Endings and Beginnings: My Story of Miscarriage
“Happy New Year!”
Everyone shouted, embraced in hugs, kissed their partners, and celebrated the start of 2017. I stood on a rooftop patio, staring at a spectacular view of the Space Needle with a brilliant fireworks display, surrounding by 50 people…and I never felt so alone. While others were clanking champagne glasses to new beginnings, I was grieving the end of a life. A life only 6 weeks old that had now been a part of me for 11 weeks.
This pregnancy felt much better than the first. My husband and I decided to stop using birth control in July and “see what happens.” Low and behold, I was waking up my husband one early September morning with a pregnancy test in my hand and tears of joy in my eyes. How blessed were we to get pregnant so quickly?! I know so many who are on a difficult journey to pregnancy with fertility challenges. I understood what a gift we had been given. However, the joy rapidly turned to worry when I was cramping so much.
I immediately turned to Google, as most people nowadays do. I learned that many women have cramps in their first trimester as their body stretches and changes in preparation for the miraculous growth of a baby. But some information kept sticking out at me…cramping could be a sign of miscarriage, usually only when accompanied by bleeding. I tried not to worry — what would worrying do? I also hated that my worry made me seem ungrateful. God has blessed me with this gift and here I am not trusting it will turn out okay? In hindsight, I think that I was being prepared for what was to come.
I had an intuition the whole time that my body just was not accepting this pregnancy, and sure enough at about 6 weeks, I started to spot and right at 7 weeks, I cramped intensely and bleeding included clots and tissue. I went to the doctor the following day and an ultrasound confirmed that I miscarried. I snuggled my husband that night with a heavy heart, his shirt wet with my tears. I was heartbroken, but I also had been preparing for the news for weeks. It was a bit surreal. I don’t know about others, but when I first was pregnant it didn’t quite seem real! I didn’t have very many symptoms either, so it was really a stick that I peed on that reminded me a human being was growing inside me! It was just as surreal to realize I miscarried. Just like that, I wasn’t pregnant anymore.
One menstrual cycle later, my body was feeling good and my heart felt at peace. I told my hubby that I felt ready to give it another try — I was actually eager to get pregnant again! I didn’t think it would happen so fast, but once again, we found out we were pregnant in November! I was thrilled but also afraid to feel too excited. I already had my heart broken once and I think instinctively I wanted to protect myself from the hurt again.
This time, I wasn’t feeling the same uncomfortable cramping I had felt the first time. Some of the pregnancy symptoms I’d read about even showed up — tender breasts, keen sense of smell, food aversions, and even a few bouts of morning sickness. Before experiencing pregnancy, I always dreaded morning sickness. I easily feel motion sickness, feel a little queasy when I don’t eat, gag in the morning if I don’t get enough sleep, and coffee makes me jittery — it’s safe to say that my body is a little sensitive. I imagined I would have quite the battle with nausea during pregnancy. When I didn’t have any with the first pregnancy and ended up miscarrying, I was actually thankful when I was dry-heaving over the toilet during my second pregnancy. It’s amazing how our experiences can change our perspectives.
The doctor advised me to have some blood work done at the start of the second pregnancy to be sure my hormone levels were rising appropriately, and everything looked great! We set a date for our first ultrasound on December 14th, during my 8th week of pregnancy and right before a trip to Iowa to spend Christmas with my family.
I can’t say that I was totally surprised at the news our doctor shared during our appointment. I kept having this nagging feeling like my body was confused about this pregnancy. One day the symptoms would come on strong and the next day they would disappear. Maybe that’s normal; I don’t know. I just know that I had an intuition that tried to prepare me for the news. When you’ve miscarried once, of course you are going to worry that something might happen again! I’ve heard many women who’ve had successful pregnancies who can’t help but worry until they see their healthy baby on the screen. I tried not to feed the fears in my head, but naturally they slipped in.
