My husband and I recently experienced our second *pregnancy loss.
We’ve made 2 babies, but we have no children.
And if we’re being honest – even right now, typing that sentence and seeing it in black & white really just tripped me out.
A little background: My first pregnancy ended over 2 years ago after having a D&C at 11 weeks due to a missed miscarriage. Everything was developing fine with the pregnancy, we heard the little nugget’s heartbeat and had ultrasounds showing normal growth. Then, the baby died. After that it took us almost 2 years to conceive again. I was on my 4th round of fertility drugs when we finally fell pregnant this past December, but sadly that pregnancy ended as a ruptured ectopic in mid-January. The little life and my left Fallopian tube were removed during surgery.
“We’ve made 2 babies, but we have no children”
It never actually occurred to me that I’d find myself here. I’ve always wanted to have kids, and I truly thought once I was married it would just – happen. Growing up I was the girl who had the names of my future, hypothetical children scribbled down in my school notebooks. I had these grand expectations of how motherhood was supposed to go and let me tell you, it sure as hell didn’t look like this.
But..life happens. The reality is that most times life is good, but other times life is really, really shitty. All things considered, nothing has caused me more pain, sadness, and trauma than losing my unborn babies. That may seem like a dramatic statement to you, but it’s my reality. It has been one of those defining life moments for me, and I am a totally different person because of it. I feel distant. Roughened. A little cold and a little icy. I guess life will do that to a person.
For those of you who do not know the pain of pregnancy loss, I hope this blog gives you some insight into the emotions that someone you love may be feeling. Not so that you can feel bad for or pity them, but so that you can begin to understand their experience and try to put yourself in their shoes as best as you can. It’s always easier to be there for a person if you understand a little about what they’re going through.
If you’ve experienced pregnancy loss, unfortunately you know all too well what I’m talking about. Losing a baby during pregnancy can be devastating. I have honestly found so much comfort in reading or listening to complete strangers on the internet talk about their losses. And for those women, I am thankful. It helps me to know that others who have gone through this share in the roller coaster ride of emotions I’m experiencing. It helps me feel a little less crazy, you know? My only goal here is to be that reassuring voice for someone else. To validate your feelings and let you know that girl, I get it.
I get what it’s like to feel more sadness and grief than you ever thought possible. You just lost a baby. Your baby. A tiny, developing human life. Your son. Your daughter. You talked to them, sang to them. Prayed for them. You fantasized about them and picked names for them. You bought things, made plans, and created space in your home for them. You created space in your heart for them. And then suddenly you lose what was and what was yet to come, all at once.
For the first week after my ectopic, I was completely shocked. I was also physically drained and more focused on healing physically, so the grief didn’t come right away for me. Then, the floodgates opened and for about 6 weeks after our loss, I cried constantly. In the shower. In the car. On my way to sleep. When I woke up. Multiple times a day, almost every day, I cried. Whenever I tried to open my mouth and have a decent conversation with someone, I cried. My first miscarriage brought an even stronger reaction – I teetered the line of normal grief and depression while I recovered physically and emotionally. There were days when I wouldn’t even leave my bed. But then one day something amazing happened – I looked up and realized that I hadn’t cried in a little while. Then when I was able to string together a couple happy days in a row, I really thought I was doing something. And juuuust when you start to think “I‘m finally moving forward“, a wave of grief hits you square in the nose and knocks you back a just a little bit.
I grieved both of my pregnancy losses intensely. I get it.
I get what it’s like to feel an overwhelming sense of pressure – from yourself and from others – to move on.
No one else feels this sad for this long, you’re being so dramatic.
You need to get back to business as usual.
It’s time to pull yourself up and move on from this.
