7 Lessons I’ve Learned After a Miscarriage
7 Lessons I’ve Learned After a Miscarriage
Earlier this year, on February 20th, I delivered my stillborn baby at 5 months pregnant.
The day before I had found out my baby no longer had a heartbeat and most likely died two weeks prior. I was sent to the hospital, induced for labour, and told to wait. I went through all the motions of regular labour. Contractions. Pain. Jabbed with needles. Hot/cold sweats. Sixteen horrific hours later, I was holding my tiny little baby. He was just still.
I shared the experience in my blog, I Had a Miscarriage at 19 Weeks.
Today marks exactly six months since my worst fear came true. Over these last months, I learned many lessons. The following seven are the most important ones for me.
#1: It’s not your fault.
Logically, I knew losing my baby wasn’t my fault. The obstetrician told me that 99% of the time there was something wrong at conception and in no way did I do anything wrong. Logical.
My heart was a different story.
I blamed myself for working too hard, having chronic stress, or any other little thing I could think of. “Was it because I got a cold a few weeks ago…did I eat something that I shouldn’t have…was it because I took a Tylenol for my migraines…should I have eased up on exercise?”
The blame game was running full tilt in my head for weeks. I found the most useful technique for reinforcing to myself that it was not my fault was the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT or tapping technique). EFT seems too simple to be effective but I was surprised how well it worked for me. It helped me release the blame and allowed me to dig deeper into those feelings.
#2: Grief isn’t linear.
I’ve worked hard at suppressing my emotions so this was a hard lesson for me to learn. When I came home from the hospital, I was in shock. I think I stayed this way for several weeks. I felt guilty that I wasn’t more upset in those first few weeks. I didn’t realize my body was in protection mode. It was blanketing my grief like I had taught it to do with my emotions for so many years. Unfortunately, this was a battle I couldn’t win.
After about eight weeks, my grief, depression, and sadness finally reached the boiling point where it spilt over into every facet of my life. I couldn’t be around large groups of people without crumbling into hysteria. Weddings, birthdays, and general get-togethers overwhelmed me. If I wasn’t crying silently in the bathroom, I was sobbing my entire drive home. I think the amount of energy it took for me to hold myself together and try to be somewhat positive was too much. The events would be followed by extreme lows of sadness.
I’d start to regain control over my emotions again and then it would slip back away. To allow real healing to occur, I had to let go of the tight control I held over myself. I wish I could tell you this has been an easy task. But it hasn’t. It’s been horrible and takes a lot of work. I found a combination of therapy, EFT, acupuncture, meditation, and emotional supportive essential oils have all been helpful for me in this realm.
#3: Most people don’t know what they’re saying can be hurtful.
When something of this magnitude happens to a person, most people truly do not know what to say. I know I certainly didn’t before it happened to me.
They tend to share comments like, “Everything happens for a reason. This baby wasn’t meant to be. At least you know you can get pregnant. You’ll have another baby soon.” Your friends and family love you and are only trying to offer comfort. Unfortunately, those genuine words of kindness are usually just pouring salt in the wound.
When these things were said to me, I would think to myself, “That doesn’t change the fact that I loved this baby and wanted this baby.”
All that needs to be said is, “I’m incredibly sorry this happened to you. If you’d like to talk, just know that I am here to listen.”
#4: Talking about it makes it easier.
Unfortunately, we live in a culture that pressures women to hide their pregnancy for the first twelve weeks when the risk of miscarriage is the highest. Essentially, we’re telling women that if the worst does happen, we don’t want to hear about it. Keep it to yourself and deal with it alone.
By sharing what has happened to you, it allows people to understand and sympathize to why you may be more quiet or sad. You receive incredible support that, for me, was invaluable. Women I knew, and many I didn’t, reached out to tell me the same thing happened to them. So many women. Miscarriage and stillborns are much more common than our culture leads us to believe. By knowing other women had this experience, I didn’t feel as alone.
With that said, it is 100% up to you if you’d prefer to share what has happened or keep it to yourself. Your body. Your pregnancy. Your decision. Just know I found talking about it made it easier to process my feelings.
#5: People want to support you.
In my case, I was 5 months into my pregnancy when I had a late miscarriage. Everyone knew. It was all over my social media platforms. People were still asking me about how I was feeling or what prenatal is best. I was forced to share with the world what had happened. And I’m so glad I did.
Not only did talking about it make it easier for me to accept, but I was shocked at the amount of support I was given. Besides my family, I didn’t think anyone would care what happened to me. But I received hundreds of comments, messages, and texts. Friends sent flowers, gift baskets, and planted a tree in memory of the baby. I was not expecting anything like that. The love we were shown was incredibly heartwarming and made me feel like I could dig my way out of the dark hole I found myself in.
#6: Getting pregnant again does not take your grief away.
After a miscarriage, you can safely get pregnant as soon as your period returns. Some women choose to get pregnant right away and some choose to wait quite some time. For me, I wanted to be pregnant again right away because I thought it would make me feel better.
I wouldn’t be so sad seeing my pregnant friends who were due around me have their babies’ and post about it on social media…
I’d be happy that I was pregnant and not be sad anymore…
It was just wishful thinking. While my period came back within 4 weeks, I waited 12 weeks before I got pregnant again. I wanted to give my body time to rest, reset, and replenish nutrients. Getting pregnant at this time was calculated, though. I would be pregnant before all my friends had their babies and also before my original due date happened. This would make it easier for me.
I couldn’t outsmart my grief: see lesson #2.
#7: It can bring up old, unresolved traumas.
I have a childhood trauma that I buried deep inside. I spent my entire life keeping it locked away. When I went through the traumatic experience of having to deliver my stillborn baby, it all came flooding out.
I found my PTSD and anxiety worsened twofold. My temper was short and I’d be outraged in a split second over nothing. I was constantly angry and experienced a panic attack for the first time. I couldn’t control the onslaught of emotions I was feeling.
During therapy sessions, my childhood trauma began to take over the appointment. I was there to talk about my miscarriage but my brain felt this needed to be addressed.
If I had to look for the silver lining of having a miscarriage, it would be that I finally started addressing these deep-seated feelings. Had the miscarriage never happened I would have continued holding on to my hatred, anger, and resentment. Negative feelings that you don’t let go of can have a detrimental effect on your body and health. I’m thankful I’ve been able to finally start working through these emotions.
I still have a long way to go when it comes to working through this trauma. I try to keep moving forward and not allow myself to clench onto the dark misery.
If you’ve experienced a miscarriage or had a stillborn baby, I’m so incredibly sorry for you and your family. It’s a truly heartbreaking experience and I hope my words are of some comfort to you knowing you’re not alone on the hard journey to healing.