Tuesday, May 4, 2010

On a first miscarriage

Sam and I decided to wait at least a few years after we got married to start having kids. Three years turned into five, in a flash. We weren't ready. We were having fun. We waited a couple years more.

Finally, we felt some internal pressure. It was time.

I went off the pill and began charting. I started preparing my body — and Sam's, as much as he would let me. Boxers, I told him, and no hot showers, and here, take these supplements. We stopped drinking alcohol and caffeine, and I switched to natural cleaning and toiletry products. I was determined: We were going to get pregnant, and this baby was going to be safe.

I was 29 and a half and Sam was 30 when we started trying, which was a little behind my schedule, but we could still have a baby at 30, if not by anymore. Somehow this seemed important to me.

The first month, we decided to try all those old wives' methods for conceiving a girl, and nothing happened. After one unsuccessful try — yes, one — I was antsy. We threw those methods out the window and went all out.

Two cycles later, I was pregnant.

See? That was easy.

Pregnant? Not pregnant? Ah … it's a trick question.

We were feeling all superior and DINKsy to the people we knew who were obsessed with pregnancy and children and parenting (um, you might be able to tell I've turned around on this by now), so we didn't really tell anyone around us. We thought we'd wait past the magical first-trimester mark when risk of miscarriage decreases. We did tell our parents, who immediately started buying baby clothes and giving us ideas for names and arguing with our decision not to have an ultrasound to find out the gender even though that was months off.

At six weeks, I went to my ballet class as usual (because I wasn't going to let this baby business interfere with my regularly scheduled life), and I was horrified to see spotting when I came home. I lay down on my left side (the side that's supposed to be most protective) and crossed my fingers and my legs. The next day, I called the midwives we'd settled on but hadn't yet seen for an official appointment. The one I talked to was reassuring on the phone but couldn't tell me much other than to keep an eye on it. If it subsided, it was probably nothing. If not, well, sometimes that happened.

A few days later, the spotting stopped. I checked nervously at every pee break for the faintest tinges of pink on the toilet paper, but there was nothing more. In retrospect, I realize I subconsciously decided not to get too attached to this baby, just in case.

As a last hurrah, and even though we had absolutely no money for it, we jetted off to London for a short vacation. We figured it would be our last child- and fancy-free time. I was ten weeks along.

I hadn't been feeling morning sick. I hadn't really been feeling much at all, apart from some soreness in my breasts. I had continued temping for a little bit after my pregnancy test came back positive, until a slightly lower temperature — not under my coverline but enough of a dip to spook me — made me back off and put the thermometer away. I took a couple pregnancy tests, but the second wasn't quite as dark, so those, too, I had sworn off. The early spotting was another sign something was wrong, but I didn't want to believe it.

My ill-fated chart

On our flight back from London, I started feeling crampy. I think I began spotting in the airplane bathroom. The next day, as we were back in our swing of cat sitting (our home business at the time), the spotting continued and got worse, and the cramps became nearly unbearable. It was the weekend, and our first prenatal appointment was Monday. I bled all that weekend and knew — I had lost the baby.

I couldn't believe how hard it hit me. I couldn't talk without sobbing. I tried telling my parents on the phone and broke down about the second word in. There was more blood than I imagined possible, and it hurt — a lot.

Sam and I wallowed. We drove to the store and picked up some caffeinated soda, then drove to the liquor store and stocked up on several assorted bottles for good measure. What had been the point of all that good behavior?

On Monday, we drove to our first prenatal appointment and told our midwives the sad news. They were astonished we had come in at all and told us we could have called to cancel. Somehow, I needed to see someone in person, though, to be reassured that all this bleeding and pain were normal, if not welcome, and that there was nothing fundamentally wrong with me and my reproductive abilities.

We started the process of explaining to our friends why I couldn't be bothered to go out and see them, and why, when I finally did, I was depressed and blotchy and apt to burst into tears at any moment. It was awkward, considering we hadn't told our friends we were pregnant, to tell them we'd lost the pregnancy. But I lost my concern about appearing strong and stoic and only wished they'd been in on it all with us the whole time. I decided that any future pregnancies would be announced right away, not despite the threat of loss, but because of it.

