Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Healing After Miscarriage

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, miscarriage happens in 10% of all known pregnancies. Chances are you know someone who has experienced a miscarriage. The chances are actually pretty high that you know someone who has experienced more than one. I have been in that 10%...twice. I briefly mentioned my first loss here and here, but I realized I had never shared my full experience of that loss. I know mine is only one story among thousands, but I feel compelled to share. It might just be one story that helps someone get through something you can never prepare yourself for.

After being terrified of pregnancy, birth, and even motherhood for most of my adult life, we decided we were as ready as we could get. We had decided to start trying to conceive, but we weren't super serious about it. We weren't even 100% sure of dates when it was time to leave town for Christmas that year. However, I was late enough that I was pretty sure I knew what a test would say. I wasn't prepared to keep that kind of news from my family, but I also wasn't ready to tell them that early, so I just waited to take a test until we got home. I was a bit clueless and nervous, so I texted my doctor friend (so thankful for you Brit!) and got a pep talk as we got closer to home. I ran inside to take the test and thought I would have time to watch for the results while my husband brought in our luggage. Instead, the digital test flashed four lines and then "pregnant" before I was able to pull up my leggings.

Speechless, I walked into the entryway and waited among the luggage and Christmas loot my husband was unpacking for him to come back inside. I didn't even say anything when he did. I am not sure what my face was saying, but I just held up the test to show him. We hugged and laughed, but it didn't sink in right way. We unpacked and put away our things. He went to his vinyl record haven in the basement to organize the new goodies he got for Christmas, and I stayed upstairs...and cried.

Basically, I panicked.

I wasn't sad, but overwhelmed would be an understatement. I sat there on our bed, and the weight of bringing a child into this world flooded over me. I prayed for him or her. I prayed for guidance so I might have some small clue of what to do as we started this journey. I prayed that I might lead this baby to love Jesus and be a shining light in an often dark and scary world. And I cried a little more.

After my initial panic, we started allowing it to sink in and become a part of things. We quickly started to talk about what things would be like with a baby. Everything shifts to include this little person you have never met, and you are suddenly building your life and all your future plans around them. Though you can never truly imagine what it is like (especially when it is your first), it was easy for us to pretend and talk and dream about our growing family. I called the doctor and eagerly scheduled my first appointment, and we went about life with a bit more excitement...until one Sunday just a week or so later when I noticed the faintest traces of blood.

I told myself it was fine. I googled things online. I texted Brittney, and I tried not to freak out. Then I started feeling slight cramps. I tried to convince myself it was in my head. I tried to make myself believe that it was just normal discomfort, but I think in my heart I knew all along that something wasn't right.

The next morning I called and left a message with my OB and headed to work. It wasn't long before the pain got worse, the bleeding was getting heavier, and I knew the answer to any questions I might have had previously. I was frustrated that I hadn't heard back from the OB's nurse. I was panicked because I didn't know what to do, and I didn't want to text my husband at work to ruin his day. When I really felt like I knew for certain I called him and headed home to wait for him to make the commute home. The cramps were more intense than any I had ever experienced in my almost 29 years. I tried laying on the couch, but the pain kept me in the restroom. I don't even know how long it all lasted, but it was intense. I couldn't stop crying thinking about the reality of what was happening. I was still mad at the doctor's office, and I was broken thinking about my poor husband. I was angry that I didn't know why it was happening...and then it was over. There was nothing left to do but lay on the couch and wait for him to get home.

I will never-ever-for-as-long-as-I-live forget him walking through the front door in silence and joining me on the couch. It was so heavy and foreign to him, and we both just cried. There wasn't much else to do. Crying is mostly what I did for the next few days. I stayed home from work, but most of it is a blur, except for me crying uncontrollably. I had lab work done to confirm what I already knew and took myself out to eat where I distinctly remember watching a pregnant waitress walk by me what seemed like 473 times. I remember thinking bitter thoughts over my fancy macaroni and cheese, and then I headed home to cry some more. I would tell myself I was going to be okay and get it together, but the tears still came. I don't remember how long this went on...three? four days maybe?

Then one day I woke up, and I really was okay. Don't get me wrong. I wasn't "over it", but I knew I would be okay. The world had, in fact, not ended while I grieved, and I knew I had to pick myself up. I did not and will not ever forget that experience. It has had a deep impact on who I am today, how I experienced my pregnancy with Henry after that, and how I have been able to connect with other women going through similar experiences. When I was able to talk to a friend who had experienced her own loss a few years before, I felt so much better. There is a lot to be said for solidarity, community, and sisterhood. It is a unique experience that I couldn't connect over with my mom, husband, or single friends, and that is why I share this here today. I don't know if it will help anyone or if anyone will even read it, but if you are here and have been down that road...you will be okay. While you will always remember and long for the baby you never met, the sadness will not always consume your whole world. You might be a little resentful of pregnancy announcements and baby shower invites, and you may be scared to try again. But let me tell you now, you can overcome. Try not to let anger control you. Remember it is not your pregnant friend's fault that you experienced this loss, but also give yourself some grace and time. Talk to friends, and pray to God. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

...and oftentimes there is even a rainbow.


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