Our doctor was very talkative until a picture of my uterus and teeny, tiny baby was on the screen. “Hmm…” (silence) Please just spit it out! “Well, it looks like it’s measuring at about 6 weeks and you are over 8 weeks along. Even at 6 weeks, we should be able to see the heartbeat and I’m not seeing it.” It took a few minutes to sink in. First, I thought, You knew this might be the news you would hear. And then as the doctor was saying words like, “missed miscarriage” and “medicine to help” and “just unlucky,” it hit me. You are going to lose another baby. You are part of the 1–5% of women who miscarry two times consecutively. I felt a lump in my throat and my cheeks flushing red. My eyes welled up and I burst into tears. As much as I thought I might be prepared to hear news other than what we wanted to hear, it still felt like a sucker punch. There is no way to be ready for having your heart ripped out. You just have to let the news in, let your feelings out, and let the experience change you. So that’s what I did.
It took me awhile to accept that I had to let go. This time, my body didn’t want to either. My husband and I went on our planned Christmas vacation to spend time with my side of the family in Iowa. I felt anxious about traveling, not knowing when everything would start and I remembered how painful the first miscarriage was. That was not something I wanted to suffer through in an airport or on a plane. We spent almost two weeks there, and every time I went to the bathroom I expected to see that I had started bleeding. But it never happened. Now I was just confused. I was caught between feeling hopeful and afraid.
We went to another ultrasound appointment the day we got home on Dec. 30th. I had no idea what to expect. I mostly thought we would get the same news as before, but there was a tiny sliver of hope because I had no signs of miscarriage since our last appointment. On the big screen with a better machine than the first ultrasound, the embryo looked different. I thought it had grown! I had a moment of optimism, which was soon smothered by reality. My baby hadn’t grown, and wouldn’t grow. Not this time.
Since my body wasn’t letting go naturally, I ended up opting for a medication that would start the process rather than surgery. Just a few days after my appointment, on New Year’s Day, I stared at those pills all morning and could not control my sobs. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I realize that the embryo was not alive at this point, and hadn’t been for five weeks now. I just kept thinking, I don’t want to say goodbye. I’m not ready. I still can’t even find the words describe the emotions I felt and the thoughts I experienced leading up to expelling the pregnancy tissue. Having to start it myself was torturous.
The emotional toll is only one aspect of miscarriage and probably what most people who haven’t miscarried think about. Now that I’ve experienced it twice, I can share with you that the physical pain is agonizing. At its most intense point, I had about three hours of contractions. I am so thankful that my husband was by my side, helping me in any way he could. His calm always keeps me grounded and comforted. I passed most of the tissue on the second day of taking the medication. It’s not just tissue that I was flushing, it was the hope and promise and joy we were looking forward to.
I’ve learned with every trial and tribulation in life, eventually it is behind you. It is a memory. The best thing we can do is learn and grow from it. Use it as an opportunity to build character, to find the small blessings within it, to share with others so that they may be comforted or inspired through your experiences. I threw myself into blogs and forums before, during, and after both of my miscarriages. Reading about other women’s experiences made me feel not so alone and helped me prepare for what was to come. It gave me hope for the future. Part of writing this is a way of healing for me, but I hope it also reaches someone who needs to read it.
The last things I want to share are words that speak of hope and helped me through my grief. The first is from a surprising place, a children’s book that was given to my niece for Christmas from my sister-in-law. My sister was reading it out loud with my niece and nephew in her lap, and as she read these two pages, my sister and I were unexpectedly choked up with tears.
“Some days my heart feels as heavy as an elephant.
There’s a dark cloud over my head, and tears fall like rain.
This is when my heart is sad.
But my heart doesn’t stay sad.
Like springtime after winter, the sun comes out again.
My heart grows tall, like a plant reaching toward the sky.
This is when my heart is hopeful.”
–from In My Heart: A Book of Feelings by Jo Witek
Two parts of scripture came to me at different times, spoke to me and filled me with hope:
Lamentations 3: 19–24
I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
I am hopeful, and my heart is peaceful. I pray that I am shaped by this experience and I can bring light to others because of it. Thank you for your kindness and support.
Everyone’s experience with pregnancy, miscarriage, and fertility is different. This is just my story. Miscarriage is WAY more common than many realize. If I can be of help to anyone, please reach out. Sharing with family and friends has been so healing for me, and whether you decide to keep it to yourself or share, I hope to be an encouragement to you on your journey.