Today I’m featuring a rare guest post from my friend MaryBeth. We met when I was in grad school and she was getting her PhD. Since then, we’ve gotten new degrees, new jobs, moved, and had babies. Today she is sharing about something super sensitive and is getting raw and real with us. She is writing about her recent miscarriage and the flood of conflicting emotions that came with it. I feel like miscarriage is not talked about enough or given enough space for women to share and grieve and really wanted to share her story here.
Stories like MaryBeth’s are emotionally charged and may bring out your own feelings from your experiences. I hope that this provides some encouragement and want this to be a safe space to share. All our stories are different, and they all matter. WE matter. As you read and if you comment, I ask that you would consider the bravery it took to share this story! Feel free to share your own in the comments. Let this be a safe space.
The last thing I ever expected to see again was a positive pregnancy test, but yet, there it was. Two purple lines staring innocently back at me from the bathroom counter.
Instead of being hoped and prayed and worked for, this pregnancy was unexpected and a complete surprise. We certainly weren’t trying to get pregnant and had no plans to try in the future. We had decided before our son was born that we were going to be a singleton family and had taken every precaution other than abstinence to not become pregnant again. We were on the “one and done” train with no plans to get off. (Read more about that HERE!)
So it wasn’t surprising that everything about this pregnancy, from my emotions to my body changes, was different.
The physical affects of being pregnant this time were much more intense and pronounced than before. I felt more exhausted than I ever had with James, and I started gaining weight earlier. I had headaches and was in a constant state of brain fog like never before. I even felt myself slipping in my work responsibilities, which was bad given I had just started the job a few months before. I was taking afternoon naps and had no energy to enjoy my growing son.
But I’d only been pregnant once before, and, if I knew anything about pregnancy, it’s that it is unique for every woman and every child.
By my unofficial count, we were about six or seven weeks pregnant when I found out. But it was hard to be sure since I had been taking the pill religiously every day, and it had clearly failed.
I called my midwife after five at-home tests came back positive, but we couldn’t get in for an appointment for two more weeks. So I made my appointment and shifted into “knocked-up mode.” No booze, limited caffeine, no sushi, taking rests when needed … the usual. For the next two weeks, our pregnancy was an inside joke amongst our closest friends. They knew how I felt about being pregnant, but there wasn’t much we could do now but laugh it off.
The Saturday before my midwife visit, I started having some spotting. I know that spotting is completely normal in the first trimester, but, because I never had any with James, I freaked out a bit. I called the on-call midwife, and she told me that it was likely nothing but to take it easy and relax for the rest of the weekend.
That’s easier said than done when there’s a 25 pound baby who needs you, but I did my very best. Despite the midwife’s reassurances and all of my mom friends telling me that everything was normal, I still felt anxious that something was wrong. Monday morning I jumped in the car and headed off to my appointment.
“Well, I certainly wasn’t expecting to see you!” My midwife knew that we had no plans of having more children, so she was as shocked as I was to be there.
“I wasn’t expecting to be here!” I replied.
She could read the anxiety on my face, and we settled in for a long talk before my exam. She talked me through all of my feelings and let me simply feel them. She reassured me that everything I was feeling was absolutely normal, and it was okay.
When I started to cry about not wanting to have a baby and then feeling guilty about not wanting to have a baby, she handed me the tissues and told me that many women have felt the exact same way but it’s just that no one talks about it. She hugged me and supported me as I tried to make sense of the emotional chaos churning inside of me.
The first time I had an ultrasound when I was pregnant with James, there was a palpable excitement in the room. My heart beat quickly and my palms were sweaty. I chatted nervously as the midwife tried to find that little bean’s heartbeat. Hearing that little flutter gave me the happiest feeling in the world. That was my baby, and I was going to be a momma.
But this time the excitement was replaced with anxiety. My palms were still sweaty and my heart still raced, but for very different reasons. What if there isn’t a heartbeat? What if there is? What do I do either way?
As my midwife continued her exam, it was quiet. She didn’t speak, and I didn’t speak.
