By: Esther Harari
I remember what I was wearing when it happened – my favorite sweater of the season, beige with red hearts. I haven’t worn that sweater since the doctor told me there was no heartbeat. There was no way to be prepared for that kind of news. You don’t think it’s going to happen to you, so why would you be prepared? Did you know 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage? Yet nobody talks about it.
My husband and I decided to wait to start trying for our second child until my son turned two. I worried it was long to wait, especially since most of my family members and friends all seemed to have had their first two kids about two years apart. By the time my son turned a year old, I started seeing people who were pregnant with me already expecting again. I started to panic! Even though I wasn’t ready yet, I felt so much pressure to get pregnant just because everyone else was. That sounds very stupid to me now, but in the moment it felt real. I kept going back and forth with my husband in panic mode, even though my baby was still so young and I knew I wasn’t ready to have another yet.
My husband and I had agreed on a timeline that we both felt was right and we stuck with it. But throughout that period I kept thinking, “What if it takes time, or something happens that ‘sets me back’?” All this noise was in my head, and at that point there was no real reason for me to worry about it! Thank G-d, I had no issue getting pregnant the first time, and I had no reason to project the worst for my future. When the time came to start “trying” (I hate that word!) I was already feeling pressure, which made the baby-making process really stressful for no reason other than my own overthinking. Whether it’s quick or not, the whole process is just stressful. Tracking ovulation, the dreadful two week wait and dissecting your every symptom that doesn’t even exist just to see a negative pregnancy test – it’s exhausting! And then, we got pregnant. And I felt relief. But relief for all the wrong reasons. Relief because “now I can catch up to everyone else,” and “now I can finally prove that I had no problem getting pregnant.”
I was 11 weeks along when I started lightly bleeding. I wasn’t nervous at all since I knew it was common in the first trimester. I had experienced this with my son too, so I really didn’t pay much attention to it. The next day it started to get worse and I started getting a little nervous, so I called the doctor. My doctor wasn’t on call so I spoke to someone who assured me that it’s normal to have some light bleeding in the first trimester as long as it didn’t progress any further. I hung up and distinctly recall having this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I felt no relief after that call, and I remember being up all night so I could keep checking to see if it was getting worse, which it was. I called the doctor the next morning and he told me to come in so he could examine me. I had never felt so much anxiety as I did in those hours leading up to my appointment. It was like an out-of-body experience. I felt like I was standing still in a very crowded street. Everyone was having a normal day going about their business, while my world was about to come crashing down on me. I knew it wasn’t good, but I was holding on tight to those last few hours of being pregnant. By the time I got to my doctor’s office I was having lower back pain and cramps – it just kept getting worse – and that’s when I officially knew.
How can I describe the silence in the room when the doctor was examining me? You could cut it with a knife. “There’s no heartbeat.” Those words ripped right through me. It didn’t matter that I never met this baby, it didn’t matter that I was “only” in my first trimester. The pain of the loss of my future baby was greater than anything I had ever felt in my life. The doctor gave me two different possibilities of how this could play out: I would either need a D&C or I would bleed on my own and have a “natural miscarriage”. “Go home and once you fill a whole pad, call me,” he said. “Fill a pad…Are you serious?!” Nothing prepared me for what was to be full-blown labor. I was hemorrhaging badly, having contractions, dilating and screaming for it to be over. Nobody ever told me this is what happens. Since I was miscarrying naturally I ended up in the ER to make sure I wasn’t losing too much blood and to make sure everything was out. And all I remember was that I kept turning to my husband and asking him, “Is this really happening right now?” My heart hurt so much for him in that moment because he had to watch me go through one of the hardest and most vulnerable moments in my life. It was pure grief losing a pregnancy.
The next month was filled with sadness, crying spells, fear and anxiety. I felt so broken and most of all, I felt like I let everybody down. I told more people about my miscarriage than I did that I was pregnant, because I was so nervous I would burst into tears in front of them and I couldn’t go on pretending like I didn’t just go through a loss. I lost life and I was grieving and I needed the support. Ironically, the further away it was from the miscarriage the harder it got. It was like it never existed. But it did. I didn’t want to forget – I had a human being living inside me for 11 weeks – and it died. I loved this baby from when I saw those two pink lines. I wondered if it was a boy or a girl. I was so excited for my two-year-old toddler to have a sibling. I planned. I imagined my future with these two kids. And then on a moment’s notice it was gone. Today I have faith that I will be I will be pregnant before long, but I’ll never forget the little one that left us too soon.
My miscarriage gave me a whole new perspective on the process of building a family and life itself. It’s not a race – no one is winning because they had a baby first or have the most kids. There’s no good or bad, no right or wrong, no rules on how to build a family, the ideal number of kids or the age gaps between them. This is one couple’s journey, no one else’s, and that’s what makes it unique. The many different shapes and sizes are what makes families beautiful. If I could go back and give myself advice, I’d say, “You do you and own it.”
To anyone who went through a miscarriage, I say: allow yourself to feel everything. There’s no easy way around it. It’s traumatic, and your body just went through a life-changing event! Yes, it’s very common, but don’t let anyone belittle it. A few things really helped me through the healing process. I gave myself the time to grieve and to not be OK. I spoke to other women who went through it, spoke to a therapist and did a ton of spiritual work. I focused on having so much gratitude for what I do have. I invested all my energy into my son, loving and appreciating him. And also using the “what’s the worst-case scenario?” mentality really got me through some tough days. At the end of the day, that’s all I can do, because G-d is directing my life and I believe he has my best interests at heart.
After my miscarriage I felt a very strong inclination to share my story. I wish I knew how common a miscarriage really was; I had no idea. I wish I knew how the process of a miscarriage happens. I had never heard of a D&C procedure until the doctor told me. And I had no idea that it is a surgical process where you undergo anesthesia. And if the miscarriage happens naturally, I had no idea that it’s a labor-like experience. I know it’s different for everybody, but I wish I knew these things. I was not prepared at all.
I wrote this article hoping to show that there’s nothing to be ashamed of and that it’s OK to talk about it. We’re all on this journey together.
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