It has been on my heart for awhile to share the story of my first pregnancy, and I decided that today was the day after I heard of yet another dear friend losing a baby when I checked facebook in the middle of the night last night. On July 27, 2010 Dustin and I learned that our first baby had died shortly after we had discovered that we were pregnant during an internal ultrasound at what was to be our 10 week appointment, which at the OB-GYN I go to is the first appointment that you have if you do not have a history of problems. Obviously we were devastated-even though I had read about the possibility of miscarriage, you never really think that it is going to happen to you. I was given the option of miscarrying on my own at home-a more in depth ultrasound showed that I was hemorrhaging, and left on my own I would miscarry within the week. I was also given the option of a D & E surgery (I know that everyone else calls it a D & C, but this is what my office calls it-Dilate & Empty), which is what we decided to do. My initial appointment was at 7:30 AM, I was in surgery prep by 1:30 PM, and we were home by 5:00 PM. It was certainly one of the worst days I have ever experienced, but I also had a lot to be thankful for. First of all, it happened when I was off of school for the summer, so I had 3 weeks to get myself physically and emotionally stable before I headed back to work. Second, I was so grateful for the medical insurance we have. When I was given the option of surgery, no one really ever mentioned the cost, and once we were home, I thought, “I really hope I didn’t just send us to the poor house by having this surgery.” The surgery cost almost 10,000 dollars, but every penny was covered by insurance-thank you Lord! Third, losing the baby brought Dustin and I closer in a way that I had never imagined, and I am grateful for the depth that it added to our marriage.
As I worked through my grief, I realized how few people talk about miscarriage, and I really understand why-it is painful, and if you are able to forget, even for a little while, you do. However, I really want to share some observations I made along the way, and if you or someone you love is going through this loss, perhaps they can help alleviate some of the pain, or at least let you know that you aren’t the one experiencing these feelings.
- It is not your fault. I had to start with this one, because feelings of guilt can make the grief that much more unbearable. At least 1/3 of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, and it is almost always the result of a genetic abnormality in the baby that would not allow for full development. Be at peace-it was not the turkey sandwich that you had before you knew you were pregnant, it wasn’t the hard work-out session that you had, and it wasn’t because at one time you used birth-control pills.
- You may grieve very differently than others that went through the same circumstance. I remember when a good friend of mine lost her first pregnancy, much like I did, and at the time she told me that she hated receiving cards in the mail or receiving flowers because every time she looked at the them it just reminded her of the pain. However, when I experienced my miscarriage I desperately needed to know that others were thinking of us and praying for us, and I clung to every card that was sent and every facebook message I received. Neither is right or wrong, and it just depends on how you personally grieve.
- People will say stupid things to you, but they are said out of love. After I lost my baby I just came to the realization that it is hard to talk to someone who just lost a baby because certain words that may have been a comfort to me, may be absolute torture for you. However, you just have to realize that people are trying to help, and you have to choose to focus on that. If you are not the one experiencing the loss and are wondering what to say to someone that is, sometimes just letting the person know that you are willing to talk if she every wants to is enough (and sometimes it is a relief NOT to have to talk about what happened with every person you meet).
- Your husband will finish grieving before you do. This is a hard one. I remember being so frustrated when I realized that Dustin had moved on, and I was still routinely falling apart. I guess I wished that I was also to the point of moving on, but it just wasn’t the case-I mean I was the one to carry the baby, I had the crazy mommy hormones, and I had a surgery to recover from. It isn’t surprising, and from talking to other moms, it is very normal. Thankfully Dustin was very understanding through the whole ordeal, and he rejoiced with me when I had finally moved on as well.
- You may want to keep some sort of momento of this baby. As I mentioned before, I found out that my baby died during an ultra-sound, and because of the situation, they very quickly got rid of the sonogram pictures and never offered them to us. Looking back, I wish that I had asked for them, because once I was home I realized that I wished I had something to remind me of the baby. When you mourn for a grandparent, you have pictures to look at, memories to dwell on, and a funeral to provide closure. With a miscarriage, you don’t have any of those things, and for some people having something to remind you of your pregnancy may be a comfort.
- You will have more nerves during your next pregnancy. Again, sad, but true. To add to any additional nerves you may have now that you know what it is like to endure a miscarriage, your OB-GYN will probably have you come in earlier, and more frequently, which gives you more opportunities to be nervous. I wish I could say that it wasn’t so, but during my pregnancy with Jude, it really wasn’t until I could feel him moving around all the time that I stopped having near panic attacks in the waiting room before my appointments. One of my pastors wisely told me that the extra nerves are unavoidable, but to use each time as an opportunity to pray more.
