I already shared the story of how the miscarriage happened, but that is such a small part of the story. It sounds like it should be the bulk of the story but it isn’t. My thoughts are a bit jumbled as I’m still recovering both physically and emotionally, so I’m going to do my best to organize my stream of consciousness into paragraphs. I’m not going to dress it up with clever writing but I’ll consider running spell check. This is what I would say to you if you were sitting across from me right now, mostly unedited.
- I knew it was coming from the beginning. The day I took the pregnancy test, I texted my friend, “It’s like I can’t conceptualize an actual baby, which is ridiculous because I’ve had a few kids already. I wonder if this one isn’t to keep, honestly.” That doesn’t mean I didn’t have hope I was just surprised by the pregnancy or it was paranoia. And it doesn’t mean that I didn’t spend the 6 weeks I knew I was pregnant picturing a baby. I did very much start picturing a baby, even in my guarded state.
- Because of my feeling that the baby might not be ours to keep, I didn’t contact my midwife until I was 9 weeks along. I told her symptoms were light and that’s why I hadn’t been in touch earlier but I was nearing when she might be booking up for the fall. If we decide to try again, I would message her immediately. The support she gave me was huge and it would have been very difficult to contact her after I miscarried having never hired her in the first place. She would have been at my doorstep in a heartbeat but I would have felt badly about it.
- I’m a big believer in doing what is right and feels right for you. There is no one size fits all way to deal with anything. That said, I also have to remind myself to make sure I’m not just avoiding what is hard by saying it isn’t what I need. I didn’t want my midwife to come over to talk to me. I didn’t want to talk about it. She came over. We talked. I felt immeasurably lighter when she left. It was hard. But it was good.
- The kids had questions that I didn’t anticipate. They all seemed surprised, including the nearly 17 year old, when I said we were burying the remains. I don’t know what they expected a 10 week pregnancy to do when it is lost but none of them expected I would have delivered a baby and placenta. After that, my 12 year old thought it would be bigger like a small baby. It seems there wasn’t a strong concept between nothing and a baby even though there are so many developmental phases. When we had a baby 2 ½ years ago, we had gone through all of this with them. However, pictures in a book didn’t translate over.
- They also didn’t know if they were allowed to tell anyone or if they should only tell close friends. I told them that this was as much their story as anyone else’s and it isn’t for me to say who they can and can’t tell. After one child asked if he could tell people, I approached the others and found out they also thought they weren’t supposed to tell people. It hit me how little we talk about miscarriage when even children have picked up that it isn’t something we should share.
- I did not anticipate what a loss this felt like. Maybe I’ve picked it up from other women talking about their losses by saying, “I was only 6 weeks along.” I want to hug every one of those women. You weren’t “only” anything. I was 10 weeks along. I had 6 weeks of carrying and loving and picturing a baby. We were picking out names. I can’t delete the name list on my phone, though I definitely deleted the pregnancy tracker within hours of the miscarriage. Even my guarded state did not protect me from the depth of this loss. Those who have been there understand but there is no way to fully express it to those who haven’t. I know that because until three days ago, I had never been here.
- I am absolutely 100% relieved we announced. I’ve heard people say it’s horrible to have to “untell” people so you should wait. And others say that you should tell so that you have support when you miscarry. For me, if there is a next time around, everyone will know right away. Had I not told those few days before I started spotting, there would only be sadness. Having the baby recognized and celebrated before the mourning began has been a comfort to me. And it’s something I came so close to not having.
- I’m glad I didn’t have an ultrasound. My symptoms all but disappeared at 8 weeks. They came back to visit but nothing like I have come to expect during pregnancy. I suspect that’s when the baby was lost to us and considered an ultrasound at the time. I knew I would wait for a natural miscarriage for as long as was healthy. An ultrasound with a heartbeat would have been a relief but without would have been torture. I would have been grieving and waiting possibly two weeks before I miscarried. And then I would have to do the continued physical and emotional healing I’m doing right now. Instead, I got to be happy for those two weeks. I got to announce the pregnancy. We got to make fun of dumb baby names. While I know a healthy ultrasound picture would have been a wonderful keepsake right now, I know deep in my heart that that is not what I would have had.
- A miscarriage is a moment to moment thing. Many people live their entire lives in the moment. But Lars and I are planners. It’s hard to live with uncertainty, to take things as they come, to let things be rather than figure out the next thing. But there is absolutely nothing else to do. My miscarriage took nearly 48 hours from the start of spotting to the passing of the baby. I didn’t cramp all that time. I didn’t cramp until the end. It built up slowly and I had to take every moment as it came. Short of going to the ER, there was nothing I could do until Monday when I could have an ultrasound. That’s what I would have done, though I knew I wasn’t going to make it that far.
- One of our children asked if we were going to try again. Another asked, in a more heart-punching way, “can you try again?” Her intonation making it clear that was a request on her behalf. We don’t know. Early on in the pregnancy, with all my feelings of it not ending in a baby, I told Lars that I wouldn’t want to try again. But right now I’m not holding myself to that. Or to the possibility of trying again. It’s not even a question on the table. Because I wanted THIS baby. I can’t have THIS baby. So I need to mourn this baby first.
- Burying the baby was hard but it was what I needed. I cry thinking of Lars digging the hole. But now that it’s done and the baby is just outside, I feel so much less like the baby is gone into the ether. There is a place. I very much need that place. And I’m thankful for the friends who have shared their stories of loss that included burying the baby. I’m not sure I would have been so sure about that choice otherwise or so prepared to catch and save the remains until we could bury.
- Some women feel they need to name the baby. I don’t. I had a strong feeling from the beginning that the baby was a girl so I’ve given her a pronoun. But all the names we discussed were for healthy, live children. I couldn’t picture this baby with a name and still can’t. However, my daughter wanted a name. Our babies’ in utero names have been numbers. So much so that I was afraid Graham would be called Five for the rest of his life. So, for my daughter’s sake, we named the baby Six. I will probably keep calling her “the baby” but I am sharing this experience with several people with their own attachments and needs.
- My husband was a rock. He took care of me physically and emotionally. He stayed when I wanted him to stay and left when I wanted space. He met the needs of the other children in the home when I couldn’t. As I am feeling the physical side of things heal, I look forward to holding space for him so he can process. While I can’t imagine ever wanting to do anything social ever again, we have tickets for a show this weekend and I am going to push myself to dress up and enjoy a date with my husband because it will be hard but it will be what we both need.
- I don’t devalue my experience and you shouldn’t devalue yours either. I view pregnancy loss as starting at awful. That’s the top. You can’t go any higher than awful. Acknowledge the awful. There is nothing that makes it better. You could have 17 live and healthy children. You could have just found out you were pregnant yesterday. It’s all awful. There are things that can make it worse, but nothing that makes it better. I have healthy children. I woke up the day after my miscarriage and I was still someone’s mother. For those who lost their first child, my heart breaks for you. Having children didn’t make my loss better but it did help to not make it worse.
Maybe I’ll have more to share later. I know many women walked the same path in different ways and it’s all ok. I hope more stories are shared so those who need support and validation of their experience can find it. There are no ways to be wrong here and a million ways to be right.
PS My husband told me he was glad I wrote this out so we could remember. I wanted to add something else that I want to remember. We didn’t tell the kids right away. We were not emotionally ready to support their grief immediately. We told them the next day as they came home from school. Dennis was home first. Then Xander and Eli. And then Eden.
When we told Eli, age 12, he was sad of course. A few minutes later, he came to me with a tight jaw and wet eyes and said, “I’m worried about how Eden is going to handle this. She was so excited we were having a baby.” I love how much they love each other.