Miscarriage – The Mourning After

Miscarriage can be a very difficult thing to talk about.  Even more, it can be one of the most difficult things a woman has to face.   Statistics show that 20% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage – meaning they terminate before the 20th week.  Some experts say that the percentage can be closer to 50% if it includes early miscarriages that happen before a woman realizes she is pregnant.

I know first-hand how difficult a miscarriage can be as I suffered through one almost 2 ½ years ago.  Here’s my story:  My husband and I arrived at my obstetrician’s office for our first sonogram.  We watched the screen.  I could see it – my little baby and the little blinking speck that was the heartbeat.  No matter how many pregnancies you have I don’t think you ever tire of that miraculous site!  I was filled with joy.  My joy was soon hampered when my doctor told me that my baby was measuring a bit small for the due date.  Being pretty certain of the time of conception this confused me a bit.  My doctor said that he wanted us to come back in two weeks to re-measure and see how the baby measures at that time.  Two weeks seemed like forever!  Thanksgiving was right around the corner and my next sonogram appointment was scheduled for the Tuesday prior to the holiday.  On that Tuesday we arrived at the doctor’s office a bit apprehensive and a bit excited.  After all, maybe just maybe we could get a glimpse at the gender by now if things were measuring correctly.  I went through the routine of discussing my horrible morning sickness, having my blood pressure taken, and my urine checked.  Then it was back to the room for the second sonogram.  Here we go… I switched back and forth looking from the sonogram screen to my doctor’s face.  I kept staring at that darn screen.  Why were they having so much trouble finding my baby this time?  Where is that little blinking of the heartbeat?  I gave another glance to my doctor’s face as he turned to me to say, “We cannot find a heartbeat.  You’ve had what we call a failed miscarriage.  Your baby died but your body doesn’t know it yet”.  My thoughts started whirling.  I started crying heavy tears.  I wanted to yell, “Look harder! Look again!  Don’t stop looking until you find it!  It’s there, I know it’s there!”  How can this happen and I not be aware of it?  The doctor continued and said that he would schedule a D&C for the day after Thanksgiving.  Really? The day after Thanksgiving? I can truly say that nothing has ever quite rocked my world like the events of that day and the next couple of days to come.  How were we going to share this with our children at home?  They were so excited about another baby.  How do you explain this kind of thing to such sweet innocent children? Well you do it.  You do it because you have no choice.  I can’t even remember the exact words that I said to them.  I do remember the two older boys crying.  I remember the younger of the two of them asking me, “Why did the baby have to die?”  I had no answer to that.  I had miserable morning sickness all throughout the Thanksgiving dinner.  Man, my body really didn’t know what was going on, did it? I went in for the D&C the next morning.  Awakening from that procedure knowing the pregnancy was officially over and my baby was officially gone was almost more than I could bear.  I went home and rested in the days following.  My husband and I cried together a few times.  Each day following the loss seemed full of sadness.  A few weeks later I had phoned my aunt who is a midwife to ask her how much sadness was “normal”.  I told her the extent of my sadness and she assured me that what I was experiencing was the normal grieving process for the loss I had experienced.  My heart was broken.  I had lost something that was not possible to get back.  A child.  A baby that I had loved from the first moment of the knowledge of my pregnancy.  He was to be a namesake to my father-in-law whom we just lost a month prior as the doctor confirmed that I was carrying a boy.  I can’t explain the depth of the pain.  I truly feel this is one of those times that unless you go through it you can’t possibly understand it.  I chose to openly deal with my grief.  I decided that it was okay for me to miss my baby.  I also decided that we would take measures to remember the baby that we lost.  We went ahead and gave him a name.  At Christmas we placed a cross, which had his name painted on it, on the Christmas tree.  On my original due date for him I wrote him a letter and placed it in a frame with his first sonogram picture which hangs at the end of our hallway.  My family and I decided to remember him lovingly as the son, brother and grandson that he would have been had he come full term.  We let ourselves love him and remember him freely.  This is how we chose to deal with our grief.  It never gets “easier” but loving him freely has helped me get through the grieving process.

I learned a lot during this process that I may have been blind to otherwise that I think would be helpful to share.  First of all, a lot of well-meaning people say a lot of things that they believe will make you feel better.  These comments may include:  “It just wasn’t meant to be”, “at least you have other children”, “It was just nature’s way of dealing with a baby that had a problem”, etc.  Unfortunately, none of these comments make you feel better.  In fact, they can make you feel angry.  There really isn’t a “right” thing to say.  Just being there for someone without saying anything is probably best.  Also, allow yourself whatever time you need to grieve.  You are grieving a loss and the mourning process may not only mean sadness but also anger, guilt, and depression.  It is important to stay in touch with your doctor and discuss your feelings with him/her as they may need to give you a referral for therapy or suggest a bereavement group.  Also, if you feel commemorating your baby, giving he/she an identity and a memorial of any kind – even if it’s just an ornament on your Christmas tree, do so.  Everyone deals with grief differently and that’s okay.