It may be surprising to some, but for me, the grief after the loss of our second pregnancy – even though it only lasted 5 ½ weeks, even though it was for a baby we never knew, never saw, and never named – hit me the hardest, and so far even harder than the stillbirth of our sons. It is difficult to explain the intensity of that grief. The overwhelming, all-encompassing depression that came over me. The darkness of that pain led me to the darkest moments of my life. It is a dark hole where even now, even after all of the trauma we have endured these past few weeks, I have not yet returned, and I truly hope I never fall into it again.
I think that it first stemmed from being blindsided. The grief of our first loss was intense. However, we knew so many women in our lives who had experienced one miscarriage. So we assumed this loss, like theirs, was a fluke, a painful fate of nature that unfortunately causes 1 out of every 4 women to experience a miscarriage at some point in her lifetime. So while we grieved that pain, we also hoped to have a healthy baby the next time. Filled with this hope, we assumed our rainbow was just on the horizon.
After a few months, we felt emotionally ready to try again. And amazingly, again, we were PREGNANT the very first time. Again, we were happy. Again, we were shocked it had been so easy. Again, we were naïve.
Though, once we had been tempered by the grief of loss, we were no longer fearless. Instead, we were anxious. After getting a positive pregnancy test, I had to go to the doctor’s office every other day to have my blood drawn in order to see if my pregnancy hormones were rising and doubling as they should in a viable pregnancy. My numbers were low but rising. While I was nervous that these numbers were low, my midwife dismissed and sugarcoated this fear, reassuring me that I was fine.
My last blood draw was on a Thursday morning. The midwife called later that afternoon, excitedly telling me that my numbers had doubled and should be high enough by Monday for an ultrasound. I remember letting out a sigh of relief in that moment, letting myself be filled completely with excitement and unbounded hope.
Within an hour, I started bleeding. By morning, again, we saw the face of the midwife fall. MISCARRIAGE.
This second loss, so unexpected after so much anxious hope, blindsided us with its pain. With this second loss, we entered into a new world – infertility. It seemed so strange to be named “infertile” when both times we had gotten pregnant so easily. Yet, we were told that only 2% of all couples experience two consecutive miscarriages without a living child. They labelled it “recurrent pregnancy loss,” and the midwives sent us on to fertility specialists who could better help us.
In the coming weeks, we endured a battery of fertility testing – poked and prodded, countless blood tests, and other painful and invasive procedures. Over and over again, we watched the faces of the specialists fall with concern as test after test revealed new concerns. We emerged with a laundry list of diagnoses. Surgery was recommended.
As we entered the second year of our marriage, I fell into a deep and overwhelming grief. It was a grief for our losses. A grief for the babies that would never be. But it was also a grief for a future that I now feared would never come. A grief for a dream now shattered. In my darkest moments, I feared we would never be parents. And that fear was all-consuming. The grief morphed into depression, as the world silenced my pain. There are no funerals for early miscarriages. No rituals to mourn the loss of these babies that would never be. There was no sense of closure as I faced surgery and endless months of waiting. Though I had some support from friends and family, there were other moments when I tried to share with others, yet they either did not understand my grief or treated it as if it was a grief too personal and private to be shared at all. I felt utterly alone. Silenced. Shamed.
Even Patrick did not fully understand. Our losses had been abstract for him. The loss of an idea, rather than a physical reality. I felt like a mother without children. Patrick did not yet feel like a father. We found ourselves drifting away from each other’s grief.
Our due dates passed. Friends and family became pregnant and then had healthy babies. We moved across the country, uprooting and leaving our support system hundreds of miles behind. Months and months went by, each more excruciating than the last due to my impatience.
With the pain morphing into hopelessness, I scared myself so deeply that I found a therapist and started working to get healthy again. The hole was too dark and too deep. I knew I needed to desperately dig my way out of it again, or I would never survive.
To some, this may seem like an overreaction. And admittedly, maybe it was. Listing it out here now, it’s impossible to explain exactly why I was in so much pain. From the outside, depression can seem illogical and irrational. Yet, I can simply say, pain is pain. Grief is grief. And the dangers of hopeless grief, silenced grief are deadly for far too many people. I am grateful that I emerged from that hole.
In that year, I learned skills and resilience that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. The pain made me stronger, and I know that it transformed me into the woman I am today. Now, as I face an indescribable grief yet again, I know I can survive it because I have survived it before. This knowledge and this hope is a light shining like a beacon for me now in the darkness.