I really hate that term anyway…move on. To me, “move on” is appropriate after breaking up with a jerk guy who was no good for you. After losing a baby? Not so much. I don’t think you ever move on from something as life altering as that. You get stronger, God gives peace, you find a new normal, you move forward, but you don’t move on. Moving on implies an event, while moving forward implies a process. I remember freaking out after talking to a doctor-friend who said a woman should be over a pregnancy loss after 6 weeks. I was so discouraged because there I was at week 5, barely being held together by scotch tape and bubble gum…thinking I had just one more week to get myself together.
At this point it’s been 8 weeks since our second loss and honestly I’m just now beginning to feel like I’m finding a new normal. And after our first loss? It took me months to even be able to talk to people. Some women may sort through their loss in 8 days, while others may need 8 months to heal. Whatever is right for you…is just right. Give yourself some time.
I get what it’s like to be unbelievably angry. Just mad at everything. I’m so grouchy these days that at times, I don’t even want to be around me!
I get what it’s like to feel defective. To feel physically flawed, tarnished and blemished, like something is wrong with your body. I get it. It wasn’t until after my second loss that I began to take things personally. Like okay, two babies have died inside of my body, what the heck is wrong with me? It’s embarrassing.
It doesn’t stop there though. I had to have my entire tube removed after the ectopic, and that really does make me feel damaged. It feels so weird to know that a body part is missing, especially one so vital to my future fertility. Gone. Forever. The loss of my tube is just another thing on a long list of obstacles working against me on this journey to mommy-hood.
And then there’s the post-surgical bloating and bruising. That eventually goes away, but the scars on your tummy will be there for the rest of your life. These aren’t battle wounds you wear with pride, but rather permanent reminders of defeat. You feel…damaged. I get it.
“I get what it’s like to feel defective”
I get what’s it like to feel jealous. Jealous of your pregnant friends. Jealous of your friends who have babies. I know it’s hard because you really are in fact happy for them, you’re just sad for you. So you show up to baby showers. You send meals when the new baby arrives. You help care for your friends baby when she needs a break. And you do it all with a smile hoping your feelings will catch up eventually. I get it.
I get what it’s like to feel guilty for feeling jealous, too. Because these are your friends, after all. Guilt can be a heavy burden to bear. Some of you may even feel guilty after losing your baby because you think you are the cause. You think this happened because of something you did, or didn’t do. And no matter how many times someone says it’s not your fault, the guilt remains. But girl I still have to tell you…
It’s really not your fault.
I get what it’s like to be nervous about checking the mail because you know the hospital bills are coming. Not everyone has to have surgery or be hospitalized after pregnancy loss, but for those women that do, it can be costly. Like – congratulations on losing your baby, here’s a bill for $1700. There’s the ER doctor fee, the surgeon fee, the facility fee, the cost of ultrasound, blood work, and IV medications, the fee for the anesthesiologist and the CRNA, the copays for follow up appointments… and it all hits you at once.
Yes, even with insurance, pregnancy loss could potentially cost you in more ways than one. Without insurance? You could easily be looking at $15,000. Because added financial stress while grieving is nice.
I get what it’s like to feel isolated. The thruth is that your loved ones just don’t want to hurt you any more than you already are, so they avoid talking about the loss of your little one. They may even avoid talking to you altogether. They tip toe around you and never ask about how you’re feeling or how you’re coping, not realizing that saying nothing to acknowledge what has happened actually hurts more than saying the “wrong thing”.
You try to avoid people because you know you reek of sadness, and you don’t want them to absorb your negative energy. Some days you may even find yourself avoiding people because you’re actually happy at that moment, but you don’t want others to develop expectations of you to remain that way. Because when I say it’s an emotional roller coaster – I truly mean it. It’s constant ups and downs.
You refrain from catching up with your friends and family because you don’t want to make things awkward when they ask “so how have you been”?! [because talking about these types of things really makes people uncomfortable]. So you lie and put on a face and push down your crap and say “I’ve been okay! What about you”? But ultimately that discourages you from interacting with people altogether because pretending to be okay all the time…is exhausting…and sometimes you just don’t have the mental energy to pretend. All of this, is isolating. I get it.
