This isn’t a blog post I wanted to write, because this isn’t something I thought – or hope – would happen to me. But sometimes life has a way of surprising you.
I found out I was pregnant shortly after Christmas. As a hilarious pregnancy announcement online said, “We’re pregnant! Don’t be sad for us – it’s on purpose.” We were incredibly excited. Over-the-moon excited.
We knew there was a chance of miscarriage – there always is – but we didn’t think on it too much. We told our families. We dreamed big dreams. We basked in the excitement of it all.
I’m not going to take you through the messy details, but about two weeks after finding out, or when I was about 7 weeks along, that all came crashing down. I found myself in the ER at 3 AM, bleeding a lot and in a lot of pain. The ER doc, who I think would have rather have told me I lost a leg, delivered the terrible news to Brandon and I: miscarriage.
When I found out I was pregnant, I remember consciously thinking that if anything were to happen to my pregnancy, I’d tell people. I live with mental illness and work for a sexual assault prevention nonprofit, so I’m around stigmatized issues all day, every day. I’m passionate about bring stigmatized issues into the light. So after I recovered from two days straight of crying, napping, eating my feelings, and crying more, I started thinking: what exactly did I want to say?
I don’t have any wisdom about this. I’m only two weeks removed from one of the most traumatizing events of my life, and am still figuring out how to navigate it. After some thought, I realized what I want to say is A) this happened to me so B) you’re not alone and C) here’s what I’ve learned so far.
What I’ve Learned So Far About Miscarriage
I’ve learned through talking to friends and family that this happens far more often than I realized. Almost everyone I’ve talked to has had a miscarriage themselves or knows someone who has. For how little it’s talked about, it’s incredibly common. I – and anyone who else who has experienced pregnancy loss – am far from alone. Most of those people have gone on to have healthy pregnancies, often two or more. It sucks, but there’s hope.
I’ve also learned that it’s one of the most devastating losses you can experience. There’s no funeral, no body, no evidence that this person existed, but you feel the loss all the same: the loss of your high hopes for this new little person, the loss of your joy, the loss of a life.
If your parent or sibling dies, people understand your grief. Because miscarriage is invisible, it’s hard for others to understand. How could you love something so much you never even met, that wasn’t even a “person” yet? Gosh, if I could tell you, I would. All I can say is you DO, and the loss feels just as real as the loss of someone who walked the earth.
(We have been BLESSED with amazing family and friends who have grieved with us, but not everyone who experiences miscarriage is understood in their suffering. If that’s you, whether it just happened or happened a long time ago, I see you. And I feel your sadness.)
The process of miscarriage itself is also devastating. Watching your body expel what used to be your womb, your safe place for your little future child, is the most awful thing. It feels a lot like your body has betrayed you. It’s graphic and terrible and far from quick, a daily reminder for about a week of what you had and what you lost.
What I’ve Learned So Far About Myself
I remember early on in my very short pregnancy thinking about what I’d do if I had a miscarriage. In my mind, I had no idea how I’d go on. When I tried to visualize what life would be like if the unspeakable happened, I couldn’t see anything at all.
Fast forward to two weeks past my worst nightmare coming true, and I’m still here. I’m getting dressed, taking care of basic life tasks, and going to work every day like a normal human being. I’m still sad a lot of days. I still cry at least once a day. But, what I’ve learned about myself through this process is that I am a LOT more resilient than I thought I was. I am capable of surviving incredible grief.
Not only am I capable of withstanding the emotional pain that comes with loss, but I have been able to do it without the aid of medication. I’ve taken low-dose anti-anxiety meds since college. When I found out I was pregnant, my sister-in-law/nurse midwife told me that I couldn’t take them while pregnant, so I quickly tapered off my dosage.
For years now, medication has been my safety net. I’ve been able to rest easy knowing that as long as I take it, my anxiety can’t come at me full-force. I experienced the hardest loss of my life without medication, and I’m still standing. No panic attacks. No major mishaps.
I can’t even tell you what a victory this is.
(Relatedly, because I am a nerd, one of the things that kept me going in those first few days post-miscarriage was a study I learned about in a psych class in college. Researchers studied a group of people who won the lottery and a group of people who had recently become paralyzed due to horrible accidents. Within six months, the two groups were equally happy. The lesson: grief, trauma, and pain won’t define you forever. You’ll bounce back. And I’m getting there, very slowly but surely.)
This experience also taught me that I definitely do want to be a mom. Brandon has wanted kids since he can remember. If you know my husband, you know his love of golf, khakis, and complaining about “kids these days.” He’s already fully embraced the Dad role.
I, on the other hand, have taken awhile to come alongside him. Maybe it was my love of last-minute travels and being able to pursue my career unhindered or my fear of the whole pregnancy thing, but it took me much longer to decide I was ready to think about being a mom.
When I can’t make a hard decision, Brandon has this way of helping me choose: he puts both fists behind his back and one of my “options” in each hand. I choose a hand, he tells me which option I picked, and either I’m happy, which means that’s the right option, or I’m instantly disappointed, which means I should choose the other one.
This experience was a little like that. Only when I lost the pregnancy did I realize how much I wanted it. Now I know for sure.
What I’ve Learned So Far About God
Christians like to say “we live in a fallen world,” and when you’ve been in the church long enough, you really don’t think about what it means. Yes, there’s sin. Blah, blah, blah. Through this experience, I for the first time truly understood what that means, how horrible and awful our world is because of sin.
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t wear rose-colored glasses. I spend 2-3 hours per day at my job reading news articles about sexual assault. I know the world is a horrible place. But there’s something about experiencing such a devastating, unjustifiable, seemingly unfair loss that drives the point home: this world SUCKS. Because of sin, this world is a horrific place where miscarriages happen, car crashes kill innocent people, and all manner of terrible things befall the good and the wicked alike.
This has strengthened my faith so much, as I’ve seen first-hand what a gift Jesus Christ was and is. God knew that Adam and Eve’s sin would produce such a horrible world, but He also provided a way to escape it. He provided us a hope that lives beyond this messed-up earth. And in the days following my miscarriage, and still today, that’s all I can hold onto. Because this world is an awful place.
I’ve learned that God’s peace is crazy stuff. As we drove to the ER at 3 AM on that morning, I knew. I knew it was over. And yet, I felt a strange sense of calm. I didn’t cry, I didn’t panic. I was just calm. And anyone who knows me well knows that’s a rare occurrence, even on a good day.
Even in the days following, as I struggled with heartache, grief, and every other negative emotion in the book, I still felt peace. I knew that God was in control. And as much as what was happening to me felt unbearable, I knew that my God saw me in my grief and had a plan.
That’s not something I would have expected, because it’s not something I could do myself. I didn’t pray or read my way into peace, though I did lots of praying and reading scripture in the days after; God freely gave it. And I couldn’t have survived this experience without it.
So that’s what I’ve learned so far from this horrible experience. While it’s been unbearably painful at times, it’s also grown me in ways I wouldn’t have expected. Already in the last two weeks, I have seen flashes of God’s behind-the-scenes work as He prepares something great for us. I know it’s coming. We just have to be patient. Thank goodness we can hang our hat – and our hope – on that.
Phew. This was a doozy. If you stuck with me to the end, thanks a million. It feels incredible to bare your soul and to be heard. If you’ve experienced miscarriage, too, and want to drop me a message, feel free. Hearing about other people’s experiences makes me feel less alone and more hopeful for the future.
And if you see me IRL, don’t feel awkward about bringing it up or asking how we’re doing. I wouldn’t have written a blog about it if I wasn’t ready to talk. Really, it’s okay. <3