7 Lies People Believe About Miscarriage (and Infertility)

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month! The purpose of this is to raise awareness of the prominence of pregnancy loss and infant death, and to offer support to bereaved families that have lost children during pregnancy or shortly after birth. In honor of this, I just wanted to share some information with you and debunk some common myths and misconceptions regarding this sensitive topic. So, let’s jump right in!

MYTH #1 Miscarriages are rare. 

Unfortunately, loss happens in 1 out of 4 pregnancies! This is not rare, this is actually very common. If you yourself have not had a miscarriage, I can guarantee that you know someone who has. Pregnancy loss just seems rare because no one really talks about it, which in turn makes it a very isolating and lonely experience. After I began talking about my first miscarriage, I was surprised to be opened up to a whole secret society of women who came forward and expressed that they had lost a baby, too.

MYTH #2 Pregnancy loss happens because you did/didn’t _____(insert any reason people come up with here).

Many people incorrectly believe that stress causes a miscarriage/stillbirth. Or intense exercise. Or past abortions. Heavy lifting. Not taking prenatal vitamins.  Getting in an argument. Using birth control pills for too long. You name it, I’m sure you’ve heard any number of these things!

The truth is that most miscarriages are unavoidable genetic accidents, and have nothing to do with anything the mother did or did not do. Another large portion of losses (especially stillbirths) occur because there is some other underlying medical condition, like a blood disease, reproductive tract malformation or placental abnormality. Finally, a smaller number of losses happen because of physical trauma, infection, or exposure to teratogens (things like tobacco, alcohol, and drugs) that harm the developing baby.

MYTH #3 You are not experiencing infertility if you’ve gotten pregnant before.

I was telling a close friend about my personal struggle with loss, infertility and starting a family, and she kind of laughed at my use of the word “infertility”, thinking it was a bit extreme to say that. She told me “You don’t have infertility silly, you’re just having some trouble getting pregnant right now. It’s not like you have a hostile uterus or anything. You’ve been able to get pregnant before”. Her intent was to try and remind me that hope was not completely lost, and I appreciated that. But what she said also made me realize how misinformed so many people are when it comes to this stuff.

Clinically speaking, infertility and sterility are NOT the same thing. Being sterile is a state of being physically unable to reproduce offspring. This can be caused by radiation, surgical procedures (tubes tied, vasectomy, hysterectomy, etc), menopause, genetic defects, and other things, and is usually permanent.

However, a couple is experiencing infertility when they have been having unprotected and appropriately timed sex for longer than 1 year without conceiving or carrying a child to live birth. This means that someone can have previous pregnancies, and still be experiencing infertility if none of those pregnancies resulted in a live birth. This also means that someone can even have other living children, and still be currently experiencing infertility (this is called secondary infertility).

MYTH #4 Your friend who has lost a baby or experienced trouble conceiving does not want to talk about it. 

Okay so obviously I can’t speak for everyone, but it is generally not a good idea to assume this about any one individual.

Speaking for myself, most times I do want to talk about my experiences and I wish that I had more people around me who could be a listening ear. Most [well-meaning] people just don’t understand, and that’s what makes me not want to talk about it. They get uncomfortable and change the subject, they make judgement calls on how you should feel, and they don’t know how to listen without offering advice and silver linings (“well at least…”). And you know what? It’s okay. I really don’t fault them, infertility and loss bring about a very unique type of pain that not everyone is equipped to understand.

The best thing you can do is ask your friend if they would be willing to share their experience with you. And when [if] they do share their experiences, try your best to listen intently and offer words of acknowledgement and empathy, realizing that your friend is extremely vulnerable in that moment of sharing. If you think asking your friend about how they’re doing concerning their loss will remind them of it, let me let you off the hook: they don’t need a reminder. Trust me, they have not forgotten their circumstances and you bringing it up will not remind them of their pain. If anything, it will remind them that you remember, and that you care. Again, the best thing you can do is ask someone how they want to be addressed concerning this!  You have to be sensitive and mindful, at the same time without walking on eggshells or showing pity. True empathy really is an art! Ask questions. Listen. Acknowledge.

MYTH #5 Your friend who has lost a baby or experienced trouble conceiving does not want to hear about your new pregnancy/baby. 

