A couple of years ago, several months before Isla was conceived I had a miscarriage.
It affected me quite deeply but I had a hard time verbalizing my thoughts and feelings to anyone. One night I was struck with the urge to put my feelings down on paper. I grabbed a pen out of my nightstand and some scrap pieces of paper and wrote and wrote.
I thought about sharing it but it felt so deeply personal… and something else. Even now, I cant say with certainty why I was so hesitant and why I ultimately chose to keep it to myself. Maybe there was some sense of shame involved. Embarrassment that my body hadn't “performed” how it was supposed to. Worry about any judgement that might reaffirm my doubts that I’d waited too long.
Miscarriage isn’t spoken about as much as it should be. One of the first things you are asked by anyone is if you will be sharing the news right away or waiting until the safe 12-14 week time frame. Its assumed that if something happens during that time you wont have to share it with everyone because… that would be embarrassing? Or painful maybe.
Now with some distance, that feels wrong to me. I know that the support I got from the few people I shared it with was so important, and it frustrates me that my initial feeling at the time was to keep it quiet. So, when I stumbled upon the notes I had written that night I knew I had to share them. The following is what I wrote that night.
A miscarriage isn’t just one moment in isolation. There are 3 stages; The Before, The During and The After.
We had been trying to conceive for about a year. Neither one of us had been in a rush to have children in the early part of our marriage. We enjoyed our freedom, our time together, our ability to travel freely. Even with our two dogs, it was pretty easy for us to manage time away.
I didn't expect the baby wave to hit me like it did. It was one day to the next, I wasn't ready and then suddenly, I was. I’m not sure if it ever happens this way to men, generally I think most aren't certain that they're ready until they see the little nugget.
But there I was, suddenly “ready” and the problem with this is that you don't realize how much work or time, trying to have a baby will take. You think just the act of being ready is enough to impregnate you - and its not. Did I not listen in sex ed? I remember how much time they spent talking about how NOT to get pregnant, but Im not sure they ever really taught us how to track and understand our fertile windows.
So, I ended up watching. I watched as everyone around me got pregnant, as they had their beautiful chubby babies and as those babies took their first steps, said their first words. My desire for children became desperation. My excitement became fear, anxiety and a gnawing feeling that maybe something was wrong. Self-doubt started to creep in. Doubt over my life choices, waiting so long - had I been selfish? Should I have started trying years ago? What will we do if this just will not happen for us? I started booking doctors appointments and planning for the possibility of a difficult road ahead.
After some doctors appointments and several emotional months I started to feel unusual. I had some headaches that made me feel lightheaded and one day at dinner I was hit with a wave of nausea. I was having meatloaf though which is inherently disgusting, I mean, it is basically a meat brick. So, “It’s nothing” I told myself, because at this point, the worst, scariest thing to feel, is hope. Hope that makes your desperation that much greater when it vanishes. I didn't let myself hope. But I did take a pregnancy test, just to confirm that it was in fact, nothing.
When I saw the positive sign on the test my heart jumped into my mouth for a brief moment. Only to be pushed back down by my brain. “It could still be false”, it said. My body felt pregnant though - a strange feeling that I still can’t describe fully - it overtook me like a supernatural force. All of a sudden I just knew my body wasn't just mine anymore.
Still, after so much practice my brain knew how to shut down any argument my body might give it. “Don’t get crazy”, it said “Try again in a few days”. So I did, two days later. This time when the electronic display read “Pregnant 2-3 weeks”. I let all the hope within me burst open. I let all the happiness and excitement and joy come back into all the dark places.
I told Peter and we began worrying and talking about money and childcare (in all the best joyful ways). I started looking for information about the first trimester and called my doctor. Because this was over Christmas, he was on holiday and very busy so I decided to wait a few weeks instead of seeing someone else.
The day before I was meant to see him, I suddenly felt my body come back to me. My symptoms were gone and I no longer “felt” pregnant. Just as I hadn't let hope in, I was determined not to let despair find its way back, but that evening I started to have spotting, and when I woke up the next morning, I knew.
The physical part of miscarriage at 6-7 weeks is likely not as traumatic as it it would be in the later stages. But horrifying nonetheless. It comes with physical, emotional and mental discomfort. An attack from all sides and a death in all areas.
Somehow this is the hardest part to write about. Maybe because Im still living in the after, every day is different and its hard to see what I am learning - as I am learning it. Mostly I remember the sadness and frustration. Sadness at the loss, at the disappearance of a future that I had begun to envision. Sadness at the thought of having to share the news. Frustration with yourself and a body that betrays you. For allowing yourself to hope when you knew better. For all the sad glances, tilted heads and awkward condolences given to you.
People don't know what to say in these situations. Its not their fault, especially if they've never been through it. Sometimes people tell you that its good that it happened “so early” in the pregnancy. But to this I want to say - It wasn't early. It was the prayer of over a year. It didn't have hands or eyes yet, but in my heart its eyes twinkled and hands wrapped around my finger.
Some people say “its common, it happens”. Thats true, but today it happened to me - I lost something only i could lose. The best thing anyone could and should say was simply, “Im sorry”.
The physical symptoms of miscarriage lasted for over a week. A daily reminder, then a nuisance, then nothing. Now it just feels like Im back at square one, but this time I am letting all the hope in. I've realized that the journey without the hope is too hard and not true to who I am. I believe that the journey is as valuable as the destination - whatever that may be, and I won't let fear or anxiety or self doubt take away my joy or blind me to all of the amazing and beautiful parts of it."
I realize that this may be easier for me to talk about now, that I have a healthy 10 month old baby girl. There are others who have struggled longer or in worse ways than I, and my heart aches for them. I simply hope that my small voice can help reassure them that they aren't alone, they don't have to keep it hidden, and can contribute in some way to a more open dialogue about miscarriage.