Thursday, October 8, 2015

One in Four - Miscarriage

     A few years ago, a friend of mine had a miscarriage.  We'd recently moved from Pennsylvania to Chicago and the fact that I couldn't just run four townhouses down to sit up all night with her while she went through her loss tore me apart.  I experienced my first miscarriage when I was just a little over five weeks pregnant.  It was the middle of the night, I woke up cramping and feeling like something was horribly wrong and stumbled out of the bed and into the bathroom, both praying I didn't wake my husband and that he'd know instinctively somehow that the world was ending and that I needed him.

     There was too much blood for it to just be spotting.  I knew as I sat there that night that it was over.  All night long, I sat on the bathroom floor, crying silently until I reached a point where it had slowed down enough for me to go back to bed.  My husband muttered asking me if I was okay and all I could do was whisper, "I lost the baby."  He was mostly asleep so he didn't respond and I fell asleep.  

     Those hours alone on the floor were the most helpless hours I'd experienced until the birth of our oldest child.  I was losing my baby, there was nothing I could do to stop it from happening.  I just had to let it happen.  

     I called in sick to work the next day, told my manager I'd suffered a miscarriage and needed a couple of days off.  At the time I worked at a big box baby store, so I'd spent the week between my positive test and the day before picking out a crib, bedding, even getting my husband to buy two pieces that were floor samples on clearance; a changing table and a armoire.  They were perfect and we were apparently going to need them.  

     Or not.

     I had some rude comments.  I went to the doctor who confirmed that I did appear to be having a miscarriage, as the bleeding was heavier than a regular period and I'd had a positive test as well as had missed birth control pills and had symptoms.  I felt validated in knowing that I'd had life in me, even if it was gone.  Someone close to me told me to pretend it hadn't happened, to push it deep, deep down; it wasn't even a real baby anyways, so I needed to just get over it and go back to work.

     So much happens when you lose a pregnancy for the first time.  There's the physical aspect of it; it's painful.  It's a horrible period and knowing that the blood you're seeing is supposed to be providing life to your baby is traumatic.  You try not to look for the baby; five weeks I luckily didn't have much if anything to see.  When I lost my second at eight weeks, I saw but closed my eyes and pretended I hadn't.  It worked better for me.  You're alone.  Most women miscarry before they've told anyone outside their immediate group of people they're pregnant, so there's no real support.  The only person who is aware of the loss, when all is said and done, is the one who lost the baby.  Significant others grieve.  They process grief differently depending on their gender and experiences.  But it wasn't their bodies, they didn't feel the change, they weren't sending those constant thoughts there, wishing for their eyes and your chin and a brilliance neither of you possess.  

     It's you.  It's just you.  Others can grieve alongside you. They can grieve for you.  But to them, the baby was a tiny abstract thing in you.  There is very little physically about it.  You are really alone in your grief.

     I was friends with a young woman who'd experienced a loss at eight weeks.  We've since parted ways as friends but I will be forever grateful and have taken her example of compassion and kindness when I lost my baby.  She told me it was a real baby, that I was suffering a real loss and that grief was not only okay, it was human.  There was nothing wrong with being sad that I lost my baby.  

     Since then, I've tried to let other women know that their grief is valid.  With my friend who lost her baby, I wished with everything I had that I could go and sit on the floor with her, even if it was just outside her bathroom door, to let her know she wasn't alone and that someone who understood the pain was there to sit the night with her.  Her husband wasn't home that night and I sat up all night anyways, texting her and talking her through the process to the best of my ability.  When I spoke with another one of our neighbors the next day, we talked about what she could do for our friend.  

     "Just go and sit with her.  Cry with her, hug her.  Nothing you can say will make it better, so other than 'I'm so sorry,' there's nothing to say."  Our friend went over and brought wine and ice cream and rubbed her feet and they cried.  She's since had two beautiful little ones (I mean that with all sincerity, I honestly think babies tend to look like compressed old men, her babies were gorgeous) and has reached out to others who have gone through losses.  

     I couldn't sit with her that night.  I thought about her all day and thought about the road she was going to have to walk.  She wouldn't trust another pregnancy, she'd always be afraid of losing her baby.  That bubble was burst and the world had shifted for her.  There was nothing I could say to comfort her.

     So I wrote her a blog post.  Just for her.  I write better than I speak, although I'm catching up with my ADHD medication, so I wrote my thoughts down for her.  

     If you've suffered a loss, if you're suffering a loss, or know someone suffering a loss

     Read this knowing that while I wrote it for my friend at that time, it's for you.


  “At the temple there is a poem called "Loss" carved into the stone. It has three words, but the poet has scratched them out. You cannot read loss, only feel it.” 

