October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, and today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. It feels a little extra scary to talk about loss in the midst of a pregnancy, but my pregnancy losses are part of who I am as a mom and a person. And I think it’s important to talk about them.
When I fill out paperwork at the doctor’s office and it asks me to relay how many pregnancies I’ve had, it feels very strange to write “4,” but it’s the truth.
That math breaks down to one first trimester miscarriage, one full-term baby, one “chemical pregnancy” (which is such a rough term, no? Early miscarriage, really), and the one I find myself in now, at 29 weeks.
I’ve already written about the first miscarriage, so I won’t repeat myself. (You can read about it here.) It was, as miscarriages go, not too physically taxing. Emotionally, it wrecked me. It made me feel deeply flawed. First it made me certain I’d never be able to have a healthy pregnancy, and then when I went on to have a healthy pregnancy, I couldn’t trust it.
I went through every day for at least the first half of my second pregnancy expecting everything to come crashing down. I envied friends who had never had to go through a miscarriage even as I recognized that I was among the lucky ones for whom a pregnancy loss was a smallish hiccup on the way to a baby instead of the first mile marker on a long-term fertility struggle.
When we decided to start trying for a second baby, our first was about a year old and my cycles were irregular as they started to return. So I took a lot of pregnancy tests–not because we were in a huge rush to conceive, but because maybe I wanted to have a few drinks or take some cold medicine or whatever and wanted to be sure I wasn’t pregnant before I did.
So on Valentine’s Day this year, when I spotted a faint line on a test, I was surprised. I didn’t feel any of the familiar hints of pregnancy that I recalled from the last two times. I took a few more tests over the course of the day, and while the lines remained faint, they were there. I presented a test to The Husband when he got home from work, and he was thrilled.
I still didn’t feel right the next morning. I took the rest of the stash of pregnancy tests, hoping to see the lines darken (nope). Even went and bought a few digital ones because I just wasn’t convinced. When I got a digital “Not Pregnant” that second day, I tried to subdue the growing certainty that this pregnancy wasn’t going to stick. That feeling was confirmed when my period arrived the next morning.
The second miscarriage was easier than the first, but it still wasn’t pleasant. No emergency room visit, no retracting excited announcements to anyone, no lingering pregnancy symptoms (no symptoms at all, really) to remind me of what I was losing. But it was still a retraction. It still was a hope extinguished.
I feel like a walking confirmation of the statistic I’ve often heard thrown around that about half of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. If it weren’t for extremely sensitive pregnancy tests, this one would have gotten past me without leaving a mark. As it was, I found myself quietly crying in a dark movie theater when I finally had a moment to let myself process how I was feeling.
Again, we quickly went on to conceive again. And here I am sailing through my fourth pregnancy, toward my second baby.
Here’s what I’ve learned about miscarriage in the interceding years since that first loss:
- Everyone’s journey is different. Miscarriage can be devastating, or it can be mildly disappointing, or both, or anything in between. What it doesn’t have to be, if we are willing to talk about it, is lonely.
- Speaking of lonely, miscarriage doesn’t just happen to women. While the physical aspects of the loss were mine to bear both times, The Husband also was excited about our growing family, was also sad when the news turned bad.
- Toddlers make a great distraction when you’re bummed out about a pregnancy loss.
If you’ve experienced a loss of your own, I’m sorry. It sucks. And you’re not alone.