I started telling strangers, too. It was all I could think about, after all. And I found out that I was not alone, not by a long shot. I was part of a vast sisterhood of grieving mothers, and many had far sadder stories than mine. Not that it was a contest — they all welcomed me in, and we commiserated together. I found out that behind the facades of even the largest and most fertile families often lay heartbreak. I found out both my grandmothers (with four and five living children each) had had miscarriages, and that my aunt had had several between her two boys.

I heard a range of reactions to losing a pregnancy, as well. Some women were casual about it, particularly if they had other children to care for or had not even known they were pregnant. But if the baby had been dearly wanted and there had been no other successful pregnancies, like with mine, women were most apt to be upset. It's a betrayal of your body, and it bodes ill for the future. I knew now I could get pregnant, but I had no idea whether my body could be trusted to sustain life. It had royally failed me in its first attempt. I didn't know what stretched out before me — would it be a string of losses? Was this just the first crushing blow in a series?

Our grieving process included taking melancholy photos of ourselves on the beach.
I went back to church tentatively, and wouldn't you know? The first Sunday back, they were introducing the new elder board. One of the prospective elders stood up and cheerfully pointed out his wife and two daughters and then announced, "And we're having a third, due in October!" I burst out sobbing and had to leave for the bathroom. Our baby would have been due in October. This man had stolen my baby. And he already had two! Why did he need ours? I knew it was irrational, but I couldn't get over how jealous I was. When I'd see a pregnant woman at the store, I would have a mean and hidden desire to run over and kick her in the stomach. Hideous, I know, and don't worry — I never acted on it. The worst was when people would talk without any fear at all about how they were planning their pregnancies and how their baby was due on such and such a date, and I'd think, You don't know that! It could all turn upside-down for you, too. And then I'd get even madder thinking, it probably wouldn't. Probably all their plans would work out perfectly on the first try, and they'd think that was normal.

At least we still had cats to care for.
My looming 30th birthday was even more horrifically mocking than I'd anticipated. I had no baby, and now not even a promise of one. I had optimistically signed myself up for email and mailing lists, and I kept receiving callously chipper reminders that "You are now in your second trimester! Congratulations for making it this far." I boxed up all the maternity clothes I'd bought and shoved them into the farthest reaches of the closet (so well hidden that I didn't find all of them until after Mikko was born).

I also belatedly became attached to the baby I'd lost. I named him (and decided it was a he). I buried some of what I believed to be him in a plant that has great meaning for me. I wrote a lot of poetry. A lot. I resolved to love any future baby starting the minute after conception. I'd rather love recklessly and freely than withhold and be stingy and feel like I'd missed my opportunity — again. But I felt, somehow, that this baby forgave me my detachment and released me of any guilt surrounding this, my first attempt to be motherly.

I decided to miscarry naturally, which was part philosophical, part penance, and part financial. My miscarriage ended up lasting five long, bloody months, which I realize in hindsight was a wee bit too long. That last month, finally, a retained piece of tissue was birthed in a pain-wracked night, and I was at long last fertile again. I became pregnant the next month.

That pregnancy? Mikko.

Strong and sure, a BFP.

I tell this story not to garner sympathy, because I honestly don't feel in need of it anymore. I'm not upset that I was at the old, old age of 31 when he was born. I didn't have that string of miscarriages, and my heart aches for the women who do. Losing a pregnancy at ten weeks is nothing compared to … etc., etc.

I tell this story so anyone who's going through this and is in the stage of wanting to kick women who are pregnant will know: You're not alone. Even that tauntingly pregnant woman might

Go ahead — you can punch the screen
if it makes you feel better.
have had five miscarriages up until this point, and if she didn't — well, sucks to be you, but you're part of a large coterie of suckiness. It's a sad communion, but it's real. Also? It gets better. The pain is never taken away, but you eventually heal. Miscarriage is normal, it's common (oh, so very common), and it is not easy. I know this.

