It’s hard to find the good in something like a miscarriage—a tragic misfortune that doesn’t discriminate. It can happen to anyone, and it’s more common than you think. Statistically, one out of every four women will experience a miscarriage in their lifetime. I’ve had two.
The first time. . .
My very first pregnancy ended in miscarriage. I got pregnant on the first try and remember thinking to myself, that was almost too easy. I wasn’t convinced, so I asked my doctor for a blood test. “Congratulations!” she said. I guess it was that easy.
A week later, I was walking to work on a windy spring day in San Francisco. I was getting over the flu and still had a lingering cough which had ramped up during my brisk walk. I remember instinctively placing my hand on my belly as I coughed as if to protect the tiny life growing inside me. As my coughing subsided, I began to feel the all-too-familiar cramping sensations that normally accompany my period. That’s weird, I thought. It’s probably just from the coughing, I assured myself. Then there was the first spot of blood when I wiped. It’s dark blood, I told myself. Bright red blood is the kind you need to worry about. I clung to this truth all the way to the OB, where my hopes were dashed—I was miscarrying at six weeks pregnant. I was devastated. Within 24 hours, the bleeding increased, and my body expelled the pregnancy in the form of a long, heavy period. Eight days later, it was over.
I was able to conceive again right away—before I was even able to have a period. After nine months, I gave birth to our first baby girl. Two and half years after that, our son was born. Both pregnancies were marked with the invisible scar left behind by miscarriage—the constant fear that it will happen again at any moment. I remember holding my breath every time I used the restroom, terrified that I would see blood. I even bought a home doppler machine and checked the babies’ heartbeats religiously. My anxiety was at an all-time high until I delivered each of my babies.
The second time. . .
My second miscarriage was the end-result of an unplanned pregnancy. I already had two children under four. I wasn’t ready for another—then or, maybe, ever. But there I was, pregnant by mistake. Oh f**k, I thought to myself, as two pink lines glared back at me. Please, God, no. This can’t be happening. Three tests later I was assured that it was, in fact, happening. To this day, I’m still flooded with guilt over my initial distraught reaction. But I was scared. Life was chaotic and expensive, and adding a third child felt irresponsible and exhausting.
At my first scan, I should have been nine or ten weeks along, but the baby only measured around six and a half weeks. And there was no heartbeat. It was a missed miscarriage. Unlike my previous pregnancies that were plagued by fear and anxiety, miscarriage never even crossed my mind this time. How smug of me. I had been walking around for weeks thinking a baby was growing inside of me when, in fact, that baby’s life had expired shortly after I saw a positive pregnancy test. I felt like a fool.
The next few days were a blur. Since my body had yet to recognize the miscarriage, I had the choice of taking a medication called misoprostol to expel the fetus or have a D&C (dilation and curettage). I chose the misoprostol, even though I knew it would be painful. At least the pain would replace the nothingness I felt. I took the pills on a Saturday morning, and by the evening it was over.
While I instantly felt devastation upon learning about my first miscarriage, I struggled to name my emotions this time around. Was I supposed to feel relieved? I didn’t. At the same time, I felt like I wasn’t allowed to mourn this loss; I didn’t deserve to be sad. Yes, I lost a pregnancy, but it was one I didn’t plan for in the first place. So many women go through the struggle and heartache of infertility, multiple miscarriages, or stillbirths—my situation seemed trivial in comparison and feeling sad about it felt selfish. But still, I couldn’t shake it. What I had come to realize was that I had lost something I never knew I always wanted.
Finding the good. . .
Both miscarriages were awful and heart-wrenching, but I can honestly say I am grateful for them. Talking about my miscarriages was the first step in helping me heal. But it was finding the good in them that really brought me closure. These horrific experiences inadvertently brought joy into my life where it might not have been otherwise. Because my first baby didn’t stick, my daughter is here today. Thanks to losing a pregnancy I thought I didn’t want, I realized how much I really did want another baby. This past March, we welcomed our third child—another little girl. She was the missing piece we didn’t know was missing. And yes, she was planned.