Despite having a blog that shares my favorite outfits, trials in the kitchen and places I love to travel, I consider myself a pretty private person. I’ve opened up a couple times, but I tend to be the person that listens to friends instead of sharing my stories. However, I decided it was time to get a little personal. Not because I want sympathy or any apologies, but because I want to be a voice.
A couple weeks ago I overheard a woman talking about how women shouldn’t talk about miscarriages. Rather than showing my shocked face and telling her my thoughts I went home to talk to my husband. I was really disturbed by this as having a miscarriage is seen as a ‘taboo’ or something you often don’t talk about. My husband wasn’t too keen on me getting this personal online, though we talk about it with friends and family, but I told him it was something I needed to do.
There comes a point in a relationship when you decide on wanting to have children. At the beginning of last summer we decided it was that time for us and it felt “right.” After five years together of traveling and having fun we figured why not for our anniversary? Within weeks I was elated to show my husband the “pregnant” lines on the pee stick, which is oddly romantic. There’s something about that moment that makes your stomach turn into knots, your heart skip a beat and a “click” happens. My life changed. It was our little secret we decided not to share with anyone, as I knew making it to 12 weeks was so important. Let me interject here that I am the daughter of a gynecologist. Yes, go ahead and make your jokes and no he’s not my doctor. He was actually the only one that knew as I ran into him at his office. Go figure.
Anyways, the following weeks were spent with so much secret joy. I changed my eating, stopped drinking and did everything by the books to prepare myself and the child growing inside of me. It’s crazy how fast things happened, but I felt pregnant. From being a little more tired, to nausea at all times of the day, I knew my body was changing. We spent every night talking about changing the guest room, which is currently the dogs’ room, into a nursery. We went on walks in which we listed our favorite names and parenting styles. I created tabs on my computer/iPad and started making lists of cribs, strollers, clothes and everything else possible I loved. And of course while out and about every time I saw a child, I could of sworn something inside me skipped a beat. On a Monday night, only a few days before our anniversary, my husband came home with three mini McFlurrys, two for me and one for him. I laughed that this couldn’t be a regular thing but being a little over six weeks I decided to indulge.
At 4:30 that next morning it happened. The pain. The bleeding. The worst cramping ever imaginable. Knowing deep down what was really happening I ran to the bathroom, got out “What To Expect When You’re Expect” and jumped to the ‘Miscarriage’ chapter. What was happening? Was is maybe just spotting? I heard that was common, but the pain increased. Knowing I needed to see a doctor I called my dad and we decided to meet at the hospital to see my doctor.
The whole drive in all I was thinking was “What did I do?”. Was it that boxing class I took? Shoot, I think I may have had a drink in the first week or two before I knew. Oh, maybe it was the sushi. Did I not take my prenatal vitamins long enough? Your mind starts racing and thinking about everything you did or didn’t do, only to be confirmed with the news from the doctor that the little glob you once saw on the screen is no longer there.
Hurled over in pain I sat and listened to my dad and doctor comfort you with statistics. “You know this is nothing you did, it’s one in four chances with pregnancies.” And yada, yada, yada. But you’re numb. What is happening? One minute you’re pregnant and then next you’re driving into work while experiencing a miscarriage because you have a big meeting you cannot miss. This was my morning.
Then by the afternoon as the pain increased, I became scared. What is coming out of me? Is this normal? Am I going to see a baby? Trust me, the questions begin again. This is why I decided to write this post. Until this time of my life I had only known of one or two people that talked openly about having a miscarriage. It seemed to be something people just don’t talk about, like a secret club. Freaked out of my mind, I called a friend who had been so open and honestly about her fertility struggles as I knew she had been through this a couple times. I asked questions to which she had the answers to, not Google. I was able at that moment to feel a sense of relief, if you can call it that. We then told our moms and a few close friends and that’s when it started happening….
