And finding my peace.
Ask any person who is actively trying to start a family if they, or a friend they know, have experienced pregnancy loss. Chances are, you will hear countless stories of the heartache that family planning can have on an individual or couple. Of course, you aren’t actually going to ask a person about it if they don’t offer the information to you willingly, and so, I am here to talk about it. I am not here to tell you that everything is going to work out just how you want it to. Rather, I am here to share my story and the perspective it has given me now that we are on the other side of it.
The family-building journey between me and my husband was a tumultuous one that oscillated between pure joy and total devastation over three years. For us, the lowest points in the journey happened when we experienced recurring miscarriages.
I say ‘we’ because although I physically went through the loss, it happened to both of us.
We both felt the joy at that first positive pregnancy test after a full year of trying to conceive on our own, and we both felt the rug pulled out from under us when the doctor called to tell me the pregnancy wasn’t viable.
It was early in the pregnancy — six weeks. Early enough that most women don’t even realize they are pregnant at this stage unless they are actively trying. And at this stage in one’s pregnancy, many women choose not to share the news until the end of the first trimester. It was different for us. We told our close friends and our parents; they already knew we had been trying with no success so we figured ‘why not?’. It was early in February when we first saw those two pink lines, the positive pregnancy test. We never imagined that I would not birth a baby at the end of that year.
When I knew the pregnancy was not viable, I chose to stay home and wait for nature to take its course. Which, it did. I then had to face the music and tell people who knew that I was no longer pregnant. I was glad that I was not completely alone — that my close friends knew what was happening. But that only helps a person so much.
Whether people know about your miscarriage or not, there is a certain level of isolation that occurs.
It is impossible to explain to someone else that this pregnancy, that this baby that you dreamed would be in your life in nine months, was not, in fact, going to be in your family.
It is not just the loss itself, it is the loss of the dream you had for your family.
And that is what makes early miscarriage so isolating. Only you understand the heartache of losing the dream of a family — your baby. People can share their condolences if you’ve let them into that part of your life, but they cannot feel it the way that you do.
My husband and I went on to have two rounds of fertility treatments after our first loss. The first round resulted in another miscarriage at eleven weeks followed by a D&C because my body wanted to hold on to the baby — it was as though my mind controlled the body in this case. The second round of treatment resulted in the full-term birth of our twins. I naively believed that having a baby — or, in this case, two — would undo the heartache of our previous losses. I thought that having a baby would allow me to trust my body again (spoiler: it didn’t. I spent nine months paranoid at every symptom, or lack thereof). I believed that the pain of what we went through would magically disappear.
But the truth is this: Even when you’ve gone on to birth a baby, you don’t forget what you went through.
We are the lucky ones, and we are incredibly grateful that we have two children who light up our lives. It has been years since that first pregnancy loss, and although our family is complete, the pain of those past experiences sticks to me. It doesn’t hurt the way it did when I wasn’t sure if we would ever have biological children, when all those ‘what ifs’ floated around us in what felt like a never-ending haze. But the isolation of those experiences changed me.
My therapist during that time would often ask me:
“Well, what have you learned from this experience?”
For so long, I had no idea how to answer her. “Nothing.” I would say. “I learned nothing.”
“It just broke me. What’s to learn in being broken?”
But now, I can finally say that I’ve learned a few things, and if any of this resonates with someone going through this journey, then I am grateful for that.
A few lessons:
I learned the hard way that you cannot control everything, but in that, I also learned that there is support even during the most isolating times — friends (even though they don’t get it or feel it the way you do), therapists, doctors — lean on those around you even when it feels like they can’t possibly understand.
You can come out on the other side, but it will change you. But that change can be a catalyst for greater things in your life. The change need not be painted in negative light forever. I’ve been broken, I’ve not trusted my body, but I now have a different outlook on life and I’ve learned to let go of the steering wheel, so to speak, and let things happen as they may. And I can find peace in that.