I’ve been working in health care since I was nineteen years old. I’ve seen a lot of things. But sometimes seeing things cannot prepare you for the experience of those same things in your own life. Coming up at the end of this month is the one year anniversary of the ultrasound that put my life on an emotional pause…
Miscarriage…is something that gets talked a lot about in October every year for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month. Its something that most women experience, often in silence. I remember a female relative telling me that she had a miscarriage one morning and went right back to work and didn’t need sympathy from anyone. When I was in my early twenties, I remember a young immigrant couple coming into the ER I was working in at the time experiencing a 1st trimester miscarriage. The father was screaming “Save the baby” and we knew we could not do a thing to save that baby. I remember feeling helpless, but also kind of angry at the father for thinking that we were failing him when there was absolutely nothing we could do.
As I’ve advanced in my career, I’ve gotten into the business of actively preventing miscarriage with protocols involving the use of progesterone therapy as well as taking any and all early signs of miscarriage seriously and initiating aggressive management to prevent pregnancy demise. Being in the field initially gave me a sense of control over my fertility and confidence that I had some ability to avoid miscarriage myself by making sure my hormones were balanced pre and post-conception. The funny thing about a sense of control as a human being is that it is almost always delusional. I mean, what do we really have control over?
Last year, 8 weeks pregnant, after doing “everything right”, I happily took my entire family to our first ultrasound for baby #3 to find that he/she had stopped growing 2 weeks before and had no heart beat. I had no miscarriage symptoms…there was no explanation for it. I thought about genetic testing, but my husband rightly sensed that this expensive proposition would not give me comfort. Nothing really would. In a sense, my body had failed me. In another sense, what was I thinking? 10-25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. I was not special. I was a statistic.
The months that followed involved a course of Cytotec after 2 weeks of waiting for nothing to happen and several months of hormonal imbalance that lead to a lot of anxiety. I tried to get pregnant right away to cover things over, but that took time. I fought with feelings of anger at my family who mourned the event differently than I did. I also fought with feelings of self-loathing: many women go through this many times or worse lose infants or children, and here I was completely wrecked by a 1st trimester loss. I joined the church I’d been attending for the past 7 years and I searched for a way to commemorate a baby that I wanted to honor, but never knew. I had friends who planted trees or painted rocks to commemorate their babies. I decided on a tattoo of Forget-Me-Nots to remember mine.
Since that time, I have recovered and achieved pregnancy again, but having a miscarriage has changed me. The experience was agonizing but it has given me a sense of compassion towards other people, especially women who go through this, that I did not have before. Miscarriage is something I would not wish on my worst enemy. It is also not something I think women should go through in silence or power through. It is a bad thing that happens to many good people. It is a great loss that like any loss, deserves to be mourned.
On my miscarried baby’s due date, I was at work. The day went on and I saw my patients but halfway through the day, during an office visit, a patient mentioned to me that she was still mourning a miscarriage even though it was a long time ago. In the past, I would have tried to understand, like someone tries to follow steps in a self-help book or a recipe, but this time, empathy was natural because I knew the pain of her loss. I related my experience to her and let her know that she was not alone.
As women, we go through so much in the ups and down that are natural to our bodies. The maternal child bond, no matter how long or short it lasts, is something that is divine and makes an impact even if it only lives for a few days, weeks or months. For anyone who has gone through miscarriage or infant loss, you are not alone. Your pain is legitimate and your child deserves to be honored.