 ultrasounds in a few week period. One of the blood draws was done on a Saturday, when the lab is closed. So I got to sit in a Labor & Delivery room, waiting, alone, for the longest 15 minutes of my life, listening to a brand new sweet little baby cry in the room next door. While I mourned the loss of mine. It was the same L&D where I had delivered my healthy baby girl just a short time ago. The juxtaposition of it all was heartbreaking.
- Once it happens, you get to delete all of the new pregnancy apps you downloaded, leave the online groups you joined, and return the maternity clothes you jumped the gun on buying. Inevitably, you'll miss a listserv and an email will come through: "Week 9 of your Pregnancy!"
- You might find yourself using phrases like "lost the pregnancy" because it sounds softer than "lost the baby" or "the baby died". It's sad no matter how you phase it.
- People might not know what to say. Be patient; they want to say the right thing to show they care. If you're wondering what you should say to a woman who has miscarried, something as simple as "I'm so sorry for your loss. Please let me know if you need anything" would be perfect. Just don't say "everything happens for a reason". Nobody wants to hear that there is a reason their baby died.
- Even as you start to move forward, past the initial stage of mourning, there will be reminders. Photos of babies, run-ins with pregnant ladies, the prenatal vitamins on your counter, the sudden realization that you can eat lunch meat again. I'm fairly certain I heard "Like I'm Gonna Lose You" on the radio 500 times in a few weeks span. Undeniably, I even made a cover song playlist because it became "my song". The reminders will hurt for a while, but eventually you'll be able to see those things again without bursting into tears.
- If it happens to you, you might feel like your body failed you. You might feel angry or even guilty. I jumped on a trampoline with Maddie at 5 weeks pregnant. Logically, I know that it is highly unlikely the two events are related. But I still think about it. Know that it's not your fault. It's just science. The most common cause of an early miscarriage is a chromosomal abnormality, and there is absolutely nothing you could have done to change it.
My biggest takeaway from the experience is that it needs to be shared. I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me; I'm not asking for sympathy. This baby will be in my heart forever, but we're moving forward. We'll have another healthy baby someday. But until then, please don't ask me when we're going to have another baby unless you're prepared to hear the whole story.
If you're reading this and you've been in my shoes, or if you remember this post someday in the future, I'd be happy to commiserate, swap stories, or remember together. The sisterhood of motherhood on earth is real, even if your baby couldn't stay.