Even though it was three years ago today, I remember it like it was yesterday. For as much as I have tried to forget it, I have a very vivid picture of the four women who held my hand or looked deep into my eyes as I went under anesthesia. They looked down at me as they rolled me into the operating room, and I could feel their deepest empathy wholly and completely through their gaze in my direction. To have such an unspeakable connection with fellow women without knowing them still has me in awe. Did you know that 1 in 4 women experiences a miscarriage?
There were a gynecologist, an anesthesiologist, and two nurses. My husband stayed until the very last moment when he had to leave me alone with them. I love my husband more than anything, and he was as supportive as he could have been, but I could always tell he was at a loss for words.
He did not know what it was like to have a piece of his flesh, another life, a heartbeat, entirely created in love, taken out of his womb. This womb that had produced a daughter of ours once before already had let me down. Let us both down.
Anyone who has lost a pregnancy before will know exactly what I mean. As I said, 1 in 4 women experience miscarriage, but I felt more lonely than I ever had before. I felt the weight of the world, all responsibility and blame on my shoulders alone. My body had failed me. Failed us both. I was ashamed. I know now that was not the case, but at the time I beat myself up harder than I ever have before.
A mother who has been through a procedure to remove a fetus from her body knows that the only word for how you feel is completely and utterly empty. Explaining how lifeless you feel is another thing. For months, I did not feel like myself. My smiles seemed few and far between. I put on a happy face for friends and family to pretend I was fine. The truth is, this May 7 anniversary snuck up on me. Until I looked at my calendar, I was living in the moment and snuggling with my almost 6-year-old while laughing at my 2-year-old. It’s amazing to me how whole those two amazing girls make me feel, and yet deep down, there is still a hole in my heart. A hole where something might have been. Someone might have grown into something amazing.
One of the only things that got me through the following days after the procedure were my husband’s words: “Give yourself a little grace.” Something I later learned through a counselor is that with miscarriage, it doesn’t matter how far along you were, you can’t put a measurement on how much grief you feel. In this day and age of such early pregnancy detection, it is easier than ever to build that Pinterest board of baby dreams and plan a future when you have no idea what the future will hold.
Even though I could sense something was different about that pregnancy, I never would have imagined that it would not be viable or that I would hear the words my nurse practitioner — “Okay, guys, I’m going to get a second opinion, but I am not seeing a heartbeat.” Even in that moment of disbelief and confusion, I felt empathy for her that she had to give us that news.
Now I am able to look back on that day fondly, not because of what I lost, but because of the strong women who surrounded me, who were there for me when I needed them most. I remember writing a thank-you note to those four women from the operating room, and thinking, how do I thank such amazing women for guiding me through such a difficult experience?
I don’t know that “normalizing” miscarriage will ever happen. How can you normalize something that hurts so badly? But bringing awareness that 1 in 4 women experience a miscarriage does help us all practice more empathy.
I watch my words more carefully now around women and couples because I can never know who might be trying to conceive. I try to express my gratitude for the many blessings I have. I still complain from time to time (I’m far from perfect), but I know how fortunate I am to have two, beautiful, healthy, imperfect kids who whine when they are hangry, cry when they are hurt, and learn hard lessons in life just like myself. I only hope that I can raise strong, empathetic women like the ones I have come across.
When I am with other mom friends, I sometimes can’t help but wonder which one of them is 1 in 4. As three years have passed, I have to remind myself how grateful I am, even for that awful experience, because without it, I would not have had my beautiful second daughter a year later.
With all the heartache that I learned from, I know now that I am strong. I am beautiful. I am thankful. I am a miracle-maker. I am not broken. I am a mother. I am resilient. I am 1 in 4.