I had a miscarriage.
Even now, almost two decades later, I feel funny sharing this very personal thing. My husband and I had tried for almost a year for our first baby, and we were so excited anticipating the birth of our child. I had an initial ultrasound and everything looked good. I even purchased a soft yellow teddy bear on a trip to the city to place in the future nursery. And then, the miscarriage just . . . happened.
I didn’t realize at the time how common miscarriage, the loss of a pregnancy before the 20th week, is. The Mayo Clinic estimates one in every four or five pregnancies ends in miscarriage. Some experts suspect the rate is as high as 40%, as many women may not know they were pregnant at the time of loss. The causes of miscarriage vary widely and are often unknown, though doctors agree a common reason is a chromosomal abnormality in the developing fetus.
The wording we use to describe this experience is difficult. Miscarriage makes it sound like a mistake, either the pregnancy itself or something the mother did wrong. “Lost the baby” is also hard. How could we lose, or misplace, something so precious to us? Add to that the cultural idea of not sharing the news of a pregnancy until you are in the second trimester and less likely – statistically – to miscarry, and no wonder the topic remains an unspoken one in our society at large.
SHARING OUR STORIES
In recent years, I’ve seen a shift in how people talk about miscarriage. In my own community, women and men are sharing their grief experiences. I stood in a hallway not so long ago, talking to one friend (who lost two babies before I was born) and another (who had miscarried multiple times in the past year) and we quietly wept together, sharing our stories.
Some celebrities are to be applauded for taking on the “taboo” topic of miscarriage. Actor James Van Der Beek and his wife, Kimberly Brook, talk openly about the loss of their 6th child through miscarriage.
“We decided to put ourselves out there—not knowing what we’d find—in an effort to chip away at any senseless stigma around this experience and to encourage people who might be going through it to open themselves up to love and support from friends and family when they need it most,” he said.
Former first lady Michelle Obama miscarried her first pregnancy.
“I felt lost and alone, and I felt like I failed,” Obama said. “I didn’t know how common miscarriages were, because we don’t talk about them. We sit in our own pain, thinking that somehow we’re broken.”
That quote rings true to my experience. When I miscarried, I felt broken. Physically, emotionally, spiritually. How do you handle such a deep and abiding sense of brokenness?
My husband and I made the hard and very personal decision to “go public” with our miscarriage when it happened in 2001. We told close family and friends in person and my husband, a pastor, made a brief announcement at prayer time during a worship service. In our case, this decision brought an unexpected blessing – it seemed every woman I knew wrote me a personal note sharing their own loss of a baby. There was a strange, sad comfort in knowing I was not alone in grappling with such a devastating situation. I still have these cards, bundled together with ribbon, in a keepsake box along with that sole, yellow stuffed bear I had purchased while still pregnant with that child.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
If you are grappling with the grief of a miscarriage, please know first and foremost that you are not alone in your loss. If you are brave and talk to the people you know, you may find surprising sources of strength. Some will share their own stories. Others will drop off meals, offer rides to the doctor or simply sit quietly with you.
Self-care skills may help. Take time off from your work or other obligations as you walk through your grief. Make sure you see a medical professional to confirm you are healing physically. Talk to your pastor about holding a ritual so that you and others can share your loss together. And consider seeing a counselor or grief therapist if you need additional help or support.
For me, my faith in God was the thing that held me together in the roughest patches. I’ll be honest, at times I railed at God, asking how he could allow such a thing to happen. I cried over all the things I would miss with this child. But I found a growing solace in the idea that this baby was now at home with our Heavenly Father.
A favorite verse at that time was Psalm 16:11, where the author, David, wrote that in God’s presence we experience “fullness of joy.” It’s important to remember that David himself experienced the loss of a loved baby (2 Samuel 12) but found comfort in knowing he would meet this child after his own death. And I found comfort as well in knowing my own child would never know the pain or loss I was feeling, and — because of my faith in Jesus — I would see her one day.
I had a miscarriage.
Two decades have passed, and I can tell you that I had a miscarriage, but I am ok. I love the kids I had later, but they didn’t replace the one I lost. I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t remember the baby I never got to hold. But I can tell you that, even if grief and loss never go away, a miscarriage is something you as a mother can survive.
At Life’s Choices, we can offer a listening ear and resources if you are unsure how to handle your pregnancy loss. Let us know if we can help!