In honor of National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day on October 15 and the entire awareness month, in this episode of Feel Amazing Naked, I am sharing a vulnerable part of my own story. Lara, from Generation Mom, joins my husband and me to discuss our miscarriage experience.
I will also be joined at the end of this episode by some brave women who are coming on to talk about their own experiences with pregnancy and infant loss.
Lara and her colleague Jenn were on this podcast recently so if you missed that episode, be sure to check it out at Mom Podcast, Generation.Mom. Lara and I connected over our shared losses after that episode and we decided to get back together to talk about pregnancy and infant loss.
Lara and I feel so strongly about the topic of pregnancy and infant loss that for each download of this episode, we are going to be giving a donation to The March of Dimes. Lara will also be releasing a special episode on pregnancy and infant loss, so please head over to Generation Mom and listen to her episode as well
Sharing Is Caring
Now, before we dive into this conversation, I have a special favor to ask of you, my podcast listeners and friends. The best way for you to help us, help others is by sharing this episode with your own friends and loved ones.
Miscarriage affects 1 in 4 pregnancies, so we are more alike than different in this area. We as women all deal with struggles and trials in our lives, and Lara and I feel a great need to support you and others as we all encounter the storms of life.
Our hope is that this episode and the one Lara will share will inspire all of you to share your stories; stories of loss, of trials, of struggles, and of victories. Only as we share our stories can we see the humanity in us all.
We would love for you to share your stories with us in the comments. But you may also want to share your story on your social media accounts or in a blog post. If nothing else, share it with a friend over coffee, or if even that is too painful, share it in your journal, where you can explore your feelings and express yourself without fear.
And remember, the more this episode is downloaded, the more we can give to The March of Dimes, so please share this episode on all of your social channels and with all of your friends and acquaintances.
Thank you so much for helping us spread the word about a subject that eventually touches us all, whether in our own lives or in the life of someone we know.
The Common (and Secret) Bond of Miscarriage
One of the things I discovered right away after my own miscarriage was that there is a huge shroud of secrecy around miscarriage.
It’s one of those things that nobody really talks about. That is until you share your story. And then, the dam bursts and all the stories begin to flood out.
It’s such a personal experience that we often don’t talk about it with others. Partly because it’s too painful and partly because we aren’t sure exactly how to deal with our feelings. And because so few women talk about it, we often feel alone, like we’re the only one going through it.
But what I found is that so many women have experienced pregnancy or infant loss and are willing to share their stories if you just ask, or maybe share yours first. What seems secretive is really just something we tend to keep inside to keep others from feeling uncomfortable.
We also have this awful tendency to compare our stories with others’ stories. So, for example, if a friend experienced infant loss, you feel bad about sharing about your miscarriage. After all, wasn’t what she went through worse?
Processing the Pain of Loss
Not only do we compare our stories of loss, but we also compare the way we heal and how we process our pain.
If you are the type to talk about what you’re going through and to verbalize your feelings, you might be confused by someone who doesn’t want to talk about their own loss. Some of us can process these things quickly while some of us may need years to work through all of our feelings.
No matter where you fall on that spectrum, you are perfectly normal. You aren’t required to grieve like anyone else.
You also aren’t required to process your experience on anybody else’s timeline. I am still processing my own loss and the impact it had on my life, my marriage, and my family. And that’s okay.
We don’t have an endpoint for our pain or for processing loss. There is no due date for dealing with your feelings or for “moving on.” Don’t let anyone guilt or shame you into feeling like you’ve been “holding onto your loss” or not moving forward fast enough.
This is your loss. This is your pain. You get to process it in the way that is best for you.
My First Experience with Pregnancy Loss
The first time I got pregnant, I could hardly believe it. See, my husband and I had this plan, the 5-year plan we called it, which would have had us having kids once we had been married for 5 years.
But when we hit 3 years, we were ready. However, I still thought it would take us months to get pregnant. And instead, it happened right away. And I was ecstatic.
I remember walking into my parents’ house, proud as a peacock, and so excited to share with my family that we had a little one on the way.
That’s one of the things about pregnancy; if you have people you are close to, you can’t wait to share your joy with them. You just kinda want to spread it around to everybody you know. I was 8 weeks along at the time and I felt great.
I wasn’t having any terrible morning sickness or anything but I didn’t think anything was wrong. I was basically floating on a cloud of happiness, almost unable to believe how lucky we were.
At 14 weeks, we went in for our regular appointment and ultrasound, expecting to see our baby and maybe even find out the sex. We were so excited. But our joy was not to last, as the technician was unable to find our baby’s heartbeat and was soon forced to tell us that our precious little one had passed away.
What I experienced in those moments was grief and a feeling that I would never be able to carry a child. That our chance of having a family was over in that one loss.
That’s what grief and loss can do to you; they can convince you that nothing will ever be the same and that you have no hope for the future. And while that’s not true, it seems true at the time.
The Dark Hole
After my D&C, we went home and tried to heal from our loss. And even though we weren’t trying, I got pregnant again right away.
And again, I walked into an ultrasound room, only to be told, again, that my precious baby had passed away.
And this time, all my doubts and feelings of failure as a woman came rushing to the forefront, as I struggled with feeling like these losses were somehow my fault. I was spending all day in bed or on the couch, calling in sick to work because I couldn’t get out of bed and face the world.
Miscarriage Before Kids and After Kids
We did eventually deliver a healthy baby girl, who is now 10 years old and an absolute delight.
After we had our daughter, we still wanted to try again so I got pregnant and experienced a third miscarriage with that sweet one. After some time, we were able to carry our son to full-term and I am so grateful for the 2 kids I have today.
And I’ll be honest, the way I felt with the first 2 losses was completely different than how I felt with the third. I had a child, so I knew I was able to carry a child to term. And I also had a child at home to hold and love. I wasn’t a woman with completely empty arms and that truly changed everything for me.
There are different fears that come with pregnancy after you have a child though. I was a basket case during my entire pregnancy with my daughter. The doctor finally sent us home with a Doppler device so that we could reassure ourselves anytime that our baby was healthy and growing.
So, just know friend, that if you’ve suffered a loss, or more than one, pregnancy may be extra scary for you and that’s okay.
*Just a reminder that Lara is sharing her own story of loss on her podcast, Generation Mom, so after you listen to my story, head on over to hear Lara share hers. And a bonus- her husband is sharing with her, too.
And now, I am happy to have my husband, Justin, back on the podcast with me, sharing how our pregnancy losses impacted him and more about the impact on our marriage and family. Maybe put this in a different color font or do something to make it stand out and be an obvious breakpoint…
Pregnancy Loss Sucks
Justin’s first thoughts on our miscarriage experiences are that it sucked. We had waited so long to reach that point in our marriage and we were so excited about it.
And so, not being able to carry our baby to term, and actually having to go through the process of losing our little one, was just very, very hard.
What I found so interesting about Justin’s experience was that while I was lying on that table feeling like an abject failure and like I would never be able to have children, he wasn’t thinking about that at all.
He was caught up in the moment and the pain of the loss, feeling completely overwhelmed. His concern was for me and for our future together.
How Miscarriage Affects Your Parenting
Once you’ve experienced pregnancy loss and then had healthy children, you become an active parent and your fears might seem to take a back seat.
However, losing a child, whether in pregnancy or after delivery, changes your parenting. Justin definitely felt this when we delivered our daughter and brought her home. The preciousness gift of being a parent became true for us in a bigger and more real way.
And while it’s normal to spend at least some time thinking, “Why us? Why can’t we have children?”, it’s also okay to get to a place where you can accept that what happened, happened for a reason.
And even though you might never understand those reasons, you can move on in peace and parent the children you do have with a grateful heart.
How Miscarriage Affects your Marriage
The loss of a child, just like any loss, is going to have repercussions on your marriage. And just like any other trial, your marriage is either going to grow stronger or it is going to suffer because of the loss.
You have a choice in how you handle your losses as a couple.
Unfortunately, men are almost never addressed when talking about pregnancy and infant loss; the women carry these babies and deliver them. The women go through surgeries to remove dead babies from their womb. Women are comforted and consoled, and it’s seen as completely for a woman to grieve her child whom she lost.
But men feel the loss, too. And that’s why Lara and I wanted to get our husbands’ perspectives on our losses, because they suffered right along with us.
Every couple has a choice to pull together and support each other through loss. If it weren’t for Justin, there are days I wouldn’t have made it through. He pulled me out of a pit more times than I can say. And I had to do the same for him.
Miscarriage doesn’t have to ruin your marriage; make a decision to lift one another up and to be strong together and your marriage can thrive, even after loss.
*Justin shared some fantastic advice for women to help their husbands through pregnancy loss and how to heal from pregnancy loss. Be sure to listen in to hear his take.
Okay, ladies, you’ve heard my story and Justin has shared how he dealt with our losses and how our marriage and parenting were affected by them. Now, I want us to turn our attention to some brave ladies who are here to share their own stories.
I reached out to these ladies and asked them some very candid questions and they were gracious enough to answer them and to give some great help to any women dealing with pregnancy and infant loss.
These stories are personal to the ladies who share but I hope you will see some part of their story in your own, and that it will encourage you to share your own story with someone it could help.
Before I share their responses to my questions, I want to share who these ladies are by sending you to their Instagram pages:
Q&A with My Guests
Q – What emotions did you feel during and after your miscarriage or loss, and how long did it take you to truly process what happened?
Ashurina – I remember my loss quite vividly as it was in December of 2015, right before Christmas. I was in denial that I was miscarrying, and clinging to hope that my baby would make it. As time went on and I could no longer deny what was happening, I felt so defeated and broken.
I also felt a ton of shame, as I had shared with a handful of family and friends that I was pregnant and I couldn’t imagine trying to explain what had happened.
Unfortunately, my body wouldn’t cooperate with the process of miscarrying my baby and I had to have medical intervention, which was traumatizing on a whole different level. It took me a long time to process what happened because let’s face it, this isn’t what you expect from your first pregnancy.
Brandi – My first emotion was a complete shock. I couldn’t stop asking myself, “How did this happen? Why?” My second emotion was fear. I was 13 weeks along in my pregnancy and I had never had a miscarriage before so I didn’t know what was going to happen next. I was afraid.
As they wheeled me into surgery for my D&C, I remember thinking that we would try again. I had a sense of peace. But during my surgery, there were complications. These complications led to me having an emergency hysterectomy in order to save my life.
I now wish I could go back to that moment when I felt such peace about the future, and experience that peace again. It’s only been a few months since my loss and my surgery, so to be honest, I am just now beginning to process the mental and emotional healing as I had to focus on my physical healing for quite some time. I am guessing she meant June of 2019? If not, I can scratch the part about it being a few months.
Quite frankly, it is a daily work in progress to deal with everything that happened and the gravity of it all.
Alycia – When I was first told that my baby had died, I felt shocked, almost like I didn’t believe the doctor. It felt unreal, like this couldn’t possibly be happening.
It didn’t feel real until I got into my car and I had to call my mom. She was watching my son for me and I had to actually say the words out loud to her. I had to say, “I’ve lost the baby.” And at that moment, it was real.
Q – If you had more than one miscarriage or loss, how did your emotions or your perspective differ between the first loss and any ensuing losses?
Ashurina – When I became pregnant for the second time, I felt pretty confident, albeit a bit nervous. I was sure that there was no way I would lose another baby. I felt like it wasn’t possible for me to go through that twice.
So, when I began to miscarry that baby, I remember feeling a real sense of anger. And hopelessness.
This loss also propelled me into a time of spiritual uncertainty. I couldn’t help but cry out to God and ask, “WHY??”
Why would He let this happen to me? I felt shattered and I lost hope in a lot of things. Repeated miscarriage brings with it such a sense of defeat.
Q – It’s amazing how things shift when you have multiple experiences with loss. We each have things – thoughts, stories, words – that get us through difficult times. I’m curious, what got you through processing your loss? Was there a quote, a story, an experience, or a person that helped you process it?
Alycia – Knowing that I wasn’t alone in it was one of the biggest things that helped me to process it. I had friends who had lost babies before and being able to talk to them and get their advice, and just have them listen to me and understand what I was going through, was such a huge help for me.
I also fully believed that God had a plan for me and that I would deliver a baby one day. That hope helped me to get through it.
Brandi – The best thing I have done so far to process my loss has been therapy, along with the support of our family and friends.
Talking about the loss openly on my blog and social media channels has also been very therapeutic for me. This has allowed me to connect with so many other women who have suffered losses of this kind, both miscarriage, and emergency hysterectomy.
Talking to others and connecting with them has made me feel less alone.
Q – Given hindsight and time, how do you feel about your miscarriage today?
Alycia – Pregnancy loss is a very difficult and personal process but I do believe that time heals.
I’ll be honest, it will always be there in the background, and when I hear that someone lost a baby, that pain comes back again. That’s probably the hardest part, is the reminder of what you went through.
I think you have to make a choice to be okay and to move on, knowing that it never fully goes away.
Ashurina – I think a lot about the children I lost and what they would be like. I wonder about who they could have been.
And it makes me compare myself to others and ask, “Why was this my journey? Why didn’t this happen to somebody else? Why is this easier for other people?”
And while I try not to get myself too wrapped up in all the why’s, I do reflect on that. I do think about what life could have been like with multiple children.
Brandi – I’m still very much in recovery mode. My miscarriage and emergency hysterectomy were just in June, and while I’ve made a lot of progress accepting what has happened, I still obviously have a ton of grieving and processing to do.
I know that this is going to take a long time for me. This isn’t something you ever get over; it’s just something you learn how to live with. The pain does get lighter.
I still don’t know why this happened to me and I don’t think I will ever know, but I have to find meaning in it somehow. Sharing my story and the medical condition that caused me to almost die on the operating table has given me that meaning.
Q – What feelings did you have in regards to getting pregnant again or having another child? Did you decide to try again? Or were you able to do this? If you became pregnant or decided to bring another child into your life, what did that process feel like?
Brandi – Sadly, because of my surgery, I am not able to get pregnant again. Thankfully, they were able to save my ovaries during my surgery.
I’m still young and we don’t feel like our family is complete. We definitely wanted to grow our family and we still have that desire.
I know that in the future we will explore our options, whether that be surrogacy or adoption, but for now, we have to process this phase of our journey and try to find healing from it. We need time.
Ashurina – I actually did become pregnant for the third time in November of 2016. I found that my previous losses caused me to be very disconnected from this pregnancy.
With my first pregnancy, I was writing letters to my unborn child on a daily basis. That pregnancy was 100% pure joy and excitement.
With that third pregnancy, my walls were up and firmly in place. There was no way I was doing anything like writing letters. I couldn’t let myself get too excited because I was afraid that if I did, I would end up disappointed again.
When you experience loss like that, it plants seeds of doubt inside you, so you don’t trust your body. My pregnancy was riddled with complications, which caused further anxiety. I think I held my breath until I heard his first cry.
Alycia – To be honest, it was really scary to even think about getting pregnant again. I don’t think I could have handled the loss of another baby, so I was scared.
It took me a year to even process it all and then I got pregnant by accident. And that was probably better for me because I wasn’t able to keep worrying about whether I should try or not.
It’s still a hard process though, being pregnant after a miscarriage, because you know that you could lose this baby, too.
Q – What is something you wish someone had said to you during this time, or what is something someone said/did for you at this time that helped? And how could others have best shown up for you?
Alycia – When I was in the hospital miscarrying, one of the nurses who was caring for me said to me, “Honey, you just need to go home, have some wine, and next month, try again. You’re going to have your baby.”
I just remember her saying that, and even though it took me a year before I was ready to try again, I always had her positive thoughts in my head. Her encouragement to me to keep trying was so helpful to me.
It was so important for me to have another mom who had gone through miscarriage to talk to, so I think it’s super important that we be there for other moms who are going through it.
Brandi – When I was waiting to go in for what I thought would be a routine D&C, my sister was sitting with me, and she said, “This sucks.” No sugar coating. Just the truth.
She said the exact same words as I lay in recovery after my emergency hysterectomy.
I didn’t think much about it at the time, but now, looking back, it was all that could be said. There were and are no words to soften this kind of grief. When people try to soften it, they mean well, but it can be very hurtful.
Losing a child is not something that anyone should have to endure. And so, as my sister said, it sucks.
Ashurina – I honestly wish people would have said less than they did. What bothered me the most were the statements that invalidated what I had been through. Things like, “Well, you know, everything happens for a reason.” Or, “There was probably something wrong with the baby so be thankful you didn’t have to go through that.”
And while I am sure these come from a place of wanting to be helpful and with good intent, it would have been more helpful for someone to hold my hand and be there with me. I wanted someone who was willing to let me talk about it and who was willing to listen.
I want to thank Ashurina, Alycia, and Brandi for being willing to share their stories with all of us. I so appreciate their bravery.
I reached out to several women for this episode and one woman, in particular, has a story that I want to share because it will impact you at a different level.
Rachel’s is a story of infant loss. Her story is beautiful and honest and I am just amazed at her bravery in sharing it with us.
After spotting lightly through my first trimester with my first child, I wasn’t too concerned when I began spotting with my second pregnancy. But soon, the bleeding turned to gushing without cramping. We went to the doctor, and it was abundantly clear from the ultrasound technician that something was very wrong. I fully expected the doctor to come in and tell us that our baby had no heartbeat.
But that’s not what he said. Rather, he told us that it appeared that our baby had Down’s syndrome.
At the time, I was 26 years old, had been married for 5 years, and we had a 1.5-year-old daughter. This news obviously shook us to our core and forced us to consider a life we had never anticipated.
In the weeks that followed, we had no choice but to sit on what the test could tell us at the time, as I was only 11 weeks along. Our child had a 25% chance of having Down’s syndrome, also known as trisomy 21. But he or she also had a 1 in 5 chance of having Trisomy 18.
Trisomy 18 is deemed, “incompatible with life.”
For the next several weeks, I would wake up in the morning thinking I was having a nightmare. And while it was definitely a nightmare, it was all too real.
At week 16 of my pregnancy, we had a level-2 ultrasound, as well as amniocentesis, to determine any chromosomal abnormalities, After the ultrasound, the doctor told us that it looked like a classic case of Down’s syndrome to him. And that our baby would require heart surgery shortly after birth.
Needless to say, we were devastated. We were confused by the next steps and what surgery shortly after birth would look like.
However, the next day, we got the amniocentesis results. Our doctor had been wrong about the Down’s syndrome diagnosis.
Our son had trisomy 18.
I went from thinking I had a son who would need heart surgery to realize that I had a son who I would not get to see grow up. I knew that we would be lucky to see him alive for even one minute after he was born. He may not even live to be born; he could die in utero at any time.
We had decisions to make. Our plan was to provide comfort care for him if he survived birth, which would allow him to live, but without heroic measures to keep him alive. No tubes, no ventilators, nothing that we would later have to decide to turn off.
We believed his life had a purpose and that his days were already numbered. We just didn’t know how many there would be.
On the outside, I looked like every other 26-year old pregnant woman. But I wasn’t. There was no baby registry, no decorated nursery, no diapers and baby clothes bought ahead of time. There was no baby shower for me.
Instead of buying those things, I rented a Doppler so that I could listen to his heartbeat. I listened to that heartbeat several times a day. I researched ways to preserve his handprints and footprints. I made plans to have our family photographer present, no matter what was happening.
I literally sat on my couch, 30 weeks pregnant, looking at infant caskets. All while the baby inside me was moving and kicking enough to move the computer on my lap.
It was all so wrong and so unfair. But I couldn’t change it. I could only go through it.
Fast forward to 36 weeks of pregnancy. Our son, Kyle, was still alive in my womb. And we decided to induce labor. And I truly believe this labor was divine intervention.
