No woman wants to hear “miscarriage” after a positive pregnancy test, and if it happens to you it can feel like your world has shattered. More than once can be unbearable, where sadness and questions evolve into fear and despair. What I would suggest is worse than the initial loss of your child, is the continual fear of losing a new pregnancy.
Seemingly unavoidable feelings of guilt, questions of what went wrong, and fear of this “being it for you” can swamp your mind. No matter the number of consolations, the love is shown, and the reassuring words from medical staff, it can be hard to turn off the voice in your head that says something is wrong.
The fact is that approximately 1 in 3 of all pregnancies ends in miscarriage but that most of those happen in the very first weeks of pregnancy. Until the 1970s women simply couldn’t be sure they were pregnant until much later when symptoms would start to show which meant most would consider it a late period. This is one of the reasons why, at least here in the UK, women are told that unless they have had 3 consecutive miscarriages there is little need for more tests. This can feel frustrating and upsetting but the truth is the chance of being someone who has a recurrent miscarriage is 1%, and hence you have a 99% chance of everything being fine. Even so, the first weeks of pregnancy can feel like weeks of waiting, weeks of fear, and weeks of detachment rather than joy.
I suffered two miscarriages in just 10 months. I didn’t think I would feel worse the second time around, but it was a new and different pain. Thoughts of blame, of what I could’ve done differently, of grief, and the mental images circled me like demons in the night. I told my husband I did not want to try again for at least a year; I couldn’t face sex or pregnancy as in my mind they only led to one situation: fear, blood and loss.
Without trying I became pregnant 3 months after my second miscarriage. I couldn’t feel happy about it, and for a long time struggled to think about it at all: I didn’t want to take prenatal vitamins, tell anyone, or read about babies because that would make it real. My distrust caused me to disconnect, to protect myself from the harm another loss might do me. It took a long time for these feelings to fade, and it had a lot to do with the weeks gradually adding up. At 12 weeks I just felt able to tell our parents, but no-one else. At the scan seeing my child still didn’t feel real.
I had to eventually force myself to take small steps and allow myself to grieve whilst embracing the joy of this new time in my life. I still probably don’t act like most mums-to-be by getting excited about clothing or toys but I am gradually accepting their presence. Despite my distrust and concern, I had to let go or risk never truly bonding with my growing child. I had to hope and believe that I could be one of the 99% that my child would come out of me healthy and happy, screaming at being naked and suddenly surrounded by people.
I can’t say it is easy to forget, it’s not and miscarriage is one of the hardest things a person can go through; it is also something not everyone will understand. However, in the same way that you can ruin your life by constantly thinking about death, we can’t let miscarriage destroy your experience of pregnancy or children. There is hope, no matter the situation, and even if the worst were to happen, there are options.
Allow yourself to grieve. If you have the time, give yourself time in the same way you would for the loss of a parent, a sibling or a friend. You may not have seen them, held them, named them, but if they were real to you your grief is real. Do whatever you need to do to process, to memorialise, and to work out life after this loss.
Finally, allow yourself to hope. It may sound silly but a phrase that helped my husband and I smile a little was “Well, at least we know your little ones can swim.” It was enough to make us laugh. Sometimes we are all too quick to look at the worst case scenario, but instead why not look at the positive stats. You can be the 99% who never have to go through this again. You can keep trying and end up with a child in your arms. You can become the parent you always wanted to be. You can hope for the best and enjoy what you have right now. Try hope.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.
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- Getting Past Distrust: Pregnancy after a Miscarriage - Mon 26th Aug 2013