This Is How I Cope With Recurrent Miscarriage
“January isn’t a good month to have a baby, anyway,” I say to my husband as I slip on my underwear. I always wear a dress to the doctor so that I can make a quick getaway if a car cry is in order.
I’m a pro at miscarrying.
We’ve done this many times—come to the doctor for reassurance, to see the flicker of a heartbeat that will make us feel silly for being afraid that it wouldn’t work out…again. Only to be given the same tried and true condolences and assurance that next time it will be better. Statistically, it will happen. Statistically, it has to happen, right?
“Any month is a good month to have a baby,” he says.
“No,” I say. “That’s not what we’re doing right now. Right now we are saying that January is a bad month to have a baby.”
“Oh. Right. It’s cold. You can’t leave the house. Lots of germs,” he’s catching on now. “Spring is a much better time of year to have a baby. We’ll have a spring baby.”
I’m lucky. I do have a baby. I have a beautiful little boy who tries my patience, makes me laugh until I cry, and whom I love with a ferocity I didn’t think possible. I do have a baby. And I feel like I’m being selfish for asking the universe to let me have another one.
I’m an only child. My husband is an only child. We turned out fine…mostly. And I will be okay if that is our ultimate path as a family, but for now, I keep getting pregnant because I haven’t totally given up on giving my son the one thing I felt like I missed out on: someone who will help him navigate this world. Someone to conspire with, confess to, grey my hair faster, and someone to support him up when my husband and I are gone.
A large-scale study, published in 2017 by BMC Pregnancy & Childbirth, found that while 43% of parous women (women who have given birth one or more times) have experienced a miscarriage at one point or another, only 1% of women suffer recurrent miscarriage—the occurrences of three or more consecutive miscarriages.
Like anything, miscarrying gets easier the more practice you have. Crappy, crappy practice.
My first loss was the hardest. I wasn’t a mother yet. It was my first pregnancy and it all felt so picture perfect. I went off the pill a few months after my husband and I married and — boom — pregnant. But when we went in for our 10-week ultrasound, the little flicker of a heartbeat we’d been expecting had died out. Our baby had stopped growing shortly after our last appointment. Looking back I should have had a D&C, but I didn’t, I wanted to do things as naturally as possible and it was a hard miscarriage to go through physically as well as emotionally. I bled and passed tissue for weeks, a constant visceral reminder of my body’s betrayal when all I wanted to do was forget.
The depression that followed was fierce and my husband seemed to be on a mission to knock me up again if only as a means to get me back, to snap me out of the sadness that overtook every part of me. And he was right. When I got pregnant again I was fine, the world made sense again. The Internet had told me that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy my pregnancy because I’d experienced a loss before, but it wasn’t true. With whatever modicum of motherly intuition I had at that point, I knew that I would get to hold the little human in my uterus in my arms. And I did.
My second and third and fourth miscarriages were different. Still sad. But easier. For starters, I have a toddler now. Which means that I really don’t have the freedom to really dwell in my negative emotions. Healthy or not, I have to be someone’s mother. So after each loss, I have a good cry. Drink a screw-you-uterus margarita, and go back to work being a mom.
Besides tequila, there are a few things that have helped me deal with my reality as a part of that unlucky 1%.
I found as many answers as I could. While it’s not all that comforting when you’re going through it, miscarriage is common, and the vast majority happen because of some sort of chromosomal defect or misalignment during mitosis. But when you deal with multiple miscarriages, there’s a much higher likelihood that there’s something else at play. I found out during my first pregnancy that I had an autoimmune disease that made my likelihood of miscarrying twice as likely.
Pregnant or not, I’m now under the care of an endocrinologist to manage my disorder, but I go into each pregnancy prepared for the worst. I’ve also gone through a wide battery of tests for fertility, chromosomal, and blood clotting disorders for answers to whether or not those factors could have contributed to my losses. Answers are sometimes hard to hear, but they provide a plan of action for moving forward.
Stay in the moment.
I don’t think this is an emotional possibility for people who haven’t already gone through losses, but I don’t think about the future of my pregnancies anymore. I take it day by day. I don’t think of a pregnancy as a baby, I think of it as a medical condition until it actually starts looking like a baby sometime in the second trimester.
I don’t keep it secret.
For me, losses are easier when your support system already knows you were pregnant. There’s no shame in miscarrying, and there’s no shame in asking for support when you need it.
Find the right support system.
I’ve found over the course of my miscarriage history that the kind of support I need has changed. When I had my first loss I needed to immerse myself in it, to understand every single element of miscarriage as a means of understanding what had happened. I was able to find a local support group, an online support group, and a therapist who specialized in pregnancy loss to help me process my feelings. Now I tend to keep away from anything that might encourage me to dwell too much. Instead of online groups, I find more comfort in chatting one on one with friends who’ve also experienced loss. I lean more on my husband because he’s here in the trenches with me. And I find comfort in the baby I do have, because I know, in the end, that this body of mine made one baby. And if that’s all it’s ever capable of, I will forever be grateful.
Just the facts.
Everyone copes with grief in their own way, but I choose to be more literal about my pregnancies and losses. I don’t refer to my miscarriages as “angels” because it feels to me like I’m imbuing them with lives they never had, lives I never experienced with them. And I don’t call my son my “rainbow baby,” because I never want him to feel like his identity is wrapped up in my fertility issues. This is how I cope, and others might cope in the opposite way.
I do believe that I will have another baby. I wouldn’t keep putting myself through this if I didn’t. And when that second line shows up on a pregnancy test every few months, I allow myself to be happy. I repeat my mantra, “Today I am pregnant.” And every day that I get to be pregnant, I’m grateful for. I’ve come to accept that pregnancy is a different animal for me, a rational, technical, and often disappointing animal. But I cherish my motherhood all the more for it.