The Secret Sisterhood & Life After Miscarriage

Japanese Jizo Bodhisattva Statue

Not long ago I became a member of a very special club. It’s not a membership I asked for or wanted. The membership to this club is very exclusive – so exclusive that most of us don’t know one another and never talk about it.  I can now call myself an official  card carrying member of the Repeat Pregnancy Loss club.

We are a secret sisterhood.

I debated a long time about whether to write about this because while I share personal information about myself in this blog, I tend to shy away from the confessional-type post. Yet I feel compelled to write because I know so many women suffer in silence with this intensely private and emotional topic.

I also hope I can give those who have a loved one who has experienced miscarriage some glimpse into what women go through. Miscarriage repeat or otherwise is one of the most isolating and devastating experiences a woman can experience. 

I’ve written before about my desire to have a second child. I had D2 late in life so I knew the odds and risks of trying to get pregnant again after age 40. I decided to up my chances by going under the care of a reproductive endocrinologist. After many diagnostic tests my RE told me that I had the ovaries and egg reserve of a woman 10 years younger. I felt optimistic.

To try get pregnant more quickly we tried IUI. After three failed attempts we decided to step up our efforts. But during my “down” (read non-medical intervention) month I discovered I got pregnant naturally. I was cautiously excited and told a few close friends and family members. Four short weeks later before my first ultra sound, I started spotting then cramping. I knew it wasn’t a good sign but I called the nurse hoping against hope she’d tell me not to worry. 

Late that night the cramps grew worse. It was the beginning of the end.

I popped a few Tylenol and by the next day my pregnancy had ended while I was at work.  While I felt sad, I didn’t feel nearly the devastation I felt the the first time I had a miscarriage the summer before giving birth to D2. My reproductive endocrinologist chalked it up to a bad egg and still gave me cautious optimism that I could get and stay pregnant.

We planned our summer vacation and decided we’d start trying again as soon as we got back. This time my doctor recommended a more aggressive drug therapy that would require me to inject myself for ten days along with oral medication.

We were all set to start the new drug regimine when I started feeling sick and noticed my chest had swollen a cup size. I took a pregnancy test and lo and behold I was pregnant again.  I didn’t feel happiness. As a matter of fact, I remember my exact emotion – fear, anxiety. I told Dr. D. but said I didn’t want to talk about this pregnancy in case it didn’t stick. 

Besides work was going gangbusters and I had D2 worry about. I didn’t want my emotional state over this pregnancy to cloud my ability to be a good mother to the wonderful child I have already.

I tried to go about my day to day as if nothing was different.  Truth is though that once you have one miscarriage and then a second (or third or fourth), it haunts you like a bad memory. All the joy of expecting is drained out of you and all that is left is fear and worry. Every twinge, cramp or perceived change in the soreness of my breasts made me think  Is today it? Is this day I am going to miscarry again?

Unlike my first and second pregnancies, I stopped reading baby books, researching baby names or even thinking about the future. I was just trying to make it to the next week (a sad side effect of  miscarriage is you start to develop strange coping mechanisms to manage your expectations when/if you become pregnant again).

You don’t want to get too attached to your growing baby because you know all too well the possible reality that awaits around the corner.

This time around my doctor did several tests to measure my HCG and progesterone levels. All checked out normal. My early ultrasound measured great and showed this pregnancy was making progress.

I dared not hope too much but I began to feel a little more safe.

At my eight week ultrasound I was hopeful but right away the screen told a story that was becoming all too familiar. What should have been a little tadpole with a flickering heartbeat in the center was a still, lifeless gray mass.  Having had one before, I decided against having a D&C and got a prescription for Cytotec, a drug that forces your body to have a miscarriage. The doctor instructed me to bring in the expelled tissue so he could examine it. Two painful, bed-ridden days later I found myself once again on the other side of a failed pregnancy.

I’ve had three miscarriages in total now, two in the last three months. I can’t lie. It’s tested my faith in large and small ways. It’s tested my faith in my body. Most days I am doing okay but other days I’m overcome by an overwhelming sadness and a sense of failure. Failure to give my son a sibling, failure to so have arrogantly believed that I could cheat time. And I worry. I worry that I am being selfish.

