The problem with losing a pregnancy after you have given birth to healthy children is that you know precisely what you've lost. I should know. I just recently experienced another miscarriage, bringing our casualty stats to three.
I knew I was pregnant for a week this time, having taken a pregnancy test and glimpsed the coveted two linesthere was hCG in my urine! I was knocked up!
But I knew my odds weren't great, having suffered two miscarriages in the past. Now at the age of 37, even women with no history of pregnancy loss have higher incidences of miscarriage. (The risk is 20%–35%, according to the American Pregnancy Association).
After I spied those two lines, every trip to the bathroom was filled with trepidation and the mantra-like repetition of "No blood. No blood. No blood." Then, this morning, there was blood. A lot of it. And uterine cramping like crazy. It felt just like the first time I lost a pregnancy.
My first miscarriage
Six weeks pregnant in late June 2006, I went to the toilet and saw the first spot of blood on the toilet paper.
"That's not good," I said gravely from the bathroom.
"What?" asked my husband, Richard, through the door.
"Blood. We're not supposed to be seeing blood right now."
I immediately went to bed, willing the bleeding to stop. And Rich got to googling "bleeding during the first trimester." "It might be nothing! I bet it's nothing," he said.
While spotting does not necessarily presage miscarriage, I had a bad feeling about it. But I grimly muttered, "I hope you're right."
Then, a few hours later, I called from the bathroom once more, "It's happening. It's started." The bleeding had grown heavy and there was some clotting. I knew the pregnancy was lost.
Next Page: Welcome to the secret club [ pagebreak ]I didn't know anything about miscarriages back then. I assumed they happened to other people. As soon as I had one, however, my perspective flipped. Everyone around me began to share their stories of loss, and I started to worry that everyone miscarries, which made me paranoid about every friend's pregnancy.
Given how common miscarriages are (statistics vary from 1 in 4 pregnancies to 1 in 3), I was surprised that my doctor didn't address the emotional aspect of it, and that so few other people knew what to say.
Everyone simply encouraged me to try again. The overriding sentiment was, "Don't be sad! There was something wrong with that baby anyway." (Note: The only proper response to miscarriage is sympathetic acknowledgment of the loss, not denigration of the baby. But that's next week's post.)
So I buttoned up my sadness and gamely went about trying to get pregnant again. Because, surely, lightning couldn't strike me twice. My doctor also told me to take baby aspirin and progesterone when I next found out I was pregnant. Neither of these are proven to prevent a second miscarriage, but because they are relatively benign, they are sometimes recommended by doctors. In my case at least, taking these pills simply gave me a false sense that I was "doing something" to prevent a miscarriage.
Next Page: Lightning strikes again...and again [ pagebreak ]In early December 2006, I was floating on air. I was pregnant again, and I had made it to eight weeks and seen the child's heartbeat. A heartbeat! I thought that meant my chance of miscarriage was significantly lower. I was sick every morning, and my abdomen swelled out of my pants. At Christmas, we happily shared the news with our family and close friends.
Then, a few days later, I took Richard with me to the 10-week ultrasound. I wanted him to be charmed by the baby's heartbeat too. The nurse measured the baby first. "There it is. Eight weeks." But that was wrongthe baby should have been bigger. Then we saw how indistinct the body looked. And the nurse could find no heartbeat.
"Maybe this machine is broken," she said, and quickly swapped out ultrasound machines. We heard the same eerie silence. Her body was disintegrating; she was dead. (We found out later, through karyotyping after my D&C, that she was a girl.)
After losing that baby, the dam of sadness that had been building in me since June broke. And I spent much of 2007 wrapped in naked grief over my lost children, watching my firstborn daughter play in the backyard, imagining the little ghosts around her.
But thankfully, a real sibling joined her in 2008 when we welcomed our second daughter into the world. And that's where we pick up the trail with this blog, in our quest for kid number 3. But I didn't expect to be adding another ghost to the family so soon.
I know I can get back in the saddle; I've done it three times now. But it becomes harder each time to have faith when that double line shows up. What do you do to weather these losses and believe in the future?