I get what it’s like to feel like an ugly, crampy, balding, bloated, pimply, hot flashing, bloody mess for weeks on end.
I get how it is to feel uncertain about your future. “When we have kids” turns to “If we have kids” because…you just don’t know anymore. You used to plan for three, but now you’re holding out hope for just one.
“When we have kids” turns to “If we have kids” because…you just don’t know anymore
I get what’s it’s like to feel ashamed and embarrassed. So many women make pregnancy seem like a walk in the park, to the point where you feel incompetent when it doesn’t come as easy for you.
All he has to do is look at me and I get knocked up.
I wasn’t even trying to get pregnant, this was a total accident.
Y’all ain’t got no babies running around here yet?! What’s the hold up?
The sense of failure can be overwhelming. Even the word ‘miscarriage’ paints that picture – as if you are in the wrong. Like you made a mistake or had a small mishap that caused you to mishandle something and then whoops – you dropped the baby. Oh how I detest that word, as it implicitly puts the blame on the mother. It almost (kind of, on a much smaller scale obviously) feels like dropping a baton during a relay race. Hubby does his job to make the successful handoff and you start running full steam ahead – you just have to bring it home. Then suddenly, the baton slips right between your fingers and hits the ground, and you’re disqualified from the race. So now you just watch as the other relay teams keep going around the track, making successful handoffs and crossing the finish line to victory. And you stand there feeling like you’ve failed the team.
You look at your partner and it seems like you’re letting him down…you know how badly he wants to be a dad. Some friends of ours asked Marcus to godparent their beautiful baby boy, and so fortunately I do get to watch him enjoy that from the sidelines. It is a little bittersweet for me because for whatever reason, they thought it best not to include me. But ultimately I know it brings him joy and so yea – even though it adds to my feelings of embarrassment and incompetence, I’ll watch from the sidelines and get in where I fit in. Fortunately we both were asked to godparent our amazingly beautiful goddaughter, and she brings so much sunshine to our lives. It has been great watching my husband in a fatherly role with his godchildren. But that nagging sense of shame and embarrassment is still in the back of my mind…because for now, I haven’t been able to give him that.
Even though you know it’s not your fault, pregnancy loss can truly make you feel like you are failing as a woman. Trust me, I totally get it.
The word ‘miscarriage’ paints that picture – as if I am in the wrong. Like I made a mistake or had a small mishap that caused me to mishandle something and then whoops – I dropped the baby.
I get what it’s like to feel completely out of control. To look up and see that your body has autonomously decided to do whatever the hell it felt like doing that day. It is incredibly humbling and heartbreaking at the same time, to know that you couldn’t keep your little one safe inside of your own body. You did all the right things: took your prenatal vitamins, stayed away from alcohol and cigarettes, avoided sushi like the plague. I even cancelled a medical volunteer trip abroad to protect that little life from Zika.
But despite your best efforts…you couldn’t control everything.
Your body seemingly swats the ball down from the rim and wags it’s finger in your face. Not in my house.
Seriously? The nerve.
And I can’t even begin to describe the frustration of waiting for your pregnancy hormones to pipe down after a loss, which can take weeks. The entire time you still feel all the pregnancy feels. You think you’re going a little crazy because your hormones are raging out of control, which undoubtedly adds to the grief experience. Your body is running the show and you’re just a passenger. You resent it, but you can do absolutely nothing about it…so you buckle up and brace yourself for the wild ride.
I get what it’s like to feel silly and confused for being so sad about it. Most people aren’t able to understand the wide range of emotions couples go through in the aftermath of losing a baby during pregnancy, especially if that loss occurred early on. People expect intense emotional reactions to the loss of a once living spouse, child, parent, friend, or otherwise tangible person. Most people can even understand the pain of someone who experiences stillbirth – because at least that was a real baby. But you? That was “just” a miscarriage; you were barely pregnant. Let’s not get too dramatic here since it wasn’t actually a baby yet.
