October is known for being Breast Cancer Awareness month, but do you know that it’s also National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month? In 1988, then-President Ronald Reagan declared October a month to honor those who have lost children. Alamo City Moms Blog is honored to bring you a three-day series of stories from moms who have suffered the pain of losing a child. Our goal is to let you know that if you are grieving or have experienced a similar loss, you are not alone.
Miscarriage. One in four pregnancies end in miscarriage. I’ve noticed and heard this formerly meaningless statistic countless times in the past months. I’m an educated person. I understand the odds. I did not, however, believe they applied to me.
“It is an astonishingly common cause of broken hearts that is, all at once, widely misunderstood, immensely frustrating and baffling…” (Coming to Term: Uncovering the Truth about Miscarriage by Jon Cohen).
A whole new realm of understanding, grief, and compassion has been bestowed upon me in these past 10 months. Sounds dramatic, but it was indeed drastic and dramatic. I have two best friends who have endured infertility, and I must say I did not—could not—understand their pain, strife, or heartache. I still cannot truly understand it, as their struggles are different than mine, but I am almost ashamed to say I was clueless as to their journey. But how could I know? Really know?
That being said, my friends’ infertility was the “regular” kind—the kind people do talk about. The kind they openly blog about. The kind people are generally aware of and educated about. Given my age and that of my husband (I have recently joined the Advanced Maternal Age group), I was concerned we would end up in this infertile category. I was wholly unprepared for what was really coming our way. We got pregnant the first time so quickly once we started trying, I breathed a huge sigh of relief believing I had dodged the old lady infertility bullet. Looking back, I feel so stupid, so ignorant, so oblivious that miscarriage was even an option. Needless to say, it was the sucker punch of a lifetime and one that has changed the fabric of who I am permanently.
“Miscarriage remains a hugely taboo subject.” I’m coming out of the miscarriage closet, very cautiously, for one single reason: I’ve never felt more alone than in those first few weeks following my first miscarriage.
Looking back, it was a surreal experience where the world as I knew it halted and yet everyone kept on about their daily business as though nothing had ever happened. It was embittering. Didn’t these people know I had just lost a baby?! (Or worse yet, that I was going to lose a baby and was just waiting for it to happen?!) But wait…how could they know if I hadn’t told them? I wasn’t supposed to talk about it. Hell, I was supposed to wait a few more weeks to even tell people I was pregnant in the first place, much less that I had lost it.
My sisters-in-law, a few dear friends, my mother, and of course my dear husband were all I had in the early days. I could only tell people with whom I felt safe. Even then, I felt so alone, like no one understood what I was going through. One of those friends, to whom I will be forever grateful, told me, “Don’t let anyone tell you this is not a big deal—because it is a big deal.”
She gave me permission to feel what I was feeling. I clung to my husband. I couldn’t go the grocery store without feeling like everyone could see the big gaping hole in my heart. I felt exposed and alone—so very alone. There were dark days when I spent countless hours on The Bump’s online discussion boards: first, to find solace from what felt like the only people on earth who understood; and second, to start educating myself (especially after the second miscarriage, when it became clear that either something was wrong or I was truly becoming one of the unluckiest people on earth). And I cried and cried. It just wasn’t fair.
Slowly but surely, the more I shared, the more I found I wasn’t alone.
If I can help one other woman to know she is not alone,
then I can feel good about putting my own story out there in the world.
If I can help one person be a better friend to someone who is going through this now,
then I can feel good about putting my heart on my sleeve.
The simple texts from friends and my sister-in-law asking how I was or saying, “Just thinking about you,” were a lifeline to the outside world. I often could not talk on the phone about it without breaking down, but to read a text or receive a card meant everything. Everything.
Recurrent miscarriages. Only 3–4% of couples of reproductive age experience recurrent losses. Thank you, statistics: You are the gift that just keeps on giving. Apparently I’m now even more “special” than even I ever thought. Forget the “1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage statistic”—I’m 4 for 4.
I became very bitter with my second positive pregnancy test, when I realized I would never again be jumping up and down with excitement to see that positive line like I was with my first pregnancy. Fear and anxiety would take its place. But I made the personal choice to keep sharing the news with same people I had the first time. I knew I needed their support no matter how it turned out. And I have done the same with every pregnancy since then (and the impending loss). It was the right choice for me emotionally.
With each miscarriage, I found it easier to share my struggle. I still can’t easily share the true depths of my pain with just anyone, but knowing there are other women out there who really do “get it” because they have gone through the same thing is comforting. This touches only on the emotional aspect of miscarriages—the physical aspect is a whole other level of salt in the wound.
As the months have gone by, and I’ve had more miscarriages than I care to count, it has become easier to talk about with those outside of my close circle. It still hits me at random times and occasionally can bring me to my knees. Four pregnancies—and four miscarriages—in 10 months must set some type of world record, but I’m not competing in the Pain Olympics here. Pregnancy loss is a legitimate loss for which you must grieve. Each loss was different, and sadly it became easier each time to grieve and move on.
My grief process was complicated by the loss of my beloved 15-year-old dog (between the first two miscarriages) and the loss of my beloved grandfather (after the third one). Over time, I’ve been able to separate the feelings of loss associated with my miscarriages from those of my dog and my grandfather. I can now clearly separate my tears for each of those losses, and with the passage of time I can write about my pregnancy loss grief. Miscarriage is a strange and unique loss compared to having lost my furry best friend or my dearest grandfather—those were relationships I shared for years, and the kinds of losses that you post about on Facebook and for which people send you flowers and acknowledge your grief.
A pregnancy loss is something you never quite had, but for which your heart and soul were invested in all the same.
You can’t exactly put that on Facebook or send an email to your co-workers saying you will be out a few days because you just lost your baby. There is a social hush on this subject. And yet, the more I muster the nerve to talk openly about it, the more I find I am not alone. It’s a secret club to which no one wants membership.
I struggled a great deal about what my message or angle would be in this post for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, but in the end the overwhelming feelings I kept coming back to were:
“You are not alone.”
“You are not forgotten.”
“Your pain is real.”
Whether you’ve had one loss or four, it’s all the same. I am sorry for your loss, whenever and however it occurred. I hope and pray that you have the support you need should you need it.
For the most part, I’ve converted my raw emotion to a perseverance to conquer our newly diagnosed “unexplained infertility.” I’ve read every book, scoured every website, had every test done, and have a fantastic doctor currently helping us undergo the IVF process. Through all of the doctor’s appointments, daily injections, and a million supplements, my four angels are always on my mind. They are not forgotten.