I knew that I would write something on October 15, 2020 (Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day) I just thought it would be a different kind of blog post. You see, after losing a pregnancy in July 2019, I became pregnant again, the same month I should have been due. It felt like it was meant to be. I envisioned this post as one that would be about pregnancy, after loss. I suppose it is in a way, just not the way I had hoped.
With my first loss I did not want anyone to find out. I was heartbroken and confused. I thought there must be something wrong with me for not being able to get over my early pregnancy loss like everyone else seemed to be able to. When I experienced my second loss in April 2020 I decided to take a different approach: honesty. I told people what had happened and how I was doing, how I was really doing.
What I came to learn from talking about my experience was that so many others had experienced the same. They didn’t get over it easily, they just didn’t talk about it openly.
Imagine if we were as comfortable talking about pregnancy loss as we are asking women when they’re going to have kids? I decided to write this post in hopes of normalizing this conversation, in hopes of letting other women know that it’s ok to talk about your pregnancy loss no matter how far along you were. It’s a “crappy club” but there are many of us in it.
Here are 10 things that surprised me about pregnancy loss:
1.) Finding out ahead of time.
I always thought when you had a miscarriage, the actual event (bleeding, cramping etc) would happen and that’s how you would know. With both of my losses, I found out after getting an ultrasound. This was particularly difficult with my second loss because my pregnancy had been perfectly fine up until that point. I even left the ultrasound clinic with a new due date and photos of my baby. When I got home I received a call from my doctor indicating that there were problems with the gestational sac and I should prepare myself for a loss.
2.) The waiting period.
For me there were two waiting periods – one when I found out that my pregnancy may not be viable and one when I found out that my baby no longer had a heartbeat. This was the most excruciating part. First I walked around waiting to find out if my baby was going to make it. Then I had to walk around knowing that my baby was gone but my body hadn’t recognized that yet. I still have a hard time reflecting on those moments.
3.) It fucking hurt.
Maybe this was just me, or maybe no one really talks about this part, but the actual “event” of miscarrying was painful. Think somewhere between period cramps and labour pains. Stay with me, that’s as graphic as I get, I promise.
4.) The many, many trips to the lab.
I also had no idea how many blood tests I would have to endure. I had to go for blood tests every couple of days to determine how my pregnancy was progressing, then more to confirm that it was ending, and even more to ensure that I had fully miscarried. I will never forget the lab tech who didn’t read my requisition closely and kept talking about how “us mamas work so hard for our babies” when I was there to ensure that mine was fully gone.
5.) It’s such a lonely experience despite being so common.
I mentioned this at the start of my post but once I started talking about my losses, I couldn’t believe how many people had gone through similar experiences. Even though some friends had previously confided in me about their own losses, I still felt paralyzed to reach out to them. It’s really hard to say, “this awful thing happened to me, I’m not ok and I need your support.”
6.) I need(ed) to grieve my losses.
After my first loss, I tried to convince myself that I was fine, that I was overreacting but it got to the point where I was miserable. Eventually I reached a breaking point and decided to reach out for help. In therapy I learned that I needed to grieve my loss, even though I was struggling with the fact that it was an early loss. It doesn’t matter how far along you are, once you see that positive test result, you start dreaming about the life you are growing.
7.) Glib statements are the worst.
“Everything happens for a reason.” “It wasn’t meant to be.” “At least you can get pregnant.” “At least you already have a child.” And basically a whole bunch more that start with “at least.” The best thing you can say? “That really fucking sucks and I am so sorry you are going through this. You can talk about it with me.” You can probably leave out the swear word… I mean, if you want to. To be clear, if you said any of these statements to me or someone else who had a miscarriage, it’s ok, I have too. “…when you know better, you do better.” – Maya Angelou.
8.) I am still triggered by things.
Most days are good days and I feel like I’m moving forward but every once in awhile, something triggers me and it catches me off-guard. I thought I would struggle around newborns or birth announcements but I actually find pregnancy announcements, especially if they have ultrasound photos, particularly triggering. Hoping as time marches on, so will this feeling.
9.) Sharing my story is both terrifying and liberating.
Connecting with others over this shared experience and sharing my story through posts like this one, has been a huge part of my healing journey. Regardless, it’s still scary to be so vulnerable about a topic that many people continue to consider taboo. I can say however, that I have never regretted sharing what I’ve experienced, even when the reaction I’ve received was less than stellar. Full disclosure: I don’t always share my story when people ask me about having another child or inquire if I am pregnant. It depends on how I am feeling that day and how much energy I want to put into the conversation. You don’t owe anyone your story.
10.) Edmonton has great resources like the Pregnancy Loss Clinic and support groups.
Going through a miscarriage is awful but being cared for by the amazing nurses at the Pregnancy Loss Clinic was a bright light. They walked me through every step of what to expect and what to do, and constantly checked in on me. In my experience, my losses were managed at home and I really don’t know what I would have done without the guidance and support of this clinic. I also ended up reaching out to a pregnancy loss grief group organized by Alberta Health Services both in person and online. Joining this group was completely out of my comfort zone but it is one of the best things I could have done to help me deal with my grief. I feel grateful to have met other people who are willing to offer support and share their own stories of loss and struggles with me.
Thank you for taking the time to read about my experience. If you have or are currently experiencing a pregnancy loss, I am so sorry. Remember to take care of yourself and take advantage of the resources and supports available to you, even if it may be scary.