I send my deepest sympathies to any of you dealing with loss, and I hope you can share your stories and find comfort as well.

If you're in the mood for some miscarriage poetry, I posted some of my stock over at my writing blog, LaurenWayne.com.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing, mama.

Mallory said...

I have never had a miscarriage myself [yet], but I remember my mom having one when I was a young teenager. She miscarried at 12 weeks along. We all knew about, and looked forward to the baby. I don't remember much about how my mother grieved, but I do -still- have a longing for and attachment to my lost sibling. I think women are designed to be sensitive to those tender emotions that deal with all aspects of motherhood. I appreciate your story.

Paige @ Baby Dust Diaries said...

Thank you for sharing Laruen. It is amazing to find out that someone else experienced fertility issues. If you want to share I'd love to know his name. I will add him to my prayers. :)

Doesn't loss make every moment sweeter with Mikko? This is how I feel from many many failed pregnancies. Every moment with Aellyn, even if it is a late night of teething, is SO precious. I was never sure what' God's plan was (and I was VERY angry) but now I think this is it. The gift of complete and ultimate thankfulness that some parents never get.

Paige @ Baby Dust Diaries said...

Oh, sorry for the second comment but I wanted to agree with your sentiments about enjoying the pregnancy from conception.

We did IVF for Aellyn and most infertile couples wait till 12 weeks because it is so fragile. I told everyone from the second I got a post HPT even before my beta. I just didn't feel right tempering my joy. God had given me a gift and I wasn't going to second guess it. Delayed and Tempered joy seemed an insult to the gift. If I miscarried it wouldn't change my pain if people knew and actually can help. We tend to hide our pain in this culture which is so horrible I think.

Why delay today's joy?

Lindsay said...

I think it's great that you are posting this-so many women are afraid to talk about miscarriages.

I haven't had one yet, and pray I never will, but I found out my mother had one before me.
She brought my baby book a few months ago to me so we could see when I hit the different milestones, because everytime Baby hit one, we'd call and ask when I'd done the same thing. But in my baby book, I noticed that in the "pregnancy diary" section, there was clearly whiteout over the first couple months, and it had been written over. It turns out she had bought the book for my older sibling who never made it.

It still makes me a little sad to think about that-my sibling who never made it. My mom must've been devastated.

rakster said...

Thanks for sharing such a personal story.

I didn't miscarry but I remember the fear and worry that I would during my first trimester - I had a large number of friends who'd recently miscarried and I also kept it quiet and didn't tell people because I wasn't sure how to deal with it all if it didn't work out. It feels strange now to read back through those old posts when I was still just talking to myself about it and nobody much knew..

Thanks again.

J said...

Thank you so much for this post. I have had 3 miscarriages. 1st at 14weeks. Then my son. Then another at 10 weeks and a year later a chemical. It has been heart breaking. I just found out this week that I am pregnant again. The cycle that I stopped trying. I am scared to feel attached to this pregnancy. To have hope for it. I'm just terrified. Every time I start to feel excited I get angry at myself. But this post made me realize that I should be happy about it and I should tell the people closest to me. Because those will be the people I need to lean on if (heaven forbid) this pregnancy doesn't work out. I am going to try and work on having faith.

Thank you.

Joni Rae said...

Hugs mama.

I had my first in October 2008. It was awful and sad. My doctor told me I was lucky because I had three healthy children and most women have had more than one lost baby by then.

Not comforting at all.


Issa said...

