If the title of this post seems glib, please forgive me. I have just been drop-kicked into a secret club of which I wanted no part. Miscarriage, defined as the loss of pregnancy prior to 20 weeks gestation, occurs in 10 – 20 percent of pregnancies. I think somehow we perceive a miscarriage as “normal” or almost “routine,” which makes it an even more bitter pill to swallow. As much as the medical community reassures mothers that miscarriages are common, I am here to assert that there is nothing natural or normal about this process.
Before walking through my own pregnancy loss at 12 weeks gestation, I did not know what I thought of it all. I had walked alongside friends and family who had lost their sweet babies at birth. I had been a part of their grief as much as possible.
But I really hadn’t entered into a loved one’s miscarriage, and I hate that my own miscarriage is what it took for me to understand and enter into this kind of grief.
A week before things started going wrong, I was a tiny bit annoyed by the pregnancy. I felt like my high-strung, anxious, and overactive three year old needed all of my time and attention, not to mention the wants and needs of my other three kiddos. I started to think that maybe this was the wrong time to be pregnant.
But the second I started spotting blood, I knew what a total un-truth that was. I wanted THIS baby with all my heart. NOW was the perfect time to be pregnant. I wanted all the pregnancy symptoms back — the waves of nausea, the overwhelming exhaustion; it was all good and necessary.
The day after the loss, I wrote down all the important dates surrounding the pregnancy. The first day of my last menstrual cycle, the day of the positive pregnancy test, and, of course, the due date, which was Thursday, December 31, 2015.
For me, that date is incredibly poignant. Who knows, I might have had the last baby born at Harris Methodist Downtown for the year of 2015. And now, I know that there will be no new babies in our family in 2015, that this will be a barren year for us.
I also wrote down the dates of when things started going wrong. The twinges of cramps I felt a few weeks before, then the spotting at 12 weeks that I knew meant nothing good. And the date when everything ended with a D&C procedure, and I left the hospital empty-handed.
I was surprised by by how little grace I wanted to give myself. In the day leading up to the D&C, I was anxious about the messy house; and immediately after surgery, I wanted to be up cleaning and cooking. (Thankfully, my mom, sister, and our nanny kept the show running for my children and the house from becoming one of the outer rings of Dante’s inferno.)
There is no joy in recovering from a D&C; and without that, it’s hard to show oneself grace too. Had I been recovering from having a full-term baby, I would have been full of joy, and though stressed, I would have been happy to say to myself, “You just had a baby. Let the house go.” But not so this time around when there was no new baby.
If you know someone dealing with a miscarriage right now, do bring comfort. This NPR article has a few gentle suggestions for talking with a friend or family member as she muddles through this painful time. Bring a grieving mama a few meals, wine, bath salts, or a handwritten note. These things matter. Recognize her sadness and own it with her.
If you really want to enter into her grief, then I also suggest reading (and possibly gifting to a hurting mother) About What Was Lost: 20 Writers on Miscarriage, Healing, and Hope, a book I devoured in the weeks following my miscarriage.
And don’t jump too quickly to the trivial and mundane. When she’s ready to make small talk again, she will. But don’t start texting her with upbeat little tidbits or asking questions about plans for next week. Trust me, her heart isn’t ready for that yet.
Personally, I really wanted to take the first week to enter into grief. Without distractions. Without Facebook. Even without wine. When I would sit still for longer than a few minutes, I would start to cry. But I wanted to do that. I wanted to cry and mourn, and feel that pain before I resumed life as we know it.