     A friend of mine found out that the little bean she's been carrying stopped growing and passed.  

     As tears ran down my face I searched for words to try to comfort her.  I wished for something to say that would take away her pain.  I knew the emptiness she must feel, the numbness.  I know that for a brief second as she wakes up, she'll feel relief that it was all a horrible dream and that she's still pregnant and her happy little bean is still kicking and growing.

     Then it will all come rushing back to her.  And then she'll have to get up, face a horrible day and then go on somehow. 

     How do you move on?  For eight weeks, she's been following her beans progress, trying to decide if she's having a boy or a girl, deciding names, planning the room and getting ready to see her new husband with their beautiful baby.  This is a huge loss.  It's a devastating loss, and it's one that people don't see unless they knew.  And it's one people don't get unless they know.  

     I've had two miscarriages.  I know other women who have had more.  I know that each loss hurts.  They don't get easier.  Each loss is a loss of hope, of a life you were planning and joyously looking forward to.  My first miscarriage, I didn't get out of bed for two weeks.  I snapped and couldn't handle my grief.  My second, I threw things, screamed and went numb and angry for an hour and felt less of "loss" and more anger at my time and hope being wasted.

     I've had friends and family who have miscarried.  Some cried and cried.  Others punched holes in their wall.  Others pretended it never happened.  Still others spiraled into a ball of bitterness and insanity.  

     I've learned over the years that the only wrong way to grieve is to deny your feelings.  If you don't want to get out of bed for two weeks, don't.  If you want to slam the door to your intended nursery and not go in there for months, do it.  If you don't want to even think about other pregnant women, don't.  My experience has taught me, take the time.  Be angry.  Be hurt.  Be heartbroken.  It's heartbreaking.  Devastatingly heartbreaking.  You've suffered a huge loss.  Don't ever, EVER let anyone try to tell you otherwise.  

     Because you're going to hear it.  You're going to hear "There was something wrong with the baby," or "At least you weren't that far along" or "You can always have another one" or "You're lucky you can at least get pregnant."

     The answers are simple.  There was nothing wrong with your baby, because the baby in your heart was growing had ten little toes and ten little fingers and would have your eyes and his smile.  Your baby was perfect.  And that perfect little baby, along with your hopes and dreams for them, is the loss you're suffering, not whatever they're telling you you're medically going through.  The physical loss is nothing compared to the loss of your child.  Even if  you weren't far enough along for it to seem "real," either to yourself or others, it was real.  You realized you were pregnant.  You watched all the signs of pregnancy.  I've lost one pregnancy at eight weeks, and another one at five.  I felt a deeper loss at five weeks, maybe because the excitement was so fresh.  It's not something anyone else can understand unless they've been there.

     The last two kill me.  Maybe you can have another one.  You probably can.  1 in 5 women experience a miscarriage their first pregnancy.  It's not uncommon.  But you know, your children are not interchangeable.  You had been planning for a baby due at a specific time.  You will forever remember that due date when it comes around each year and a thought will cross your mind every so often that "they'd be one today."  You see how your life would be different.  Yes, you can get pregnant again.  But you won't be able to wind back the clock and make it all better, which is what that comment implies.  There isn't an "undo."  There's a "move forward" but not an undo. 

     I struggle the most with the last one.  "At least you know you can get pregnant."  Yeah, it's true.  You probably can.  But there's a huge comfy bubble that bursts when you suffer through a miscarriage. Your ideals of pregnant=baby are gone.  You will most likely get pregnant again and you will most likely have a beautiful healthy baby after a perfectly boring pregnancy.  But you don't know that.  The person telling you doesn't know that.  They can't promise you that it will be okay.  

     I won't promise you that it will be okay.  Nothing I can say can make it better.  Nothing anyone can say can make it go away.  What I can promise you is that your desire to be a mother will make you one.  I will tell you that your child is blessed to have been loved so deeply by you for eight weeks.  That if every child could feel that deeply loved in this life that the world would see more beauty.  That your child was blessed to call you mother for that short time.  You blessed their life.  And you will bless the life of the child that is meant for your home and family.  I will promise you that the pain you feel right now won't sting and ache forever.  That the joy you will feel when you see your husband hold your child for the very first time will be a million times more powerful than the pain you feel right now.  

     I know that it hurts.  I'm so sorry it hurts.  I'd give anything to take this pain away.  I've done it twice, I know what to do with it.  Just know, if you've gone through this loss, are going through this loss or find yourself in this loss that you're not alone.  I'm here if anyone needs to talk.  

     And I'm so sorry.