The M Word
Updated: Jul 30, 2019
We spend so much time consuming these carefully curated versions of pregnancy because talking about certain aspects of it are genuinely difficult. But I think that it is important that we talk about these things with one another. Miscarriage is incredibly common and yet it is one of the most isolating experiences that you can endure in pregnancy.
I call bullshit on the 3-month rule.
You were warned in my bio, I am here to speak the unfiltered truth. Occasionally I am going to get a little theatrical in my delivery - it's just who I am.
It all starts at conception with the idea that we should keep our little poppy seed a secret until it's safe. Generations of mommies have been conditioned to refrain from sharing their happy news until they have reached that 3-month safety point. Over time this has evolved into superstition and some part of you feels like you are responsible for that loss because you confided your happy news too soon. If there is any little part of you that believed this to be true – shake it off mommy. It is not your fault.
The reality is that this little rule is in place because miscarriage is so common and the hope is to prevent a difficult conversation. The idea is that if people don't know that you are pregnant in the first place, you will not have to explain to anyone if you are no longer pregnant. I understand the thinking here, but this does not work for everyone and honestly, I don't think this is the most helpful mitigation of risk.
When we first found out that we were pregnant sometime in June of 2018, I let the people closest to me know. I could not wait to tell them and I am glad that I did because when things didn't pan out, I had the support I needed. That is a critical amendment that I think needs to be made to the 3-month rule.
1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage.
Twenty-five percent is a sizeable piece of the pie. So how is it that the first time I heard this number was when the doctor in the emergency room was letting me know that I had found myself the "one" in that demographic?
I also learned that 85% of miscarriages occur in the first trimester. Sometimes pregnancy is unknown before it has ended. The doctor tried to "comfort" me while he informed me that I may have experienced other miscarriages and been completely unaware. My period could have just been a day or two late, and I wouldn't have thought anything of it. I remember sitting there and thinking to myself "what a creative way to throw salt in my wound". This would be the first of many well-meaning words of comfort that were more harmful than helpful.
Miscarriage can happen for a myriad of reasons. It may be the result of a thyroid disorder, chromosomal abnormality, immunological disorder, blood clotting, hormonal issues, cervical insufficiency - the list goes on (and on and on).
This is important not because it is a common occurrence but because knowing that it is so common means you are not alone. It means that you have people in your life that you can turn to who have walked in your shoes.
This is not your fault.
The majority of miscarriages are caused by biological complications that are entirely out of your control. But it is easy to sit there and ask yourself if you should have had that sip of coffee or if you worked a little too hard at the gym. Mommy, do not venture down that road. While this is a common response to miscarriage it is not a healthy one. The likelihood of this being something you've done is fairly improbable. This is another unfortunate and painful part of life that you have very little control over. What you do have control over is how you help yourself heal.
We all grieve differently.
This is an important one. It is ok to be ok too - it doesn't make you a monster. Some women have a more technical or medical perception of this kind of loss. For some women, the loss of a pregnancy at early gestation is more manageable and for others, no matter the gestation, it all hurts the same.
I told my friends that I was sad but that I would be ok. I told them we would try again. Behind the brave face, I was devastated. I didn't want my parents to know how much it hurt. My father had just been diagnosed with cancer and he worried that he would never meet his grandchildren. Josh and I had originally planned to wait until we bought a house before starting a family but we realized that was silly. In life family and the memories that we make together are what is important. I wanted my father to hold my children and I wanted my children to be old enough to remember my dad.
When we lost the baby, I didn't want my father to blame himself, but he did all the same. I did everything I could to be strong and not show him how much I was hurting. But he knew me better. He knew that I would never want to burden him with that and so he did the most beautiful thing for me to let me know how he felt the best way he knew how.
In the next part of this series, I am going to share that with you. I am going to talk about how your friends and family can best support you. In times like these even for people who have experienced it, it is hard to know what to say. I want to help them navigate this a little better by sharing what was helpful and what was harmful to my grieving process.
Talking about it is important.
The most important relationship that you will ever have is the one you have with yourself. When you experience a miscarriage it is easy to blame yourself or blame your body. But you need to work through your self-doubt to repair that relationship. You need to learn to love yourself even when it's hard. Your body is yours forever and that will not change. This is not something that you can control. Life is unpredictable and at times it can be hard. But you are not a victim of circumstance. You can choose to keep moving - to be resilient - to be strong.
It has been implied to me that I should just move on and not look back. And while that may be a working coping mechanism for some, it was not for me.
It helped me most to talk to people who understood. I think it is best to find comfort in the validation of your feelings and find strength in knowing that you do not stand alone. Talk to women who have lost but have kept trying and succeeded by any means. Be inspired by their strength and let them be there to cheer you on and motivate you to keep going even when you don't think you can.
The relentless reminders are deafening.
When you first find out that you are pregnant, it starts. The obsessive Pinteresting, finding Instagram accounts of baby stores and mommy influencers to follow, tagging yourself in mommy giveaways and checking out baby clothes that start popping up on your Facebook feed. Thanks to sophisticated algorithms meant to show you ads for things you display interest in, in the weeks after your pregnancy ending you are bombarded with reminders of the child you were supposed to have. It was hard to see, and the reminders don't stop there.
After we were pregnant for the second time I had purchased a pair of maternity leggings from Thyme and signed up for all kinds of emails and promotions for new moms. And after we lost Liliana, those packages with diapers and bottles and samples of formula started coming in. I got an email a couple of days after the due date with congratulations on the arrival of our little one. Even the 20% email coupon to pick up what remained on the baby registry we had done was enough to bring me to tears.
Each of these reminders was a tiny blow. Your heart sinks and it takes you a few moments to compose yourself. But I have learned in time to take this as an opportunity to think of her. No matter how difficult it is at times I do not want her memory to be one I dread.
Happiness and sadness can coexist - they are not mutually exclusive.
I would be remiss if I did not also mention that I am at that age where all of the people around me are getting married and having babies. In my case, the first time around, I was pregnant not far behind my best friend. We imagined being on maternity leave together and taking walks with our little ones. We had plans. So when we lost our first pregnancy, it was that much more painful. And while seeing my friend progress in her pregnancy was in some way difficult, it was also still so easy to be happy for her. She brought her adorable daughter into the world and no part of me felt jealousy. I was happy that she didn't share my story. I was grateful that even though mine didn't have a happy ending, at least hers did. But it still hurt to think how far along I should have been by that point.
What I want to say here is that it is entirely possible to be happy for someone you love on the arrival of their baby, but also feel sad for your loss. This can sometimes be tricky. What is most important is talking about your feelings and listening to yourself. If you need space, feel comfortable enough to talk to your friends. Let them know that you are happy for them, but that right now that happiness comes hand in hand with something really painful.
You want to be able to enjoy their company and be happy with them but sometimes it is simply too hard. It does not stem from a lack of love, but rather an abundance of it. You love them so much you do not want to imprint that pain on them. You do not want to take away from their happy moment. I think it is more considerate to give yourself space if you need it. You do not want to push yourself before you are ready, and a good friend will understand. While it will be hard to enjoy the arrival of their son or daughter without the person they love, imagining their life without their new addition will put into perspective the loss or losses you are processing. They will love you enough to try and understand.