Imagine getting pregnant. A few weeks later, the ultrasound shows a healthy fetus and the implantation site looks great. The OB/GYN smiles at you, says “Congrats, Mama!” and assures you “the baby’s healthy.”
The next day, you start bleeding—cramps, contractions, the works. It’s a mess. Your baby is gone. Sound like a bizarre twist of fate? A cruel joke? It feels that way too.
Recurrent miscarriage is a fluke. It’s an unusual problem that happens to 1 in 100 women. I just lost my sixth confirmed pregnancy—seventh if you count chemical pregnancies. Luckily, my son was born after loss number 5 (or 6, with the chemical pregnancy).
Losing that many little ones taught me some tough lessons:
1. It Never Gets Easier
Recurrent miscarriage never gets easier, and it affects mental and physical health. It puts you at a higher risk for postpartum depression, anxiety and depression, and a host of later conditions including preeclampsia in successful pregnancies (been there, done that, threw out the hospital gown), ovarian cancer, and coronary heart disease. And you’ll grieve.
2. You Will Fight With Your Partner
When a miscarriage happens, fights happen. Blame the hormones. Take a step back: What’s really behind the fight? Is your partner looking for a way to grieve and getting angry instead? Are you blaming them? Are you blaming you? When you understand that fights are part of the healing process, you can keep them from destroying your relationship.
3. Blame Is Pointless
You are not to blame. No matter how many times you snuck a taste of blue cheese, worked out too hard, had a glass of wine or a cup of coffee before you realized you were pregnant, it’s not you. Picking out a name like Egbert or Bertha won’t cause a miscarriage, and neither will doubting if you’re ready.
The majority of miscarriages are random. Roughly 60% happen when your fetus loses the genetic lottery and winds up with wonky chromosomes. Even when your body is involved, it’s not you. You didn’t set out to cause the miscarriage. You wanted that baby—even if you spent five minutes doubting that you really wanted it, after that last hormone-driven blowout with your partner.
Shake off the guilt and let yourself grieve.
4. The More You Lose, the More Likely You Are to Keep Losing, But That Doesn’t Mean You Should Stop Trying
If you’ve lost more than three little ones, you’re more likely to lose more. Still, your chances of a healthy, live little one resulting from your next pregnancy are pretty high, ranging from 35 to 85 percent.
When my son was born, we’d just about given up. Friends and family had asked when we were going to say that enough is enough, to admit that we just weren’t meant for kids, even if we wanted one. (People say the cruelest things without realizing it.) Then our miracle baby showed up—complete with a threatened miscarriage, a sharp drop in progesterone after week 9, and preeclampsia at the end of the pregnancy. But he’s alive, healthy, and an energetic, intelligent, and mischievous handful.
5. Some Words Will Sting
I developed a list of words that hurt like hell after losing my little ones. These two top the list:
Miscarry: As if you carried your baby wrong and—whoops—there it goes. Talk about insensitive.
Abortion: A miscarriage is a “spontaneous abortion” in medical terms. Try that one on for size. You want this baby. Someone who wants an abortion doesn’t. Medicine straps the same name on your involuntary, heartbreaking loss. Seems entirely unjust. (While we’re at it, if you miscarried after having an abortion at some point in your life, it isn’t your fault. Nature isn’t out for revenge. Stop looking for ways to blame yourself!)
6. Stay Off Social Media
Avoid Facebook for a few weeks—seriously. It’s a steady flow of pregnant bellies, ultrasounds, newborns, infants, and worse, people complaining about the kids they are fortunate enough to have. Take a break so that when your BFF tells you “Guess what? I’m pregnant!” you can actually be happy for her instead of being a miserable, bitter and pessimistic cloud of doom or a teary-eyed mess. She’ll appreciate it.
7. It’s More Common Than You Think
We’ve been raised from an early age to avoid discussing the big issues—rape and sexual abuse, domestic violence, and anything that doesn’t go perfectly with pregnancy, including miscarriage. That leaves a world of hurt behind. The first thing that most counselors or therapists will tell someone who is grieving is to “let it out” and “talk about it,” so screw propriety. Talk about what you’re going through. Real friends will be there to listen, and you might just find out that you aren’t alone.
I was quiet with my first few losses. I was crying inside, but apart from fighting with my husband and being stuck in a bed for a few weeks, most people didn’t know what had happened. After my first loss, many thought I was newly married (we miscarried after being married three weeks) and spending time with my husband. I’d passed out from blood loss, requiring emergency surgery. Word got around to my closest friends, some of whom were there when it happened. Only a select few knew about the next few losses, and no one knew the details. When I finally learned to share, I found support and healing.
Don’t clam up if you lose a baby, and definitely don’t start hiding future pregnancies until 3 months—that’s a great way to end up without a support network if something goes wrong.
8. If You Can’t Talk About It, Write About It
Writing helps process thoughts and feelings you may not be ready to acknowledge to anyone else. You don’t have to share what you write with anyone but yourself.
9. Every Loss Is Different
I’ve lost a lot of babies. I remember where we were when we found out we were pregnant each time, the excitement that followed, the names we discussed, and the hope that neither of us can kill. This time around, my 4-year-old son still hugs my belly and asks if his baby sister is inside. That brings tears, but also healing.
Each child is different. Each pregnancy is different. Each miscarriage is different too.
10. It’s Worth It
Every day, I look at my son with joy and wonder. I don’t think about the hard moments along the way. I don’t spend days grieving over the little ones we lost. I miss them, but I’m happy to have him—to wrap him up in a snuggle-hug and tickle his belly, watch him burst with laughter or marvel at the “magic” of every day—and I’m in awe.
I’m ready to do it all over again, and I’m excited to meet that baby when it arrives, no matter how many tries it takes.
If you’re facing something similar, please reach out. You aren’t alone.