Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A deeply personal note regarding miscarriage

A year ago today, my fears were confirmed... at just over nine weeks pregnant, I was having a second miscarriage.  That day was one of the hardest days of my life.  I had been experiencing symptoms of the diagnosis for about a week, but the nurses just kept telling me to put my feet up and drink more water when I would call in asking to be checked.  I had just seen the little blip and heard the heartbeat two and half weeks earlier... how could this be happening again?  The next day, I had a D&C and started the healing process.  The physical healing was nothing compared to the emotional and mental mess I needed to deal with over the next few weeks, months, and still even a year later.  "One breath, one minute, one day at a time" became my mantra.

As unlucky as we all were, I was very fortunate to have a strong group of women who helped each other through our darkest days.  We had all been part of a birth group on BabyCenter.com, and as those first few weeks came and went, several of us were given the same heartbreaking outcomes of our babies that would have been born just before Christmas.  Many of us have stayed in touch through Facebook, and many of these women have gone on to have rainbow babies or are due to very soon (and that's why you see so many baby gifts on this blog!)

Anne, Maggie, Stephanie, Melissa, Carrie, Stef, Katie, Patti, Nadine, Janna, Tana, Marla, Megan, Lori, and Felicity, thank you all for the strength you've brought me this year, the hours of talks, the libraries of advice, and the love.  I love you all with every part of my being!

I made a promise to all of you a very long time ago to talk more about this to the people who have been lucky enough to have never had this kind of suffering, and I feel like I've let you down.  I tried, writing a couple of articles for online news sites, starting a blog that I never took public, submitting pieces to magazine essay contests, talking to friends in real life who didn't know.  I think my own... shame, I guess, is still what's held me back.  In your honor as we all come up on our anniversary dates, I share the most read blog I had written with a wider audience.  Hugs to all of you and to those of you with new bundles of joy - lots of snuggles and kisses to your rainbows too!

Originally written on May 15, 2012...