And where there should have been a heartbeat, there was silence. No hummingbird wings fluttering away. No faint but rapid bum-bum-bum-bum beating away. She finally spoke and explained what she was seeing. There was something there, but it was either too early to have a heartbeat or too late and there would never be a heartbeat. The dark empty void on the ultrasound monitor was jarring. So was the flood of emotions that was beginning to breach my levies.
She told me that I needed a more powerful ultrasound to be sure and sent me off to get one. The second ultrasound confirmed that I was most likely miscarrying.
That afternoon, my midwife called to talk me through the process of miscarrying. She told me what to expect and reminded me that I could call the on-call midwife at any time if I was scared or worried or needed assistance. Tuesday afternoon my bleeding got heavier but then seemed to stop. But, when I woke up Wednesday, the bleeding had increased significantly.
I called the on-call midwife and asked her when I should seek treatment. She reassured me that everything was fine, but if my bleeding hadn’t dissipated by 8pm, I should seek urgent care. Being raised by a tough stock of women, I delayed visiting the hospital until my husband found me in the shower, standing in a pool of blood, sobbing. He immediately called one of closest friends (against my wishes because I’m sure I’ll be fine!), and she rushed over to stay with our infant son.
An hour later I found myself passing out and vomiting in the Emergency Room at 9pm.
I spent the next nine hours in a loud emergency room on an uncomfortable triage bed being examined multiple times by doctors and nurses that I’d never met before. Emergency room beds aren’t equipped for any sort of gynecological need, and the exams were improvised, painful, and embarrassing.
They scheduled me for a D&C but soon determined I didn’t need it, and thankfully the worst was over. I was finally moved up to the maternity ward around 7am (what a horrible place to put a woman who is experiencing a miscarriage), and the attending doctor gave me the choice of having a blood transfusion or simply letting my supply rebuild over the next three months. I chose the latter. When I could finally stand and walk without passing out, they allowed me to go home with a prescription for iron supplements and instructions to take it easy over the next few days.
I wasn’t prepared for the feelings that came along with my miscarriage. After all, this was a pregnancy that I didn’t want. I should be relieved. And I was. I was relieved that I wasn’t going to spend the next nine months trapped in a condition that I didn’t want. But I was also sad. I was sad that where there was once a life, there was now a void. Sad that a life had ended before it really began. Sad that, for some reason unbeknownst to the rest of the world, that baby wasn’t meant to be.
And I felt guilty. Overwhelming guilt. Crippling guilt for being ungrateful. So many women struggle with pregnancy, and here I was relieved that my pregnancy was ending. I was given a blessing that I didn’t see that way. It wasn’t a blessing for us, and that made me feel even more guilty.
If miscarriage is unspoken because of a woman’s shame, then my miscarriage was unspoken because of my guilt. I didn’t want people to know what was happening because I felt guilty for feeling relieved.
Now I’m a part of the 20% of American women whose pregnancies end in miscarriage. And, of those 20%, maybe only 5% speak about it. Whether it’s because of shame or embarrassment or feeling like they did something wrong and caused the loss of their child, women don’t talk about miscarriage.
They certainly don’t share if they are relieved. Which is why I’m sharing. Because there are women out there like me. Women who have close friends and family who have no idea that they lost so much blood, they could have died.
Women who didn’t plan to be pregnant and, despite taking every precaution, found themselves that way.
Women who have cried tears of sadness mixed with tears of relief.
Women who don’t speak of the child that was lost because they’re ashamed that they somehow let their unborn baby die.
Women who have experienced something so traumatic that it changes their lives forever, but they can’t say anything about it.
Women who can’t say anything because, if they do, they’re supposed to be devastated and sad, but they aren’t so they look like monsters.
I can see why so many stay quiet, but if you want to speak and that helps you heal and process, DO IT! Whether in a space like this online, with a good friend, family member, caregiver, or professional, do not stay silent if you long to speak!
Thank you, MaryBeth, for sharing your story!
MaryBeth is a New Yorker (Ithaca is Gorges, after all!) by birth and a southerner by choice. She migrated south after 24 years in the North, and the weather made me stay. She’s a social media marketer, wife, mother, amateur archer (which is a generous use of the word “amateur”), wannabe crafter, aspiring photographer, and a TV junkie. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, or on her blog.