This is a topic many people don’t like to discuss but I think it’s important to address because chances are very good that someone else out there has experienced it and may get comfort from reading another woman’s experience, and also that someone else out there is going to experience it so if she reads another’s experience, she may be better prepared for her own.
Miscarriage or any form of pregnancy loss is a very sad loss indeed. Mentally and emotionally, people deal with loss and grief differently. My aim here is not to address the grief side of prenatal loss so much as the practicality of the actual physical loss, although they are very much entangled. My reason for doing so is that my own personal experience surprised me, and if it had been my first pregnancy, I would probably have been more surprised and upset by the loss than I was.
Women experience miscarriage differently and indeed many experience it without even knowing it. So before I launch into my own personal experience, I just want to state that I do not claim to speak for anyone other than myself. This is simply my own story.
My first two pregnancies had gone smoothly so I had no reason to suspect my third might not. Indeed, it started off well and I had no morning sickness. Strangely enough, the only difference was that in the first two pregnancies, I had no clue if I was carrying a boy or girl. We never found out and we didn’t want to know. I never had dreams or a strong feeling one way or the way. But with that third pregnancy, from early on, I felt it was a girl. I knew it was a girl. But that was the only difference.
I love the feeling of knowing I’m pregnant before we’ve told anyone outside our immediate family. It’s like I have a special secret no one knows. We decided to tell my parents that we were expecting again and walked to their house, only a third of a mile away. We told them, they were surprised but happy, and we walked home. As soon as we got home, I just knew I was no longer pregnant. A very strong powerful feeling suddenly came over me and I just knew. It seems silly now, but I wanted to see what a pregnancy test would say. I guess I just needed something to do, or wanted some reassurance, because I know that the pregnancy hormones that were coursing through my body would still indicate a positive test, even if I had experienced a recent loss. I went out to the nearest gas station 6 miles away and got a pregnancy test, which of course showed I was pregnant. I even called the number for the help line and tried to ask about miscarriage and so forth, but I think they were ill-equipped to handle my questions and I didn’t get the answer or reassurance I sought.
I called the midwife with whom I had a scheduled prenatal appointment and she was very calm and kind, told me what signs to look for and it was basically just waiting from then on. It was about a week later that I woke up bleeding and I knew this was it. I was losing my baby. It was July 2005. I wanted to go to the beach. I wanted to see the ocean. There are two things on this earth that help me put things in perspective very quickly: seeing the earth from an airplane, and seeing the ocean stretch out to the horizon before me. I wanted to see my two young children play in the sand, I wanted to bask in the gratitude for the beautiful family I already had, I wanted to feel the ocean breeze, I wanted to feel close to nature. I took pictures, cherished that time, and we went home.
And then I started getting cramps. Now I don’t normally have menstrual cramps. I can count on my hands how many times I’ve had them in nearly three decades of cycles. But here they were and what surprised me was that they were regular, cyclical, strong and consistent. Just like labor. These were contractions. This was probably my biggest surprise about miscarriage. And in hindsight, I found I used my labor-coping mechanisms to work through them. I moved around, changing positions, and took deep abdominal breaths to get through them. I tried to relax through the cramps. I stayed in a warm shower for the comfort that warm water always brings me. Indeed, after several hours of this process, that’s where I ‘birthed’.
After losing the pregnancy, I questioned why. What was different now? We had moved to a new state and were on well water now, could it be something in the water? Did I do something wrong, lift something too heavy or work too hard in our move? Was it the fact that I was teetering on the brink of advanced maternal age? Maybe because I was still nursing my second and it was too much for my body to do both? I think it’s natural to question, although my belief that the body knows best has always been and remains very strong, so I trust that for whatever reason, that baby was not ‘viable’ or it was simply not meant for me to have that little girl at that time. I subsequently had another smooth pregnancy and gave birth to a healthy boy. And six years after my miscarriage, I had another fairly easy pregnancy, and gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. I wonder sometimes if she is the one I felt back then.
Have you heard of Spirit Babies? I did not have a strong feeling this time about the sex of the baby, except one dream in which I gave birth to a ten-pound girl. Months later, my daughter was born weighing 10 pounds 11 ounces. Somehow, I wasn’t surprised. I think she joined our family when the time was right for her, even if I think that was a little later than we had planned.
When we fell pregnant that third time, we were in a new state and so we visited different midwives in the area. At one birth center’s orientation, we ran into a couple whose daughter and ours shared a dance class together. What a coincidence! A couple of weeks later, I lost my pregnancy. For the remainder of that year, I watched this other woman blossom each week as her pregnancy progressed until eventually she had her beautiful baby. Reminders of a loss can be anywhere and everywhere, they may be predictable encounters such as this one, or seemingly pop up out of nowhere to take you by surprise. Sudden tears happened for me with no apparent trigger sometimes, and even now, years and two more complete pregnancies later, I still think of that loss sometimes.
I found a creative outlet helped eventually. At the time of our loss, I personally found solace in spending time in renewed and more conscious gratitude with my children and I did take comfort in the idea that these things happen for a reason, trusting that my body knows best, even if I would never know the reason. But not everybody does get some relief from their hurt or grief in these ways, so it can be difficult to know what to say to someone who is going through this. Here are some sites that may help you whether you experience pregnancy loss yourself or know someone who has::
- Spirit Babies: How to Communicate with the Child You’re Meant to Have
- Spirit Baby – Part IV of BabyCatcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife by Peggy Vincent
- Local resources for loss or grief support