Lessons miscarriage taught me – Stories of Hope Series #2

In this series Stories of Hope I share words from other women who’ve experienced their own fertility journey and how they moved through it. When we were struggling to have our third baby and over the 12 months that we experienced three losses I had many women reach out to me and share their own experience. Hearing from women who’d been through a similar experience and had made it through gave me hope. I hope that you’re able to find a piece of that for yourself within each of these stories and that it too helps you to find some peace. Kelsey’s story shows how negative experiences like miscarriage can sometimes hold some lessons we need to learn. I found myself nodding along to many of the things she expressed and I hope you can relate to.

lessons miscarriage taught me

My husband, Andrew, is my high school sweetheart. We started dating our senior year, stayed together through four years of college in different states, and moved to a new state together after graduating. I always knew I was going to marry him, but we were never certain if we wanted children. Even after getting married in 2016, we felt too young, too career-focused, and too financially unprepared to even think about babies. Truthfully, I was never one of those girls who dreamed about being a mother. I thought I would probably have kids someday, in a distant future, maybe….but it was never the number one priority on my agenda. 

Then one day in the fall of 2018, I woke up one morning and suddenly wanted a baby. Maybe it was because my best friend had just given birth to her first, my adorable niece. Maybe it was because my IUD was due to come out soon. For whatever reason, my mind was made up. I’m the type of person who, once I’ve decided I want something, I want it now. I talked to my husband, somewhat hesitantly, as he had never been sure he wanted kids at all. I told him I wanted us to consider starting a family soon. To my surprise, he agreed. And the trying commenced. 

It was fun at first, of course. But month after month with no positive result, the stress began to weigh on me. I found myself taking pregnancy tests constantly. I changed my diet and made my husband change his. I stopped drinking alcohol. I started feeling less hopeful and more desperate. I know many people try for years with nothing but heartbreak to show for it, but those months seemed to last forever. Finally, on our seventh cycle, it happened. I was convinced I was getting my period, but I tested the day after I missed it just in case. I wasn’t expecting a positive at all. When the faint line showed up on the test, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I called Andrew in and asked him, “Am I seeing things?”. “Nope”, he said, “That’s definitely positive”. 

Because this was my first pregnancy and I was eager, I called the midwife and asked for it to be confirmed. I went in to the office later that afternoon and my urine tested negative. The midwife told me not to worry; it was early and probably too late in the day to get a positive result. She ordered bloodwork, and a few days later the result came back; I was pregnant. 

Andrew and I debated when to share our good news. Normally, I think we would have waited until the second trimester to share our pregnancy with family and friends. But as it happened, we were heading to visit our parents 12 hours away just a few days after we found out. Although I was barely 5 weeks pregnant, we decided we couldn’t squander the opportunity to tell our parents in person. Soon, the news spread like wildfire. We were excited, our families were excited, and we just couldn’t contain ourselves. We figured if something happened, we would have a support network around us. 

It turned out we would need that support network after all. We went for our 8-week scan in mid-July 2019. We were both nervous, but in an excited way. I knew something wasn’t quite right the moment the tech pointed our baby out on the screen. It didn’t look big enough. It barely looked like anything.

Andrew didn’t have any impressions of what he “should” be seeing, and he began to cry happy tears. I tried to keep on a happy face for him. When we met with the midwife, she told us our baby was measuring at 6 weeks, 4 days. Going by the date of my last menstrual period, I should have been 8 weeks, 4 days. I immediately expressed my concerns and the midwife dismissed them; she waved it off as late ovulation and told me everything was fine. She also told me it was too early to detect a heartbeat on ultrasound. She scheduled me for a 12-week ultrasound, an agonizing 6 weeks away.

I didn’t sleep much that night; something just didn’t feel right. The next day, I called the office and spoke to a nurse. She said my midwife wasn’t in that day, but revealed that a heartbeat had been detected. She couldn’t (or wouldn’t) tell me what it measured, and I didn’t know to ask more questions. I explained that my concern over the dating discrepancy seemed to be greater than my midwife’s, and I requested a sooner ultrasound for my peace of mind. The nurse spoke to another midwife who agreed, and they scheduled me for four weeks out instead. 

The next few weeks appeared to go well. My nausea got worse, and I had to tell my boss I was pregnant because it was affecting my job performance. My other symptoms progressed as well; at the beginning of week 9 I purchased some nursing bras because my regular bras had all become too small and too painful. I was getting anxious for the 10-week scan; I still felt like something wasn’t right, but I tried to ignore it, with the encouragement of everyone I expressed my anxiety to. “Just be positive”, said my Labor & Delivery nurse aunt, my mom, and my husband. I tried.

My anxiety was apparently not bad enough to ignore the excitement that had been present since my first positive test. I distracted myself by diving head-first into preparations. I created a baby registry, began discussing names with my husband, and spent most of my free time day dreaming about my baby. 

Four days before the scheduled 10-week scan, I was eating lunch at my desk when I felt a sharp, sudden pain in my abdomen. I wrote it off as gas at first. But a couple of hours later when I felt a gush between my legs, I knew something was wrong. I rushed to the bathroom and sure enough, there was bright red blood in my underwear. 

