The “M” Word: How I Learned to Talk About My Miscarriage
Miscarriage. It’s the word no expectant mother wants to hear. And in January of this year, I miscarried.
After going through this harrowing experience, I was shocked to find out how common miscarriages are. I know other women who have miscarried, many of whom confided in me after I told them of my experience. It’s often not until you share your own story that others feel the comfort and support required to open up. This is why I’m sharing my story.
I found out I was pregnant on December 1st of last year and could not have been happier. My entire life I’ve wanted children and the timing was perfect. My husband and I were married in October, and we were thrilled at the prospect of sharing news of our pregnancy with our families over the holidays.
We looked at my belly every day, we started writing down names we liked, ordered fabric swatches for the crib, and picked out paint colors. I downloaded numerous pregnancy apps, tracking my progress daily. Some of my close relatives knew, but we were trying to keep the circle small until after the first sonogram, which was scheduled for December 22. At that point we were expecting to hear the heartbeat, the promise of a healthy baby we could tell the world about.
On the morning of December 20th, I got to my office early like I do everyday. Twenty-five minutes later I went to the bathroom and there was blood. It was just a little bit when I peed, nothing in my underwear, but I panicked. Being my first pregnancy, I needed answers, and I needed them fast.
I called my cousin, who is an OBGYN, and she explained that 25% of women bleed during their first trimester. It could be nothing, she said, but to put my mind at ease, she recommended I move up my appointment. That’s what I did. I went to the doctor later that day with my husband and had an internal ultrasound and blood drawn. The ultrasound was confusing and not conclusive; we were told there wasn’t anything else we could do except wait another week and I would be scanned again.
Going through the Christmas festivities and family time without having a definitive idea as to what was going on with my pregnancy was excruciating. I spent most of those days on the couch, in my sweatpants, crying. On Christmas Eve with my humongous Italian brood, I faked a stomachache so I could hide in the basement for most of the night.
Finally, my follow-up appointment arrived. When the doctor scanned me, there was growth from the previous scan. I wanted to be excited but I knew something was off, I had already stopped feeling all of my pregnancy symptoms and in my gut knew it was over. I cried on the table as they told me that although there was a tiny bit of hope, and we could do another scan in a week, I should prepare for the bad news that was likely coming. At that point, I could have terminated the pregnancy, but I wasn’t ready. I didn’t want to make a decision then and be left wondering what would have happened if I had waited just one more week for the next scan. So I waited.
Every day I woke up and prayed the bleeding would stop, that this was just a wacky pregnancy and everything would be fine. The bleeding never stopped.
My husband and I “celebrated” another holiday. On New Year’s Eve we stayed home. I slept for most of the night, resurfacing briefly at midnight to put a smile on and watch the ball drop.
A few days later, on January 5th, I went back to the doctor for my final scan. Accompanied by my mother, I knew this would be the moment of truth and that afterward, decisions would have to be made. The RN scanned me again; there was no growth from the previous week. It was officially a miscarriage.
We scheduled a procedure to remove tissue; this is called a D&C (Dilation and Curettage). The patient is put under anesthesia at the hospital, dilated, and essentially scooped clean of whatever is in the uterus. This process horrified me and still does in theory, although truthfully you don’t feel a thing while it is happening.
I went to work the day after the procedure and bled like I’ve never bled before, filling the toilet with blood every time I went to the bathroom. It was also extremely painful to urinate and have a BM. Almost unbearable. This lasted about two days. Afterward, the bleeding slowed and finally on January 20, exactly one month after the bleeding had started, it stopped.
Since my miscarriage, I’ve been more and more open about sharing my experience with those around me. This includes using the word miscarriage, not just saying the “m” word. I want to name it, to own it, and help women know they aren’t alone, that there is nothing to be ashamed of or feel embarrassed about. This isn’t taboo; this is real life.
But it has taken me time to get here and there’s a lot I’m still working on.
What many people don’t realize with a miscarriage is that you’re mourning a loss. I must have heard “don’t worry, you’ll get pregnant again” one hundred times. Another one of my favorites was “You’re so young.” Although people are sympathetic and want to say the right thing, they usually don’t know how. The truth is, when you go through this, you’re much less concerned with when you’ll be pregnant again “with the next baby” than you are focused on dealing with the loss of this baby. Because from the moment you see that positive pregnancy test your mind is racing, your heart is full; you’ve envisioned this child and the life you will share.
As a woman you feel this responsibility to be able to create life, and when you miscarry it feels like you’ve failed. You feel ashamed. You think people will wonder what’s wrong with you when in reality roughly 20% of pregnancies in the US end in miscarriage; that doesn’t include the countless women who miscarry very early on, before they even know they are pregnant. So it’s this relatively common thing that’s rarely talked about, not taught in schools, and instead, relegated to a place of shame and silence.
Growing up, it feels like there’s this one narrative of being pregnant and having a healthy baby; it’s the story we hear and the one we tell ourselves. Truthfully, it’s a fantasy. It reasserts this unrealistic and unfair pressure that we feel as women to have the perfect pregnancy.
This experience shaped a part of me I didn’t know existed. I’ve found sisterhood with the women I’ve confided in and I believe it’s important to spread that comfort to others who need support. I talk about my miscarriage precisely because it is so hard to talk about. I share my story because I know that suffering in silence is never the answer.