Did you know that today (October 15th) is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day?
In October 1988, President Ronald Reagan said, “When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan. When a spouse loses her or his partner, they are called a widow or widower. When parents lose their child, there isn’t a word to describe them. This month recognizes the loss so many parents experience across the United States and around the world. It is also meant to inform and provide resources for parents who have lost children due to miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, stillbirths, birth defects, SIDS, and other causes.”
Research studies vary, but it has been reported that anywhere from 10-25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. But that number is likely double, since most miscarriages happen in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, when many women don't even realize that they are pregnant yet. So if you really think about it, miscarriage is almost as common as pregnancy. And yet, there is a stigma with miscarriage. It's a silent and lonely grief. You feel like a failure because you feel like your body has let you down. You feel like you must have done something wrong for this to happen. You are scared because you don't know if your miscarriage is a fluke or indicative of a bigger problem. I know because it happened to me.
Almost 6 years ago to the day, I learned that we were pregnant with our second child. With one healthy pregnancy under my belt, I was confident there was little to nothing to worry about. Our daughter Madeline, a sweet, smart, energetic toddler, had entered the world exactly on her due date and at almost ten pounds. Hers was a trouble-free pregnancy. Growing a child was something I could do well, or so I thought. Because I had such a good pregnancy the first time, and got pregnant so easily this time, I told everyone. Immediately. I didn't want to have to go through the annoying ritual of hiding it for 12 weeks this time.
But this pregnancy was different right off the bat. I had no symptoms. Zero. Whereas with my first pregnancy I had sore, tender breasts and was sick as a dog almost immediately. But my friends and family kept telling me that every pregnancy is different, so I tried to believe that everything was fine. But I knew something was wrong. A few weeks later my husband Aaron and I had our first doctors appointment to confirm the pregnancy. During the ultrasound, the tech saw two embryos! We were having twins! But she said that one was looking small and wanted the doctor to take a more in depth look. So she asked us to go back to the waiting room until the doctor was free. So for the next 15 minutes, Aaron and I laughed at the thought of having two babies and all that would entail -- two cribs, two car seats, a new car that could fit all 3 of our kids! And I started to think, "That's why I didn't have any symptoms...because this pregnancy really was different...there were two babies in there, not just one!"
When the doctor brought us in for the second ultrasound, she told us that we had what looked like a "vanishing twin"--which occurs when a twin or multiple disappears in the uterus during pregnancy as a result of a miscarriage of one twin or multiple. So we were down one baby. She told us that the other baby looked very small, about 5 weeks old (I was 8 weeks pregnant). Then she dealt the final blow and told us that because the baby was so small, she couldn't see a heartbeat and that this most likely meant that I would miscarry in the coming days. Then she sent us home.
The next day I was in a meeting at work when I started to bleed. I went to the bathroom in the middle of the meeting and passed some tissue/clots. I thought that this might be the baby, but I couldn't tell and I didn't know what to do (because it didn't occur to me to ask my doctor what happens if I miscarry in the toilet)...so I flushed the toilet. And I definitely remember thinking, "I wonder if I just flushed my baby down the toilet." And then I tried to compose myself and I went back to my meeting. Can you imagine? When we say that women are strong and fierce and brave, this is why. In the face of extreme loss and grief...we fix our mascara and walk back into the meeting.
On the way home from work I called Aaron and asked him to meet me at the ER. I was bleeding a lot at that point and just didn't know what to do and didn't know what to expect. I was scared. The next few hours (or days, if I'm being honest) were a blur. I remember bleeding on the floor in the hospital room. I remember the doctor giving me an exam to confirm the miscarriage, but I don't remember if he had to do a D&C. I remember walking to the bathroom and taking a seat on the floor in my hospital gown in front of the nurse's station because I was about to faint. I remember calling my mom on the way home and just sobbing. I remember feeling empty and alone even though I was surrounded by people who loved me. And I remember wondering if I would ever get over the grief and be happy again.
When I was in the ER, the doctor told me that I could start trying to get pregnant after my next period. When I went my doctor for a follow up visit a few days later, I asked her when I could start trying again and she said 3-4 months. Confused, I told her what the ER doctor had said and she responded with, "Technically, he's right...but we like you to wait so that we can get a better sense of your cycles again." I was PISSED. The only thing in the world I wanted was to know if I could have another child. And the other way to know that was to try. So for them to give me different medical guidelines for administrative purposes (at least that's how I viewed it) was too much. This practice was also unaware that my visit was a miscarriage follow up visit and treated it like I had passed a kidney stone and not a baby...so I left that appointment and immediately found a new, midwifery-based practice. It was the best decision I made!
About 2 weeks later I got my period, and 2 weeks after that I found out I was pregnant again. <3 Six years later I of course still wonder what might have been, but then I also look at my sweet Nora (who's now five) and realize I wouldn't have her if I hadn't have had my miscarriage. She's my rainbow baby. She's my miracle.