My heart ached for the Dug.gar family when they recently shared that they had lost their 20th child when Michelle was 19 weeks along. This family, who has been abundantly blessed with children, has felt the pain of a miscarriage before and that is one of the reasons they traveled the road they did with regards to leaving their fertility in God’s hands.
When my SIL posted to FB that she was sad to learn of their loss, the comments astonished me. The first friend posted…"Not to make light of something as tragic as a miscarriage, but doesn’t she have like 50 other kids?” First of all, if you don’t want to make light of something, why did you? Secondly, just because she has other children doesn’t make the suffering accompanying the loss any less acute.
Some may marvel at that. After all, she has 19 other children she can hold in her arms and 2 grandchildren. What’s the big deal if she loses one baby after all the ones she’s had? How much pain would you be in if you lost one of your fingers? You have 9 others. Using this “friend’s” logic, it shouldn’t hurt to have your wisdom teeth pulled…you have 28 other teeth.
From the moment many women begin to suspect they are pregnant they start imagining their belly growing, getting bigger and rounder with each passing day. They often dramatically change their eating and sleeping habits and make other radical lifestyle changes immediately. They start making two mental lists of names. They wonder if there’s only one baby in there or if there’s two! They figure out the due date. If they work outside the home, they look at their company’s policy on parental leave. They imagine how they’ll share the news with their husband, other children and families. They long to feel that first flutter of movement in their womb. They start designing the nursery. They imagine holding the baby in their arms, feeding the baby, changing the baby, bathing the baby, cuddling the baby. They calculate how old they’ll be when the child goes to kindergarten (will I be the oldest/youngest mom there?), graduates high school, finishes college, and finally how old they will be when, if their child follows in their footsteps, the child gives them grandchildren.
And, honestly, that’s just the stuff I think of on the first day.
A miscarriage is more than just the physical pain of the loss of a baby. It is an emotional loss of your hopes and dreams for that child and your family. Someone unique was lost. There will never be another child like that child. Another baby won’t have that baby’s birthday, won’t have that baby’s personality, won’t have that baby’s talents and won’t have that baby’s possibilities. The fact that the baby was never held and that it never drew a single breath here on this earth does not detract from the pain.
If a mother and father have other children, they probably are even more aware of what they have lost. While holding our children may bring us some comfort and make us thankful and grateful to God for sending them into our lives, we are very much attune to what is now missing.
Then, there’s the guilt. For the vast majority of mothers there is nothing we could have done to alter the outcome of the pregnancy. Our doctors tell us this. We try to believe them. But the doubt can linger in the back of our minds and hearts, jumping out at unexpected moments. Maybe if I had started taking the pre-natal vitamins a few days earlier, my baby would still be with me. If only I hadn’t taken that cough syrup two days after I ovulated, my baby would still be with me. If only I hadn’t moved that dresser to retrieve the toy car that had fallen behind it, my baby would still be here. If only I had stuck to my new year’s resolution and lost those 15 lbs. before I got pregnant, my baby would still be here. If only I had…
People try to say helpful things like “maybe it was for the best” or “that’s just nature’s way of taking care of a problem” or “God must’ve wanted an angel.” All we really want to hear is “I’m sorry for your loss.” If we want to talk about it, let us. If we don’t, don’t pry. Each person handles a loss like this in their own unique way. Each couple will deal with it in their own way.
The physical aspects of a miscarriage are sometimes startling. Once we get through the actual physical miscarriage, whether that happens naturally or surgically, that’s not the end. Our moods can become erratic as our hormone levels return to a non-pregnant state. Many women will experience hair loss…just like we do after giving birth*. If the couple begins a search for answers, the poking and prodding from our doctors begin. There’s the blood work that must be coordinated on specific cycle days, the ultrasounds and the various other sometimes invasive tests that come with searching for a “cure.”
If a couple is blessed enough to conceive again, the worry sets in. You just want to get past the point of your latest loss. If that means 6 weeks, 9 weeks, 15 weeks, whatever. For me, I was monitored very closely once I had had a miscarriage. I have to go in right away for a blood draw. I get the results, and have to start taking the progesterone supplements (which are really expensive) because my progesterone is way low. Then, I go back 2 days later to get another blood draw to make sure the hcg numbers are going up appropriately. Then I go in at 6 weeks to have a viability ultrasound; that means they are looking for a heartbeat. In my experience, those haven’t turned out well, so I usually get another blood draw that that time. Then I go back for another ultrasound, and another until we get bad news again. For women who have experienced a late term loss, the worry is present throughout their pregnancy. I haven’t had this experience, so I can’t speak on it with any amount of authority. I can only imagine that that is a different type of pain entirely from what we have experienced.
These are the feelings and emotions I have gone through as we’ve traveled this road of secondary infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss. I speak only from my own experience. If you’ve had a different experience, I encourage you, if you are able, to let others know about your feelings and emotions. It is helpful to find that there are others out here experiencing something similar, even if they've experienced it differntly than you and that you aren’t alone. We are here to support each other and pray for one another. If you have a question I haven’t answered here or you would like me to explain more about something I’ve said, feel free to ask. As an NPF instructor, I try to be very open and honest about all aspects of the miscarriages.
May God be with each of you and may you trust your children to His limitless Divine Mercy. There is no one who loves you and ALL of your family more than the One who created each and every one of you.
*Over the summer when my MIL was visiting about 2 months after my second miscarriage, she commented that maybe I should see my doctor because of how much hair I lose. I think she thought she was being helpful, but all I could sputter out was that I had just had a miscarriage and hair loss is completely normal at this stage.