It was just a glob of cells.
At least you didn’t get too attached, it could be worse.
Just try again.
Oh – the things people say. You start to internalize those things and you really begin to feel stupid for being so distressed. I know I do, especially as a med student – where less than pretty terms like ‘fetal demise’ and ‘spontaneous abortion’ are thrown around callously in the clinical setting.
Maybe I am making a big deal out of nothing.
Maybe I’ve gone a little mad.
You start to doubt yourself, and you don’t feel entitled to grieve because well, your friends sister has a friend who actually had to carry her baby for 9 whole months before it died in a car accident. And you only carried yours for 2. So you should be grateful.
I honestly don’t know what it is about humans that makes us downplay the absolute miracle of life inside the womb. We all have to start somewhere, right? And if we’re being literal about it, developing humans stop being just a “clump of cells” at about week 4…right around the time a woman finds out she is pregnant. By the end of week 5, there’s a tiny heart pumping actual blood through the little one’s body. Week 6? That “glob of cells” spontaneously moves and has the ability to show reflex responses to touch. So can we retire that phrase, please?
The validity of unborn life is severely downplayed, and I think that’s one of the reasons why the emotional impact after a pregnancy loss is so underestimated and misunderstood. To others, your loss is just a blip in time. To you, it is everything. It is a confusing place to be. I get it.
I get what it’s like to feel traumatized after a loss. Because you think you may have just flushed your baby. Because there’s enough blood to stage a crime scene. Because this is the sixth time this has happened to you and you aren’t sure how much more you can take. Because you held your baby’s lifeless body in your hands. Because you never got to hold your baby’s lifeless body in your hands. Because you were pushed to the edge of your physical pain threshold and then forced over the cliff. Because you just spent $15,000 on IVF.
I didn’t realize how traumatic my ectopic pregnancy was for me until I began having nightmares. I had never been so close to death before. Even now, nearly 2 months later there are times when I look in the mirror and let that reality sink in – I literally could have died that day. It’s wild to me, to have confronted mortality.
I get what it’s like to feel frustrated that you’ve had to explain to the receptionist, the nurse, the medical assistant, the other nurse, and the doctor that you’ve lost a baby. Like seriously, did you even read my chart?! Please don’t make me say it again. Please.
I get what’s it like to have to deal with the stress of normal life after losing a baby. To have to return to work or school and face the world again, it’s tough. Going back to med school was so stressful for me [as if medical school isn’t stressful enough on it’s own already]. I took only a week off after the surgery, and then I had to put my game face on because it was back to “business as usual”. In those first two weeks back we talked about ectopic pregnancy multiple times. By the time we got the the cardiology unit, we were learning about ectopic heart beats. Then I get to my exam and there were two questions about miscarriage and one about ectopic pregnancy. Totally wasn’t expecting that so it took me a second to regain focus. The following week I saw a pregnant patient and used a fetal heart monitor on her. Throughout the curriculum we discuss embryology and fetal development repeatedly, because that’s what med students do. Then there’s the pregnant MA I worked with at my clinic, she always wanted me to touch her belly and feel her baby kicking.
I could hardly form a scab before it was picked at repeatedly while doing my normal, back to reality, every day things. It makes it hard to heal. And I’m sure you have daily reminders of your hurt in your every day life, too. Sometimes it seems like life will never get back to where it was before all of this happened. I get it.
If you ever need someone to talk to, you can definitely talk to me. I know I’m a stranger to you but I am no stranger to this experience. These emotions we are dealing with are real and raw and sometimes it’s just plain hard to sort it all out. Honestly, one of the main things that has helped me through this process is talking to other women out there who can relate. Other women who just…get it.
*When I say ‘pregnancy loss’ I am using a general term to refer to several different types of losses. Loss of a life during pregnancy can occur due to complete or missed miscarriage, stillbirth, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, or chemical pregnancy.
Don’t forget to click ‘like’, share, or comment if you liked this post! Thanks!