Again, I can’t speak for everyone here. Now, do I want to hear you constantly complain about how horrible your pregnancy is? No. Do I need a play by play on every twinge and flutter that comes from within your belly? Not really. Nor do I want you to joke about how I can have your trouble-making kids for a weekend because you’re sure I’ll change my mind about wanting my own. Save these things for your mommy friends!

However, I do want to celebrate your pregnancy with you! I do want to hear about all the  milestones your little one hits, and the silly & amazing things that they do. I do want to be invited to your baby shower (if I am up for it, I will make the choice to attend), and I do want to be included in your little one’s life. I do not want to be left out, that will only intensify negative feelings; as my circumstances already have me feeling isolated and forgotten.

Now that’s just me; but I recognize that everyone is different. As a general rule of thumb:

  • DO NOT: Surprise her by telling her in front of other people. No one likes being caught off guard.
  • DO: Tell her about your pregnancy via email, card, or even a heartfelt text message before you make the big announcement. This gives her time and space to process the news by herself.
  • DO NOT: Ignore her situation. Acknowledge that you understand how difficult this might be for her in light of her recent loss or struggles conceiving.
  • DO: Ask her how much she wants to hear about what is going on with you, don’t assume! Respect whatever she says and accept that she may need time and space to feel differently. Follow her lead.

Sure, at the end of the day it will probably be hard for her no matter how you flip it, I won’t lie to you. There’s really no easy way to go about this. But if she loves you, I can almost guarantee that she is not hurting because you are experiencing the excitement of motherhood,  she’s hurting because she is not. There’s a difference! Your joy is not her sorrow, her sorrow is her sorrow. And though it may be difficult for her to express it while she’s hurting, know that she is (likely) absolutely thrilled for you.

MYTH #6 The earlier a loss happens during the pregnancy, the better. 

Not true, not true, not true. I remember talking to someone after my first loss, and though she had not experienced loss herself, she offered great comfort by sharing with me stories of other women who had. She told me about her friend who had just lost a baby and said: “but hers wasn’t just a miscarriage, she actually had to give birth to hers”.

Just a miscarriage?

Ouch.

This is the equivalent of saying to a victim of sexual abuse *trigger warning* “Well, at least it was only molestation, it could’ve been rape”! Silly, right? There is no better or worse here, only pain. And pain cannot be quantified by anyone except the person experiencing it.

I am not taking anything away from what I’m sure is a very traumatic experience of birthing a stillborn. Both of my losses have been before the 20 week mark (which is the clinical distinction between miscarriage and stillbirth), and both of my unborn babies were removed surgically, and so I cannot comment on anything other than my experiences. However, I can say this: The mother who went into the operating room 11 weeks pregnant and woke up in recovery with an empty womb, hurts. The mother who gave birth to her baby at 28 weeks in a hospital bed, hurts.  The mother who gave birth to her tiny baby at home in the bathroom toilet at 8.5 weeks, she hurts too. Losing an unborn child can be incredibly painful and life altering, and I am sure that this is the case for most who have experienced some form of this, no matter when the loss occurred.

Which brings me to my next point.

MYTH #7 An early pregnancy is just a clump of cells.

I think this is one of the most damaging misconceptions out there. And that’s because, for the most part (according to yunno…actual medicine and science) this just isn’t true. A quick embryology lesson: at the time of conception, momma’s egg and daddy’s sperm meet to form a zygote, which is the earliest stage of human life. It is at this stage, at the very moment of conception, that the entire genetic makeup of this new life is determined…hair color, eye color, whether they will be athletic or musical, boy or girl, tall or short, the shape of their nose, the dimples in their cheeks – literally everything – all contained within this single cell.

During that first week or so, the cell divides a bunch of times and eventually forms a blastocyst, which at this point actually is just a clump of cells (albeit, a highly specialized and rapidly dividing clump of cells, but a clump of cells nonetheless). The blastocyst travels to the uterus and implants into the uterine wall, marking the official start of pregnancy, though the mother will not realize she is pregnant for another week or so.

