It’s like this secret club that most of us don’t want to be members of – the “I’ve had a miscarriage” club. It is something that most of us who have lost a pregnancy don’t talk about. We are heartbroken. We blame ourselves. We are sad and embarrassed and ashamed. We don’t want to be reminded of it. We tell ourselves that it happened because we tripped, had an abortion, forgot a medication dose, went on a bumpy car ride, or drank a glass of wine. I hear all kinds of reasons that women claim to have caused their loss. But shy of doing dangerous drugs, you didn’t cause your miscarriage.
It is not your fault.
Really, it’s not. I don’t know why the human brain wants to come up with an explanation for why miscarriage happens, but almost everyone does feel this way.
I know this firsthand. I was so excited when my first IVF resulted in pregnancy, and my blood levels seemed to be rising appropriately. Then I had a headache. It sounds crazy, but whenever my hormones change, I get a headache. I know my body, and I was worried.
After going through fertility treatment, and finally being pregnant, it had never crossed my mind that miscarriage could happen to me. I called my IVF nurse and said that I was worried I was having a miscarriage because I had a headache. I can only imagine the snickers after she hung up with me. It does sound crazy, but by the time I got my blood drawn, I was already bleeding. My doctor called me to tell me my HCG level had dropped to 13….unlucky 13.
Through my training, I was always coached to tell women having early miscarriages that it would be bleeding “like a period.” After I started bleeding, I realized in no way was this “like a period.” It was heavy and painful. And all the while it was happening, I was thinking, “Is that my baby that I’m about to flush down the toilet?”
I never took a day off work. In fact, I passed the sac and likely baby (too small to really see) at work. I was giving a lecture to some residents when it happened. I quickly excused myself and was horrified that I didn’t take the day off, didn’t give more homage to this failed, but much cherished pregnancy. I was horrified that I had ever told women that it was “like a period.” I have never used that phrase again. It’s so much more, physically and emotionally.
It was a loss of much more than a 6-week pregnancy. It was the loss of the baby of my dreams. It was the loss of the child who I was so close, yet so far from having. And every year since then on the anniversary of that day, I am a little sad remembering my loss.
My husband was so very supportive. Often men don’t have the same emotional responses that women have. After all, it’s not their body going through the loss. I remember him being worried that I had lost so much blood. “Is that normal?” he asked.
I did lose another baby with my subsequent IVF cycle, but it was a twin pregnancy, and I went on to deliver my beautiful daughter. My story, although filled with heartache did, thankfully had a happy ending. It took courage, strength, and support.
I remember sharing my experience with others, and was amazed at how many people in my life had experienced similar losses. For women in their 30s, approximately 20% of pregnancies will end in miscarriage. For those in their 40s, some 40% of pregnancies will miscarry. Miscarriage is much more common that we think.
Last week, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder, came out to say that he and his wife were expecting a baby. He went on to say that they had three miscarriages before this success. I applaud Mr. Zuckerberg for being public with something so painful and private. It opened up the dialogue.
That takes courage! It reminds us that it could happen to anyone. I congratulate, Mr. Zuckerberg and his wife for not giving up. And just like in business, it seems to have paid off for them. I wish them all the success for a healthy pregnancy.
I have a little paperweight on my desk that is in the shape of a heart and reads HOPE. For anyone out there suffering miscarriages and infertility, remember, it takes persistence, and HOPE! Best wishes to all.