Don't be afraid to grieve.
It has been a struggle to come to terms with these losses, losses of the potential for life.
“This might be a little uncomfortable,” my doctor said. I put my headphones in and clutched my iPhone, turning the volume up on my white noise app, and braced myself for another D&C.
She was hardly the first doctor to deliver those words. In fact, in the past nine months, I’ve heard those words a lot — through two natural pregnancies, one round of IVF, so many fertility tests, treatments, blood draws, shots, and two D&Cs.
I have a 12-year-old son from a previous relationship. I had him in my 20s, when the concept of fertility and motherhood was foreign and abstract to me. Becoming a mother changed my life in distinct and profound ways, and I knew I would welcome another child if ever remarried and the circumstances were right. Then I did remarry, and about a year ago, my husband and I started actively trying to get pregnant.
In March I was pregnant and miscarried early. In May I was pregnant again, was diagnosed with a missed miscarriage at eight weeks, and had a D&C in the beginning of June. By October, I was pregnant again, this time via IVF. On November 20th, my birthday no less, I had another D&C for another missed miscarriage.
It has been a struggle to come to terms with these losses — losses of the potential for life. It’s not like mourning a living thing, tangible and present, and I have had conflicting feelings about how to process it all. But, I have maintained an attitude of looking forward, thanks in part to the things I’ve learned from three miscarriages in nine months.
It’s so damn common. I never thought about miscarriage all that much before this year. It was a concept, in the way motherhood had been before I became a mother. I knew it happened, but I didn’t fear or consider it could happen to me. I live my life very transparently. I write candidly about my life and experiences and found that being truthful about my miscarriages was beneficial for multiple reasons, not the least of which was learning that so many women I know have had them, multiple times, and it made me feel a lot less alone.
Speaking about it alleviates the shame. There seems to be, for me and other women I’ve talked to, a level of shame attached to the experience of miscarriage, a sense of failure as a woman. It’s not logical, but it exists. Talking about the ups and downs of my fertility has dissolved the shame I felt, and I am so grateful for that.
Distraction, distraction, distraction. Read, binge-watch your favorite shows, shop, eat, drink, exercise, meditate — do whatever you need to do to distract yourself in the days following a miscarriage. It fucking helps. And don’t judge yourself for it. Be selfish.
Grief and gratitude are not mutually exclusive. Grieving doesn’t mean you’re not grateful for all of the amazing things in your life. Because they do matter! But, that doesn’t mean you don’t have a right to grieve. I’ve found that well-intentioned people will point out all the good things in your life as a means of erasing your grief, but it doesn’t work like that. During my first miscarriage, my best friend said something to me that was so helpful. She said, “Don’t skip the grief. It’s important.” That was exactly what I needed to hear, because grief is slippery and will ooze back into the corners of your life when you least expect it. It’s so much easier to face it and feel it and then let it go. Once you do that, all that stuff you’re grateful for matters even more.
But...there are worse things. When my doctor, whom I adore and is a really good doctor, had to deliver the bad news to me, that there was no heartbeat, that I was indeed having another D&C, she added, “I know how hard this, but there are worse things we could be facing.” What she meant was, this could be an ectopic pregnancy, which presents way more complications. We continued talking and she told me about the hardest thing she has ever had to do in her career was deliver a stillborn baby, which I cannot begin to imagine. There are many more things that are worse than this, like losing my son, my spouse, and the list could go on. Miscarriage is really hard and painful and rife with complex emotions, but it’s not the worst thing that I could be going through, and that gives me some perspective.
It’s OK to feel OK again. On the flip side of well-intentioned people wanting you to move past the grief, there are well-intentioned people who seem skeptical or concerned when you seem OK again. Because I let myself feel the grief, because I can talk about it, because I am grateful for what I have in my life, because I can distract myself while I’m in the sharpest days of that grief, and because I allow myself to look forward not back, I am OK again.
And it was all “a little uncomfortable,” just like many other moments in life. But, I promise, should you go through this and face the challenges that so many women do regarding fertility, you can and will be able to look forward again.