By the time she is able to test positive on a home urine test, usually during the 4th-5th week of pregnancy, the human blastocyst has graduated to become an embryo. And guess what? By the end of the 5th week of pregnancy, that embryo has a heart, and that heart is beating as it pumps blood through the tiny human body. Granted, it doesn’t really look like a human body yet, I’ll give you that. It looks more like a tadpole at that point. But the fact is that it is human, with a beating heart and developing brain to boot. At 5 weeks gestation!! (so in awe of God right now, excuse me)!! By week 7, the face begins to develop and by week 8, the human embryo can move it’s body and limbs. At the end of the 10th week of pregnancy, the embryo has arms and legs complete with tiny fingers and tiny toes. The face is recognizable with a little nose, two ears, and a mouth; and it has tiny boy parts or girl parts (though still too small to tell the difference).

At this point you might be bored out of your mind. Please forgive me, I could go on and on about this kind of stuff. The bottom line is this – around the time that a woman discovers her pregnancy, she already has a living being with a beating heart and its own genetic makeup growing inside of her. Far from just a clump of cells; it is a tiny, developing human being. Life functions on a continuum, and as human life grows and develops, we call it different names. Embryo, fetus, infant, toddler, child, teenager, adult, elder…the difference here is a matter of time.

These are straight facts from my med school textbook, by no means is this an opinion based on my political affiliation or my belief in God as the Creator of human life. The fact is that we’ve been done a huge disservice by being told the “clump of cells” lie.  Do your research and know the truth for yourself! And remember this when someone tells you that they’ve suffered a miscarriage. They didn’t lose a clump of cells. They’ve lost a life, the life of their child, in it’s earliest form.

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I hope I was able to shed some light on some things you didn’t know, or maybe even reinforce some things you already did. Please like, comment, and share for the purpose of raising awareness!

 

Other Resources:

Pro soccer player Sydney Leroux opens up on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day

Rainbow Baby Photoshoot

Breaking The Silence: I Had A Baby

 

When the Birds and the Bees Aren’t Enough

 

Wow – it’s been over 4 months since my latest post. I haven’t blogged since before Christmas! So far this year life has been pretty hectic for us and I haven’t really had much time to write. First, let me say hello to all of my new followers and readers!

Last year, I shared with you the experience my husband and I had with our miscarriage. Long story short, we had a surprise pregnancy that ended devastatingly when I was nearly 3 months along; I detailed that story here. A whole 15 months have passed since then and so far, most of my blog posts have been centered around this loss. I remember feeling like I was never going to make it through that time of my life! But here we are over a year later and we’re making it through. God has kept us. We’re not over it, I don’t think you ever “get over” something like that. However, we’ve adjusted and we’re okay now. I am okay.

What I haven’t talked much about though is what’s been going on since then. Marcus and I are coming up on 2 years of marriage. With that, people are getting really antsy and for whatever reason feel comfortable enough to ask about our family planning.

“Where are the babies?”

“You must be waiting until you finish medical school. Smart girl!”

“Are y’all thinking of having kids any time soon?”

If you’ve been married longer than 15 minutes I’m sure you’ve heard it all before, too! Usually I just force a smile and say some vague, canned response like “Whenever the time is right I guess”. I can’t really get mad; most of these questions come from well-meaning friends and family who are genuinely interested in my life. But very few people know that Marcus and I are currently trying to get pregnant again, and have been trying again since last March when we were cleared after the miscarriage. I think now is an appropriate time for me to share.

It’s been 14 months of trying. 14 months of failing. 14 months of unwanted periods and negative pregnancy tests. 14 months of wondering what’s wrong with me. 14 months of Facebook pregnancy announcements and baby shower invitations (don’t worry, I’m happy for you. Just sad for me). 14 months of praying and crying out to God.

It’s also been 14 months of amazing baby-making with my husband – so it ain’t all bad. #heyboo

hey boo

Point is we’ve been trying again for over a year and nothing is happening. And as discouraging and frustrating as that is for us, there are so many other couples out there who have it far worse and have been silently struggling to start a family for years. Making a baby may be natural, but that doesn’t make it simple. A lot of people have long and very complicated journeys to parenthood.

