No one ever talks about miscarriages. I had no idea how many of my friends had been through this, until it happened to me.
I typically err on the side of the sunshine and rainbows of life, but I will not shy away from delicate topics that I believe need to be opened wide, discussed and shared. Whether it's what's in our tampons, the effects of birth control, where our breast cancer fundraiser money goes, or what it really takes to heal - too often, issues of women's health are discussed in private or shrouded in shame. And when it comes to miscarriages, as I experienced, this is one of topics that seems to be kept the quietest.
This past summer I had a miscarriage. I was eleven and a half weeks pregnant.
Miscarriages are common - up to 25% of pregnancies will end in a miscarriage in the first trimester. When I became pregnant for the first time, I had no idea.
There were a small handful of people that knew I was pregnant. My plan was to keep it on the down low for as long as possible (I was hoping 9 months!). What surprised me was that of this small group, nearly every single woman would tell me that she too had a miscarriage, or two. It certainly felt like more than 25%.
I don't know if women don't talk about this because pregnancy is such a private and personal experience, because there may be shame around a miscarriage, or perhaps for the reasons that I was experiencing - some sense of fault and guilt. I know that most miscarriages - up to 70% - are due to genetic or embryonic reasons, but this was hard to accept. For the first few weeks after it happened, I felt responsible, even though there was absolutely nothing I could have done.
For the first few weeks after it happened, I felt responsible, even though there was absolutely nothing I could have done.
Instead of allowing women to be present with the process of healing, everything I read kept insisting that I should not worry and that most women go on to have healthy pregnancies. I read that the sadness I felt would lift, and that my hormones would soon balance out. In short, everything I read seemed to brush over what I was experiencing and looked only to the future of the returning sunshine.
What I wanted was to hear from someone else who had gone through this too, without the click bait "5 things to know about a miscarriage" headlines.
And so that is why I decided to share my experience here.
Though I would never wish a miscarriage on anyone, it happens. I hope that in some way, sharing my experience may bring some level of comfort. I will say this: It is okay to feel exactly what you are feeling, whatever that is.
It is okay to feel exactly what you are feeling, whatever that is.
That was what I needed to know in that moment. I didn't need the reassurance that all would be well on my next pregnancy. I wasn't there yet. I couldn't even fathom having the desire to be pregnant again. I still needed to be present with this one.
I grasped at reason and understanding, tried to find gratitude in the experience, and attempted to accept the feelings of both loss, and something like defeat.
I Did Everything 'Right'
Please don't ever tell someone they should have kids, or even ask about their plans, or tell them they should get started. You don't know their life. You don't know their circumstances. You don't know what they've been through or what they are going through. And most of all, it's nosy, annoying and butting in on one of the biggest, scariest and most profound decisions a couple will make in their relationship.
I was 36 when I became pregnant and since getting married four years earlier, too many people would tell me to start having babies, not to wait, that it gets harder as you get older.
For me, for the longest time, I straight up wasn't interested. This, somehow, never seemed an acceptable opinion on the matter. There was so much my husband and I wanted to do first - and we did it. We did and achieved everything we wanted to and only when we were ready did we move onto this next stage, full of intention and preparation and without any regrets.
We planned for this. We did what few people do with 'preconception planning'. My husband and I spent months detoxing our bodies, supporting our health, eliminating all sugar, alcohol and any processed fats (in addition to our usual healthful habits). I had my blood work done and made sure all my levels were in the 'optimal' range. I did everything 'right' for preconception planning.
I got pregnant fast. Straight away.
Almost immediately I felt horrible - exhausted, terribly nauseated 24-hours a day, unable to sleep properly with feelings of anxiety unlike anything I had ever experienced.
As this being continued to grow in my belly and shift my body, I very quickly felt like my body was no longer mine. I felt guilty for not feeling overcome with joy and excitement, having had so many girlfriends struggle to get pregnant. Was there something wrong with me that instead of joy, I felt overcome by fear over how everything was about to change?
