A few years ago, I went through a string of losses - two miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy. One after the other - over a span of three years – my pregnancies disappeared. I was in my mid-30s, and finally ready to start trying to have children. I never knew it would be so hard. When you spend your whole life trying not to get pregnant, you just sort of assume that once you finally want it to happen – it will.
I learned quickly that assumption was wrong. Mother Nature is a fickle bitch. For a lot of women, pregnancy takes a lot of planning, effort, and loss.
Women rarely speak about their experiences with pregnancy loss. This is especially true on the baby boards that we use for support during pregnancy. It’s almost as if we believe a miscarriage is something you can catch, like a flu. Or that maybe we will jinx ourselves into having one if we read too much about them.
That was the feeling I got from all of the message boards I was on when my last miscarriage happened. Once a woman has a miscarriage, God forbid she tells her story. Moderators flag any miscarriage entries with TRIGGER WARNING. Sorry ma’am, your pregnancy card is revoked. I know you have been sharing your stories with these women for possibly months, but there’s a miscarriage support group somewhere on here. Take your stories there, please. Good luck! Hope you’re not barren forever!
Needless to say, I was too scared to post there. I didn’t want to freak out other women that were in the delicate early stages of pregnancy. It was then that I realized how little I knew about pregnancy loss. Women are infamous for sharing everything with each other – why not this? Well, “trigger warning." I’m going to share what it is like.
An early miscarriage can feel like a heavy period, with major cramping. I was six weeks along when that one happened and was able to go through it at home – alone. My OBGYN told me a lot of women have early miscarriages and don’t even realize it. They just think their period is late. Unfortunately, I knew I was pregnant so it wasn’t just a “late period” at all.
An ectopic pregnancy was next for me. If you ever need to get rushed through a busy ER, just tell someone you suspect you’re experiencing an ectopic pregnancy. The urgency they treated me with was truly frightening.
Since I had experienced an early miscarriage a few months prior to becoming pregnant again, we decided to get some blood work done to make sure everything looked okay. It didn’t.
In a normal pregnancy, your hCG (pregnancy hormone) levels double every couple of days. If all is not well – as in the case of an ectopic – your levels don’t rise at a normal pace. My blood work showed the levels to be a little low, and the doctor suspected an ectopic. Her recommendation was I should end the pregnancy with a shot of Methotrexate – a common cancer medication. She couldn’t be sure it was ectopic until I waited two days to check to see if the hCG was rising normally. I wasn’t comfortable with ending a pregnancy I really wanted before knowing it was totally unviable.
I decided to go home and wait the two days for another blood test. Intense pain and bleeding cut my wait short. We return to the ER. All indications point to ectopic, and they administer the Methotrexate. This is a drug that stops the growth of rapidly dividing cells – like cancer cells – and embryos. It is intramuscularly administered and it hurts a lot.
My last miscarriage happened three months into my pregnancy – exactly one day before my 12-week ultrasound. This is the event that usually marks that you have made it out of the uncertain early stages of pregnancy, and you can begin telling everyone your news.
I told you Mother Nature was a bitch.
Again - pain, bleeding and a trip to the ER.
This time the pain is excruciating. As I am being triaged, I have an enormous cramp and reach down and grab my abdomen. When I remove my hand, it is covered in blood. It is winter. I have bled through a pair of sweats, a long shirt, and a sweatshirt. They lead my husband and I to a room.
He begins to help me remove my clothes. There is blood everywhere. I truly believe I am bleeding to death and start to feel faint. My husband runs to grab a nurse.
They return. He is panicked and horrified – she is not. Don’t worry honey. This is totally normal.
What? Are you serious? This is normal? Apparently in a miscarriage at that stage of pregnancy you bleed – a lot. I wasn’t dying. What a revelation. I couldn’t stop thinking, how did I not know this? Why aren’t we sharing our stories?
Those are the details - the cold, hard, clinical-sounding facts. Each experience felt like one of those situations where you are on the outside looking in at what is going on in your life. I was there – but I wasn’t. It’s what happens on the inside – in your heart and mind – when all of this is going on that is much worse than the shots and the bleeding and the pain.
In the aftermath of the last miscarriage, I began to realize why we don’t share these stories. Apart from the pain, and the bleeding, and the loss – exists a tremendous sense of failure. I am a woman. I was made to do this. Why can’t I do this? Add to that the weight of the hormones crashing down around you. Then there is the simple fact that you have just lost a child. But don’t expect anyone to understand this. You have spent days, weeks, maybe months - talking to this little being, picturing what she would be like. You really can’t expect anyone to understand that heartbreak.
Or can you?
If you are going through this right now – and I know some of you must be – you will get through this. Talk to your friends. These are distinctly female experiences and they deserve to be shared. Whoever planted the seed that we are all delicate flowers was wrong. We’re stronger than we think. We endure situations like these – repeatedly and commonly. We’re not doing each other any favors by not being open about them.
(photo: Cheryl Casey/ Shutterstock)