1 in 8 couples struggle with infertility

Even though it is common, infertility is just one of those things that people don’t openly discuss…especially within the African American community. It’s often presumed that women of color don’t have issues getting pregnant. Period. It’s a stereotype that has historical origin and is still perpetuated in our community today. I could honestly write a paper on this topic but we’ll save that for another blog post.

Anyway, we assume infertility only happens to wealthy, “workaholic” white women who decide to have a baby a little too late in life. But the truth is, black couples are more likely to experience infertility than their white counterparts; and are less likely to seek medical treatment for it. I think there are several factors that play into this, including access to healthcare, affordability of infertility treatment, lack of reproductive health awareness, and religion. For example, we say things like “God must not want you to be pregnant right now, just keep praying. He will make a way”. Now don’t get me wrong – I am a believer in Jesus Christ and I have no doubts about the power of prayer. However, what doesn’t occur to most is that sometimes “a way” is made through help from others. If you’ve been trying to get pregnant for a year or longer and haven’t been able to, that’s infertility; and you should see your doctor.

Many people don’t know that infertility is defined as not being able to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term within 12 months of actively trying

Another reason why I think African Americans are less likely to seek help for infertility is because of the shame and embarrassment they feel. There is an undeniable stigma that comes with having trouble achieving or sustaining a pregnancy. If you don’t believe me, then think about why we use negative terms like “dried up” when referring to an infertile woman; or “shooting blanks” when a man can’t impregnate his wife. An important step in overcoming that stigma is to have open and honest conversations about it.

I guarantee that someone you know is currently experiencing the heartbreak of infertility, whether they are open about it or not. This week (April 23-29, 2017) is National Infertility Awareness Week and I wanted to share my story because I know how it is to feel alone on this journey. Thankfully I have a wonderful husband to fight with me, but as a unit we often feel isolated. I get it. The lost babies, unsuccessful treatments, hospital stays, constant poking for blood work, constant probing for ultrasounds, the bills, the waiting, the uncertainty – it’s hard.

We are currently seeing a specialist at an infertility clinic and received a diagnosis last week. I won’t go into detail in this particular blog post, but the news was bleek. Basically our doctor said he has no idea how we even got pregnant the first time, and it’s going to take a serious miracle for us to conceive again.

Thank God, He specializes in miracles.

 

NIAW


If you’d like to follow our story, I will be blogging more about our real-life experiences with infertility as it happens. Usually people share their battle with starting a family after they successfully have babies. Testimonies are great and very encouraging! However I do think there aren’t enough couples voicing their struggles as they go through them. These blogs will naturally be a little more personal and because of that I don’t plan to post every single one on social media, so make sure to click the “Follow” button to receive updates in your email.

 

Infertility Resources
https://infertilityawareness.org/
http://www.ihr.com/infertility/
http://resolve.org/
Scriptures For Infertility & Pregnancy Loss
Infertility In The Media
Fox 2 Infertility Awareness Week
Michigan Center for Fertility & Women’s Health on Live in the D
Local 4 Shares One Couples Story
Chrissy Teigen & Tyra Banks Talk Infertility

 

 

 

 

 

Scriptures For Pregnancy Loss & Infertility

Okay, so can I be honest? Promise you won’t judge me?

When I first learned of my miscarriage, I was mad at God.

It seemed that I was mad at everyone actually, but I felt particularly and especially angry with God. I felt like He had personally let me down. I blamed Him for things He did not do. I didn’t talk to Him or pray for months. I denied being mad at Him when I secretly was; my heart was sooo hard.

The crazy part is, He still loved me. He never left me. He still thought enough of me to break through the wall I built with the powerful truth of His word.

It’s amazing, that grace.

I just wanted to share some of the scriptures that I was led to; those that I find encouraging on this journey of loss and infertility. I hope that they encourage you, too!

 

Truth: God hears and answers prayers.

Genesis 25:21 

Isaac pleaded with the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was unable to have children. The Lord answered Isaac’s prayer, and Rebekah became pregnant with twins.

Psalm 66:16-19 

Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he did for me. For I cried out to him for help, praising him as I spoke. If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer.

1 Samuel Chapter 1

tells the story of Hannah, who was infertile for years and without children. She poured her heart out to God at the alter, cried, and prayed for a son. The Lord was faithful to her and opened up her womb and she was able to conceive.

