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Illness & Loss

Miscarriage: One Woman’s Story

Written by James Kicinski-McCoy

Photography by Image via Infinity House

Whether the loss is at three weeks, thirteen weeks, or later on in pregnancy, suffering a miscarriage is a devastating, heart-shattering experience. Although miscarriage is quite common (approximately 15-20% of confirmed pregnancies end in miscarriage), the emotional trauma and healing process that the mother (and the father) experience can be severe.

Here is one woman’s personal story of multiple miscarriages, grief, and her and her husband’s road to healing.

Can you tell us a little bit about your story?
“I have actually been pregnant at least five times. The first pregnancy (which was eight years ago) turned out to be an ectopic pregnancy (meaning the fetus implanted outside of the uterus—in my case, in my left fallopian tube). Ectopic pregnancies aren’t viable and have to be treated, usually with a shot of a strong medication to dissolve the fetus. The shot didn’t work on me, so my fallopian tube ruptured. I started bleeding heavily internally, which led to a rushed, emergency surgery and the removal of my left tube. I was told that if I had been 15 minutes later to the hospital, I would have bled to death internally. It was the most traumatic experience of my life. My husband and I were so excited about having a baby, and the way that it ended was almost too painful for us to bear. But the doctors assured us that we had hope. I still had one good fallopian tube, we were young, and this was most likely just a fluke. So, we barreled through with that hope and became pregnant again a year later. That pregnancy ended quickly, an early miscarriage at 8 weeks. We were shocked and baffled, not understanding how or why we were suffering through another loss. I have had three more failed pregnancies since then—two of them were considered ‘biochemical’ pregnancies (the egg was fertilized, but unable to attach to the uterus, so it just seemed like a late, heavy period). We have worked with several different doctors to determine why this has happened, and it’s difficult to determine the reason. The best diagnosis I’ve had is a hormone imbalance that makes it difficult for me to keep a pregnancy. We have taken several breaks in trying to have a family, but all together this has been going on for eight years.”

How hard has it been for you? And in what ways?
“It has been really, really, really hard. On a scale of 1-10, it’s a 12. There have been several month stretches of deep depression, and I was actually diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder from the recurring losses. I went through a period of a year (about two years ago) when I couldn’t read or hear the word ‘pregnancy,’ or see a pregnant woman, without vomiting—literally. I would have to run to the bathroom in grocery stores to throw up if I saw a pregnant person. I couldn’t control it. It was hard for me to leave my house during this time because I was mortified and terrified of what would happen if I threw up in public! And, of course, I was 31 years old, so all of my friends were getting pregnant. Finally, I went to therapy and was diagnosed with PTSD. It made sense. My body had only experienced trauma with pregnancy, and my body was finding a physical way to express a reaction to that trauma. We did EMDR therapy, which was developed to treat PTSD in war veterans, and it really helped me. I finally got to the point where I was able to go out in public and react to pregnancy in a normal manner. It was definitely a lifesaver for me.”

How far along (what term) were you?
“In all the losses, I was under 9 weeks.”

What do you wish people knew about miscarriage?
“I wish that people knew how common they are, and how severe the grief can be in dealing with them. I wish more people realized that pregnancy is a very sensitive issue with many, many people, and that there is a lot of pain being suffered, often quietly, under the surface.”

Were there any resources that helped you through this time?
“Honestly, the loneliness of these experiences was almost as difficult as the experiences themselves. I don’t have any friends who have gone through multiple pregnancy losses, and besides my husband and therapist, nobody seemed to understand. And of course, how could they? I have some incredible, supportive, wonderful, dear friends who did everything they could to walk through this with me, but ultimately they couldn’t understand what I was feeling. And that loneliness was really hard. I had heard of one support group here in town that I considered joining, but because of my pregnancy PTSD I was afraid (because every now and then, one of the members of the group got pregnant and I was scared of my reaction). The best support I could find was in online support groups, and those really carried me through. That was the only place I could talk with other women who truly knew what I was feeling. We could encourage each other, cry for each other, and root for each other.”

What can friends and family do to support women going through the loss of a miscarriage?
“Like with most types of pain, empathy feels so much better than advice. If friends and family can simply acknowledge that the situation is unimaginably difficult and painful without offering ‘helpful’ guidance, it makes the person going through the loss feel more cared about. And because a pregnancy loss brings feelings of incredible loneliness, it’s truly comforting to know your loved ones are with you as much as they can be—that they may not understand what you’re going through, but they care about you enough to walk through it with you.”

What types of things helped you cope?
“The best thing for me was to seek the care of a professional counselor that helped my husband and I to work through the grief. It was very difficult for me to talk about the losses (still is), and I ‘coped’ by burying my grief as deeply as possible. There was a whole lot of pretending everything was just fine, for years. But that grief inevitably came out in another way, and manifested in the post-traumatic stress disorder. It is so important to talk about it! Whether it’s with a friend or therapist or spouse, it is infinitely important to work through your grief out loud with a person who cares about you.”

What types of things didn’t help you cope?
“I definitely experienced some really difficult comments from well-meaning people. Of course, I don’t hold any of it against them, because it’s impossible to know what is and isn’t hurtful to somebody who is going through something that you haven’t! But every now and then, friends would make comments along the lines of ‘Oh, you should just spend a lot more time with our kids!,’ implying that somehow being around their children would ‘fix’ the grieving in our hearts. And I had to fight back tears every time that happened, because it only reinforced the fact that we didn’t have our own children. As much as we love our friends’ children, spending a lot of time with them mostly just made us more sad. Another thing that’s really hard is when strangers or acquaintances prod us about why we don’t have children yet. ‘Why don’t you have kids? Do you want to? When do you want to?’ Not everybody realizes this, but pregnancy is a very sensitive topic for many women! Being asked questions like that by someone you haven’t established a level of trust with feels invasive, and can be really triggering. I actually had that experience in the dentist’s chair with a dental hygenist. She asked if I had children, and I politely responded ‘no.’ Then she wanted to know, ‘Why not? Didn’t I want them? Didn’t my parents want grandchildren? How old was I?’—it was excruciating, and it was all I could do to not run out of the building in tears.”

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