Tuesday, November 27, 2012

What having a miscarriage feels like

Warning: This post contains material that may be sensitive to some.  Please be aware and read only if and when you are comfortable with a discussion of miscarriage.

When I was 20 years old, I found an old 70s book on motherhood in our basement.  The inscription indicated that it was for my mother, in celebration of her pregnancy.  However, I quickly realized that it was dated over a year before I was born.  That was when I learned that I was not my mother’s first pregnancy.  When I approached her about it, her eyes welled up with tears.  After our conversation, I remember feeling confused.  She lost this baby over 20 years prior, and she ended up with 3 healthy children.  Why would she still shed tears?

10 years later, I understood. 

And now, three years after that, I better understand. 

This time of year reminds me of my loss, my first baby that did not survive.  I now know how the story would unfold.  I know that I was destined to have a beautiful little boy just about two years after that devastating loss.  And yet I’m sad.  I don’t exactly know why, except that pregnancy is such a miracle, and wanted and waited for pregnancy is such a joy.  Hope begins while you’re still watching that blue line appear on the stick, and dreams for this new life start as you’re saying the words, “it’s positive.”  To have that ripped away – at any point – is a heartbreak unlike any other.

When I searched the ultrasound screen for the flicker of my baby’s heartbeat, I felt panic.  There was a heavy silence in the room while the doctor and my husband searched with me.  Later I described it this way: it is like having the best moment of your life turn into the worst moment of your life in the blink of an eye. Once the doctor gave up and gave us the sad news, I sprung into the first stage of grief – denial.  I was there for awhile. 

I decided to wait and let nature take its course.  I also dumped my OB and went to a midwife at a different hospital for follow up.  They did another ultrasound there to confirm the loss, and I was so hoping with all my heart that they would find my baby alive.  Of course they didn’t, and I left in a cloud of hopelessness.

I ended up doing a medical induction of miscarriage.  As opposed to a surgical procedure, I used a drug that caused my body to begin the process on its own.  It was a surreal feeling.  I went home, took the drug, and waited.  It was like waiting for a funeral.

Perhaps some are reading this post because they want to know what a miscarriage feels like physically.  Perhaps they are going through it or about to go through it themselves.  If so, you have my sympathy and my empathy and I don’t want you to feel cheated by the title of this post, as though it were false advertising.  So, without pushing the boundaries too far, I will say this briefly.  The pain was like the most severe menstrual cramps I’ve ever had.  The anxiety was only eclipsed by the emotional desperation I felt.  The best advice I was given was that it was okay to touch what my body produced.  And I did.  And I’m glad I did.

The physical and emotional pain is still very tangible to me.  But what I really remember when I look back is the numbness that followed.  The walking around in a fog, wondering if I would ever enjoy life again.  I found this video online shortly after my loss and I embraced it, because it so artistically depicted exactly how my life felt at that time.  If I were to try to best explain what it feels like after you have a miscarriage, this is what I would use as a visual aid:

This was me and John for quite some time after our loss.  We couldn’t really talk about anything else.  We couldn’t really laugh.  We had to live life, but we did so under a cloud of grief. And then John got better.  And, eventually, I improved.  But it was not until I had my son that I felt that wound heal – almost completely.  I know now that my mother’s tears many years ago were a signal to me.  I realize that she was telling me that this is a grief that you never fully resolve.  Just as your mother is always a part of you, so are your babies, born and unborn.

To all mothers of unborn babies, I honor you and I honor your loss.  My next post will be about coming out on the other side of this grief…
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One thought on “What having a miscarriage feels like

  1. Kate Zachary

    Thank you for posting this Lisa. I used to be confused in the same way. When my mother tells my birth story, it begins with the loss of the baby right before me, and I always sort of resented that, and felt confused by it. But working in my field, and having met too many women who have suffered this kind of loss has made it more clear. I am so happy that you have come out on the other side, that Tucker is finally here, and I know your journey was part of a bigger plan.

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