Miscarriage: A Pain Like No Other

October 15, 2012 Ashley 6 comments

My husband and I had recently started trying for our first child when I got the positive pregnancy test. We were thrilled! I immediately made an appointment with my OB-GYN for a few days later. At that appointment, though, she looked concerned. I was confused, not understanding what was happening. She had me give some blood to send to the lab, and told me to return in two days for another blood drawing to see if my hcg levels were doubling, as they do in a normal healthy pregnancy.

I was still waiting for a phone call about the results when I discovered one evening I was bleeding. I started crying. I wasn’t even yet 6 weeks along, and I had only known about this baby for a week, but it didn’t matter. All I knew was that I was losing my little one, and I couldn’t do anything to stop it.

That was my first miscarriage. I did go on to have a healthy pregnancy 6 months later, and my daughter recently turned 3. However, I always say that miscarriages rob something from you – they forever robbed me of that early pregnancy excitement and joy.

All total, I’ve had four miscarriages and two live births; my younger daughter was born this past July. I spent the first four months of her pregnancy incredibly anxious about losing her, and I hated that I couldn’t seem to just relax and enjoy the excitement of growing a little one. I’ve been both angry and so sad about my losses. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to hear about a friend’s loss without going through all the emotions again myself?

Miscarriage: a silent loss

A miscarriage is a pregnancy loss before 20 weeks of gestation. Most losses occur in the first 7 weeks of pregnancy. This is a unique situation in that many times, you have no physical baby to hold. You have no experiences with your baby outside the womb, but yet you still feel that throbbing ache deep in your soul. Life around you is moving on, but for some reason you can’t understand why the sun is still shining and why people are still smiling.

A sculpture in Slovakia, commissioned by a group of young mothers and sculpted by Martin Hudáčeka. This sculpture resonates  beauty, pain, sorrow, and hope. Source.

There are several different types of miscarriages, which I hope to go over further in a future post. For now, I want to focus on emotional healing after a miscarriage. No matter what type of loss it was or how far along you were, it still can be so painful.

You didn’t do anything wrong

When I lost my baby, I mentally went through my last few weeks, wondering if I had done something to cause it. Oh no, I took that Excedrin when I had a migraine! And it has aspirin in it! Or maybe it was the glass of wine I had? Oh I shouldn’t have gone on that hike – surely that was too much physical exertion for my body.

Some of the most encouraging comments for me were hugs of sympathy and reminders that it was unlikely that I did anything to cause my miscarriage. There are some risk factors that increase a woman’s chances (like smoking), but rarely can one single act be the cause. Any woman can experience a miscarriage – you are not alone.

Feel what you feel

For me, my miscarriages carried with them intense feelings which startled me. What am I supposed to be feeling? Is this good? Should I be forcing myself to feel something else?

I learned that it is so important to just feel what you feel. Women’s responses to their loss fall on a broad spectrum, from deep grief to almost nonchalance. Don’t feel guilty about what is going on in your head or try to force yourself to feel something else. Some women struggle to get out of bed in the morning, mourning deeply for the baby they never knew. Some women fall in between – sad, but after a time are able to move on with their lives. Some don’t feel that sense of grief at all and wonder if there’s something wrong with them. All of these things are okay, though no matter where you fall on the spectrum, it never hurts to pursue support through a support group or professional counseling.

The grief you feel initially won’t always be crushing. You may struggle to have positive emotions toward your spouse/partner or other children. Time will heal those raw areas, and gradually you will be able to move on. I would highly suggest finding support or counseling if you’re struggling to do so – it can be healing to talk through things and to learn coping techniques to help you get through this time.

Moving on after a miscarriage can vary from woman to woman as well. Some grieve deeply for a few days and are able to move on, while for others the grief might hit weeks or months later. I don’t dwell on my losses now (or even consciously remember their anniversaries), but every so often the wave of pain washes over me, and I feel everything again – usually when hearing of the loss of a friend’s baby. I hope one day to have healed to the point where I can be a support and encouragement to women who are struggling with their own losses.

I found my response to each of my miscarriages was different, because I was in a different place with each. After my fourth one (3rd consecutive), I was beginning to wonder how many times I could even do this, whether we should stop trying so I didn’t have to go through the pain again.

Finding Support

teddyI talked openly about my first loss after it happened. The next day, I received flowers from a faraway friend. That simple act had such an impact on me – she had put a visual with my grief. I don’t know where I’d be today without the support of friends when I was struggling. (For more ideas of how to support a friend going through a miscarriage, please read Adrienne’s post about friendship and support,) With the exception of that first time, I largely kept my losses to myself, only sharing with my husband, my midwife, and a few friends. However, I found strong support through an online forum community. Many forums have a place to talk through pregnancy loss, and there are also several that are specifically geared to that. You can find links to them at the end of this post, under “Online Support and Resources”. There is something healing about being able to talk through your pain and emotions with other women who have been there and really get it.

There are also several support groups around Atlanta that specialize in pregnancy and infant loss, as well as some that are geared toward grief in general. You can see the links to those at the end of this post as well, under “Local Support Groups”. It is important to have a safe place to talk, share your story, and find comfort in others’ stories.

