Every October I see the posts on Facebook… “I am 1 in 4.”
October is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month. For me, it has always been awkward. I never knew what to say to those who have lost a baby. I always thought it seemed like not a huge deal… especially at a young gestation. I truly didn’t know what they were going through at all. Should I treat it as a family death? Should I treat it as a sickness? What in the world are you supposed to do?
But as several friends said when I apologized for how I reacted during their miscarriages, “You don’t really know until you’ve had one.”
So, whether you’re reading this because you just had a miscarriage, or because someone you love did, or maybe you’re just curious: here are six things I wish I would have known about miscarriage before I had one myself.
Not everyone has the same experience.
I was actually under the impression that miscarriage was the same for everyone. From the few stories I had heard, and the help of my imagination, I thought it was a sudden gush of blood where you lost it all and the baby came out in it’s little sac. I thought you went into labor and gave birth to that little baby.
I wasn’t totally wrong in all my thoughts, but I had no idea the vast array of experiences that women could have. After lots of conversations and research, I realized that there are many ways to experience a miscarriage and they are all painful in their own way.
My water broke at 8 weeks 1 day. I thought I was crazy, but that was the first thing I thought was that it was my water. I felt a pop and something splashed in my underwear. Later that night I had yellow discharge on my liner. I knew I hadn’t peed my pants, and I knew that amniotic fluid is yellow at first.
The next day I began to have brown spotting. Two days later it turned to bright red. The next day it turned to very heavy bleeding and large blood clots. On the 4th day of stuff coming out of me, I did have some mild labor pains in my back and uterus and I gave birth to my baby.
But I didn’t know for sure whether or not it was a baby because there was no sac. That’s honestly what got to me. I kept having hope because I didn’t see what I had imagined… a tiny baby in a perfect little bubble. Though I did see a little placenta and cord, I did not see a baby. I had forgotten at that point (it’s not like I had anything crazy happening) that I thought my water had broken four days previous. Of course that baby was mixed up in all the other clots that came out with it.
In total, I bled for an entire week. I did spot for awhile after that week, but it wasn’t anything extraordinary. Honestly, I’m not sure what it would have been like to have a different kind of miscarriage. A sudden miscarriage would have been very traumatizing, but over quickly and no doubt about what was happening. A D&C would take care of the situation, but I think I would have felt so out of control. In my situation, I had four entire days to process and mourn…. but I also had hope mixed in there because I didn’t know for sure; and that hope being shattered was definitely painful.
The grieving is a process.
Everyone will have a different grieving process with different steps and different timing, but this is how mine went…
- Panic. When I first saw that spotting, I went into a full blown panic attack. My whole body started shaking and I kept saying “No, no, no, no, no, no, no…”. I called the OB and they said it was nothing to be concerned about. But that didn’t help. I knew something was wrong in my gut and I could NOT stop freaking out.
- Sadness. When I started to bleed heavily and clot, my first reaction was to cry. I had gotten past the shock factor of seeing blood in my pants during pregnancy. Now I was just sad… sad that I had to deal with this. Maybe it was a miscarriage, maybe it wasn’t. But either way I was gonna cry. I was so frustrated and emotional.
- Denial. Though the heavy bleeding and clotting continued, I kept hoping. I kept wondering if maybe something else could be wrong and I wasn’t actually miscarrying my child. I googled constantly. There were like two other reasons I could be bleeding like this and I was just sure one of those things was happening to me.
- Mourning. The day I lost the actual baby, I got to be home alone for the first time since the bleeding started. My son and husband went to church and I was there for four hours by myself. Although I still wasn’t 100% sure that I was going to lose the child, I let myself really MOURN. I turned on some worship music, journaled, read scripture, prayed… and during that time I cried until I couldn’t breathe anymore. I cried and cried and cried. But I was able to find peace during that time, just releasing those emotions and being honest about how I felt with myself and with God.
- Detachment. By the time I lost the baby that day I had cried so much and just expected to see that baby come out of me. I didn’t even cry when I held all of it in my hands. I just looked at it and tried to find my baby. That entire evening I felt “okay”. I was in physical pain and exhaustion, but my spirit was numb. I went out with my husband that night. I laughed once or twice, talked about normal things, ate some food for the first time in three days. I thought I was over it, that I was alright.
- Depression. The next morning I couldn’t get out of bed. I was so depressed. The first thought I had when I woke up was “I’m not pregnant anymore.” And I lost it! I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t take care of my child. I actually forgot to feed my toddler breakfast. I didn’t even know how to function.
- Anger. Not long after I woke up that same day, I got a call from the OB telling me they were cancelling my sonogram the next day and wanted to move it to two weeks out. I originally had a 9-week sonogram and check for the pregnancy but after miscarriage they move it to two weeks after. I was polite on the phone and obliged, but as soon as I hung up I screamed profanities, threw a pillow against the wall and ugly cried until my throat hurt. I’m not really sure all the reasons I was so angry at that moment, but something was getting released that I didn’t know was in there.