- It may take months for everyone to find out about your loss. Sadly, some people will hear of your pregnancy, but not hear about your loss, and you will have to endure, “How is the baby?” questions months after your miscarriage. I lost my baby at the end of July, and it was October until I ran into every person that knew about the baby but didn’t know about the miscarriage. There really isn’t much you can do about this other than to have some of your friends and family spread the news so that you don’t have to.
- There IS hope for future pregnancies. The one thing that a miscarriage does tell you is that you are able to get pregnant, which is definietely one step in the right direction. I know so many women that have had miscarriages and almost each and every one of those ladies went on to have children. It took us 3 months to conceive Jude after my miscarriage, and they were 3 of the longest months of my life but every time I look at my sweet boy’s face I feel nothing but gratitude.
- The intense pain you now feel will subside. I know all too well how intense the pain can be-for at least 3 nights I didn’t sleep AT ALL. I spent the entire night crying and praying and thinking…finally, my sister bought me some Excedrin PM and I finally got a night’s sleep. I remember thinking, “how will I ever get over the loss of my baby?”…but you do-over time. For me, it was getting pregnant with Jude. As I prepared for his arrival I had something to focus on, and before I knew it July 27th had rolled around again, and instead of spending the day in mourning I was hanging out with my 2-week old little boy. I certainly thought about my first baby, but it was without the sting. Now, I still become emotional-if it is too early in the morning, too late at night, or if I just found out about someone I love losing a baby, it can hit me like a ton of bricks, but that only happens once every couple of months instead of every day. For some people it is a new pregnancy, for others, going back to work provides a suitable distraction. Whatever it is for you, give yourself time. Your friends and family love you, and they will understand if baby showers are simply too painful for you to attend, or if you need to stop covering nursery duty at church. They will understand when you don’t want to go out for dinner, and if they are friends worth having, they will be there to laugh with you again when you are ready.
- God is still in control. Some people have a hard time dealing with the realization that God has the power to fix our babies that had problems that didn’t allow for growth and He chose not to. At any moment he could have altered our situation, and He didn’t. Why? Why was Jude allowed to survive and my first baby didn’t? I know that I will probably not know the reason why this side of heaven, but I choose to believe that God is a good God and I submit myself to his control. I also know that Jesus mourns with us-In John chapter 11 Jesus is going to meet his friends Mary and Martha. They had requested his urgent arrival because their brother Lazarus was dying. Jesus, however, did not arrive before his death, and when he came upon the women in their grief, it says that he wept. Not shed a few tears-he grieved for his friends, and I truly believe that this is how he feels when he sees us going through a loss. Jesus is, however, still in control of the situation and he chooses to resurrect Lazarus. He may not choose to resurrect our babies, but He can be a friend that offers true comfort during this time.
I know that this is a super long post already, but before I close, I just want to say a word about being a friend to someone that has a miscarriage. I have stated that everyone grieves differently and what one person appreciates, may torture another person, and I stand by this. However, this does not mean that you shouldn’t try to help, because if there is one thing that a couple needs during this time it is support. Some people may appreciate meals, others may love a bouquet of beautiful flowers, some might like a visit…If you are not sure what to do, I really recommend sending an e-mail or facebook message just asking the person/couple what would be most helpful. Face to face communication can be such a strain immediately after the loss, and this way the couple doesn’t have to do that, but they can still reach out for help. Second, try not to put the person in a situation where they have to pretend that everything is okay, or worse put them in a situation where they are comforting you because you are sad for their loss. Third, I had a lot of people that “made” me talk about what had happened because they wanted to make sure that I had someone to talk about it with, which isn’t always helpful. What they didn’t necessarily realize was that I was having this same conversation with sooooooo many people, and sometimes it was such a relief to just talk about normal things, and to be allowed to talk about it when I was ready. Finally, don’t forget about the other people effected. Not only did my baby have Dustin and I, but he or she had grandparents, aunts, uncles, and great-grandparents, and not only are these folks also mourning, they are probably taking care of the couple that lost the child, and they could probably use some support as well.
If you are presently going through a miscarriage, and need support, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on facebook. My thoughts and prayers are with you.