Thank you for sharing such a detailed and intimate account of your miscarriage. I'm currently in the middle of finishing up my fourth. My hcg always takes *forever* to fall, so I bleed for weeks and weeks afterwards. Every time, my doctor comes up with a new diagnosis to explain things and try to treat to prevent the next one. First PCOS, then hypothyroidism, and this time they've figured I have a thrombophilia. I'm the type to deal with it with my private sorrow on the inside and flippant dark humor on the outside. I can't not tell my friends when I get pregnant, but it's getting a little tedious to have to take it back later. I'm thinking of announcing the next pregnancy with, "Hey guys! I've started growing my next miscarriage!" Fortunately, my friends share my sense of humor. You just can't know how much I appreciate you telling of your dark desire to kick pregnant women. My partner and I shared those types of thoughts, too. In the store, we'd mutter nervously to one another about kicking some woman or look around for babies and giggle, "Ooh! Let's take that one!" Completely just a coping mechanism and nothing we'd actually want, but it was easier to be angry at other people. I get what you mean about the man who stole your October baby, too. My very best friend gets pregnant and pops out babies at the drop of the hat. Seriously - she's gotten pregnant on three different methods of birth control. I think somehow she got all my fertility! She commiserates with me and wishes she could give me the rest of hers. Anyway. It's so good to talk about with other women. So many stories, so many ways to cope, it's good not to be alone.

Rachel said...

I remember being grateful that you mentioned the miscarriage in your annual Christmas letter. It was a strange sort of honor to be trusted with the sad news, even though I was so far away and not in regular contact. Of course I had no idea of the extent of your mourning, but I was -- am -- glad you didn't keep it to yourself.

Joy@WDDCH said...

I've had two miscarriages... and I also have three beautiful daughters. Sometimes I see a woman pass by me with this twinge in her face. She doesn't look at me, she looks at my children... and then her eyes dart to my face with this glare of hatred so penetrating I can't help but feel upset FOR her (not at her). I know that she must be infertile or had a miscarriage(s). I want to take her by the hand, look her in the eye and say I KNOW HOW YOU FEEL.

*ahem* Anyway, that was quite rambly but all of that was to say that it doesn't matter how many children someone has. We never know the road they took to get them and how many heartbreaks were along the way.

Melodie said...

When I lost my first baby I decided she was a girl and named her and had a special ceremony for her too. It helped me greatly to deal with the grief. Thanks for writing this.

Megan said...

We lost our first child almost 2 years ago and now have an almost 1 year old daughter. When we had that miscarriage, I was devastated. My husband and I are completely different people than we were before. We went ahead and named him (I had a strong feeling it was a boy) and on his due date we burned his name into a rocking horse my husband made. We plan on adding all our children's names to that rocking horse. It helped me know that I would never forget him and that he is still a part of our family.
Thanks for writing this. We're about to start trying for another baby and this encourages me to be joyful from the start.

Alexandra said...

thank you so much for sharing :)

Cave Mother said...

Wow, thanks for sharing. I was convinced I was going to miscarry and even at my first scan I was sure they would find a silent miscarriage. The worry was bad enough but I can't imagine how incredibly painful it would be to actually lose a baby.

Lisa C said...

I knew by talking to so many women who had miscarriaged that it is very common, so when I got pregnant I was scared the whole time that I might lose him. Thankfully, I didn't. But pregnancy is very hard on my body that I would just be furious if I ran my body down for nothing. I'm still scared it could happen the next time we try.

My sister-in-law and my brother have been trying for years to get pregnant...ever since they got married. She finally got pregnant and then lost it, and she and her sister got pregnant at the same time (though it was the third child for her younger sister), so she had to see her sister go through pregnancy without her. I could only imagine her being so jealous. It just seemed too cruel to her. She shut down and would have nothing to do with family gathering for months (too many little children around).

Jessica said...

My sister miscarried at 12 weeks and was devastated. Sadly, I couldn't get out to see her before well-meaning friend said things like, "At least you can drink now!" and "Well, at least you weren't that far along!"

I told her to prepare herself for well-intentioned, but plainly ignorant "support." A lot of people, mostly non-parents, have no clue what it means to be pregnant and to lose the baby/pregnancy/fetus/whatever so much more than just that. You lose an entire future, an imagined LIFE. I think that's the part that is the hardest for people on both sides (those with the loss and those not understanding it).

In any case, I'm so very happy that pregnancy #2 had such a happy ending :)

Laura said...