Psalm 37:4 

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Romans 8:26-28

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searched our hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

 

Truth: God has not forgotten about you.

Deuteronomy 31:6

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

Psalm 9:10

And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, For You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

 

 

Truth: God did not cause your miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth, or whatever else it was that resulted in the death of your baby. Sin did that. We live in a sinful world where we encounter evil and darkness at every turn. 

John 16:33 

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here in this world you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

Ephesians 6: 12

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places

Revelation 21:4 

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

Jeremiah 29:11 

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Lamentations 3:32-33

For if He causes grief, then He will have compassion according to His abundant loving-kindness and tender mercy. For He does not afflict willingly and from His heart or grieve the children of men. * This tells me that even if God did cause this, it was because He had to and not because He wanted to

 

Truth: Your baby mattered. Your baby counted. God, the creator of life, values life even before the moment of conception.

Psalm 139:13-16

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Jeremiah 1:5  

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.

 

Truth: God actually gave you that baby as a gift

Psalm 127:3 

Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him.

James 1:17 

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

Matthew 7:11 

So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.

 

 

Truth: God can handle our hurt, pain, and questions. 

Psalm 13:1-2 

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand?

Psalm 34:18 

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.

Job

The book of Job tells his story of immense loss. This man literally lost everything – his kids, his wealth, his health – he lost it all. And he had some serious questions for God about his suffering. Check it out.

 

Truth: God is able, and He can do anything.

That means anything. He can overcome your endometriosis, unexplained infertility, PCOS, low sperm count, bum ovary, hormonal imbalance, “ticking clock”, ruptured cyst, blocked tubes, or anything else that you come against.

Jeremiah 32:17 

O Sovereign Lord! You made the heavens and earth by your strong hand and powerful arm. Nothing is too hard for you!

Hebrews 11:11  

By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.

Psalm 113:9 

He gives the childless woman a family, making her a happy mother. Praise the Lord!

 

Truth: God is not all that concerned with the temporary pains in our lives if it is ultimately accomplishing  His larger purposes. 

This also means that God isn’t always trying to “teach you something” when you’re going through (I hate when people say this).  Sometimes we experience tragedies like miscarriage solely so that the glory of God might be revealed through it.

John 9:1-3 

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered.“This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.”

2 Corinthians 4:17 

For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!

2 Corinthians 12:9

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.

 

I hope this blesses you and encourages you. It may help to write some of these down! I have a journal that I keep and I write down the scriptures that speak to me, over and over again. I also write what I feel God is saying to me through that particular passage. On the hard days, when I can’t seem to think straight and my heart is aching, His word is there in my heart, too, and I draw on it for strength.

Please share your favorite scriptures below that have helped you during your pregnancy or infant loss, or some other type of grief. How did you make it through? If you aren’t religious, I still invite you to share quotes or something you’ve read that has resonated with you.

What helped you can help someone else too.

 

With love,

Nikkie

 

Rainstorms & Rainbows

“My Little Angel Baby” is changing to “Rainstorms & Rainbows”. The content will be the same, but I felt inspired to change the name of my blog for a couple reasons.

First, I really do believe that one day God will give me and my husband a healthy child. “My Little Angel Baby” only focuses on the one unborn child I lost; and while I will never forget my sweet August, losing that baby is not the end of my story. Battling infertility is only for this season. There’s a rainbow coming; and when that happens, I want to continue using this blog to document those pregnancies, births, and our journey together as parents.

My hope is in Jesus and He promises to work all things together for my good. That means He can turn my lemons to lemonade, my mourning into dancing, and my rainstorm into a rainbow. And I’m waiting with expectation for that promise.

 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

 

Lastly, I don’t believe that my baby, who was once a tiny human growing inside of me, is now an angel. I do believe that the souls of babies and other loved ones who die in the Lord go to be with him in heaven, but not as angels. I think a lot of people use that imagery as a form of comfort when they lose someone, which is okay, but it is not to be taken literal. So, I changed my blog name. Splitting hairs, I know. I’m a deep thinker 🙂

Oh yea, I also added something new to the site! Inspired by Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness month, I wanted to create a wall of remembrance where you can submit a form to have your baby added. Check it out!

 

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Love always,

Nikkie