Tuesday, March 6th, 2018
Trigger warning: ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage
November 3, 2017 began a life-changing (albeit short) chapter of our lives. Our son, Beckham, was a few weeks away from his first birthday, the air was cooling off in central NC, leaves were beginning to change color, and holidays were approaching quickly. My husband was in the middle of searching for a new job which was nerve wracking but we were excited to see where we would end up. We found our groove as a family and life felt easy and uncomplicated. And then I discovered I was pregnant. All of a sudden, life was NOT easy and uncomplicated. We weren’t planning on having another baby so soon.
Those two lines appeared on the test and my mind raced. “Crap. What the heck do we do?! Oh my gosh. I’m the worst mom EVER for saying ‘crap’ after learning about this tiny human. I should be so excited, just like I was with Beckham. Wait. Beckham’s going to be a big brother! That makes me want to cry! And we can’t afford another baby right now… that also makes me want to cry. Oh man, what will Joseph say? What will our friends and family say?! Surely, they’ll make lots of comments like “don’t y’all know where babies come from? Should we get you condoms for Christmas?” (we were right about that, people said those things to us and more). Oh gosh. They’re only going to be 18 months apart. We’re going to have two babies at the same time. I don’t have enough hands to take care of two babies at the same time! Two babies… how did I get so lucky?! Wow I feel so grateful. I get to go through the miracle of pregnancy and birth and breastfeeding again. Okay okay, I’ve got to clear my mind; what do I need do to right now? Figure out a way to tell Joseph. Yikes.” I found an “awesome big brother” sticker for Beck and we surprised Joseph when he got home from work! It was sweet, significant, and special.
Pregnancy can bring up so many complicated, confusing, conflicting emotions and thoughts. Excitement. Joy. Anxiety. The bittersweetness of past chapters coming to a close. Hoping the baby will be healthy. Hoping you will be healthy. Wondering how your family dynamic will change. Do we hire a midwife or an OB? Home, hospital, or birth center birth? Do we want to try to breastfeed? Formula feed? Crib or cosleep?
so. many. details.
Joseph and I took the next six days to hold space for each other while we processed through this plot twist in our lives. We laughed at how crazy all of it was, cried when we talked about this new life that was growing and we cried when we looked at our budget. We stayed up late to brainstorm how to make this transition. We told close friends and family. I found new inspiration to cook nutritious foods and get outside for walks more. I listened to the Birth Hour podcast to start getting excited for pregnancy and birth again. I daydreamed about being a family of four and what it would be like to see my husband become a dad again and my son become a brother. All of these things comforted me and brought me so much excitement and joy.
Then on November 9, 2017 I started to miscarry. I saw the blood and clots and I knew what was happening right away. A few days later it would be confirmed that it wasn’t “just” a miscarriage, it was a cervical ectopic pregnancy (ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy that takes place outside of the uterus; more commonly in the fallopian tubes, but can also occur in the cervix, as ours did, about 1% of the time). Not only was it devastating to be going through a miscarriage, but now I had begun severely hemorrhaging. I was told that my life was in danger and if they couldn’t get the bleeding to stop I would need a hysterectomy. I had two procedures in 24 hours, one to embolize the uterine arteries to stop the bloodflow and another to remove the baby. Both surgeries were successful and I was able to return home after a few days in the hospital. Here we are, 4 months later and I still have days where I feel gut-wrenching pain and a longing to get to kiss our baby’s cheeks and I can’t help but cry and reach out for support. And other days I feel at peace about what happened because it’s given me opportunities to relate to other mamas who have gone through similar experiences. It’s broadened my view of what happens within families. And it helps me understand another facet of motherhood that felt so foreign to me before.
Here is why I share my story with you:
No one talks about miscarriage. 1 in 4 women go through miscarriage. That’s 25% of women! WAY more people have gone through it than we even realize. So why is it still such a taboo subject?
I noticed that there’s still the cultural practice of waiting until after the first trimester to tell friends and family “just in case” something happens. Don’t get me wrong, families need to pick the time and method of sharing their pregnancy with loved ones that feels appropriate to them, whether it’s the first day they discover they’re pregnant or if they want to wait until they’re 3 months or 9 months or any time in between. They are right to choose to wait or not to wait to share their news. But I got to thinking about why this is.
I feel like it’s because we’re taught as a culture that it’s not polite to talk about things that may make someone else uncomfortable. Miscarriage makes people uncomfortable, just like many other kinds of loss. I can understand this; who wants to say the wrong thing to a grieving person? But I believe the problem is that we haven’t made it normal for a person to grieve losing an unborn child early in pregnancy. We don’t hold space for those individuals and families and help them feel comfortable processing through it however they need to. I think we honestly don’t know what to do.
So, how can we support a person going through a miscarriage?
Don’t try to talk them out of it. “At least you were only 6 weeks along!” isn’t comforting to a person grieving the loss of a child. Neither is “you can have more babies though” or “you already have one”. Ask them how they are feeling and be prepared and willing to hear their answer. Validate their feelings, emotions, and thoughts if they are willing to share them with you. Do not judge them for where they are in their grieving process. Show gratitude for their trust in you during this time.
Do they have another small child at home? Offer to take their child for the day so they can be alone to process and begin to heal without needing to be responsible for a tiny human. Bring a meal! It doesn’t have to be fancy, even just ordering a pizza and having it sent to them is easy for you and shows them you care. If you bring a meal over, see if you can wash a dish or two or fold a load of laundry. Try to take mundane tasks off their plate so they can focus on their family.
“Would it be helpful for you to talk about how you’re feeling?”
“Would you like to be silent together? I will sit here with you as long as you need.”
“Can you think of anything I can do to help you today?”
I say “listen to their answers” because I think it can be easy to try to help people in the way that we ourselves like to be helped. But if someone wants to be alone and you invite yourself and your family over to have dinner with them because you like company when you’re hurting, it won’t be received as you’re intending it to be (even if your intentions are lovely). Allow the person to be honest about what their needs are and act accordingly.
Life continues on for everyone. The world doesn’t stop turning when tragedy strikes. It can be easy to support someone when the pain is still intense and fresh, but as the days and weeks go by that person is still navigating through the grieving process. They’re doing the best they can but it can still be hard. Try to be consistent and let them know that no matter how long it takes for them to feel better, you are there for them. Encourage them to talk with a therapist who specializes in loss if they need to. There are so many resources to help them.
It’s really that simple, y’all. No judgement. Be willing to listen. Show compassion and empathy. Meet practical needs. Give them space to talk or not to talk.
Make sure they know they are loved and that they’re not alone.
Thank you for listening to my story and my experience. I appreciate you!