“So, do you want more kids?” “What are you waiting for? When will you have another?” “Are you going to give him a sibling?” Looking on at my joyful and vibrant 5-year-old, these are some of the questions I get on a regular basis. My answers to these well-meaning and good-natured questions usually sound something like this: “I think so. Well, we are thinking about it. Maybe, we’ll see.”
But what’s actually running through my head? It sounds more like this: “Yes, we’d love to have more kids! I’ve actually been pregnant two more times. We’ve been trying to give him a brother or a sister for three years now.”
Why is it so hard to talk openly about pregnancy loss? For me, there’s just no way to bring it up casually in conversation. It’s hard enough to raise the subject with even my closest friends. Miscarriage is a tough topic. It’s emotional and it’s uncomfortable and sometimes, it’s easier to pretend like it doesn’t exist.
Sharing Our Story
To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to share my own story. Ultimately, though, I thought back to what I did after each of my miscarriages: I went on-line and searched for the stories of women who had gone through the same thing. I climbed into bed, I hid under the covers, and read their comforting words, while hoping for answers. Instead, what I found was more powerful: the strength I gained in knowing I wasn’t alone.
Secondary infertility is defined as “the inability to become pregnant or to carry a baby to term after previously giving birth to a baby.” As I mentioned, I have a beautiful 5-year-old son who has blessed my life and my heart. It never occurred to me that I would have trouble getting pregnant with baby number two. I didn’t know anything about the statistics – that about 10% to 15% of all known pregnancies end in miscarriage and that nearly 1 in 4 women will experience a pregnancy loss during their lifetimes. I had no problems with baby number one. Why would a second kiddo be any different?
Since the birth of my son, I have had two early term, back-to-back, miscarriages. Both times, the pregnancies had only progressed to maybe 6 or 7 weeks at most. Just enough time to see the two lines, get excited, and start dreaming about a future as a family of four. The first time that it happened, I was shocked and took the loss hard. It was so incredibly unexpected. The second time was sadly, a bit easier. The threat of pregnancy loss was already on my mind and I had steeled myself to this unfortunate possibility.
One of the hardest parts about dealing with a very early miscarriage (in my experience) is that no one else, outside of my immediate family, knew that I had been pregnant. I looked exactly the same as I had the day before each loss. I never reached that magical 12-week mark when I could share the good news with a wider group of family and friends. I felt like I needed to go about my day as if nothing had happened. In my head, I was telling myself over and over, “The pregnancy was so early. It doesn’t even really count.” But I couldn’t help it. I was sad. I was really sad. And I was annoyed, and I was angry. And no matter how far along, the pregnancy did count. I was experiencing the loss of a child that I was never able to hold in my arms.
For me, miscarriage after a successful pregnancy also came with an unexpected emotion: guilt. I felt terribly guilty for feeling sad and annoyed and angry because I was already so fortunate. I have a beautiful little boy. What right did I have to grieve? My young son would come bouncing into my bedroom to check on me during the days after each loss. All he knew was that I wasn’t feeling well and his attentiveness made my heart melt. Then, I would feel even more guilty for not having the energy to take him to the playground and for asking him to play quietly while mommy rested.
Of course, I realize now that all of these emotions are completely valid. It’s okay to feel sadness for the loss of what could have been. It’s okay to be annoyed and angry about why this is happening to you. And it’s okay to feel confused while you are trying to figure out all of these complicated emotions. Above all, it’s okay to give yourself the space and time to heal (even if no one else knows what you are going through).
The loss of two pregnancies has given me a beautiful way to look at parenthood that I may not have had otherwise. What if I experience the wonder of early childhood as a parent only once? What a beautiful gift to have been given. When my son asks me to read him a book, I do. Even when I’m exhausted, I try to muster the energy to sing “just one more” bedtime song. And I never think twice about buying all the adorable outfits. How long do I really have anyway before he starts deciding what to wear on his own? I hug him a little tighter. I play LEGOS a little longer. No matter how ordinary, I try to appreciate these everyday moments that make the early years so special.
If you are reading this from your bed late at night, I want you to know that I’ve been where you are, and I know your grief. The sadness will lessen with time (I promise) and this experience will become a part of who you are. Most importantly, I want you to know that you are not alone.
Interested in another mom’s story? Don’t forget to read Michelle Obama is Exactly What I Needed When I Was Miscarrying.