It was like out of nowhere literally everyone you talked to had a miscarriage or been through a friend having one. I mean where were all these people when I needed someone to talk to? And slowly but surely the more people I talked to the better I felt, almost like a catharsis. Despite what my dad and doctor said, I really did start to see it was common and there was nothing I did to make this happen. It’s maybe that initial maternal instinct of hormones you get to take the blame, to want to solve things and to want to figure a reason. For if you know ‘why’ it’s like you can close the chapter, but it’s just not scientifically possible.
Since we were going out of town that weekend to celebrate our anniversary I tried to allow myself only a couple days to be sad. I wanted to focus my energy on the next time and get excited for knowing I would be able to try again. And at least we knew all the parts worked for getting pregnant which is sometimes half the battle. That’s a positive right? I will say it didn’t help when a woman at a restaurant on our vacation asked me if I could hold her 8-month daughter for a second because she had to run to the bathroom. Oh the irony and the flood gates returned.
We allowed some time to pass and got excited to try again. Well imagine my surprise when right away again it worked and I was once again looking at the pee stick. This time I didn’t get too excited, made sure not to tell anyone and prayed “it would stay.” Well, like getting punched in the stomach it happened….again. At a little over four weeks I experience my second miscarriage.
What’s wrong with me? I’m fit. I eat healthy. I take my vitamins. I am 23 for goodness sake! I am supposed to be able to do this easily. What is going on? The same wave of emotions hit and we decided emotionally and physically with my doctor not to try anything until around the holidays. Her suggestion was waiting three months.
During that time I did the same thing. I was upset and saddened but allowed only positivity for the next time. It will work! Now, in all honestly I struggled during this time with hearing literally what it felt like everyone and their mother was getting pregnant. I would smile and be excited, but back home would have so much anger and resentment. And I knew it wasn’t right. I actually told my husband the other day that one of my best friends is having a baby girl. I told him how excited I was for her, how she is handling being pregnant beautifully and how I wish we lived closer so I could be there as a friend. I also said how I feel bad that a part of me was angry with her (though she never knew!) when she told me but how that wasn’t right because she didn’t do anything. Based on how I had been the past couple months he looked at me and said “I am so proud of you. Six months ago you would have never said that.” And it’s the truth.
Your body goes through so many emotions and hormonal changes that often you don’t have control. We would be sitting on the couch talking about what to make for dinner and I would just start crying. Of course husband would be worried and wonder what’s wrong. My answer? “I don’t know. I just can’t stop randomly crying, but I’m ok.” It was a weird process I tell you. Throughout that time too I thought about where I would have been or when I would have delivered. You try not to think about it, but it’s impossible.
So around the holidays we got the clearance to try again! The greatest news and assurance that everything “down there” was ok. The positivity had paid off and we were more than ready. Well, long story long made short the same week I found out I needed three knee surgeries that would keep up from being able to try (due to anesthesia) until late spring. And that’s when it hit.
Months of positivity. Months of “I’m ok.” Months of “It’s so common.” Months of the brave face were gone. Reality had set in as I didn’t have a set date to look forward to trying anymore. It was the fact I couldn’t control the situation that was driving me crazy. I hit a low, mixed with being on bed rest, and finally decided to talk to someone, which ended up being one of the best things I did.
And now, if you’ve managed to read this far, I’m at today. It’s funny how things work themselves out and happen for a reason. In our lives there’s been a lot the past couple months that would have been tough if we had a child. I swear the guy upstairs really knows what is right for you. You may not know all the answers or understand at the time, but there’s really a reason for everything. Trust me, it’s tough to really believe that though. I honestly don’t know what we are planning on the family front or what will happen, but I still take my prenatal vitamins because my hair and nails have never been so great! I’ve learned a big lesson from all this that there’s some things you just can’t and shouldn’t try to control.
The goal of writing this and sharing my story is to be a voice. It’s ok to talk about it. If just one person out there reads this and knows their not alone then I feel good. I honestly don’t want “I’m so sorry” or anything sympathy because I am beyond that point. I also know that me being so open about it often catches people off guard as I throw in causally “well I had two miscarriages so we’re not sure”, when asked about when we’re having kids. But I am proud of being open. I am proud of being honest. And I am proud I know that I didn’t “do anything” to make it happen.
