I was 10-weeks pregnant, wiping ultrasound jelly off my stomach, and trying to focus on the weight of my husband’s hand on my shoulder to keep the room from spinning. Our doctor had just closed the door behind her, but the presence of her words still hung in the air, “There’s no heartbeat. I’m so sorry.”
I clung to Garrett’s hand, but I didn’t know what to say. So I just repeated the doctor’s words “I’m so sorry” over and over again. Because I was sorry—for us, sorry for him, sorry we were suffering this loss. Sorry we had already shared our news with parents and siblings. Sorry that maybe I had done something wrong.
For the months since that awful week of learning about our options, the final ultrasound to confirm, and the D&C in the hospital, I thought I‘d been good about not letting my dark thoughts take over—because I know, rationally, that the dark thoughts are wrong.
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I think I’ve been processing everything as I should. I’ve been open about it with others, haven’t stopped the grief from happening, and have tried to keep a loop of positive thoughts in my head that I mostly believe: it was not my fault, it was nothing I did, it doesn’t mean we can’t have babies.
But I’ve realized that by allowing only these positive messages, I’m not letting myself acknowledge my sadness or shame.
Contrary to what we may tell ourselves, it’s OK to acknowledge negative thoughts—healthy even. It doesn’t mean we will end up believing them. And actually, by avoiding negative thoughts (even subconsciously), we only give them more power. It’s best to acknowledge them, challenge and disprove them, and then let them go.
So if anyone reading this has gone through something similar, can we go through some of the darkness together? Can I share some of my worries?
What if it’s because I carried my heavy suitcase up the flight of stairs?
What if it’s because I had that chai latte with espresso?
What if I did this to myself—all those years dreading pregnancy?
Some well-meaning people have told me it’s a blessing because the baby wouldn’t have survived due to a fatal flaw. But what if nature weeded it out because I’m not fit to be a mother? Or I’m not suited to carry a child? What if the natural selection process had to do with me and not the baby?
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Did I accidentally eat a deli-meat sandwich and not remember? Did I let my cat step on my belly in the worst spot?
Was it because some of my first thoughts with the positive pregnancy test were of fear and regret? I didn’t feel ready at that moment, and maybe our baby knew that.
I know, rationally, that none of these things are true. But that doesn’t stop the guilt and anxiety from creeping in.
I’ve found it has been helpful to say some of these negative thoughts out loud (preferably to someone I love and trust) so I can work through them. For instance, one night I got the courage to confess and ask, out loud, “Do you think it’s because I had espresso?” My husband was quick to reassure me that, no, it was absolutely not because of that or anything else I did. But, more importantly, asking the question allowed us to discuss why that theory was wrong. After our discussion that night, I could feel the knot in my chest loosen slightly.
Working through your dark thoughts, shining light on them and exposing their weakness, can make your fears easier to manage the next time they show up.
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One of the doctors told us, “The good news is you did nothing wrong. But the bad news is you did nothing wrong. The statistics are the same for your next pregnancy.” Miscarriages happen to one in four pregnancies . . . and I somehow find comfort in knowing I was the one out of four, not my three sisters (older, younger, and in-law) who were also pregnant last year.
But with such a high number of miscarriages happening, why aren’t we talking about it more?
I know I’m very lucky in a lot of ways: Garrett and I were able to get pregnant pretty quickly, I’m still young and healthy, and we have a wonderful support network both near and far. But my acknowledgment of these blessings can sit side by side with my grief. We have had many difficult days the past five months, and I know we have more hard days ahead of us. Like April 8, his/her due date. And this year’s Mother’s and Father’s Days when we should have been celebrating our firsts. And our next pregnancy, through the fear and anxiety of the early days.
Hugs to all the loss moms and dads (and grandparents and aunts and uncles). I truly can’t imagine the losses other women and families have endured. Not everyone may be comfortable sharing their story, but I hope that we, as a society, can start offering more support to everyone suffering from miscarriages. You do not have to walk around in silence or shame. It’s natural to feel guilty, worried, ashamed, maybe even partly relieved some days. But try to allow both the positive and negative thoughts that come into your head—as long as you’re clear about which ones you should believe.