grace in the face of loss: my miscarriage story
after nearly a decade working in the field of infertility and entire life of being a type a, logical scientist, i was certain that if anyone could handle a miscarriage, it would be me. i understand the science, i know the statistics and i've supported countless women through losses of their own.
but what i could never have truly understood through reading or studying or empathizing was how i would feel when i found out i was pregnant for the first time. in the blink of an eye, every breath, every moment, every thought was clouded with motherhood. can i eat this? should i do that? do i need to drink more water? should i exercise more? should i exercise less? can i seriously not eat brie anymore? i could never have imagined how, in an instant, those two lines would transform me.
i remember being terrified and hopeful and excited and mostly terrified. only adults have children! i'm not an adult! not really anyway. do we have enough money for a child? how will we find childcare? can i really go through labor and delivery? will i be a good mom? will i be selfless enough? will i ever have sex with my husband again? will my child love me the way that i love my mom? will i become a shapeless blob? am i worthy of this little person? can we really do this?
despite my irrational panic, i will never forget how my incredible friend, fran, treated me that day. we were at work when i found out and she immediately went into nurse mode. she started talking me through early pregnancy recommendations and treating me like she would any other patient. she just knew, that in that moment, i needed her to be my person. at lunch, we hopped in the car to drive to the closest hockey shop so i could buy some little tiny baby hockey skates to use to tell mike i was pregnant. she was so calm, and so kind, and i will be forever indebted to her for being such a perfect presence in that moment.
at the last second, perhaps in a weird foreshadowing, i decided to wait to give mike the skates until i saw a heartbeat. and a couple of days later when we checked my pregnancy hormone levels again, it was immediately clear that this was not a good pregnancy.
i thought of all the ridiculous things i had previously thought when my patients had experienced losses at the 5-8 week stage:
"well at least it was so early, so much less traumatizing."
"it's great that we at least know they CAN get pregnant; so much better than our patients who never get pregnant at all."
"good news is that they probably won't require medical or surgical intervention and they can try again soon."
face, meet palm.
in my years of being trained to be so cautiously optimistic for my patients i had somehow thought they too applied caution to their optimism.
no, they didn’t. they don’t. they never will.
because no matter how many facts and statistics you have, no matter if you've never been pregnant or pregnant 5 times before, the moment you find out you are pregnant, something fundamental to your being drastically changes.
losing our first baby was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life. it took me months to recover. i'll never forget feeling like an insane, insensitive bitch as i sobbed in the bathroom of the restaurant we had brunch at to celebrate one of my dearest friend's pregnancy a full four months after my loss. my marriage suffered, my friendships suffered...everything shiny in my life was dulled and diluted.
but week by week, slowly but surely, i climbed my way out of my suffering. thanks in large part to yoga, the music of sigur ros and a wonderfully supportive husband, family and friends, i made it to the other side of despair. in the interim, i got my dream job, traveled the world and prepared myself for my next pregnancy. and when i found out i was pregnant with charlie, my heart told me to give mike those little baby skates right away. my heart knew that this baby was a fierce little person and i was so at ease and peace. i never worried about losing her. and when she was born, it was so clear to me that she was meant to be the first person i mothered. my perfect little person. but i know my love for her will forever be rooted in the love i so fiercely and passionately felt for her brother or sister.
october is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month. talking about miscarriage, stillbirth and infant loss is hard. it's uncomfortable and it's challenging. it's painful and it makes us feel like we never have the right words. but it is necessary and it is important. i'm sharing my story because i believe so strongly that being open is the way that we find healing. i wish i would have had the strength to be more open when this happened to me. i am certain i would have healed faster. we have created a society where we convince women to wait to tell the world that they're pregnant and in doing so, we've created a society where women must suffer through these losses in silence, alienated from their support systems.
i cannot speak to the experience of stillbirth or infant loss, but if you are experiencing a pregnancy loss, i want you to know that it's ok to feel conflicted. that this experience isn't black and white. it's ok to be terribly sad but maybe terribly relieved at the same time. it's ok to want all the hugs and none of the hugs at the same time. it's ok to want to be told that it's going to be ok and yet be so angry when someone tells you it's going to be ok. give yourself a large dose of grace. it's ok to feel your feelings and i am giving you permission to feel them in all their great and powerful and terrible glory.
and if you're experiencing loss as a partner or friend or family member, it's ok to not know the exact right words to say. and it's even ok to say the wrong things sometimes. silence is the enemy. ignoring or avoiding this, even when your loved one is guarded and suffering, will not help them heal. be there, be accessible. be a shoulder to cry on or a person to drink with or the person who will acknowledge that this great and terrible thing has happened and forever altered that person. be there for your person.
i hope that you never experience this pain. but if you do, know that you are not alone and that you WILL survive.
there ARE amazing resources out there to help you through your loss and/or infertility. check out some of my favorite groups and resources below: