Miscarriage: Are You Ok?
In this deeply personal blog, Gail explains how her own experience of miscarriage shaped her view of infertility, and the struggles faced by all who experience it.
Recently, I read Meghan Markle’s unique opinion piece in the New York Times detailing her experience with miscarriage. The Losses We Share is unique not just because Meghan is high-profile, but that she spoke publicly about a topic that is often swept aside and shrouded in private grief. The unfortunate effect of keeping the grief of miscarriage private is that many women who have been through this may feel that the loss is shameful or insignificant. In reality it is neither. It is the loss of a much anticipated child that will never be.
I had been trying to get pregnant and when I missed my period, I was delighted to find that the home pregnancy test I took was positive. I was elated as I had worried that I would be one of the many who experiences secondary infertility. I already had my son but it was taking much longer to get pregnant this time around. I desperately wanted to have a second child and I was sure this was going to be my little girl. I shared the positive results with friends and family, not waiting the recommended 12 weeks. It never occurred to me that I would have a miscarriage.
Three weeks after I had taken the home pregnancy test, I woke up feeling cramps and noticed I was spotting. I felt hot all over and felt like I was going to faint. I laid down on the bathroom floor against the cool tiles. In my first pregnancy I had spotted, so I thought this was normal. I got ready for work and drove the 45 minutes from my home to the Yale New Haven Hospital where I was working. The bleeding had continued and increased significantly. I told my coworker that I thought I was having a miscarriage and he sugested I go home. I called my husband to meet me and he took me to our local hospital. I had never had a period that started like this.
As Meghan shares her story she mentions a thoughtful reporter asking her, “Are you ok?” This is something that often doesn’t happen. I remember when I experienced my miscarriage, I was in the emergency room and a young cavalier male intern said to me “what kind of pregnancy test did you take anyway. You weren’t even pregnant.” This caused me to feel guilty like I had wasted his time. How rude of me to think I was pregnant. In retrospect, now that I know much more than I did then, I may have experienced a blighted ovum. But in my mind, I was pregnant.
I left the hospital feeling ashamed and embarrassed. It took about 24 hours for the grief to hit me that I was not going to be having that baby that I had been trying for, visualizing and longing for. Even now, more than 26 years later, I can feel the pain that I felt then as I write this. I can also still feel the shame. I was in a small group at my church and we had a meeting that weekend. I didn’t feel like seeing people so my husband went without me. He told them what had happened and out of that group of at least a dozen only one reached out to ask me how I was doing. No one else acknowledged my loss. No one else asked, “Are you ok?”
I don’t hold that against these normally kind and caring people. Most people don’t really know how respond to loss and maybe especially when it’s an early miscarriage. They may be like the thoughtless intern and not see it as a real pregnancy. But it is. To anyone who has experienced a miscarriage at any stage of their pregnancy, it is a significant loss.
I did go on to have a second child – my longed-for daughter – who is now 26. So, along with my 30-year old son, my story has a happy ending.
I think my experience helped me to have an inkling of what fertility patients may be going through. We can never discount anyone’s experiences. Though something along the lines of 80% of women will experience a miscarriage that doesn’t mean we dismiss it. It may be common but it is not insignificant. It has played a big role in why I have chosen my life's work. I founded both Donor Concierge and Tulip to give anyone who is dealing with fertility issues a voice. We are too often silenced and made to feel that our need for choice, education and support are inconvenient. We need to feel that we have been heard. Whatever your struggle may be it is real.
Be kind, be thoughtful.