Bust an Infertility Myth: Miscarriages Are Real Losses…

… and they aren’t “just for the best”.

I’ve been thinking of what infertility myth I want to bust, there are so many of them it’s been hard to choose. In the end I decided to pick one I know well, one that is close to my heart (though “just relax” came a close second because I’m pretty sure if I have amenorrhea and I’m not ovulating then I won’t get pregnant, no matter how un-stressed about it I am – but that is for another post).

Anyway, I decided that I want to talk about the refusal of society to validate miscarriages as legitimate losses that deserve to be recognized because that attitude caused me a lot of pain and suffering after my loss. (Maybe this isn’t an actual “myth” but I felt it should be addressed). I can’t tell you how many people said things to me that not only belittled or devalued my loss as insignificant but also urged me to see the bright side and move on. I would list these things people said but we already know what they are.

Everyone tells me to think positive thoughts and don’t worry, you’ll get pregnant. I feel like every time they say that I die a little inside.*

Everyone deals with the tragedy of miscarriage in different ways. For many women it is a deeply personal pain that they share only with very close friends and family, if anyone at all. Others are forced to acknowledge their loss because they had announced their pregnancy and now need to “un-announce” it. Then there are those like me, who need desperately to talk about it, and are devastated when no one is willing to do so.

I had a conversation with a close friend today. I’m still not sure if they all don’t think I’m crazy. I know none of them can relate…. They all think this is too much. The grief. So where does that leave me? The crazy person? The one who doesn’t know how to let go?

I recognize that part of the problem is a general avoidance by society of sickness and death. We, as a culture, hide sickness and death away in hospitals and nursing homes and we rarely mention it, let alone face it openly and honestly. When tragedy does strike we grasp at euphemisms in an attempt to express our condolences without actually speaking of the loss directly. We do this for a lot of reasons: because we’re scared of death; because we don’t have the words; because we want to say the right thing but aren’t sure what that is.

I’ve done so much crying in public, it doesn’t even make me feel ashamed any more.

I also understand that a pregnancy, especially one that ends early enough to be called a miscarriage, is intangible to everyone except the actual person who experienced it. And I’m not saying that expectant fathers don’t grieve the losses of their unborn children, but I believe even they would admit the pain is different for them than it is for the woman who is physically experiencing it.

… but scars remain. I don’t think our relationship will ever be the same after this and I refuse to take responsibility for all the bad that is happening. I understand that he has come to terms with our lost baby but he certainly has not come to terms with me. With my grief and my suffering.

For a woman miscarrying the pain is corporeal and emotional and visceral and very, very real. It is mixed with guilt and helplessness and confusion and a complete obliteration of hope. The added isolation that women can feel when they realize that their loss is not validated by others renders their pain that much more unbearable. When their loss is not recognized they endure yet another loss. It seems an unnecessary burden for someone who is already suffering so much.

I feel hopeless. I feel empty and mostly I feel alone. I feel like no one understands me. I feel like I’m lost and I will never be found. I feel meaningless. I feel unable, or maybe even unwilling, to see the good in the world. I am suffering and yet I cannot let go. I worry that this will break me and I’ll sink away, pieces of myself falling into the darkness, the depths. Into nothing.

The loss of a pregnancy is a hard thing to understand for people who have never experienced it. When a child or adult passes away we have memories of them – photographs and videos, tangible evidence that they existed. We mourn their lives as well as their possible futures. With a pregnancy there is no memory of what was lost, only the incredible love parents felt for their unborn child and the promises and dreams of a now defunct future. When a pregnancy is lost, innocence and hope are lost with it.

It was my birthday yesterday… I felt so sad. I kept thinking of how amazing it would be if I were still pregnant. How different this birthday would have been, how different every birthday would have been. I thought about how we’d be hearing the heartbeat on Mi.Vida’s birthday. Instead I just feel a sad emptiness where all of that joy was supposed to be. Instead I feel like I will never have that, that it will never be mine. Sometimes I feel like I’m mourning lost hope as much as I’m mourning my lost child.

Perhaps it is because the loss of a pregnancy is so difficult for others to comprehend that they expect would-be parents to move quickly through their grief. There is an expectation that they will dust themselves off and try again. There is an assumption that they will get pregnant quickly and carry a child to term, giving birth to a beautiful healthy baby. It is believed that this will make everything alright.