How not to help a woman cope
They say the stats are 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage.  One in four.  So 75% of the time, a mother gets to take her baby home to the nursery that she’s outfitted so perfectly.  But I’m sure if you've found your way here, you’re sick of hearing stats.  Everyone from your doctor to your aunt to your long lost high school friend wants to give you stats when/if they hear you've had a miscarriage.  Screw stats.  I’m done with stats.
However, it was not lost on me that the stat reads “1 in 4 pregnancies,” not one in four women. I've been unlucky enough to experience this twice, so I’m something of a pro.   Need to know what they will do when you show up at an ER at 5:30 am on Thanksgiving Day at about 5 weeks pregnant, bleeding?  Have questions about a D&C or what it feels like to be 7 weeks pregnant? I’m your girl. 
The first time it was 11 days after I had found out I was pregnant, and this time, I should have been 3 days shy of 10 weeks, had heard the heartbeat at 6 weeks 5 days, and on that fateful day, there was no longer a heartbeat.  So not only am I in the “25%,” I’m also part of a very small number of women who lose the baby AFTER they hear a heartbeat.  I’m sure that a lot of the reason I had heard the heartbeat has to do with the improvements in technology and the capabilities of today’s ultrasound machines, but the last stat I’ll share is that less than 5% of pregnancies are lost after the heartbeat is heard.  They call that a “missed miscarriage.”  I guess the fact that they are no longer using “delayed abortion” should be something of a consolation prize.  The problem is, in my case, it wasn't missed.  I knew it, “they” didn't want to listen.  I’d been calling the doctors’ office every other day to tell them I had lost my pregnancy symptoms, had cramping, and I was spotting (bleeding.)  Every one of the nurses just kept telling me to “up my fluids, put your feet up – and use pelvic rest – no vacuuming, no lifting, pushing, carrying or pulling, and definitely no sex.”  Every one of them, every time I called.  Like it’s the standard speech they have posted at their desks for that crazy mom to be who calls every other day.  Until I called AGAIN and demanded to be seen or have my records sent to another doctor, no one would listen.  Finally, whether it was due to the threat of losing a patient covered by some pretty good insurance, or just a compassionate nurse, I was seen on the day I should have been 9 weeks and 4 days.
Yes, today I am very angry with the very large practice of doctors, midwives, and nurses who not only confirmed that I was indeed pregnant after trips to three of their offices in the county, but also that my baby’s heart had stopped beating 2 weeks and 6 days earlier (yeah – hadn't grown since the day I first saw AND heard it.)  I’m angry that they didn't check again, or have another tech take a look.  I’m angry that they immediately set me up for a D&C the next day. I’m angry that I didn't think to ask for another ultrasound the next day before they put me under, just to make sure.  I’m angry that I made all these decisions while I was very highly likely in a textbook case of shock.
I have found support online with other women who are experiencing this same loss sadly at about the same time.   We were all part of a “December 2012 mommies over 30” group.  The day I learned there was no more heartbeat, I started “December 2012 should have been mommies over 30" group.  The next day, there were 3 of us.  Now, 16 days later, there are 31 of us.  Some miscarried naturally at home or in a hospital, some have had the same fateful outcome that I have and “required” medical intervention, some have had ectopics, and some have no idea what happened.  One day they were pregnant, the next they weren't.  One thing I can tell you, we are all grieving.  We are all confused, sad, angry, guilty, ashamed, broken.  Some of us have good days, and when we do it scares us.   Scares us into thinking we won’t be good mothers if we’re allowing ourselves to feel better about the little one we lost.  Scares us into thinking that maybe what that idiot said the other day is right – it wasn't meant to be.  Scares us to ever try again.  Some have children at home, others like me don’t.  Some have been trying for years, even with the help of IVF and IUI treatments, some were “lucky” enough to get pregnant the first try, and some weren't trying at all.  They have been my soldiers through this battle and have all helped me in ways only they can understand and I sincerely hope I've helped them along the way too.  We support, we rant, we cry, we ask questions and answer them.  Mostly, we’re just supporting each other in figuring out what the next step is, and on how to get back to moving through the motions of life.
One thing I've learned from this wonderful group of strong, heartbroken women is that people have no idea what to say to a woman when she’s experienced a loss.  There are so many things that should never be said to a woman when she shares with you that she’s lost a little soul, yet people continue to say them anyway.  If you’re reading this and you have never gone through this – this is where you pay attention. 
First of all, the only people who can ever say “I understand” are women who have had a miscarriage.  If you haven’t, all you are even half- way qualified to say is “I’m sorry.” If someone is sharing the news with you that they've had a miscarriage, they must either a) think a lot of you and your relationship with them or b) still be in shock.  Even if she says any of these things, please refer back to the italicized, bold, underlined sentence above and repeat.  Anything else is just horrible.  I've compiled a list of what are probably the most disturbing yet most common things people have said to me and these women.  If you don’t know what to say, tread lightly, as these words or any like them will likely be something that she will carry with her, and could likely tarnish the relationship you had for life.
1.       Maybe it was for the best.  (How is this for the best, exactly?  What would be best is me bringing a beautiful healthy baby home in a few months!)
2.       God is testing you.  (For what?  To know if I can grieve or get angry?  To see if I can overcome?  To get me to go to Church every Sunday?  What is the test?)
3.       You lost the baby because you are not married.  (Ok, “religious” hypocritical idiot.  How will He reward you for being so UN-Christian and judgmental?)
4.       You haven't really even tried, you have to try again!  (I’ve tried and I lost. Thanks for being there.)
5.       There was something wrong with it.  (First of all, let’s not say “it.”  The moment I knew I was pregnant, maybe even before it was confirmed with a pregnancy test, “it” was a baby.  My baby.  As for the rest of that, I don’t even know what to say.)
6.       Would you really want a special needs child?  (What I want is a child.  A living, breathing child to hold and love and kiss.  Who says this one would have been special needs?  Maybe the embryo just didn't attach correctly because I should be taking a medication that I don’t know about.)
7.       God knows what's he's doing.  (I’m sure He does, but why not pick on a mother who’s shooting up every hour or one  who’s going to end up killing her own children someday, why me – a healthy loving person who just wants to add a child to my family?)
8.       It just wasn't time.  (I don’t even know how I would have responded to this one. It’s not like a cake that is sunken in the middle and still gooey.)
9.       You stressed out too much worrying.  (Yeah, that’s what I need – a little more guilt.  Also, while major life stressors like death and illness can cause the kind of stress that causes a miscarriage, every day stress and typical worries of a newly pregnant woman do not.)
10.   This is very common.  (Not as common as healthy babies who are born at full term.  And if it’s so common, maybe then, instead of making me sit in a waiting room full of happy pregnant women to check on the physical aspects of this there should be miscarriage only hours at doctors' offices.  And they shouldn't wait until a woman has had multiple (typically 3) miscarriages to try run simple tests that could potentially STOP it from being so common!)
11.   What's the big deal? It wasn't even really a baby yet.  (refer to # 5 above)