Thanks for sharing your story and experiences. I have not miscarried (that I know of) but it took us 18 months to get pregnant with our little guy. During that time, I remember almost wishing I would just get pregnant even if it ended in a miscarriage, just so I would know my body could get pregnant. It's such twisted thinking, and the grief I would have felt would have been unthinkable, but when you're in the middle of infertility issues, your mind and body do some crazy things. I am thankful you've got sweet Mikko and that you're willing to share your feelings. So many women don't, and I think we'd all feel better if we would just let it out.

amy friend said...

another thanks for telling your story. mine was very similar, and like melodie mentioned, i *knew* she was a girl, and still get glimpses of her energy. it would have been so helpful to have read a story like yours when i was miscarrying...so my hope is that many others will!

there should be a book titled "what not to say to someone who has experienced a miscarriage"...

Lauren Wayne said...

I so appreciate all your comments, even though sometimes it takes me forever and a day to respond!

I was so remiss in not pointing out a site that helped me a LOT through the process of miscarrying: pregnancyloss.info: Facts about Miscarriage It has information about signs and symptoms, causes, treatments, natural miscarriage, grief, recovery, memorials, and trying again.

Mallory: I think it must be hard to be the sibling in that situation. I had a friend who went through something similar when her mother miscarried. It is a grieving for the dream you had of that particular person.

Paige: I named him Robin. Thank you! I so appreciate your kind words after the tremendous struggles you went through to conceive, and your own losses. It is wonderful to be on the other side of it and know what it took to get here.

Maman A Droit: Wow. That image of the whited out pages just really hit me. The grief that the absence suggests.

rakster & Cave Mother: I know I breathed a huuuuge sigh of relief when I got past 13 weeks! Even then, you're aware (or at least, we were!) that anything can go wrong.

J: Oh, sweetie! I'm so so sorry for your losses. I hope the absolute best for you and that this pregnancy will continue in health. I'm glad you have a community to support you.

Joni Rae: It really isn't, is it? Doctors are kind of foot-in-mouth sometimes.

Issa: I'm so sorry! I totally get the dark humor and really actually laughed over your "growing my next miscarriage" joke. I forgot how we used to plot to steal babies, too. :) So much easier. I hope you're able to figure out a final diagnosis and find a way to sustain a pregnancy. That's so tough. I've added your blog to my reader.

Lauren Wayne said...

Rachel: Thank you so much. I wondered how people received the news, since it's kind of a Christmas-letter bummer, but it seemed too crucial to our year to sweep under the rug. It's like when that other Record friend of ours had a stillbirth (I won't say who online, but I can tell you privately if you don't know what I'm talking about) and wrote about it in his Christmas letter, I also had that feeling of, Thank you for trusting us with this. Even though it was sad, it was so important to talk about and invite community in to grieve corporately.

Joy: Yes! So glad you feel compassion for those going through the dark places. It's hard, because you never know from the outside who's been through it and who hasn't.

Melodie: I agree. Doing something to commemorate that short, sweet life can be so healing.

Megan: That's a really beautiful idea to memorialize your child. I love the idea of having it be a permanent fixture in your house with all your kids' names, because I've wondered how and when to tell Mikko that he has an older sibling who passed on. If you have something concrete to point to, that seems like it will naturally lend itself to conversations. Baby dust coming your way for your next try!

Lisa C: That would be incredibly hard. I've seen that happen in families before.

Jessica: As you pointed out, not JUST doctors stick their feet in their mouth! Yipes. Thank you for understanding what the loss means and for expressing it so well. Yes!

Laura: I did have a tiny sense of that, like, Well, at least we know we can get pregnant, if nothing else. But, yeah, neither not getting pregnant or losing the pregnancy is a good time. Sorry it took you so long! That must be so hard.

Cypress Sun: Maybe we should write that book! Isn't it funny how all of us just knew what gender our baby was? I really tried to keep my mind open and even chose a name (Robin) that could be either gender, but eventually I had to admit that I thought of him as a boy. Sorry you, too, are part of the club, but thank you for sharing your story. I hope this collective consolation is healing for someone going through this.

abocca said...