But I’m still scared. Still scared and uncertain. I feel overwhelmed by the quantity of information and its contradictory nature. I feel overwhelmed by all that can go wrong… What makes me think things will be better next time? So many stories of sorrow and so many of joy. No one knows what my story will be.

Most people don’t know how long a couple tried before getting pregnant. Nobody can know how quickly, if at all, they will get pregnant again. Nobody knows if they will suffer more losses. Nobody knows any of this and their uncertainty should be reflected in what they say. While they might hope that a successful pregnancy follows quickly, they should not assume it will and declare that assumption as if it were truth.

I just start to cry, like I am right now, because my dream feels farther away than ever. I want to crawl in a dark hole somewhere and lay dormant until there is a reason to live again. Right now I’m not sure there will ever be one.

It should not be expected that a successful pregnancy will erase the pain of previous miscarriages. While it may or may not lessen that pain, it will never heal it completely. Those pregnancies lost were distinct and their losses will be felt forever, no matter how many healthy children are born. A woman’s grief should be honored for as long as she feels it.

I feel like I have lost my mind. I really do. I feel like I will never be able to undo the damage that the sadness is doing. Like I will be so lost from it that I’ll never find my way back. I feel lost and alone and devastated.

Completely devastated.

If someone you know suffers a miscarriage don’t ignore their grief. Recognize it, validate it. Tell them how sorry you are for their loss and assure them that you will be there for them whenever they need you. Tell them that, even if you can’t comprehend what they’re going through, you accept it and everything that comes with it; that you acknowledge their loss as significant and real.

Because it is.

* All italicized portions are excerpts from the journals I kept in the month after my ectopic pregnancy.

~ by Esperanza on April 26, 2011.

46 Responses to “Bust an Infertility Myth: Miscarriages Are Real Losses…”

  1. I was expecting greatness from you with your NIAW post, and you did not disappoint. This is brilliant, sad and true.

  2. Beautiful Post. Reminds me, I need to write mine!

  3. Beautiful post. Heartbreaking! Thank you for sharing your story.

  4. Beautifully written. The line ‘no one knows what my story will be’ gave me goosebumps. I’m sorry for your loss and your pain. I wish no woman had to experience the loss of a child, whether it’s a few days after seeing 2 lines or a few weeks after those 2 lines. The pain is real either way.

  5. oh. My heart stopped reading this. Seriously. Beautifully written and your words just stopped me in my tracks.
    I never encountered a MC in our TTC, but I know that that pain would have been so deep, it’s a part of infertility that might be silent but is so LOUD to those of us suffering on this journey.

    WOW.

  6. Beautiful and so moving. “Then there are those like me, who need desperately to talk about it, and are devastated when no one is willing to do so.” This was my experience too. Those who were reluctantly willing to listen the first time seemed unavailable and disinterested with my subsequent losses, even though my need to talk about it only increased. But it led me to the infertility community online which I will always be grateful for. Thanks for busting this myth!

  7. Wonderful post and beautifully written. I too had an ectopic loss.

  8. Oh Esperanza,

    I saw your mention of this post on your twitter stream and had to visit — I am sitting here with tears in my eyes and, at the same time, such pride to be part of a community where you were willing to open up and share this — with the world — I am certain it will make a difference for someone — and it will reverberate…

    XO,

    Pam

  9. Beautiful, sad, true, and honest post. I will never be the same after my losses and a little part of me died when my babies did. The pain is very real and should never be minimized.

  10. Dealing with a miscarriage is so hard, even more so when it’s compounded multiple times. I felt like no one understood my pain, like no one cared because I was grieving and they were living. Beautiful post, thank you for being so candid.

  11. I can’t tell you I know the pain of miscarriage because I haven’t experienced one. However, I do know that the minute I saw Pregnant on that pregnancy test, I was in love with a BABY. He was just as much my baby then as he is now and I know it would have been devastating and horrifying had the pregnancy ended. I am so sorry this is something you had to go through. Great post as always- beautiful.

  12. This is a wonderful post. I remember how difficult it was for me after I had lost my first pregnancy at 19 weeks to just pick up and move on. Even those “close” to me avoided speaking about it and the pain of loss became amplified into the pain of loss and total isolation.

    You are so right to point out the fact that the avoidance many of us encountered is a reflection of our general relationship to death and sickness. My experience taught me that if you want to truly support a person who is grieving then you have to acknowledge their loss. Just a few months later a friend lost her mother and, weeks after the funeral when everyone had moved on, I continued to check in with her about it. She later told me how grateful she was for this.

