I just had a miscarriage. It still feels like I’m talking about someone else’s life when I say it. I’ll never be able to erase the memory of walking to the bathroom in the middle of my work day, just like any other day, then looking down and seeing blood. I proceed to take all of the next steps I’m supposed to take. I call my husband. I call the doctor. I text my mom. I schedule all of the appointments I need. Then I get home and I feel tired and empty. Yesterday we were making plans. Today I am lost.
As soon as I have a moment to myself, I google “does anxiety cause a miscarriage?” Although I have some understanding of the statistics on miscarriage, I still believe this must be something I have done wrong. Did I drink too much caffeine? Is it because I haven’t been sleeping well? Did my anxiety cause too much stress to my body and the baby? Is it my medication?
I sobbed with mild relief when I read the following: There is no proof that stress causes miscarriage. And I read this from multiple sources. The most common cause of miscarriage in the first trimester is chromosomal abnormality. This is unrelated to the actions, feelings, and behaviors of the woman. I don’t know who needs to hear this today. But I know I needed to hear it so badly on this day. So here it is again. There is no proof that stress causes miscarriage. Take a deep breath. It wasn’t your fault. Say it. “It wasn’t my fault.” And say it over and over again until you believe it.
It is not your fault.
My husband and I have been trying to get pregnant for over a year. I have never felt less in control of anything in my life. When we first discussed fertility treatment options with the doctor, I thought yes! Finally some action we can take! I didn’t consider that there is actually very little action in this plan; in reality there is a whole lot of waiting. Try a medication that will start your menstrual cycle. Take it for 10 days, then wait for 10 days to see if it works. Twenty days of waiting. Now that you had your menstrual cycle, wait until day 10, then do ovulation testing. Pee on an ovulation strip. Wait. Negative. Do it again day after day. All negative. Wait until day 21, then get bloodwork done to confirm what we probably already know: I don’t ovulate. Add on another medication to stimulate ovulation. Pee on an ovulation strip. Wait. Negative. Do it again day after day. All negative. Wait until day 21, then get bloodwork done to confirm what we probably already know: I still don’t ovulate. I did not accurately estimate the emotional toll it would take to look at negative ovulation tests and negative pregnancy tests day after day, month after month.
Then we started gaining traction in our fertility journey. We found the right medication at the right dose and I ovulated for the first time. We were pregnant within a few months. Suddenly all of the pain of disappointment and waiting felt distant and insignificant. This baby, just the size of an appleseed, already had the power to wash away all of that pain. My husband and I cried, hugged, and cried some more. It was finally happening!
A couple short weeks later, it was over. Grief set in. This is not an uncommon experience for women. Studies reveal that anywhere from 10-25% of all clinically recognized pregnancies will end in miscarriage. Wow. How can this experience feel so sad and lonely when so many women experience it? I’ve been walking around trying to live my normal life while feeling like I’m hiding this sad, dark secret that no one knows about. Not only does this take an emotional toll, but a physical one as well. It can take weeks for the miscarriage to be complete, and then there is follow-up testing and appointments. All I want is to move on, but my body keeps reminding me that we are still recovering from a tragic loss.
My grief has been experienced through intense bouts of sadness. Experiencing grief with a mental illness is a delicate balance. Most days I want to just let myself grieve fully, cry as hard and long as I need to; stay in bed all day and allow myself to just feel it. But I know that my feelings and circumstances can be enough to shift my brain chemistry into a depressive episode. Adding a full depressive episode to my grief process will not be healthy or effective. But I’m so tired of regulating my emotions. I’m so tired of trying to find the right balance. I’m so tired of dragging myself out of bed, off of the couch, out of the house. I’m so tired of the fight to survive and persist.
But what choice do we have? Life circumstances test us in ways we never would have imagined. We can let this break us or we can let this strengthen our resilience. This loss has been devastating. Even though it knocked the wind out of my sails, the boat did not sink. As long as we stay afloat, we can see the island of hope in the distance. I’m tired, sad, and fighting daily for hope. During a mindfulness exercise, I asked myself How am I possibly going to be able to keep going? The answer came to me in an instant. And the answer was simple. One day at a time. This has been a difficult year. So many of us have experienced loss and grief like never before. All we can do is keep going one day at a time, one hour at a time, one step at a time.
“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”
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