Thank you for writing. I've had four miscarriages and a stillborn baby. I gave up trying already but reading about this somehow made me feel a tad better. I think the I felt the worst when the stillbirth came because we already knew she was a healthy perfect little girl. Everything was great, my pregnancy was not too bad, but when I hit 32 weeks I noticed my baby had not kicked in a while, I got scared... my husband said I might be being paranoid but something was absolutely wrong. I went to the doctor and he said there was no heartbeat. I, to this day, am still depressed... I know my body can't bear life and I'd rather stop trying than keep killing unborn children. Thanks again for writting this

abocca said...

I've had four miscarriages and a stillbirth. Needless to say, I've been in a deep depression since baby #1. I got pregnant shortly after and I too tried not to get too attached to baby #2. I hit twelve weeks and then started the spotting and eventually lost it. Then I got pregnant a third time. I went into the second trimester and was ecstatic. It was a great pregnancy, morning sickness and all.. but it seemed worth it... I felt like I was finally able to let my other two babies go in peace. I took every care possible, monitoring her regularly and taking all needed care. When I hit 32 weeks, I noticed she hadn't kicked me at all for a while. I told my husband this and he said I was probably just being paranoid but I just had this feeling. At the doctor's, I had an ultrasound and some other tests, and the doctor told me there was no heartbeat. I got her surgically removed. I still remember exactly how she looked when she was out of me. Ashen skin, lifeless, still, dead. I tried once more, miscarried. Got pregnant again by accident, miscarried. Genevieve was going to be the name of the stillborn little girl.

I sometimes dream with five perfectly healthy kids... I gave up hope already.. my husband suggested adoption but I'm already too old for children.

Reading this made me feel a little better, thank you!

CaperGrrl said...

I, too, named my miscarried child. Rohana. It's sanskrit for healing, ascension and medicine. I had a feeling she was a girl.

The father left a month later, and I lost my job a month after that. I worked in a day care. It was coming anyway... working with children was surprisingly healing.

I was back to work within days of the natural miscarriage... I felt empowered, in a way, that I got through the worst of it on my own and that my body knew what to do.

I'll be 34 the end of March. All of this has left me quite depressed but one very bright light is that I have met my life partner, he's better to me than anyone I've ever been with. And we are definitely going to try to have children, if I can somehow cope with the depression, hold down a job and reconcile my fear of not only losing another, but subjecting them to the world as it is becoming.

Lauren Wayne said...

@abocca: I'm so sorry for your many losses. That is a lot to grieve. Healing and peace to you.

Lauren Wayne said...

@CaperGrrl: I'm so sorry for the loss of Rohana (beautiful name). I'm glad you've found your new love and wish you and him the best as you try again to have children. Peace to you.

Ashley // Our Little Apartment said...

Thank you for this. I had my first miscarriage last month (I have a 2.5 year old son). I really appreciate when women share their stories - it gives me hope.

Lauren Wayne said...

@Ashley // Our Little Apartment: I'm so sorry, Ashley. Peace & healing to you. I agree that it's so important for us to share our stories so we know we're not going through this alone.

CaperGrrl said...

@Lauren @ Hobo Mama And to you. Just noticed this now. I went on a web walk and happened to stumble in here again and recognize it.

We'll be trying the end of August. Fingers and toes crossed.

Thanks for the compliment about her name. I'm thinking of getting a tattoo of a sleeping pixie on a green maple leaf with her name on my shoulder or back.

Melanie Fisher said...

My husband and I just lost our first baby at about 10 weeks. There are so many things in your story that I can relate to...I'm so glad I stumbled across this post.

Lauren Wayne said...

@Melanie Fisher: I'm so sorry, Melanie. I'm wishing you healing, physically and emotionally, as you grieve.

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for sharing this! I am going through a miscarriage at the moment, it was my first pregnancy. We lost it at 7 weeks and only found out at 9 weeks when we went for an ultrasound. I have chosen to let things happen naturally but it is very long, slow and painful. Mostly it is very scary for the future and has crushed my confidence in becoming pregnant again. But stories like yours make me feel a lot better and i really hope we can make it too. Thank you again and i wish you and your family all the best!

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