Culture says I’m not supposed to tell you this story. But I’m telling it anyhow.
Yesterday, I was listening to Brene Brown on the Being Boss podcast and of course, because she’s effing brilliant, she shared this nugget of awesome:
Tell me the truth so I can find my story in your words.
I’m not sharing this story because I expect people to care about how all of this affects me. I’m sharing because it’s comforting knowing you’re not alone. Maybe some of you will see your story here. If not, I hope you at least find insight into something that happens all of the time, but few talk about.
Josh and I had been discussing kids for awhile.
I’m not exactly a big “baby” kind of person. Do I want to hold your baby? I mean, sure, if you need me to. Do I think your baby’s cute? I’m totally going to say yes (and I will for sure mean it if you’re this baby in particular). So suffice it to say, all this talk of expanding our humans from two to three came with loads of feelings.
When I take a step back and don’t think about the details (growing an actual human in my body and having to somehow get it out (!), the lack of sleep, the questions about what being a mom means for my life and career), it’s a totally different narrative. I’ve always believed at some point, I’d be a parent. I never think about my future and not see kids in it. They’re there.
So, in August, the two of us decided to go for this baby thing. Who knows, it might take a loooong time. Might as well find out now!
18 days later, there it was. Two M-F-ing blue lines.
Here’s where you’re supposed to say congrats, right?
Truthfully, I was not ready to hear it. I knew I was supposed to be excited, but my main feeling was overwhelmed (60 percent), followed by fear (30 percent) with a 10 percent excitement chaser. Who do I call? What do I do? THIS IS AN EMERGENCY… right? And let’s not forget all these questions: What was I going to do about work? What kind of cheese am I not supposed to eat? Where is this kid going to sleep?!
Oh god, no more wine!
A few hours later, Josh got home. I told him and right off the bat, he was way more excited than me, which I appreciated.
I spent the next few days processing what this all meant. I bought some quality pre-natal vitamins. I cooked meats much longer than normal. I bought a ton of expensive non-alcoholic beverages. I even started drinking de-caff.
All these changes were pretty easy. The hard part came when I thought about my community. What happened when I had to tell my friend who spent years trying to get pregnant? Or the friend who gave their baby up for adoption years ago, and now kind of regrets it? Or the friend who can’t get pregnant?
The feeling I wasn’t expecting?
We’d barely even tried and boom. Baby city. Did I even deserve to be pregnant?! Here I was, one of those women who it just happened to. The ones couples struggling with fertility say they’re excited for… but secretly want to murder just a little bit.
The worst part? I was only 11 percent excited (four days after I found out, I saw a cute baby at Costco (not for sale), which catapulted my excitement one full point). In the context of friends having trouble conceiving, that made me feel awful. The good news for me? I personally didn’t feel pressure to be excited right away. It’s totally normal to be scared and overwhelmed! If that cute baby at Costco taught me anything, it’s that I would get more excited, bit by bit.
In the week and a half following “the news,” my brain swirled with questions. I felt like crud. The next weekend, I no-showed to a friend’s birthday party. I knew there’d be two friends there who are heartbroken they’re not pregnant yet. And even though I wasn’t planning on saying anything about my you-know-what, what if they figured it out? I didn’t want a be a source of pain on what’s supposed to be a fun night.
The next morning, I woke up with terrible cramps. I went to Dr. Google and tried to convince myself it was nothing.
It wasn’t nothing.
After talking to a really kind nurse on the phone, Josh and I made the executive decision to go to the ER.
I explained to the intake nurse that I was seven weeks pregnant, but suspected I was having a miscarriage. Honey, it might still be okay, she said. Don’t go to that bad place quite yet. In my gut, I knew what I knew. That morning, as I cried my face off in our bathroom, I realized I was probably more than 11 percent excited. Sometimes feeling overwhelmed, excitement and fear kind of blend into one giant blobby emotion.