    For better and worse, we do learn from experience.

  13. Great job, friend. <3

  14. What a beautiful post!

  15. I think, reading this for the second time, you’ve given me the courage to re-publish the post I de-published last night. Thank you.

  16. Beautiful. Words I feel every day so eloquently said here.

    Thank you for sharing this.

  17. So beautifully written. Thank you.

  18. Great post. I can 100% relate.

  19. Thank you so much for this beautifully written post. We’re going through our 5th loss right now, and once again feeling woefully unsupported by those outside of this community. It was just what I needed right now. Hope you don’t mind, but I linked to it on my post tonight – thanks for having the right words for me to borrow.

  20. You have written this so well. Spot on. Yesterday, my hubby and I hit the 4 yr mark of trying to conceive with 5 miscarriages. I read this post as if I wrote it, tears included – thank you…. THANK YOU !

  21. Great blog! Your words and feelings completely echo mine and my experiences of multiple miscarriages. The pain of friends ignoring your grief or belittling it is one of the most difficult things. Tears rolling down my face as I read!

    Thank you for writing such a heartfelt blog x

  22. This was so beautiful. Everything you wrote, I feel completely. Thank you.

  23. Beautiful post!! Thank you for sharing your experience!

  24. [...] said about miscarriages and infertility– so to give credit where credit is due… Her blog called Esperanza, means “hope” in Spanish and is by all accounts is amply [...]

  25. [...] Today, I allowed myself to come out of my bubble of protection as sat in my recliner and had a good cry. I was surfing the net and landed back on one of my all-time favorite blog posts, Stumbling Gracefully. [...]

  26. [...] Infertility Awareness Week’s Bust a Myth I wrote a piece called Miscarriages are Real Losses. Even before I published the post I was very proud of it. I wrote it as a both a declaration that [...]

  27. I can see why you chose this for your Time Warp: All-Time Favorite post! Its is really awesome! So many of your words resonated with me. Having had two early miscarriages and an interstitial ectopic pregnancy, before we did ART cycles to deal with our SIF or conceived our daughter Molly who was born and died on the same day in April 2008, I struggled so much with the pain of our losses and it was so hard when so many people, especially loved ones in our life didn’t seem to be able (or care to) be there for me as I would have liked them to.

    I have found this to be very true of the years with all of my losses :

    “When tragedy does strike we grasp at euphemisms in an attempt to express our condolences without actually speaking of the loss directly. We do this for a lot of reasons: because we’re scared of death; because we don’t have the words; because we want to say the right thing but aren’t sure what that is.”

    I also really loved this part of your post, as it explains so well why it is so hard for us to deal with other’s not validating our losses:

    “The added isolation that women can feel when they realize that their loss is not validated by others renders their pain that much more unbearable. When their loss is not recognized they endure yet another loss. It seems an unnecessary burden for someone who is already suffering so much.”

    You did a wonderful job busting this myth. I am sorry I didn’t get to read or comment on this post before today, but am so glad that Time Warp gave you the chance to revisit and reflect on it and me the opportunity to see and be moved by it for the first time. xoxo

  28. Looking back on this post now I realize what made it so full of terrible power and awe: the juxtaposition of your raw feelings immediately after, feelings I felt during my miscarriages but swallowed, whole, with your sad but educational recitation of why you felt that way at the time.

    Thank you for bringing this post forward again. It’s a must read.

  29. I have known women who sloughed off a miscarriage with great ease. And then there’s me, who wanted to die from “just” a chemical pregnancy, if that.

    Thank you for this post, Esperanza. I only wish I could have directed people to it 13 years before you wrote it.

  30. Beautifully written. I can so relate to everything you’ve written. Nearly 2 years after my pregnancy loss (and no other pregnancies) I can say that the pain doesn’t go away…

  31. This is so powerful… thank you for sharing the words from your journal. It gives me insight into what a friend is going through.

    And with my own, different losses, I 100% agree with this “A woman’s grief should be honored for as long as she feels it.”

    It’s hard to give ourselves permission at times to grieve our losses sometimes… the last thing we need is for others to not support and honor that.

  32. After surviving 4 losses, I’ve gone from feeling embarrassed and guilty to needing people to hear about the struggles, grief and constant reminders we face every day. You summed it up perfectly: “The loss of a pregnancy is a hard thing to understand for people who have never experienced it. … When a pregnancy is lost, innocence and hope are lost with it.”

