Just after my thirty-second birthday I fell pregnant. It was my second pregnancy after a miscarriage about eight months earlier. My partner and I had planned to get pregnant both times and my nerves were shaken after the unexpected end of the first.
The miscarriage had been difficult to talk about, to reveal, especially after having jumped the 12-week recommended waiting gun before celebrating the news of having a bun in the oven. We’d told my parents and my partner’s parents, and it was heart-wrenching to make the call after a horrible night bleeding out in the bathroom.
Our parents were supportive, sympathetic, sad, but it was difficult to look past their disappointment, no matter how hard they tried to hide it.
My brother was good though, pragmatic. He didn’t make me feel like I’d inadvertently let him down. He’d said something along the lines of “Mother Nature’s harsh, but that’s life.” I’d nodded my head and shrugged my shoulders. It was a healthy dose of reality.
Getting pregnant was terrifying, exhilarating, a bottomless bag of topsy-turvy emotions that suddenly emptied when no baby was set to arrive.
I was about nine weeks pregnant when it ended. We’d had an ultrasound a week earlier to see baby’s heart beat and were both jaw-dropped by the fact that that tiny flicker was a human in-the-making.
Then I started spotting blood.
I frantically opened Google and searched for an answer that would make me feel better. Most of the forums were optimistic, many of the medical articles were not. The bleeding increased over the next few days and so did an impending feeling of doom. Late one afternoon I went to the bathroom, wiped with toilet paper and saw the most blood I’d seen since the spotting began. Instant tears streaked down my cheeks as I grabbed my purse and called to my partner that we needed to go to the hospital. I didn’t know what to do, and I didn’t realize there was nothing that neither I nor any doctor could do to stop it.
We entered the emergency entrance. With a fresh batch of frightful tears, I told the check-in nurse what was going on: I was pregnant and I was bleeding. And then we waited. We waited for almost three hours before I was relieved of the pale maroon and forest green ER waiting area with the hope of getting answers and a cure.
On an empty bladder they gave me an ultrasound. The doctor had to search carefully to spot the baby, but eventually he found it and the flicker. I burst out crying, this time with relief. The doctor skeptically asked me if I was sure I was nine weeks along, and I said yes, but there was doubt in his expression. The nurse gave us well wishes with a concerned face. I didn’t think too much of it at the time, I was merely focused on the fact that the baby’s heart was still pumping and all hope wasn’t lost yet.
The complete loss of hope came at 2 a.m. the following morning.
A combination of the worst stomach virus and PMS cramping I’d ever experienced woke me. I didn’t wake my partner, I just silently scurried to the bathroom down the hall, doubled over and cried as a violent force rattled and drained my body. Even though there was nothing I could do to stop it and no other place to go, I felt guilty that it was happening over a toilet. It’s mortifying, undignified — it’s the absolute last place you want to deal with such a delicate trauma and loss. To this day I hold back tears thinking of letting go of something so special, something that was supposed to bring such joy, with the woeful push of a lever. It felt inappropriate, horrible, and I wouldn’t wish the experience on anyone.
My body shook with the physical and emotional aftermath as I stumbled back to the bedroom and revealed the news to my partner. He cried. We cried. And then I climbed into bed and fell into one of the deepest sleeps I’d ever had. He kept an eye on me all night.
At first it didn’t seem like anyone had experienced what I’d gone through — like I was alone in the world of healthy babies and happy mommies. Friends were getting pregnant, celebrities were popping out their second and third, and every show I watched on Netflix had a scene of unapologetic pregnancy celebration. I was hyper-sensitive to the topic.
The months after the miscarriage were isolating.
My partner was so loving, so supportive, but even that wasn’t enough. Besides, he was grieving as well. Since it was my first pregnancy and no one was really expecting it, I’d kept the news strictly to parents and siblings — no friends knew of the pregnancy or miscarriage. It took me a while to write out the message to send to my friends. They were caring and kind, they said all the correct, compassionate things you say to someone who has suffered loss, but it didn’t make me feel any better, any less alone, any less empty.
I lost interest in all the little things that bring joy to life. I felt like a failure. I got swallowed up in my sorrow and even though I was telling myself and my partner that I wasn’t blaming myself, I was. We went on lots of walks that summer. Hiking through forests, into nature, trying to heal and reconnect with life. I wanted to enjoy the walks, but they felt like a chore. Being outside made me face the grief and all I wanted to do was hide from it. But we walked nonetheless.
Eventually stories of miscarriages started trickling out — a friend of a friend, aunts and cousins, a co-worker.
Nobody wanted to talk about it because of guilt and shame and sadness, regardless of the consuming loneliness that the lack of communication created.
Even I’m a contributor to that misplaced silence and secrecy. I’m writing about it now, but it’s taken almost two years and the birth of my baby girl to get to a place where I’m able to assess the memory. It took me a long time to realize that there are many women and couples who have the unfortunate luck of experiencing a miscarriage. At the end of the day it comes down to the complicated, chaotic chance of having the correct data meshing and multiplying in the right way. And yet, we take so much responsibility for a miraculous act that is totally out of our grip. I didn’t feel any better about what had happened, but I did start to feel less alone.
A few months earlier, before the first pregnancy, I’d had my first oyster. I wanted to try it again with my partner, but then I got pregnant. Raw shellfish is recommended against in pregnancy, so we decided to wait. During that harsh summer, after the miscarriage, I figured now I could have oysters again — it might bring back a little joy. Google recommended against eating raw oysters in the summer however, so I found an oven-baked recipe. We brought the fresh oysters home, I scrubbed them, preheated the oven, double-checked the recipe to make sure I was doing everything correctly, popped them in and waited. If the oysters were good, they’d open naturally on their own when they were cooked. Easy, right?
Well, they never opened.
And I broke down.
All the bottled up sadness and frustration, all the leftover emotion that I’d thought would disintegrate on its own, came pouring out. It toppled out of the kitchen and splattered across the floor. I’d done everything right. I’d done everything right and yet it hadn’t worked out.
I cried in my partner’s embrace as the spoiled oysters acted as a stepping stone up and out of my grief and guilt.
The wound of having a miscarriage takes a long time to heal, and it definitely leaves a scar, but the healing process is greatly accelerated with communication, not taking Mother Nature’s ways personally, realizing it’s not your fault and, most importantly, knowing you’re not alone. It’s never easy to lose something you want, but we keep going, keep trying, because it’s worth it and because that’s life.