I know a number of women who have tried to conceive for years and still have no child. Who am, with a beautiful little boy, to think I deserve another child?

What makes me so special?

 I don’t have an answer other than I’ve always believed I would have at least two children. I ‘ve always believed that while motherhood isn’t for everyone, it is for me. When I became a mother I realized I had a reservoir of love that was deep enough for one, two or more children.

And the thing about miscarriage is this, life goes on even when you just feel like crawling into bed and shutting the world out. Meetings must be attended. Plans and decisions must be made. Groceries need to be bought. Laundry has to be folded.  Life just goes on as if nothing ever happened. The only person who knows something is different is you.

When people ask you how you are doing, you can’t blurt out I just had a miscarriage and feel like falling apart. No, you say I’m fine, thanks. Game face on.

And in any event, I was so busy juggling work and home duties there was literally no time to let the wheels come off. If I was going to have a breakdown, I was going to have schedule it and that wasn’t happening anytime soon. You keep going.

I was fortunate this time around to dodge many of the insensitive remarks that people unknowingly say after a miscarriage. Comments like At least you have a child or You should be happy you can get pregnant at all or Now you won’t have a disabled child.  Stupid, thoughtless comments.

Something else happens after miscarriage. Where once you never noticed them, you start to see babies and pregnant women everywhere. 

At the mall you see pregnant teenagers with swollen bellies in low-rider jeans and flipflops swilling Coke and eating cheetos and wonder why God chose to let some get pregnant so easily while others of us keep trying in vain.

All you can think is That should be me.

But it’s not.

How does this happen? The answer is there is no answer and you can’t be bitter (though it’s hard not to be).

I believe that our faith gets tested in many ways and for some of us, this is our test. I believe it’s mine.

You would think as a blogger that I would be more amenable to chatrooms and advice boards. I did a quick Google search and  turned up hundreds of support sites and chat rooms dedicated to infertility and pregnancy loss. Some of the stories were devastating, women who had still born babies at 25 or 30 weeks; women who had experienced multiple miscarriages for years or never conceived a child at all after years and years of trying.

I read these heartbreaking stories and feel less sorry for myself.

I never post on any of these boards. Part of it is probably denial.  I don’t want my story to be one more sad story someone else has to read.  Part of it is my naturally glass half-full mentality. I still believe in the possible and sub-conciously worry that if I focus too much on the loss it means I’m giving up. 

My faith tells me to stay hopeful.

One post on a chat board did catch my eye one day. Most of the women on this forum had experienced multiple miscarriages and one poster offered this wisdom:

I have decided that I will go ahead and love each baby for however short of a time I have them. No matter what the loss or how much it hurts at least I feel like I gave my baby my best shot and the most love possible in the short time we were together.

That one phrase was such a gift. It embodied the hope and optimism that I know I should feel with each pregnancy but somehow can’t. If I could I would thank her for changing my mind about how I will handle my next (yes, I believe there will be another) pregnancy.  You see, as hard as this miscarriage has hit me, I still believe I have a chance. I can’t say how many more times I can try before throwing in the towel for good but I know I have to at least try.

What I know for sure is that while it’s hard (very hard) to pick up the pieces after such a devastating loss, it’s possible. One piece at a time.

The other night, I was sitting on the couch and D2 climbed up on his little stool to turn on the CD player.  His favorite CD by Jack Johnson was playing.

Mama let’s dance he says to me. I tell him mommy isn’t up to it and I’ll just watch.

No!  Dance with me NOW, mama! He grabs my hand and tries to pull me to my feet. We hold hands and start dancing in a circle.

Jack Johhnson is singing.

....I want to turn the whole thing upside down
I’ll find the things they say just can’t be found
I’ll share this love I find with everyone
We’ll sing and dance to Mother Nature’s songs
I don’t want this feeling to go away…..

D2 tells me to pick him up and we dance around the living room laughing, singing, whirling around and around.  I remember the happiness that seemed to have abandoned me only days before. 

And slowly the pieces start coming back together.

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