Then I Had A Miscarriage
The miscarriage happened on a Thursday evening. The Sunday prior I had woken up feeling wholly like a new woman. The cloud of nausea and exhaustion had lifted entirely. I felt like myself again. My energy was back, my mood was stable. I could eat and drink as I pleased. I returned to yoga and my morning walks. I could do this!
The fear that had plagued me for the last few months was rapidly replaced by excitement and curiosity. My body was visibly changing now and I felt proud of what I was creating.
On that Thursday evening in July, I was walking home from work with a slight ache in my abdomen and lower back. The pain steadily increased. I googled it and learned this was common at the three month mark as the pelvic girdle shifts and expands. I didn't even think to look up "early signs of miscarriage", because it hadn't even entered my thoughts that this was a possibility. Not for me.
And then it began. I had a strong pain and as I got up from the couch a few hours later, I knew something wasn't right. I ran up to the bathroom and still had no idea what was happening. We called our midwife. She told us it sounded like a textbook miscarriage.
I was in complete disbelief. The cramping continued, followed by heavy bleeding. Two hours later it was over.
Allowing Time For Grief
Lying around feeling sorry for myself isn't my style. Staying home sick is a stretch for me. After the miscarriage, all I wanted to do was lie around and feel sorry for myself. I felt weepy and lost, like an identity I had worked so hard to accept and embrace no longer fit.
Given how much fear I had experienced during the earliest months of this pregnancy, I didn't realize how attached I was becoming to the being growing inside me. I had started picturing and planning for a life that included this new soul. And in the span of two hours, it was all gone. Losing a pregnancy is far more than the physical changes. It requires us to readjust the vision of our future.
Losing a pregnancy is far more than the physical changes. It requires us to readjust the vision of our future.
My body was back to normal in less than a week, but it took me nearly six weeks to truly feel myself again on the inside. I can't say I got over it, I don't think you do, but I am able to accept that it happened to me, without any shame.
Finding The Gratitude In My Miscarriage
Having come out the other side, I am able to have gratitude for the experience. A deep level of gratitude.
I am grateful for the depth of understanding I gained through this experience. I learned that the things we plan for the most will teach us our greatest lessons.
I am grateful that my body is strong and healthy enough to do what it needed to do - that nature was able to run its course without any intervention.
I am grateful that through the experience of my first pregnancy, I have been able to release some of the deep fear and anxiety I had around pregnancy.
I got only the smallest fraction of a taste of the love (and care and worry and all the other stuff) that a parent has for a child. And this tiniest fraction that I experienced makes the full-blown feelings a parent has for a child seem unfathomable.
I am grateful for the network of women that rapidly surrounded me. I have never been one for 'sisterhood' vibes, but I get it now. I felt the embrace by the most generous women offering presence, and love and food and really good advice ("Red wine to move the spirit!" YES!).
And of course, I am grateful for my husband who supported me through every step of the short pregnancy to its very end with unconditional love and presence.
Most of all, I am grateful that I now feel prepared to bring a human into the world with less fear, more knowledge and a greater acceptance for the elements that, despite my incessant desire to plan, are well beyond my ability to change or control.
Can We Have A Conversation About This?
Women are advised not to tell anyone about their pregnancy in the first trimester. I followed this advice and in many ways I regret that I did. It wasn't fun having to let people know I had had a miscarriage, but I also found myself telling friends I'd had a miscarriage who I'd never told I was pregnant.
I learned through my own miscarriage how many friends of mine had also had one, but never spoke about it.
Why can't we talk about this? I know that in the media most functions of the female body are glossed over with white imagery, blue fluids and pills as solutions. We can choose to open that conversation. Miscarriages happen. They are traumatic, uncomfortable, messy and heartbreaking. They have happened to women we know and love - and we may never know about it.
Miscarriages happen. They are traumatic, uncomfortable, messy and heartbreaking.
There is no reason for anyone to go through this experience without a support network, without compassion, understanding and maybe someone to make them a jar of soup and some muffins. There is no reason that something that affects one quarter of the female population should be shared only in hushed tones shrouded in shame, inadequacy, or fault.
I am a nutritionist. I am a health educator. I did everything 'right'. And because it's okay and because it happens, I am sharing my story.