Induced labors are not typically quick labors, but this one was. Kyle likely couldn’t have survived a traditional labor. After a couple of hours with cervical gel, my water actually broke and I had just enough time to get an epidural before it was time to push.
When Kyle was born, he was placed on my chest just like any other baby.
The cord was cut just like any other baby.
But now, the unknown. Would he breathe on his own?
After a tense moment, he did begin to breathe on his own. Everyone in the room was crying, including the doctors and nurses.
I had begged God all along to please let me see my son alive and I am truly, eternally grateful that we were given that precious gift. Baby Kyle stayed with us for 7 hours of life, before leaving us peacefully, in his daddy’s arms.
We were able to spend several more hours with him after he passed, but the time came when we had to go.
We had to leave our swaddled newborn son in the infant warmer in the delivery room. Forever.
How do you say goodbye to your child when you’ve only been able to look at his face for 7 hours? I don’t know. But I did it.
I was faced with a situation out of my control, and the only way out was through. And I know that God carried me through.
14 years later, I can reflect back and know that Kyle’s life had a purpose. It’s a purpose that I may never know and I am okay with that.
My husband and I are two very different people than we would have been had we not experienced this loss. We are better because of Kyle. We are better parents, more compassionate people, and we have a love for children with special needs that could only come from going through this.
Early on, right after the diagnosis, I said I would never go through pregnancy again, but that began to change as I got further into my pregnancy. The thing is, my body had given birth.
So I had breastmilk, mothering hormones, and the longing for my baby. Only, I didn’t have my baby. And I wanted a baby terribly. And yes, along with that desire for a baby came a ton of fear about something else going wrong.
3 months later, I was pregnant again. And I was pretty much okay with it. I knew that what happened with Kyle wasn’t common, and so I didn’t need to fear it happening again.
The first trimester was tricky, as I had to endure all those same tests that had originally diagnosed Kyle. It took a lot of prayer, but we made it through them. Being pregnant again shifted our grief to hope.
It’s not that we weren’t still grieving; we were. But that type of grief takes years to process and I wanted to try again right away. So, now we had a baby girl on the way and we were filled with hope.
This doesn’t mean that everyone should try again right away but for us, it was the right thing to do. I understand women who need to wait or who can’t try again at all. Everybody is different.
Grief is different for everyone and all we can do is the best we can. We take each moment as it comes. We pick each other up when we can and when we can’t we hang on and give loads of grace.
Unfortunately, during my pregnancy with Kyle and after his death, people didn’t know what to do with us. They either fell off the face of the earth or they said something stupid. We did have a few families who had faced challenges far greater than ours so we clung to those people.
When I am faced with a family going through something like this, I try to treat them normally. I give them hugs and tell them they can talk to me. I try to listen. Nobody wants to feel alienated or excluded so even if they don’t take you up on your offer to help, just continue to be there for them.
“Just know that you will get through it. I know you won’t think you can, and it will feel impossible, but you can and you will. I’ve done it. You will get through it. You will get to the other side. You will feel normal again. You can have a happy life. A happy marriage. Healthy kids. It can all be done. I’m not going to tell you it’s easy. Because it’s not. But I went from feeling like I was literally in the pit of hell, to slowly climbing my way out, hitting a lot of setbacks on the way, but I got out. You won’t feel like this forever. You will be able to live your life with a better outlook than ever before. Just like anything else, it takes time and work. And patience. We all have a story and it’s important for all of us to share them.”
Ladies, I know this episode was long and packed with a whole lot of emotion.
But I think this is necessary to let women know that we are not alone and that we all need a safe place to talk about it and to share our stories. If you have experienced loss in your journey, please share.
Share with us. Share with your friends. Share in a journal. Share with others who need to hear your story.
Don’t forget that in collaboration with Lara, we are donating to the March of Dimes for every download of this show. So please, go listen to her episode and share these with everyone you know. One more link here to Lara’s episode.
And thank you…for listening, for holding space for these women to share their stories of loss, and for helping to make a difference. I appreciate you all so much.
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