I went in for surgery one year ago yesterday. My OB/GYN performed a D&C because my body would not miscarry naturally (see first three blog posts for our full story). Due to our molar pregnancy followed by my reconstructive hip surgery this October, we are still waiting for the all-clear to try again for a healthy pregnancy. I’ve learned a lot about miscarriage, grief, and friendship in the meantime. Here are a few of the most important lessons I’ve learned this year:
- Their story is not your story: The longer you expect it to be, the longer you’ll be disappointed. The old adage rings true: “comparison is the thief of joy.” I have had the wind knocked out of me at more than one pregnancy announcement in the past year whilst shaking my fist at God. However, recently I was reminded by that still, small voice that there is a unique story being written in my life, and if I only knew, I’d never trade it for a copycat version of another woman’s fertility journey. You shouldn’t either.
- Grief makes you a more compassionate friend: Before my miscarriage, I felt sorry for women I knew who miscarried, but I was not able to empathize with them. I didn’t understand then that once you feel that first pregnancy symptom, your whole life changes in an instant. I didn’t understand that losing your baby is quite literally like losing a part of yourself. Now when women confide in me about their losses I have my own experience from which to draw. I know what to say because I can remember what I wanted others to say to me. This experience has transcended miscarriage and carried over to supporting friends who have experienced grief in its many forms.
- Don’t go it alone: 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage. There are far more women who have had this experience than you realize. You are not alone. If you are unaware of anyone in your circle who has miscarried or perhaps you are not choosing to be public about your story, you can find an amazing community of women social media platforms who have walked this road ahead of you. Even if you think you have a rare set of circumstances like I did, I ended up coming across lots of similar stories that reminded me that I didn’t do anything to cause our miscarriage nor is there anything wrong with my body. In addition to finding others who had experienced miscarriage, I sought out a therapist who specialized in issues related to infertility and pregnancy loss. I cannot underscore how important a therapist is for processing grief and highly recommend finding one in your area. If you don’t know where to start you can search online for qualified therapists by city, state, and specialty. Bottom line: find yourself someone with whom you can be vulnerable about your loss. Trust me, it’s easier with compassionate people in whom to confide.
- Set little goals: I always loved the quote above the treadmills at my local Orangetheory Fitness, “Goals are dreams with deadlines.” Don’t make pregnancy the only goal since there are so many factors out of our control with conception. Make little goals along the way to your rainbow baby so that you end more days with a ‘win.’ Set goals aimed at making yourself healthier and stronger – mentally & physically. Set goals to reduce stress and toxins in your environment and in your body. Set goals to live more authentically and less rushed. Find ways to measure what that looks like for you. It helps to write down your goals and ask a friend in a similar season to hold you accountable to those goals.
At the end of the day, we don’t get to know the ending, but it isn’t over until it’s over. My therapist reminds me often that there are many ways to expand our family if that’s what we want. I am hopeful that next year holds our rainbow baby, but if not, we won’t give up finding a way. When I have a bad mental health day and feel heavy with the weight of our unanswered prayers, I remind myself of the above four points. This story isn’t over. Lead with empathy. Lean into community. Realign with your goals.
If you are sad today, I feel you. Sit with it, let the tears fall, even a year or more later, but don’t assume tomorrow will be the same. Everyday won’t feel like today. The beauty of emotions is that they ebb and flow. Our emotions raise a flag that there is something within us that needs attention. Tune in to yourself in the moment, avoid the temptation to numb out with social media or other distractions and take this cue as an opportunity to prepare for the future. Early on, I felt it was cruel that the world kept turning when I felt that my world had stopped. Now, I realize it’s a mercy that the world keeps turning, steady and even. I can count on that. Tomorrow is a new day and I will draw strength from the opportunity to try again. I hope that in time, you can too.