Back in March, we went to the doctor for a 10 week pregnancy appointment and found out our baby’s heart had stopped beating at about 8.5 weeks.
This song has been on my mind whenever I’ve thought about our miscarriage since then. Now and forever more, the memory of our baby will be in my heart.
It’s really important to me that you know why I’m sharing this now. I want anyone else who experiences this to know they’re not alone. I needed and truly relied on dear friends who I knew had miscarried before or who had experienced pregnancy-related heartbreak. And, though I wished they’d never had to experience any of that heartache, I have been so incredibly grateful for their understanding, support, and love.
I think miscarriage needs to be talked about more. We need to know how common it is and eliminate any shame and secrecy involved. But it’s also a personal and intimate experience that nobody should feel obligated to share about, you know?
I’ve been fairly open about my miscarriage in personal conversations with friends, but I wanted to wait to share here until it felt right. One thing I’ve learned about grief (I mean, and life) is that so many things can be true at the same time. You can feel joy and still feel sad, for example. You can be hopeful and heartbroken. And you can be so incredibly grateful for people who care and also too tired to carry the weight of all the “I’m so sorrys”. And that is all okay.
My physical miscarriage experience
After finding out at our ultrasound that our baby had stopped developing, my doctor prescribed misoprostol— the medicine that helps your body complete a miscarriage.
From what my doctor had said and what I’d heard from a few friends, I anticipated being in a lot of pain with a lot of bleeding within a few hours after using the medicine. But three hours later, I found myself Googling and texting friends to find out if it was normal/okay for it to take longer. (I’ll save you the Googling: It’s not common, but it happens.)
The medicine is supposed to work within about 48 hours. I only experienced minor cramping and had only passed a few clots. I wasn’t sure if I had passed the baby though. When I went in for my follow up ultrasound, I learned that I had what they call RPOC (retained product of conception) and though I had probably passed the baby, there was more I needed to pass.
We went through the steps for my doctor to get approval for a D&C surgery (not an emergent surgery, so it required approval in our new COVID-19 world), but ultimately decided we wanted to try the medicine one more time before heading into surgery. So, I tried the medicine again. My results were similar to the previous time. But having seen my follow up ultrasound images, we knew there wasn’t much left to pass and my doctor and I both determined that it was likely that I had passed the RPOC.
After that, I had my blood drawn every two weeks for the next month, and then finally took a pregnancy test six weeks later — all to confirm my HCG levels were really dropping and my body was recognizing that I wasn’t pregnant any longer.
One of the harder physical challenges of miscarrying was my body still thinking I was pregnant. I should have been moving into 2nd trimester at this point and getting more energy and less nausea! But instead, I was no longer pregnant and I felt very stuck in the first trimester twilight zone.
My first period after miscarrying
When I got my first period following my miscarriage, I was prepared for it to be heavier. I was not prepared to finally experience the amounts of pain and bleeding I expected when I had taken the miscarriage medicine a month before.
I woke up in the middle of the night with cramps so painful I couldn’t move or breathe. I was having contractions/cramps that felt like being in labor. What happened next is kind of a blur, but I can tell you there was a strange popping sound, very large clots, and “blood flowing like water” — a description I had read a lot in my Google Miscarriage 101 course. The popping was a shock though. I’m grateful for mom forums and blog posts with similar stories because that wasn’t something I learned about on any professional medical source. (But my thoughts on the lack of credible miscarriage education are for anther day.)
The next few days were awful. My body felt weak and I experienced multiple moments where I thought I might pass out. I considered teaching my almost two year old how to call her dad or grandparents from my cell phone in case I did pass out, since it was just the two of us at home.
But as awful as that was, my body finally felt like it was completing the miscarriage process and moving on. Until that moment, I had felt stuck in that first trimester twilight zone. And I felt like a miscarriage imposter. Like I hadn’t experienced a true miscarriage and my body hadn’t done anything right, so I didn’t belong in that club that nobody wants to join. But I wasn’t pregnant either. And I hadn’t healed either.
I wouldn’t wish that pain or bleeding on anyone, but I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed with gratitude that it finally felt like my body was doing what it needed to do and I could move forward.
Exactly a month after we found out we miscarried, I headed into town for one of my blood draws and then we went social distance shopping at Home Depot for supplies for a yard project. I was feeling the weight of grief and blood draws and a recovering body a lot that day. I went to hunt down (and sanitize) a shopping cart and spotted this little succulent. The pale pink felt like the perfect soft squishy baby color and, though I’ve never been much of a plant person, I needed something sweet, tiny, and alive to bring home. I don’t know why it felt so significant, but this little succulent is still in my kitchen making me smile.
Moving forward from miscarriage
Once my body felt like it was physically moving forward in all the ways I couldn’t control, I realized it was time to move forward in the ways I could control. I started with therapy.
Through my husband’s employer, we have access to what is referred to as “solution-based therapy”. I’m incredibly grateful for that access to therapy subsidized by the company, but my husband reassured me that if that wasn’t the right fit for me, we’d budget for therapy that was. Solution-based therapy is intended to be shorter term therapy where you focus on solutions and moving forward, instead of a long-term therapy relationship where you dig deep. (For the record, I’m a fan of both varieties.)
Lucky for me, this turned out to be exactly what I needed at the moment. The therapist I worked with provided a lot of validation, education, and solutions on how I could move forward and heal. She also helped me recognize that I was experiencing Parent Burnout. Which wasn’t necessarily caused by miscarrying, but miscarriage emotions sure were a lot on top of many other things I was going through– including burnout.
We talked a lot about the difference between self-care and self-maintenance. She said “You need a hobby that fulfills you that has nothing to do with work, parenting, or your marriage.” And I immediately said, “Well, my work IS my hobby! I design and I’m very passionate about it! It’s a creative outlet!” And she helped me understand that I truly needed something else.
She referred me to this article about self-care that has become a very valuable resource for me. Since our therapy session, I’ve put a lot more effort into true self-care. I’m taking an iPad lettering course that truly is just because I love it and want to improve my skills– not for work (even if it does benefit work down the road). I’ve also been walking on the treadmill three times a week and binge watching shows that I enjoy. (1 hour of my show! And my toddler playing mostly independently and not touching me!)
Healing from more than miscarriage
I don’t think I realized how much more healing I had to do. (Still have, grief and healing are both ongoing processes.) But I feel more like myself than I have for a long time, even prior to becoming pregnant or the miscarriage. So, for that, I’m grateful. I’m not grateful we lost our baby. But I do believe in silver linings. And I’ve learned that more than one thing can be true at once, like I mentioned before.
I can be healing and heartbroken. Grateful and grieving. Moving forward and always remembering. Supporting others and being supported.
I’m also grateful for the support I felt and continue to feel as we’ve shared this news with people we care about. When we first found out, we told only the people who had known we were pregnant– our parents and a few of my closest friends. As they prayed for us and cared for us, I genuinely felt some of the weight of my grief lifted. As if their willingness to share in our sorrow truly helped share some of the heaviness of the grief. And though the grief feels less heavy as time as passed, I continue to feel the strength of others as they tell us they care.