I was poked with needles, offered Vicodin (a-thankyou) and eventually had my first pregnancy ultrasound. Except where you’d expect to see a little flickering heartbeat, there was just nothing.
On the way home from the hospital, I talked to a friend who’s a physician’s assistant. She told me this is common, that there’s probably nothing wrong with me and this baby likely wasn’t viable from a chromosomal standpoint. All of this gave me peace of mind. I felt completely rational. I walked away feeling surprisingly, well, fine.
But over the next few weeks, I came to realize I wasn’t exactly fine.
I didn’t expect to feel so physically and emotionally drained.
I didn’t expect the physical pain.
I didn’t expect to feel so isolated.
I didn’t expect to cry at every commercial (oh, Flo! I love you and am switching to Progressive!).
I didn’t expect the transition back to normal life– aka the life I’d been living for 33 years– would be so challenging. I was only seven weeks pregnant, and yet, my body and brain already felt significantly different.
I didn’t know what to expect because nobody talks about it!
Except that people do talk about it. In hushed tones, over a glass of wine or walk around the neighborhood, or tucked away in the back corner of a party. I’ve had more conversations about women’s health in the last month than I’ve had in the last three decades combined. Sometimes we keep struggles to ourselves because it’s too painful, or because we don’t want everyone knowing our business. However, often times, I think it comes down to this simple fact:
Like over-sharing the details of your irritable bowel syndrome at Thanksgiving, or revealing how much money you made last year, pregnancy loss isn’t something we’re supposed to talk about. But consider this: 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage.
So I am talking about it.
Or writing about it. Whatever.
A miscarriage is a lot to deal with.
I expected the negative effects of miscarriage were reserved for people who lost their pregnancies later, or were more than 11 percent excited, or those who’d been trying for a long time.
My miscarriage happened early and was so straightforward. I didn’t need a “procedure.” I’d never seen the heartbeat. I also believe in the rational part of my brain that my miscarriage was probably in the best interest of me and the baby. And yet, it still was so hard.
Overwhelmed? Sad? Confused? Frustrated? Yes, I am all of those things.
Miscarriage is a unique process for every person, and for every pregnancy. If this were to happen to me again, I am sure my feeling and emotions would be totally different. But no matter the circumstance, don’t expect yourself to magically bounce back. Give yourself some time to grieve, deal and heal. Be nice to yourself. Sleep. Eat good food. Get a massage. Take care of yourself. It’s a lot to deal with.
Creating a family is tough work.
Someone struggling with infertility might want to dropkick every baby announcement on Facebook. Those who experienced an easy, healthy pregnancy might feel shameful sharing their excitement. And maybe you don’t want kids at all, are getting kind of annoyed at all this boring pregnancy talk and wish I’d just post some cute pics of puppies (done!).
You can’t always help how you feel. But just remember, we hardly ever know the full story. So let’s support each other– be happy for those who are in an exciting time, and lend an ear to those who are, as my dad would say, in a glass bottom boat on a sea of shit. It’s not your job to solve their problems, just listen or do something kind for them.
If you don’t want to talk about it, that’s okay.
Sharing is a part of my process, but it doesn’t need to be part of yours. If you’re struggling, find a trusted friend, doctor or professional who specializes in women’s health and pregnancy loss. You don’t have to go through this alone. Pregnancy, loss, infertility and all the emotional and physical crap that comes with it is heavy. You can’t just think your way out of it.
Trust me, I tried. 🙂
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Some excellente resources:
Midwife Rebecca Egbert’s useful, no-nonsense website all about women’s health, pregnancy & post-partum health.
Most pregnancy resources fit into one of two camps: Aimed at scaring the shit out of you, or super-flowery. I greatly dislike both approaches and that’s why I love Pregnant Chicken. Finally, someone talking about this stuff with honesty AND a sense of humor.
If you’re in MN, here’s a list of pre-natal and postpartum doctors and resources in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
Do you want to talk to someone who gets it? Grieve Out Loud has a pen-pal program. That could be cool, right?
Know of another helpful resource? Comments!