And finally, my personal favorite…

12.   At least you know you can get pregnant.  (That’s great.  So how about when I get knocked up again I’ll just carry the baby in a backpack for the first 12 weeks.)
A woman who has lost her child has lost her dreams of her little girl with rosy cheeks and bows in her hair.  She’s lost her little boy’s first little league game.  She hasn't lost a blighted ovum or an embryo or a fetal pole.  She’s lost her angel, and a little bit of her own heart and soul.  Treat her delicately, let her heal.  Clean her house or cook her dinner.  Take the maternity clothes that she just bought back to the store for her.  Help her if you can, and if you simply can’t, then just leave her alone.  That would be far better than saying the wrong things when she’s beating herself up enough as it is and feels like the whole world is collapsing around her, or getting so big that she’s terrified to go out into it again. 
One of the women wrote this in a post today to another woman who was beating herself up for having a good day. I wanted to share it because it needs to be heard and printed for the world to understand.
There is a reason why people used to have official periods of mourning and wear all black. The black was to let the general public know "hey - this person has just been through something really traumatic, and they may burst into tears/lose it/ yell at you for no reason, so tread lightly, be very understanding, and give them the space they need.”  Withdrawing from public was so the person in mourning could feel all the things they wanted/needed to feel without having to worry about being around other people while they were trying to process these terrible emotions - grief can express itself in different ways, many of them not seeming to be "acceptable" to the general public (laughing fits, periods of calm and happiness like you are experiencing). If you feel better surrounding yourself with people then of course you should, but do not feel bad if you need to process this by yourself. And do not feel bad about having a good day. It is perfectly natural to have a good day, even in a bad time.
There are plenty of books on pregnancy and what to look for as you progress through the mystery.  There are very few on how to cope with the loss of a not-yet-born baby that focus on the emotional aspects.  I've looked – they aren't out there, maybe because this topic is still so taboo.  If you find yourself in this position, please please find a support system of women to help you through it.  Could be online like my group.  Could be in real life. ‘Cause hey, this is very common.


If you've found this post through searching for information about miscarriage, are suffering one, or are just trying to find ways to help a friend, read more here.   You are not alone, your feelings are valid, and my heart goes out to you.

4 comments:

  1. Beautifully written and heartbreakingly true!! Hugs, prayers, and love!!

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    1. Stephanie - thank you for taking a moment to comment. Hugs, prayers and love to you too, mama!!

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  2. Although I wish that you had not had any reason to, I'm so thankful that you connected with this wonderful group of women when you all needed each other most, and so sorry that I haven't found the words I should have to offer you more comfort and support. I just hope you know that even when I can't possibly understand, find the right words, or offer more than a hug and my tears, my heart does ache for you and I wish nothing less than for every dream you dream to come true. I love you, and I will never forget your angels, but one thing I do know for sure is that you are not broken. YOU ARE STRONG! Stronger than you give yourself credit for sometimes. You show that yet again right here. Thank you for sharing this, for teaching some of us, and helping us to understand a little bit more.
    -sw

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    1. I just saw this... I love you, SW!! Thanks for being my bestie - sometimes, that's all I need!

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