The next eight hours were a blur of phone calls, ER nurses, tests, and agonizing waiting. I googled all the ways it could be something other than a miscarriage to make myself feel better. But I knew. The ER nurse practitioner confirmed my worst fear while my husband was in the bathroom. He didn’t get to hear her explain that there was no heartbeat or no fetal pole and that the baby was measuring 6 weeks, 1 day. I had been right to be worried at that first ultrasound. I don’t remember anything she said after that. I wandered into the hallway in a daze, where I bumped into my husband. He knew the answer from the look on my face. We walked outside in complete silence before both bursting into sobs in the parking lot. 

Over the next few days, we told family and friends. It was not as painful as I anticipated it would be, but it wasn’t pleasant either. Everyone was incredibly supportive. I received messages and phone calls from women in my life telling me they had experienced pregnancy loss, too. I was blown away by how many women I knew who had been through this, and I never had any idea.  Because of this, I felt motivated to share my experience on social media. I thought if I could help even one woman feel less alone, then my pain wouldn’t be for nothing. 

It was several months before my body re-adjusted. I first tried medication management of my miscarriage, but then had to have surgery to complete it.

All of this was traumatic and exhausting. I just wanted my body back; I wanted to feel normal again. Andrew repeatedly told me he missed, “the old me”. I wasn’t myself, nor should anyone have expected me to be. It was the strangest grieving process I have ever been through. I have lost close relatives and friends before. But I had never grieved a person who I had never met. Andrew and I established a set of rituals to help us cope; we set up a little shrine to our baby in the living room including a figurine my best friend gave me and a candle my mom gifted us. We talked to the baby. Sometimes, I could smell the candle when it wasn’t even lit from all the way across the room. 

One day during that first, dizzying week after finding out I was miscarrying, I went outside with my dogs. It was a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky. And over our backyard stretched a gorgeous, bold rainbow. I called Andrew outside. We sat and cried and talked to the baby. And then just as suddenly as it had appeared, the rainbow faded. I have never been sure if I believed in signs, but I believe in this one. 

By October, my body had bounced back and I was having regular cycles again. We decided to go right back into trying immediately. I spent the entire month a nervous wreck. I tend to be obsessive, and I obsessed over getting pregnant that month. I started testing while I was probably still ovulating. I took pregnancy tests every day. I thought about nothing else. When my period arrived, I felt a strong, unexpected emotion: relief. I realized I had been terrified, not excited, to get pregnant again. I wasn’t ready. I talked to Andrew and decided to go on birth control until I felt truly ready to be pregnant again. 

I spent the month of November doing the deepest work I had so far on processing my grief. One of the biggest steps I took was coming back to my mat. Before I got pregnant, I had been enjoying the most rewarding yoga practice I have ever established after ten years of practicing on-and-off. I was feeling balanced and strong. When I got pregnant, my symptoms of nausea and fatigue took over and I stopped practicing altogether. After the miscarriage, I was just as scared to start doing yoga again as I was to get pregnant again. I wasn’t ready to face my body. I was still angry with it. I wasn’t ready to face my grief, and I knew that as soon as I stepped on my mat, I would have to. 

I reached out to the owner of the studio I belonged to at the time and shared my story with her. It turned out she had experienced miscarriage too. She empathized with me and encouraged me to come into the studio. She encouraged me to make peace with my practice. So I did. I can’t say it was easy at first. Out of practice for months, I got frustrated with myself when I had trouble with certain asanas. I found it difficult to keep my mind calm while meditating. I felt like a beginner. And I was, in a way. 

Slowly, I began to remember what it was that I loved about yoga. I began to remember what it was that I loved about my body. I began to forgive myself. One of the biggest realizations I had was that the miscarriage was not something that happened to me, it was something I went through. And I survived. 

By the time December rolled around, I felt ready. It seems fast, but that was all the time I needed. We tried again that month, and it felt completely different. I wasn’t obsessive. I meditated every day, making an effort to let go of any negative thoughts I was holding onto. The holidays provided a good distraction, too. 

Five days into the new year, the day after my husband’s birthday, I took a pregnancy test. My period was due that day and hadn’t showed up yet. I knew it was early. The line was so, so faint. But it was there. Cautiously, I showed Andrew. Cautiously, I continued to test daily until the line was as thick and dark as the control line. Cautiously, I told no one except my best friend, whom I tell everything. Cautiously, I made an appointment for my 8-week ultrasound. 

My miscarriage taught me a lot about myself. I would never call it a “blessing in disguise”; that just isn’t my thing. But I will acknowledge the lessons I learned.

Lessons miscarriage taught me

I no longer obsess over the little things; I have much more patience. I learned that this pregnancy, I want to slow down and savor each and every day. I have no desire to rush. I want to keep this pregnancy close. I want to be selfish, and share it only with Andrew for a little while. And I want to continue my yoga practice. Even when I’m tired, even when I don’t feel good, I come to my mat. Even if it means staying in extended child’s pose for 15 minutes and doing nothing else, I come to my mat. Even if it means just meditating or journaling for a while, I come to my mat. No matter what happens, I refuse to lose touch with myself again. 

Can you relate to Kelsey’s story? Would you like to share your story with our community?  You can do so here. 

If you’d like to read more stories of hope like this one check out others in the series here, or my book Watering the Flowers – A guide to find hope and healing after losing a baby is available for purchase in Australia here. (Or internationally here)

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