“Oh, I’m so sorry. I’m not seeing that heartbeat we’re looking for.” It’s a sentence that will be burned into my memory forever. At least that’s what it feels like 4 days out from my miscarriage. I was eleven weeks pregnant, or, so I thought when I woke up the morning of April 23rd.
I had called my OBGYN’s office the evening before with a basic concern that I assumed was important to note but was probably nothing serious. The on-call Dr. I spoke with was careful not to sound either too concerned nor nonchalant about it but suggested I check in with the nurses in the morning. They called me the next morning before I had a chance. The nurse informed me that they had made an appointment for me at 1:00 to do an ultrasound to make sure everything was okay.
When I heard that sentence, it hit me like the proverbial “ton of bricks”. Up until that point, I hadn’t actually considered that we might have lost the baby. I have anxiety (at times, severe) and always consider (obsess really) the worst possible outcome for EVERYTHING, yet I honestly hadn’t in this situation. How could I? I have a beautiful, healthy, strong (almost) 5 year old. My pregnancy with him was uneventful. Why would I have any reason to imagine this one would be different? Or at least THIS tragically different.
The measurements showed there had been little to no growth since my 9 week appointment. We saw the heartbeat, we saw movement, we saw two arms, two legs, and a huge head, just like all the apps describe. Why were there no signs THEN that something was wrong? If the doctor we had was more seasoned in her career, would she have noticed any red flags? “I was just here and everything was fine!” I’d said while hot tears of disbelief swelled at my eyelids. But it wasn’t fine, we just didn’t know it yet.
I’m both angry and terribly sad. We were two weeks away from sharing the news. I was so excited to talk with my son about it. He would be so excited. I bought him books about being a big brother. We were strategizing on how to make sure he didn’t feel neglected or less important. How is this real?
Trying to understand
How was I pregnant 5 days ago and now I’m not? How is it that I have to go to work every day and pretend like nothing has changed. To go to the bathroom 6 times a day and see the blood in the pads I’m going to have to wear for weeks, and not burst into tears at the constant reminder. Few people knew I was pregnant to begin with so why would anyone suspect anything has changed? And that’s the crux, now isn’t it. Of course there are terrible aspects in having to communicate loss at any stage of pregnancy and birth, but it’s these first trimester miscarriages that are so silent and lonely.
Some things I’ve learned:
- The miscarriage rate in the US is 15-20%
- Chromosomal abnormalities account for roughly 60%
- After seeing the heartbeat at week 9, the chance of miscarriage drops to 5% or below
- More than 80% of miscarriages occur before 12 weeks
- Women who experience nausea have a one third lower risk of miscarriage
These statistics are staggering, are they not? Yet when was the last time you heard someone talk about the miscarriage they suffered last year, last month, last week? Unless you’ve experienced one also, you likely haven’t heard anyone talk about it. It’s like this dark, arcane, secret society that you never knew existed until you are initiated.
Staying silent about my miscarriage – for now
What is it that perpetuates this unexpected, yet common loss from being talked about? I know what’s keeping me from wanting to talk about it.
1. I don’t want to be pitied. It absolutely blows that this happened, but I don’t want to be subject to the whim of the greater populations’ sadness for me. I want to be sad when I’m sad and when I have the luxury to distract myself from the slew of emotions, I don’t want to have a pouty faced coworker or a well-meaning text bring me right back there.
2. I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news. I don’t want to be the one to say “hey, so I have this really sad thing to put on you”. I keep weighing the pros and cons. What is the benefit of telling this person? Would they want to know? Do they NEED to know? Will it help me to get through it or make it more difficult?
3. What’s that saying? Fake it till you make it? We’ll I’m faking it hard. If I run into someone at the grocery store, they don’t know I’ve had this emotionally debilitating thing happen, so unless I want to break down in sobs and tell everyone I run into, I have to keep up appearances, right? Sure, maybe I sound a little (or a lot) crazy, but I make it through the day, pretending that I’m fine. Some days I even actually believe that I’m fine. (And then I burst into tears when trying to pick out sweatpants…).
4. I don’t want my experience to be made light of. I assume (presumably because I’m faking normalcy) that if I share this news with someone, they won’t give satisfactory gravity to the sadness. Maybe it’s also because I wouldn’t either if I was in someone elses shoes. I have high expectations and it’s easier to assume my expectations won’t be met, rather than be disappointed.
5. If I don’t talk about it, then I can pretend it didn’t happen, right? I wish. But I’m still about 12% sure this reasoning is valid.
Being that I just came up with 5 reasons why I, personally, don’t want to talk about it, I think it’s safe to say the 1 in 4 women who have experienced similar, probably have other reasons to add.
And yet in telling our stories, we shed light on an all-too-common experience shared by an abundance of women, many of whom suffer in silence. Maybe, by opening up when the time is right, we can give someone else ease knowing they aren’t alone, despite how lonely it feels.
“And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light that shines on me. Shine until tomorrow, let it be.” —The Beatles
“Undo it, take it back, make every day the previous one until I am returned to the day before the one that made you gone. Or set me on an airplane traveling west, crossing the dateline, again and again, losing this day, then that, until the day of loss is still ahead, and you are here, instead of sorrow.” —Nessa Rapaport
“That though the radiance which once shines so bright be forever taken from my sight thou nothing can restore the hour of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower I will grieve not but find strength in what remains behind” — William Wordsworth