I had an early miscarriage. Four of them, actually. There is some grace in that if I had to lose my baby, I didn’t have to go through the entire pregnancy only to suffer a loss at the end. But there is some very real difficulty in having an early loss which sometimes goes unacknowledged. I do have a very deep understanding of what my loss is NOT . . . but I also have a very deep understanding of what IT IS.
Here is what miscarriage meant for me.
I was mostly alone.
I “labored” by myself, without a doula, without a nurse making sure I was safe, often without my husband present as he had to report to work. Carefully monitoring my own blood loss, I took care of my existing children as my womb emptied itself of their sibling I hoped to give them. As my losses added up through the years (five over five years to be exact), friends and family supported me with cards, flowers, meals and occasionally childcare on the hardest days of the bleeding. In that, I count myself one of the lucky few. I know many others who were more alone — and lonely — during their loss, and that breaks my heart.
I had very few resources.
Besides checking to make sure my pregnancy hormones were going down, and once or twice, offer pain meds, there wasn’t much my medical providers could offer me. I mostly spoke with nurses over the phone. My instructions were simple, “I’m so sorry, but your hCG went down, and you’ll miscarry. We need to continue monitoring you to make sure it goes down to 0. Please let us know if you soak a pad more than one an hour.” And that was it.
I relied heavily on Google, blogs and friends’ experiences to help prepare mentally for the physical process that took place. While I scoured the library and Barnes & Noble for book resources, I found relatively few and none that helped me understand the very real process my body was about to go through. One visit to the ER confirmed what I hear many miscarriage mamas say: the ER staff and resources are not prepared to deal with the emotional and physical ramifications of miscarriage. As it turns out, I don’t think OB’s offices are well suited for early losses either.
The process was harder, scarier and more emotional than I ever imagined.
Everything took longer, weeks even, than I expected. The pain meds I had at home plus a heating pad did little to tame the contraction-like cramps that wracked my body. The amount of blood always shocked me. With my losses being between 5-8 weeks pregnant, I did not expect more than a heavy period. But that was never my experience.
I’ll never forget the day I tried to be “normal” and make myself go to a business presentation out of town. Once I heard from the nurse that my hCG was going down and that I would miscarry, it was a waiting game to see when my body would catch up to the news. I never quite knew when the bleeding was going to start, or get horrible, and that day it happened. My husband pulled over to a gas station as my womb rejected the pregnancy I so desperately wanted. The floor beneath my feet was a crime scene, and I knew I’d need help cleaning it up properly. Tears fell as I flushed. The end of a life deserved more honor than I could give in that moment. I wished I had been properly bury my child.
I felt society’s expectation to get over it quickly.
Our society is not good at recognizing the loss associated with any early loss (and most of the time, not that great at respecting later losses either). We have so far still to go. While some people understood that my life had changed from the moment I knew we were pregnant, I felt expected to continue with life as normal after miscarrying. Since I didn’t have a bump to prove I was pregnant, because I didn’t have months in which other people could get invested in my pregnancy, I should just be able to get over it, move on, and go back to life as normal thank-you-very-much.
I felt I should be silent.
Even now I am self-conscious writing about my experiences. I worry you think I’m dwelling, or stuck, or perhaps worse, being a drama queen. I know I shouldn’t have to censor myself — after all, we are in the twenty-first century, women march with pussy hats, so for-crying-out-loud I should be able to say, “I miscarried. It hurt. I grieve …” and the world should still move on. And yet I still feel awkward every single time I write or speak about my early losses. If I were honest with you, I’d say I feel ashamed at how much I mourned my loss.
Many assume “early” means “not as significant,” and I struggled deeply believing my love and grief were misplaced.
I was a part of the baby loss club, but it felt like just barely. I didn’t want what many consider a harder loss in order to belong, but all the same I felt like an interloper in the world of bereaved moms. Am I still a bereaved mom if I didn’t see my baby, even on ultrasound? What about if I chose not to name my child? And what if all I had to prove my child existed was a positive pregnancy test?
In truth, I was looking for validation for my early miscarriage in all the wrong ways. I didn’t need others (not even from the baby loss club) to tell me my baby was important, or wanted, or loved. I knew all those things. What I just needed to hear — what I needed to tell myself — was that it was right and good to grieve my baby’s loss, small and early though it was.
I endured three losses before the medical community allowed me the right to pursue answers.
Doctors didn’t want to test until I hit three losses. I wondered when my losses, these babies I had tried to conceive so long, would start to “count.” “Sometimes, these things just happen” did not feel reassuring when early miscarriage KEPT happening. Letting go of three babies just to find an answer felt like a very steep price to pay to understand my fertility and continue growing my family.
I didn’t want to try again. I wanted that baby.
One of the hard parts about early pregnancy loss is this notion that pregnancies are easy to achieve and easy to replace. If you have an early loss, well, no bother — just try again next month. Except with each positive pregnancy test, I knew deep in my heart I wanted THAT baby. I wanted that one to stick. To discover if it was a boy or girl. To watch their little personality unfold. I wanted to snuggle his milky neck, I wanted to kiss her chubby cheeks, I wanted to decide if his baby pictures looked more like mine or my husband’s. And after trying for months (or years) to achieve this pregnancy, I didn’t want to start the process of trying to conceive all over again. No, it wasn’t another pregnancy that I wanted. I wanted THAT baby.
I wanted so desperately to know my baby, if it was a boy or girl. To see its little hands and feet or beating heart.
But an early miscarriage took that from me. And kept taking that from me. Sadness and grief overwhelmed me, but I couldn’t accurately say who it was for. Yes, my baby. But who was my baby? The fact that I couldn’t answer that with certainty broke my heart.
So yes, I had an early miscarriage.
It hurt like hell. I struggled, I mourned, I grieved. I’ve moved forward. But I’ll never stop wondering who those little babies might have been.
My babies-gone-too-soon left me a legacy of love for other families enduring loss. I am hosting an online candlelight event on Facebook live on my professional page for the Wave of Light, October 15 at 7 pm PST. I would be honored to say your babies name as I light my candle. Please click HERE to sign up for the event, and register your baby’s name.
Rachel Lewis is a foster, adoptive and birth mom. She lost her second baby she named Olivia to a ruptured ectopic pregnancy, and had 4 miscarriages in the following 4 years. On the journey to becoming a family, she gave birth twice (once to a rainbow), adopted a precious daughter and fostered and released a darling son after a year and a half. When she’s not chauffeuring her kids around, you can find her shopping at Trader Joe’s, drinking coffee, or writing about her journey as a mom at www.TheLewisNote.com. Follow her on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/Thelewisnote. And join her online support group for bereaved and infertile mamas at Brave Mamas, https://www.facebook.com/groups/1657136001012257/