When I saw the positive sign on my first pregnancy test, I had been a bride for about two months. We had planned on waiting a few years before having kids, and I cried when I showed my husband, Derek, the test results. I was terrified, excited, anxious, happy, and overwhelmed all at the same time. A few weeks later, before the emotions had really had a chance to sink in, but after I had checked out a small mountain of pregnancy books from the library (I am a type-A personality to the core!), I noticed some spots of blood after going to the bathroom. I called the doctor and made an appointment, but wasn't overly concerned. My mother - a marvel of the scientific community - had regular menstrual-like bleeding every month throughout her two pregnancies. I assumed I was experiencing something similar.
I can't say that I knew much about miscarriage at the time. I'd obviously heard of it before, but never imagined it would happen to me. When I got home from my doctor's appointment, having been told very gently, but in painfully sterile language that "my hormone levels had decreased from my last test results" and "tissue would continue to pass," I returned all of my pregnancy books and started researching miscarriage. As many as one in five known pregnancies ends in miscarriage. It is an experience that can leave you feeling depressed, angry, confused, and especially alone. Yet it seems to be something rarely talked about among women. I certainly didn't talk about it. Derek and I told our immediate family, but none of our friends or church family knew that I'd been pregnant and suffered a miscarriage.
I got pregnant again a few months later, and we were thrilled this time. I felt more excited, and more prepared to be a mother. Derek and I had long discussions about names, and I brought home a shopping bag full of baby clothes.The stack of books was checked out again, and apart from the morning sickness, everything was going perfectly. Then, a few days before his birthday, Derek came home and told me he'd been laid off as a part of massive company cuts, and exactly one week after that, I woke up in a puddle of blood. It was gruesome in every sense of the word. I was scheduled to have my 12-week appointment two days later. I'd been looking forward to hearing our baby's heartbeat - instead we discussed my second miscarriage. We were told that our insurance would not cover any testing until we'd had three consecutive miscarriages - a common policy among most insurance companies - and we could not afford to pay for any testing out of pocket. All we could do was pray, and try again.
But your emotions can take longer to heal than your body. We decided to wait a year before trying again. When that year was up, I quickly became pregnant again. Much like my second pregnancy, everything progressed normally until one day I noticed the spotting of blood. Derek and I went to the hospital that afternoon for an ultrasound. I held my breath until we saw the little speck on the screen with the throbbing heartbeat! My own heart did a somersault in my chest! The little fetus was alive inside me! I was ecstatic! But the nurse holding the the ultrasound wand didn't smile, and cleared her throat, saying, "I'm so sorry, but the rhythm doesn't appear to be normal. You do have a viable heartbeat, but I don't believe that the fetus is going to survive for much longer." I felt like all the blood had been drained from my body. The nurse told us not to worry (Really??) and we were to come back on Monday for another ultrasound. We left the doctor's office in a daze, and drove home in silence. But when we got home, I couldn't get my legs to carry me. We sat in the car in our driveway and I sobbed on Derek's shoulder. I had excruciating cramps and continued to bleed all weekend. On Monday, it was not a shock when no heartbeat could be found. I was certain my body would run dry from all the tears.
Then the testing began. We did everything imaginable; blood work, urine samples, scans, pokes, and prods. We even went through a very complex and expensive chromosomal analysis, and a hysteroscopy to assess my uterine cavity. But everything came back normal. A part of me was relieved, but I also felt disappointed. If you don't know the cause, you don't have any clear treatment options. I was given a prescription for progesterone and we were told to simply keep trying. Try, try again, they say.
So try we did. And as always, it didn't take long for a positive pregnancy test. Everything went well, and little Emma was born nine months later. In some ways, it seems like a happy ending to a sad story. We certainly are grateful for our beautiful little girl, but having a child doesn't necessarily take away the pain of your previous loss. It can also be difficult to manage your fear of becoming pregnant and miscarrying again.
- Trust in God. I could not have gotten through any of my experiences with miscarriage if I did not have my faith, and a belief that God has a plan for me and my future, even when I cannot understand it.
- Cry. You have the right to cry for as long as you personally feel that you need to. It is an important part of the mourning process.
- Understand that fathers may grieve differently. It may seem like his mourning period is short, or even nonexistent. This can be especially true if you suffer a miscarriage in the first trimester before you are really showing, and the pregnancy doesn't seem quite real to him. Try to understand that men often have different ways of dealing with their emotions than women. It is so important to keep open communication between the two of you. Face this situation together.
- Start a journal. Having a safe place to record your feeling can be very cathartic, especially if you don't have others you feel comfortable talking to.
- Find a support group. Many local hospitals offer support groups for people coping with pregnancy loss. If you cannot find one in your area, there are a number of online support groups.
- Take time for yourself. You may not feel like being around other people right after you suffer a miscarriage. If you are able to take some time off, go on a mini-vacation and relax. Exploring a new place or starting a new hobby can be a good distraction from your day-to-day life.
- Keep something in remembrance of your baby. Sometimes it helps to have a tangible object to cherish when you think about your lost baby in the future. I still have ultrasound pictures from two of my three miscarriages. Some may like to plant a special garden. Others purchase a special piece of memorial jewelry with a name or date.
- Know when to seek help. Make an appointment to talk to a mental health professional if your grief is affecting your ability to function in your daily life.