    Talking about our losses has introduced me to an amazing community of others who need to share their stories and have someone listen. Hopefully, all of our talking will encourage other survivors, and show the rest of the world that we do exist and its OK to talk about it.

  33. Very well said.

    here from the Creme de la Creme

  34. A wonderful post. I am lucky enough to never have experienced a miscarriage, but the idea of any woman going through that breaks my heart. I know how attached I was to my Henry from the moment they transfered those embryos. I cannot imagine the heartbreak.

  35. “When tragedy does strike we grasp at euphemisms in an attempt to express our condolences without actually speaking of the loss directly.”

    “Nobody can know how quickly, if at all, they will get pregnant again. Nobody knows if they will suffer more losses. Nobody knows any of this and their uncertainty should be reflected in what they say. While they might hope that a successful pregnancy follows quickly, they should not assume it will and declare that assumption as if it were truth.”

    I came by and read this post yesterday as well. But I wanted to re-read it at peace, and glad I decided to.

    I copied two distinct texts from your post. I think I can nod-nod-nod on what you said about tragedy striking. Post losing my daughter, people took it upon themselves to solemnly mark their attendance and make sure I knew how affected by it they were. I found some pretty shallow and painful statements that people made, and I really wanted to ask if they meant what they were speaking right at that moment. Like how about when I am being told that ‘it was good for the baby’? Really….just kill a normal child and tell the mum that it was for the baby’s own good? It was I think past that conversation that I understood the intellectual depth or the lack of it…but really…drowning someone’s pain in a shallow condolence is no good. No good.

    The second text I picked from your post also meant a lot to me. Atleast one person has already told me that God won’t be cruel twice. At this point, I want to believe that because I want this baby to live. With all my heart, I want the baby in my womb to live. But I also have fear in my heart. I do.

    Here from CDLC.

  36. So beautifully written. This gives me even more insight to loss and what I can maybe do to help friends and others if/when this happens to them. I’m so sorry you’ve had to go through this. I hope you are feeling more at peace.

  37. You really nailed it on the head with this post…it’s the exact way that the world needs to be educated about such losses. I know that because of my loss of my daughter at 22 weeks, my life will never be the same. I have learned and now know too much. Thank you for sharing. Here from CDLC.

  38. Here from the Creme. This post is one of the best thing I have ever read. I miscarried in November 07 and even though I now have 2 little girls, I still think of that baby. I still light a candle for him or her each November and that intense grief and loss is just slightly under the surface, ready to come up at any moment. This should be required reading for people

  39. I’m so sorry for you loss. This is my first visit to your blog, I found your post through the CdlC, it was so beautifully written.

    I feel I must be completely honest with you, I used to not understand why women would get so upset over a miscarriage. Naturally they would be sad, I thought, it’s okay for a little while but just have another baby and get over it. It wasn’t until I experienced my own loss (my first son was born still in August 2010) that I truly understood the grief and suffering felt when a child is lost. I have been blessed with another child, who was born this past November, but contrary to what many might believe, my grief will never fully be erased no matter how many healthy children I have. When a baby is lost the hopes and dreams the parents held for that baby are lost as well.

    I will never “get over” the death of my first son, and I am so sorry I ever stupidly believed any mother should get over the loss of their baby(ies).

  40. [...] MacLeans: I suggest you read this before you write a story and patronize us all. Share this:ShareTwitterFacebookStumbleUponEmailLike [...]

  41. [...] Gracefully: “Miscarriages Are Real Losses.” No one could read this and not understand the absolute devastation that a miscarriage causes. [...]

  42. Thank you for your moving post.

  43. Thank you for such a beautiful post. I just experienced my first loss this weekend, and I honestly thought I was over reacting with the amount of grief I feel and tears I have cried. after 9 months of trying, then to finally get am bfp, and then for it all to end a few weeks later is devastating.

  44. [...] post, “Bust an Infertility Myth: Miscarriages are Real Losses” by Esperanza at Stumbling Gracefully is my touchstone for a stark and beautiful description [...]

  45. [...] stunning post, Miscarriages Are Real Losses, from Stumbling [...]

  46. [...] Miscarriages are Real Losses: A powerful point-by-point post from Esperanza at Stumbling Gracefully that was also part of this year’s Bust a Myth challenge. Inspiring, compassionate, and validating – a beautiful post on the subject of pregnancy loss. [...]

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