- Acceptance. For me personally I could not accept it until I had closure (as I will talk about next). And honestly, for me, thankfulness was added into this step…. looking at the positive side; taking the time to realize the things I WAS thankful for. I was thankful that I lost the baby before I took pregnancy announcement photos and shared them on Facebook. I was thankful that I lost the baby before I saw him kicking and squirming on a sonogram. I was thankful that I lost the baby before we knew the gender or picked a name. I was thankful that it happened earlier rather than later. As much as I still don’t understand why it all happened, I’ve finally accepted that this baby is gone and this was God’s plan and it’s all going to be okay.
Closure is important.
After I had that angry spew of emotions, I ended up calling the OB back sobbing and told them I needed a sonogram. I said that if I didn’t see an empty womb I was going to go insane for the next two weeks wondering if there was still a baby in there or not. Thankfully, they gave me my appointment back.
It was a very short appointment. The sonogram took about two minutes. I saw right away that nothing was in there except very fluffy uterine lining. I didn’t cry or anything. I felt peace. I just needed to see for myself what was happening in there. When the doctor told me that nothing was of concern and that it was a normal, complete miscarriage I felt so much better.
Closure might be different for everyone, but whatever it is that they need it is very important to have. Maybe you will want to bury your baby and have a service. Maybe you need to post something on Facebook. Maybe you need to write it down. Maybe, like me, you need to see that empty womb. Maybe you need to name your baby. Whatever it is that makes you feel like you can move past this, do it.
The emotions come in waves.
During the whole experience, I just kept going back and forth between “okay” and “NOT okay”. And though I’ve felt very okay for a few days, I don’t know when those emotions will come back and hit me like a monsoon.
I’m sure that everyone takes different amounts of time to finish grieving, and I know from others stories that grief can hit you from different things that bring up the emotions.
I will always have a hard time when that due date rolls around. When the babies are born that were supposed to be born the same time as my baby…. I’m going to remember. I don’t expect to just be “over it”. But being emotionally healed does not mean forgetting.
It’s a loss that’s weird even to the parents.
You don’t know what to do. I understand because I never did either. And honestly, now that I’ve had one, I still think it’s a weird and complicated loss. The truth is, you don’t know that little person you are losing. You’ve only known they existed for a few weeks or months. You’ve never met them or heard their voice. They probably don’t even have a name yet.
That’s what makes it so weird. You’re mourning over a person you never knew. But that’s exactly why it’s so hard. It’s a very strange loss. More than grief over a death, it’s really grief over lost and broken expectations and hopes. As soon as a woman gets that positive pregnancy test she starts dreaming. Who will this child be? She calculates the due date. She thinks about the gender. What will she name them? We can’t help but fall in love instantly.
It’s definitely a weird loss. It’s different than anything else we experience in this life. It’s the only time in a person’s life where they grieve over the death of a person they didn’t know. So bear with your friend or family member who is dealing with this loss. It’s weird for all of us, but it doesn’t mean that the pain isn’t real and deep.
The only way you can really help is to just be there.
Honestly, for me, I loved listening to other people’s stories. A few ladies apologized for talking about their own miscarriages but it was actually really good for me. It helped me get outside of my own grief for a moment, to realize that many others had gone through this and it made me feel not so alone.
There’s nothing anyone can say or do that will make it better, but I really did love hearing other women’s stories. Flowers and notes and texts were nice, but when people were willing to have a conversation… to listen to the details of what happened (no matter how gory) and to let me ugly cry while they just sat there with me… that’s what really helped. And if you can’t be there, text conversations and phone calls were nice too. Just to have someone to listen to me and tell me my emotions were not crazy and that it was okay to be angry/sad/anxious/disappointed.
If someone you love is having a miscarriage… Just be there. Don’t discount their feelings. Don’t try to tell them anything to “make them feel better”. If you’ve been where they are at, ask if you can share your story. If you haven’t had a miscarriage, just listen and ask if they need anything. The best thing you can do is listen and show them you are there and you love them.
If you have had a miscarriage…. Regardless of how your miscarriage happens, how far along you are, or how you cope with it, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. You are 1 in 4. Maybe for some people they don’t like being lumped into a statistic, but for me it brought me immense comfort. Everywhere you look there will be women who have gone through the same thing. Reach out to others. And remember that someday you will be able to help someone else who goes through this same pain.
Psalm 71:20-21 “You have allowed me to suffer much hardship, but you will restore me to life again and lift me up from the depths of the earth. You will restore me to even greater honor and comfort me once again.”
If you’ve had a miscarriage, what would your best advice be to women going through the same thing?