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Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month: Finding a New Normal After a Miscarriage

July 2016, my second pregnancy.

Miscarriage. It’s a word filled with so much emotion and heartache for so many women. It’s estimated that one in four pregnancies will end in miscarriage. If you think about the moms in your life, and you picture four or five of them, chances are that someone in that circle has experienced pregnancy loss.

In honor of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, for the first time I’d like to share my story publicly in the hopes of normalizing the conversation and raising awareness for what is so often a hidden trauma.

My Journey

In fall 2014, we were ready to start trying for a baby. We knew not to expect anything in the first few months, so were completely surprised when at the beginning of January 2015, I had a positive pregnancy test. I was so excited that I think I began to cry happy tears.

We also knew, or thought we knew, the risk of pregnancy in its early stages. We didn’t say anything to anyone else at first. I went to the doctor to confirm the pregnancy around Valentine’s Day, when I was six weeks along. We saw the heartbeat, growth was normal, everything looked great and I got the green light. We announced it to a somewhat larger but still close circle of family, friends, and coworkers. I had been late to work repeatedly due to extreme nausea and fatigue, so I told my boss.

My due date was October 7, 2015.

Just as I was finalizing a formal pregnancy announcement, I went in for my ten-week appointment. Everything was normal so far, but because the doctor couldn’t detect the heartbeat with the portable Doppler, she sent me next door to the ultrasound tech. Neither of us was worried at all. I hadn’t experienced any bleeding or severe cramping, after all.

Flash forward ten minutes or so. I was laying on the ultrasound table with that cold goo on my stomach, staring up at a giant screen with a picture of my baby.  Staring at a giant screen that did not have a flashing heartbeat. It was dark, cold, and I was alone. And I knew that if I asked, “Is everything okay?” that the answer would be devastating. So, I laid there, quietly, for a few more minutes.

The rest of that morning was a blur of tears. My doctor explained that the baby stopped growing at around eight weeks, but my body still thought I was pregnant. A “missed miscarriage.” The miscarriage was molecular, and there was nothing I could have done differently to prevent it.

19-week ultrasound scan of Gabriel, who was born in September 2016. Our first pregnancy ended at 8-9 weeks.

Causes of Miscarriage

It’s often difficult to pinpoint the cause of first trimester miscarriages. The fetus doesn’t grow properly due to:

  1. Chromosome abnormalities
  2. Underlying health conditions
  3. Uterine abnormalities
  4. Polycystic ovary syndrome
  5. Infection
  6. Lifestyle

Source

Miscarriages in the second trimester are less common, but I still know women who experienced them. It’s estimated that about one percent of all miscarriages happen between 14 and 20 weeks.

Finding the New Normal

In the days and weeks immediately after that doctor’s appointment, I felt like I was in a fog. I didn’t realize it until much later, but during those weeks, I became quite depressed. I wasn’t sleeping. I cried at night after everyone else went to bed. I ate too much and put on weight. I had a couple panic attacks. And I felt profoundly guilty for feeling this way when I thought of other moms who lost babies or children they got to take home and hold.

That same guilt is part of what prevented me from moving on. I found acceptance and healing through writing. About three months after the miscarriage, I sat down at my computer, and just typed whatever came into my head. My husband told me that one day, this would just become something that happened; it would always be there as part of our story, but it wouldn’t define us or any future pregnancies. This was our “new normal.”

How to Cope With Miscarriage

Allow yourself to feel whatever you’re feeling. There’s no wrong way to grieve. Try to talk about it. Know that whatever you’re feeling – anger, sadness, shock, guilt – is normal. It will take you time to work through your emotions. Try not to be hard on yourself, and take it one day at a time. Give yourself time to deal with the loss, and let others help you with chores, errands, or dinner.

Some parents find it healing to do something tangible, like commemorating what would have been their baby’s birthday, planting a tree, donating to a charity, or buying a special piece of jewelry, like a birthstone. And for some, true healing doesn’t begin until they become pregnant again.

Moving On

About six months after the miscarriage, we were ready to try again. It took several months to conceive, but in January 2016, I got another positive pregnancy test. This time, there weren’t any complications, and on September 27, 2016 I gave birth to a healthy, beautiful little boy. The experience of the miscarriage will always be with me, but it’s not something that triggers strong emotions anymore. Looking at Gabriel now, I can’t imagine my life without him. And without the miscarriage, he wouldn’t be here. That’s a comforting thought.

If you experienced a miscarriage, I hope you’re able to find peace and healing, too. You’ll likely find in talking to others, as I did, that it’s more common than we thought. For all the babies who left us before we got to hold them, we honor their memory this month, and always.  

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