the things we don’t talk about: miscarriage & fertility

So much for my plan to write about my new favorite eye cream today. Apparently, I am getting super personal this week, but I promise to lighten it up next time!!

A dear friend of mine is currently in the middle of a heartbreak – she just had a miscarriage a few days ago. I was talking to her about grieving this loss and I said something like, “You don’t realize how common it is, until you mention your own loss and then the flood gates open with stories of other women who have miscarried.”

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I’m not sure why it’s such a taboo subject, but there seems to be a certain code of silence that comes with miscarriage. I’ve mentioned my experiences, in passing, a few times and the people I’m talking to usually seem shocked that I’m acknowledging it. When you’re in the thick of that loss, it can be extremely lonely and feeling like you must be shrouded in secrecy only amplifies that loneliness. For people like my friend, I am opening up about my experience with pregnancy loss and fertility because it doesn’t have to be such a lonesome and quiet road.

Before we had kids, we struggled with fertility issues for over a year and part of that struggle included several very very early losses. That whole experience was difficult because it was easy to blame myself and pick apart things that I might have done to contribute to our challenges. {If only I hadn’t walked so much…} I understood intellectually that it wasn’t my “fault” and that I couldn’t have changed the outcome through anything that I did or didn’t do, but I still felt responsible somehow. I finally accepted that it wasn’t anything I had done and in my case, it was a physical condition that required surgery. Also, it’s funny how everyone around you seems to be getting pregnant and staying pregnant when you desperately want to be.

During that year of struggle, the hubs and I had a fun way of taking our minds off of it: following each realization that a baby was not on the way, we would pull ourselves up and make a night of it. We’d do all the things we knew we wouldn’t be doing once we were parents, which usually involved our favorite sushi restaurant, a bottle of wine, then bar hopping our way back to our apartment! It dulled the disappointment by sheer distraction. Traveling was a great way for us to reconnect and to help keep ourselves from being consumed by the desire to have a baby. Without consciously taking the time to have fun and step outside of the fertility bubble, I don’t think we would have maintained our sanity.

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We made sure to keep having fun together through it all.

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Travels kept us feeling like a team and feeling connected. Being connected kept us hopeful.

When Henry was about 14 months old, the pregnancy symptoms were intense and recognizable almost immediately, even though we weren’t trying. At 7 weeks, I noticed the beginning stages of miscarriage. I was in complete denial at that point – googling everything that could possibly indicate that it was just normal first trimester stuff. A few days later, it became obvious that it wasn’t normal and that I had lost the pregnancy. We left directly from the doctor’s office to be with my family, 4 hours away, for my grandmother’s funeral. Even though I was surrounded by family and love, I still felt lonely – like it was something that only I could understand.

I felt guilty because I had been shocked and maybe a little less than excited when I saw the positive pregnancy test. As though my mixed emotions had caused the miscarriage. In those few weeks, I had gone from shocked and scared to excited and fully envisioning our growing family. Even though I was only pregnant for a short time, I still felt connected and bonded, so I had to grieve that loss. I had to give myself the space to be sad. I think that is key – to give yourself permission to grieve, because it is a loss. It’s a loss of possibilities and hope.

I eventually regained my focus by fixing my gaze on my blessings; a wonderful husband, a healthy one-year-old and all of the possibilities for the future. I regained my sense of hope. I also did A WHOLE LOT of snuggling with my little guy, which I’m sure helped the process! We decided not to try for another baby for a while and exactly a year after my miscarriage, I found out I was pregnant with Graham. Those feelings of loss are still seared in the back of my mind and probably won’t ever go away, but I have two crazy kiddos now, so I don’t go there that often. Even when I do, there is a sense of lightness attached to those feelings now, because I’m at peace. I’m at peace because it’s just another part of our family’s journey that brought us to where we are now.

After I told my friend about my experience the other day, she said she just wanted to give me a hug, even though she knew that everything eventually turned out well. I said the following to her: “Everything will turn out well for you too and you won’t be able to imagine your life any differently. You’ll probably also be having a similar conversation with a different friend who is grieving a miscarriage and you’ll be the one telling her that it’s all going to be okay.” xoxo

UPDATE: Here are a few resources that helped through my journey.

  • Taking Charge of Your Fertility – I have the 10th anniversary edition, but I’m assuming the just released 20th anniversary edition is even better. I still use this as a resource. {Why didn’t they teach us all of this information in health class?!?}
  • Fully Fertile – For those of you who have an inner hippie, like me.
  • Pulling Down the Moon – This is a space that promotes a holistic approach to health and fertility. Their resources are really supportive and if you’re local to Chicago or DC, you can make an appointment for fertility or prenatal massage, take a fertility specific yoga class or get acupuncture, which is what I did. I cannot recommend them enough. Side note, the above book Fully Fertile was written by the founders of Pulling Down the Moon.

 

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