After my miscarriages, I met with a licensed counselor for one-on-one therapy, talking through my experience and all the accompanying emotions and feelings. This was very healing for me, and she helped me through my anxiety with my next pregnancy. You can find a counselor by asking your care provider, local friends, or through your insurance company. It never hurts to have someone to talk to – even if it’s just a few sessions.

You also might want to seek out a bereavement or loss doula to support you through your loss. These doulas are specially trained to come alongside and support women in their loss. Many are moms who have experienced a loss themselves. Please see the links below to locate a doula in your area.

Remembering your baby

When a loved one passes away, we like to have a way to memorialize them – a gravestone, a statue in the garden, a lit candle. A pregnancy loss is no different. Many women find it helpful to remember their baby by having something tangible they can see and feel. I hope to have something one day for my four babies, but I am not sure yet what I want.

I have come across several websites that sell miscarriage and infant memorial keepsake items. I also think that Etsy.com is a great site where you can find handmade and customizable items. There are some beautiful necklaces or pendants you can get, often with a name or date if you choose. Other ideas could be a carved stone for the garden, a special keepsake box, a shadow box, a painted canvas or a sculpture. You also don’t have to decide on something like this right away – there are stages to processing your grief, and you should take this step only if it feels right.

You might also wish to make something yourself – using that time spent in creating as a way of processing your grief. I had one friend who crocheted squares for an eventual quilt – she worked on it whenever she felt sad, and that process really helped her emotionally.

Some women choose to name their baby, even if the loss occurred too early to know the gender (sometimes you might feel in your gut what the gender was, or you choose a name that is gender neutral). Don’t feel that you shouldn’t name your baby or having something tangible in remembrance simply because your baby never lived outside the womb.

Moving On

One day, you’ll realize the pain doesn’t sting quite so hard. The sun is shining a little brighter. You’re able to muster a smile in return to others you encounter. Perhaps you’ll never be fully healed from that hole in your heart, but you’re on a brighter path now. A friend described it to me this way: when you lose your baby, you have a huge gaping hole in your heart. Over time, that hole heals over, but the scar is always there. Just like how people with old injuries notice an ache when it rains, you too will feel the ache at times. It’s not an actual pain, but more of a memory of that pain.

I’m not sure I’m completely there. I moved on from my first loss, but the most recent ones are still fresh, even though I have since had a successful pregnancy. Grief takes time, but women are strong. We will eventually make it through.

Resources

For further resources, please check the links below. Some of these may be more geared to late-term loss, but in many ways grief is grief and the process is still the same.

Local Support Groups

  • Northside Hospital Perinatal Loss Office (Support and assistance to families dealing with perinatal loss. Free services and meetings through Northside Hospital.)
  • Rock Goodbye Angel (Peer support group for families who experienced pregnancy or early infant loss, with meetings around Georgia.)
  • SHARE Atlanta (Grief support and services for families who experience a pregnancy or newborn loss, with meetings around Atlanta.)
  • Face2Face Metro Atlanta (Social group for women who have experienced any type of pregnancy or infant loss, with meetings in Atlanta.)
  • The Compassionate Friends (Atlanta) (Grief support after the death of a child, with chapters around Atlanta and a Facebook group for support.)

Bereavement or Loss Doulas

  • Loss Doulas International (Advocates who help parents minimize regrets and maximize memories when a loved baby dies. Search to find one in your area – currently, none are listed for Georgia.)
  • Stillbirthday Bereavement Doulas (Doulas who provide support prior to, during and after the birth of your miscarried or stillborn baby, as well as be birth doulas for subsequant pregnancies.)

Online Support and Resources

Books

Miscarriage Information

Page 1_2x Created with Sketch.
  • Ashley,
    Thank you so much for writing this article! As a mom who has had three miscarriages and a still birth, I understand all the emotions you wrote about. This is a topic we need to be able to talk more about and your information was right on. I had no idea that there was a Loss Doula certification and I immediately went to their site and signed up. Thank you for all the resources you listed also in this article. May no woman have to walk alone through this pain….

  • Jenny

    Thank you for this wonderful post. The resources you compiled are most helpful. I was wondering if there are similar resources in the Atlanta area for families who have a baby in the NICU. Those would be most helpful as well.

  • This is a lovely post. Would you mind if I put a copy of it in some miscarriage packets that I’m delivering to some local hospitals, in Vernal and Roosevelt, UT? Thank you for writing this, compiling the resources, and sharing it with us!

    • Ashley

      I don’t mind, as long as you include a link to atlantabirthcenter.org! I hope the information is helpful to other women.

      • Carrie Austin

        Thank you. I’ve now put the article in our miscarriage packets, and I’m thinking that it will be very helpful as parents try to navigate their grieving and loss journey.

  • Ginger

    Thank you so much for this beautiful post. In all I have had 10 miscarriages. I have been through extensive testing and the doctors never concluded anything solid. I have also been blessed with 3 live births. I had 8 miscarriages before my first live birth. It was so traumatic and heart wrenching. I love how you say that miscarriages rob you of the joy of pregnancy. It is so true. I never rest in those first 12 weeks. I constantly am concerned will I be able to carry this child full term. Thank you for sharing your experience.