There are some experiences that change you forever. Here are some of the lessons I learned through my experience with miscarriage.
Today, I would have been 12 weeks pregnant. I would have been announcing it to my family and friends. Instead, I have a different story to tell.
Three weeks ago I walked into my midwife’s appointment for my first pregnancy check up. Two hours and three ultrasounds later, I got the news I had begun to suspect was coming, but I was still hoping not to hear.
“I’m sorry. There’s no heartbeat.”
Just writing that makes me feel all over again the pain of hearing it for the first time.
I held myself together as best I could while my midwife assured me that I didn’t do anything wrong, talked to me about my options for how to see the miscarriage through, and reassured me that this didn’t mean I would have problems with pregnancy in the future.
I clung to my husband’s hand as we walked to our separate cars (he had driven separately, planning to go straight to work from the “routine” appointment), tried to keep my voice steady while I made a quick call to the babysitter who had my kids, and then I drove home sobbing–all the while thinking that I was probably not safe to be driving at the time.
Once we were both home, I collapsed against my husband’s chest on the couch, wracked with sobs. I don’t know when I last cried like that, if ever.
I’ve always known that miscarriage was a possibility with any pregnancy. I’ve heard the stats: approximately 15-25% of recognized pregnancies will end in miscarriage. But I always hoped I wouldn’t become a part of that statistic, and I certainly wasn’t prepared to become one that day.
My wonderful husband just held me and let me get tears all over his shirt. He listened while I expressed my grief and my fears about what would come next. But as we talked, we also found hope for the future.
The next few days were filled with lots more tears, serious anxiety about what would happen next, and relief when the worst was over (which, thankfully, for me was pretty mild, all things considered).
There are some experiences that change you forever. This was definitely one of those experiences for me. While I would never wish for anyone to have to go through a miscarriage, and I hope to never lose another pregnancy like that myself, I have also become acutely aware how blessed my life is, despite this sorrow.
Here are some of the lessons I learned in the past three weeks of experiencing a miscarriage:
1. Horrible experiences can turn out to be blessings.
Let me be clear. I am not referring to my miscarriage as a blessing. However, the day before my appointment, I began bleeding…enough that I was concerned and called my midwife. She explained that bleeding isn’t necessarily a sign that something was wrong, but that we would check out everything the next day just to be sure.
Can I just say that the 13 hour drive home that day felt like 500 hours? It was so hard to be patient with my kids, not burst into tears (as much as my midwife had tried to reassure me, I was worried), and to focus on driving when it was my turn.
Still, as hard as that was, I’m so grateful for that bleeding, because without the red flags that it raised, I would have gone to my appointment that day with no inkling of anything being wrong, and I wouldn’t even have had my husband come with me. Since we were just getting back from vacation and the appointment was at 10:30 in the morning (not convenient), I had told him not to worry about it. But the bleeding made me reconsider and ask him to come, and I’m so grateful I was able to have him there with me during that appointment.
2. Don’t judge. Ever.
There is a quote I have long loved, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” I think sometimes it’s easy to get annoyed when people don’t live up to our expectations or treat us poorly–and I’m not excusing bad behavior. But I will say that during the week of my miscarriage, I dropped the ball on a lot of things, and I didn’t always explain why.
I didn’t offer an explanation to my friend who babysat my boys for an extra hour beyond what I had told her to plan on. I called last minute to cancel an overnight retreat I was supposed to go on the Friday I actually miscarried. My husband was planning to host a get together at our house that same evening while I was gone, and we cancelled that, too.
I know that I had good reason for making the choices I did, but most other people didn’t. I am so grateful for the kindness of those around me, and that I didn’t feel judged. However, the fact that I was worried about what others would think was a good reminder to me to always give people the benefit of the doubt. Because you just never know.
3. Grief comes unexpectedly. Take time to feel it.
There will be good days and bad days. I was doing surprisingly well from an emotional standpoint a few days after the miscarriage. I was feeling hopeful and grateful for my blessings. But on the following Wednesday, I realized that I would have been 10 weeks pregnant, but I wasn’t anymore. I realized that I wouldn’t be telling people in a few weeks about a cute bundle of joy on the way the way I had planned. And that was hard.
The best thing I did for myself that day was to accept the sadness, allow myself to grieve again, and to know that it wouldn’t always feel that way. After just a few weeks, I still think of my baby often, but it doesn’t weigh on me quite as much as the loss did at first. The grief comes and goes, but as I allow myself to feel it fully, rather than trying to shove it away, I feel like I am able to honor my baby’s memory.
One thing I struggled with in the beginning was the knowledge that every time I get pregnant from now on, and I go to the doctor, I will be reminded. I will fill out that simple little paper and write seemingly innocuous numbers in a box: Number of pregnancies-3; Number of live births-2. I hated the idea of being reminded of my loss this way. But, as I thought about it more, I realized that maybe it’s not bad to be reminded. Yes, it will make me sad. But it will also help me remember this little life I held for a short time. It’s okay to remember…even if it’s not easy.
4. Appreciate what you have.
I’ve looked at my boys with new eyes the past few weeks. I’d be lying if I said I am always a loving, patient mother now, but miscarrying made me realize how blessed I am to have two healthy–albeit crazy–boys. I have so much more empathy now for those who have lost a child or struggled to have children.
If I ever doubted in my moments of exhaustion and frustration whether I want to have more kids, that doubt is GONE. I wanted that baby so badly, and I WILL NOT waste the time I have with the children I have. Nothing is worth more than the time I have on this earth to be with family, teach my kiddos, and serve others. There are other things I will and want to pursue, but I really want to keep those things my focus.
5. I lost a pregnancy but not a child.
I know where that baby is and who is caring for my little one. I believe in God. I believe in life after death. I believe that God is aware of me and my family…including that little baby. That baby is His, and until I can see him or her again, I can trust Him to care for my child.
I don’t have all the answers, but I know that all things will be made right in the end. I know He will give me beauty for ashes, and that I will be able to hold my child again. So I hope…and I wait. As Tolkien once said of those we lose in this life, “We may laugh together yet.”