Often people are surprised that I’ve had a struggles with infertility. A mother of six? How can that be? After my third baby was born I experienced more than a few miscarriages before and between the last three pregnancies, ranging from week 6 to week 15. I was diagnosed with “unexplained infertility”-in other words, after extensive testing there is no known reason for my miscarriages.
Miscarriage and fertility issues never even entered my mind when I became pregnant for my fourth time, as my first three pregnancies were issue-free, and I had three beautiful perfect babies to prove it.
At twelve weeks pregnant in my fourth pregnancy, with two ‘beating-heart ultrasounds’ under my belt, I was a little put out when, at a routine office visit, with an older ultrasound machine, my midwife couldn’t find a heart beat. She wanted to send me across the parking lot to the medical office where they had state of the art ultrasound machines. She didn’t seem too concerned, and looking back, either was I. But the fancy ultrasound couldn’t find the baby’s heartbeat either.
My midwife came over and confirmed the baby had died, and we talked about options as I cried, still in shock. I told her I wanted another ultrasound as I couldn’t wrap my head around it. I had just started feeling better finally-I struggled with hyperemesis with each of my pregnancies and I had just made it out of that difficult time of pregnancy-I was ready to enjoy the next six months and couldn’t wait to meet this new little one that we were all so excited for. She agreed, God love her, and ordered another ultrasound and I went to a different office, a better machine, another doctor. He was so kind when he confirmed what I think my heart already knew-our tiny little baby had died. We were devastated.
In the end the miscarriage sent me on a hormonal roller coaster I could have never imagined. I had told everyone that we were expecting a baby, of course, and had to untell, while I was physically and emotionally feeling so much pain. I was happy for the support at the time, but I felt really vulnerable constantly. I remember I had heard about the stages of grief and it was like clockwork for me. It was hard. It was difficult to hear pregnancy news from friends and relatives, it’s difficult to feel hope when despair has a way of taking over.
Never would I have thought this would happen to me over and over again-but I was gifted with three more beautiful babies with me here on earth-three successful pregnancies during those years of experiencing many losses, and although the pain and loss was heartbreaking, it left me with something in it’s wake-such a deep appreciation for the ability to have a baby. What I once took for granted years ago with my first three, I would never take for granted again.
I know many women experience miscarriage, and although I know all of our experiences are quite unique, in the end I would give this advice:
1. Look ahead, not behind. Find hope and cling to it! ‘What if’s’ and ‘why me’s’ and ‘it’s not fair’, don’t get you anywhere but the bottom of that deep dark well. (I’ve been there, I know how daunting it might seem to climb out.) Acknowledge your loss, because you deserve to-you have lost a new life, your baby. The best you can do is feel the sadness but find a way to keep looking into the future. Sometimes the future is blurry, but invent one for yourself. Move forward…it is the only way out of the pain. A part of the loss is knowing you will never again have a “worry-free” pregnancy-that naivete and innocence is a loss too and has to be acknowledged. I remembering physically shaking going into to get each of my ultrasounds and not one day went by during each pregnancy where I didn’t think the worse could happen.
2. After I had read a book on miscarriage and pregnancy loss, I realized that there are many women who have beat unbelievable odds, and have been through much much more than I could have ever imagined. It helped put my experiences into perspective. There are some strong strong women out there, and their experiences gave me hope. You might know or will meet people who can comfort you because they truly understand what you are going through.
3. Don’t trust anyone to do your medical research for you. Read everything you can get your hands on, even if it is scary. (This book is excellent.) Tests are cheap compared to the pain of loss. If your doctor tells you that you “have” to have three losses before any testing, run for your life. Find a midwife or a doctor who acknowledges your loss and takes it seriously and help you find answers, if there are any to be found. A couple gallons of blood, some serious cycle charting, and you can’t believe what you can find out. Be your own best advocate-ask questions, insist on seeing a specialist if you feel like something is not right. Be very wary of the fertility industry, it IS an industry. Be careful when presented with choices. I am a Catholic and have a deep deep respect for life, from the moment of conception. Knowing where I stood on issues, and recognizing that some of the tests and procedures offered were roads I most definitely would not travel helped me choose doctors carefully, and ask important questions.
4. Through our struggles we find deep appreciation and gratitude that sets us apart from other. You can read more here.