The Gift of Loss: Talking About My Miscarriage

The Gift of Loss: Talking About My Miscarriage Even though statistics show that many women reading this right now have experienced the loss of a pregnancy, most of these women have not, and likely never will, publicly address, or even mention in private, the fact of their miscarriage. Being that this kind of death is a fact of many women's lives, and that silence and shame only exaggerate the pain, I am opening up about my own miscarriage, which occurred a little over two months ago.

I was almost three months pregnant and excitedly looking forward to telling more loved ones the news when I saw a trace of spotting. While it isn't entirely uncommon in early pregnancy, thinking you're growing a healthy baby and then seeing blood is very alarming. With my husband at my side, I called my midwives. They asked me questions, said it sounded usual and gave me two things to look out for that would signal something more serious: More blood. Cramping.

A day later, there was more blood. Then cramping. We knew what was happening. I became sad and worried and very anxious about what my body was about to go through. Getting pregnant and miscarrying is not something I ever prepared myself for. Even though experts estimate that one in every four pregnancies ends in miscarriage, I still thought it was something that only happened to, well, other people.

Although I was now showing all the signs of miscarrying, I wasn't cramping or bleeding enough to be rushed in to the emergency room. I was advised to schedule a sonogram.

A day before my scheduled sonogram, I had a very busy and demanding day representing an organization I direct at the annual Chabad Kinnus HaShluchos. I was supposed to be on my feet for hours, dealing with people and, of course, smiling. (When I asked my midwife if this would be okay, she responded, “As long as you feel okay and there's no cramping.” I wish she would have forbade it, because I truly felt like I just wanted to rest and protect my pregnancy. But she made sure to add, “Mimi, if this is a miscarriage, it's already happened. You need to know that nothing you do or don't do now is going to hurt your baby.” This was exactly what I needed to hear: that there is no reason to have guilt—now or later.)

Now let me tell you, greeting friends and customers and focusing on work is quite a feat when you're bleeding and emotionally coming to terms with what you might see—or rather, not see—on a sonogram the next day. This made me think a lot about all the demands on women these days: how we fulfill so many roles and rise to every occasion,regardless of the myriad of female-specific issues we may be going through. And how the demands of life within and without the home are not as flexible and understanding as often our minds and bodies need them to be.

Twenty hours hours later, I was in a gown being jellied up—me and my husband readied ourselves for the sonogram results. I took huge sighs, thinking “Is this really happening to me?” I cried for the first time since the spotting five days earlier. Before she placed the sensor on my belly, I silently begged G-d that we see a healthy baby, with a vibrant, beating heart—that the bleeding and cramping be some unexplained fluke. But alas, I've had sonograms before and know what you're supposed to see.

And it is not the black, empty space that me and my husband suddenly found ourselves peering into.

The woman taking the sonogram was not my doctor and was not allowed to tell me anything conclusive. Even though I was pretty confident with the image we saw, I was holding on to the possibility that I just wasn't reading it right. I pleaded with her to tell me, but she just replied, “I'm just here to measure and take images.” I then endured an internal sonogram as well, feeling this cold stranger poke around and photograph what I thought was sacred inside me, but more than likely something dead. I cried more, my legs shaking, taking comfort in my husbands equally pained face. It was like we knew, but couldn't really know.

What seemed like hours later, my doctor gently told me the results of the sonogram. She was sensitive and explained what they saw—a six or seven week fetus (when it was “meant” to be 12). It was officially what's called a “Missed Miscarriage,” meaning that the fetus stopped living a while ago, but the pregnancy went on. Thankfully, my husband and I had prepared for this news, so the emotional reaction was not so traumatic, but more of a relief at finally knowing. On the ride home, we decided to stop somewhere, so we could sit face to face and process our feelings about what we just went through and were going to go through.

My most ever present reaction was feeling like a fool. I had told my parents and sister about my pregnancy when there was nothing alive inside me! Of course, I had no way of knowing...but it still stung. Something so within me had...tricked me. Even that very day, I was still having pregnancy symptoms. My body had misled me. I went from experiencing the maternal instincts inherent in pregnancy to feeling robbed, empty and out of touch. Adding to this feeling, of shattered maternal instincts, was the knowledge that something had died within me. My womb, that had been a safe, nurturing haven for my two beautiful, healthy boys (thank God!) had told me I was growing a life and then completely rejected it. It had just started beating it's tiny little heart (or did it?) when it became not a thing of life and growth but death and loss.

Consciously aware that it was futile, irrelevant and even wrong, I couldn't help but blame myself for losing the pregnancy. I should have been more strict about taking my prenatal vitamins! I shouldn't have had coffee! Maybe had I not felt so overwhelmed about this pregnancy in the first place, G-d wouldn't have taken it away! The latter tormented me the most.

I was told to expect my body to expel whatever was left of the pregnancy (placental matter, tissue, significant loss of blood). And if it didn't, I'd have to schedule a D&C to have it done manually. I am grateful that a few days after the sonogram, I was at home and experienced intense labor-like cramps that was the beginning of the end of my miscarriage. This episode lasted a few hours. It was painful and intense and semi-traumatic and I would not have gone through it unscathed had it not been for my mother, sister and amazing midwife Jesse.

When I updated Jesse (who had delivered my second child and whom my husband and I adore), she let me know that my body was doing the right thing, and what to expect. She spent time patiently with me on the phone and said the most compassionate and remarkable words: “You know, this is your body and the universe's kindness. I know it doesn't feel like it, but it's a good thing.” Obviously, one doesn't naturally view miscarriage as any sort of kindness—especially for those women who experience them repeatedly and/or have yet to have healthy children. But what I took from what she was saying was something I needed to hear: The fetus was unhealthy. And instead of G-d willing it into the world to experience pain or even death and inflict me with an even greater physical and emotional agony, he retracted its existence—effectually gifting me with its loss.

When Jesse said this, I remember feeling the “power of women.” It sounds like a cliche, but really we are an invincible, powerful species. Just think how the same midwife that encouraged me through a labor and birth was now comforting me through a loss—with the same sensitivity, strength and faith that, only a year before guided my contractions to birth a healthy child.

Though I wish I never had a miscarriage, I am thankful to G-d for the way it happened, for my good health and for surrounding me with a sound medical system, a loving family and a supportive husband. If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes quite a few sensitive,yet strong and totally massive hearts, to support a woman who is losing a pregnancy.

I chose to write about my miscarriage because I believe strongly that there should be no shame or guilt about the choices our bodies and G-d make for us. There is nothing wrong with you or your “womanliness” if you have a miscarriage. Perhaps if we spoke about these realities more, so many women wouldn't feel insecure, silenced, afraid and broken.

I live in a community where most women seem to always be either pregnant or with a newborn. Those suffering from infertility or who have experienced a miscarriage get lost in the shuffle, forced to deal with their pain in a silent way—whether they want to or not.

Should we not be able to band together in reasonable and healthy ways not only in our joys and triumphs, but in the reality of our pains and losses? We all have them. A woman who experiences a loss should feel allowed to discuss her miscarriage with equal freedom as her friend with a burgeoning belly.

She shouldn't fear being viewed as weak. We cannot allow her to fear being pitied.

Strong, healthy and fertile women all over the world have miscarriages. Some happily choose to keep their experiences to themselves. There is virtue in that, too. But a woman who feels she would find healing in discussing her experience openly should never feel the burden of potential shame that may come with “exposing” herself. Especially if the good that candor brings and the conversation it creates can only enlighten other women to be more sensitive, prepared and empowered.

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