So finally, I want to bring in my dad. As a gynecologist for 35 years I would say he has a pretty good understanding of this topic. I now turn into journalist mode and provide a Q&A in hopes to answer questions that you may have. If you should have any more questions don’t hesitate to send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org or write in the comments. Please note that this is general advice/responses. Everyone is different and doctors have different practices, so consult with your own doctor shall you need to. The statistics are based from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist. (say that 10 times fast)
Q& A with Dr. John Medders
How common are miscarriages?
Miscarriages occur in about 15-20% of pregnancies, in which we tell our patients the ratio is about 1 in 4. The majority of miscarriages happen in the first 13 weeks of a woman’s pregnancy.
Is there anything that causes them?
In most cases there is no specific cause for a miscarriage. Sometimes a miscarriage is caused by a health problem. Statistically, more than one half of miscarriages in the first 13 weeks are caused by a problem with the chromosomes of the fetus. They can result from an abnormal number or structure of the chromosomes. It’s important to note that most chromosome problems are not inherited but happen by chance.
Are there any lifestyle factors that contribute to miscarriage?
Pregnant women who smoke are more likely to have vaginal bleeding during pregnancy and their risk for miscarriage is higher. The same is said for women who consume heavy amounts of alcohol and illegal drugs.
What are the symptoms?
The most common sign is bleeding, along with cramping of the lower abdomen or lower back pain. The bleeding may become heavy and occur along with pain like menstrual cramps. Many women have spotting or bleeding early during pregnancy and have healthy babies.
Should a woman be worried is she experiences multiple miscarriages?
If a woman experiences more than two miscarriages she might want to consult her doctor. Remember, having one or two miscarriages is completely normal. To help find the cause of repeated miscarriage your doctor will give you a complete medical exam including any number of the following: a pelvic exam, blood testing, chromosomal testing for both you and partner, testing to see if infection in the uterus, ultrasound or a hysterosalpingograpy, which is an X-ray of the uterus and fallopian tubes. Possible medical conditions that cause miscarriages are: diabetes, lupus, heart disease, hormonal imbalances and blood disorders to name a few.
How does the age of a woman affect their chance of miscarriage?
A woman’s age plays an important role in the ability to become pregnant and carry a pregnancy to term. Research shows from age 30 to 35 there is a gradual decline in the ability of a woman to become pregnant, but after 40 there is a sharp decline. There are a couple reasons it’s more difficult, but mainly because as a woman ages she has a decreased number of eggs in “good” condition. Woman are also less likely to ovulate regularly.
In your opinion, what’s the best advice you can give?
I think the best advice is reminding patients that if they had a pregnancy loss they should be reminded that it’s nothing they caused to happen. They need to remove any guilt or feeling of guilt and especially not let anyone make you feel guilty. There’s nothing that you can do to make a miscarriage happen nor nothing to prevent it, so walk away without any feeling of responsibility. The second more important thing is I think couples need to realize that even though they may not have been far along they are going to be disappointed, and in my opinion they need to discuss the loss with a professional. You’re always going to grieve and you need to go through that process of completing it. Often I see if a patient didn’t allow that grieving process the next time they get pregnant they aren’t fully able to enjoy the process. Pregnancy should be a joy and celebrated.
What are you thoughts on women talking about having a miscarriage?
I think first a woman should talk with a medical professional. Once they go through that, it’s important for women to verbalize and become an advocate once they go through the process. Someone may be able to take their negative and turn it to a positive of helping someone. One thing to remember is women are often very vulnerable during a miscarriage, so if you decide to talk about it make sure you’re ready for people to know. In essence, sometimes talking too much can lead to strain in relationships.
How often should one wait before trying again?
In my experience I like to recommend a woman have 3 menstrual cycles before trying again. It’s important to make sure to take at least 400mcg of folic acid regularly prior to conception.