October is International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, so I thought I'd open up about my miscarriage, with a focus on the things that helped me survive it. First of all, let me clarify the title, I am not grateful for my miscarriage, however, I was able to find points of gratitude within it. Let me explain my story...
I was 14.5 weeks pregnant when I experienced my miscarriage. Our journey to this miscarriage was pretty complicated. We spent the first 12-13 weeks feeling so lucky and excited, wishing for that 12-week mark, to finally get to announce our pregnancy to the world. We envisioned this tiny human joining our world and wondered who they would be. We had endless discussions about names and how our daughter Cadence would make the most incredible big sister. Little did we know these conversations were soon to be replaced with heartache, confusion and emptiness.
About five minutes into our 12-week ultrasound, I could feel that something was wrong. What followed was two restless nights awaiting an appointment with my doctor to have my fears realised... something was wrong. I was immediately sent for blood tests, and then to the hospital to be told that it looked like our baby had a condition called hydrops and would not survive. I was scheduled to see a specialist a few days later where I would essentially need to terminate our pregnancy.
When we arrived to see that specialist, we first had to have another ultrasound. During this ultrasound we found out our baby had left us. We were then led into the specialist's office to discuss having the baby's body removed from my own. This feels as surreal to reflect on now as it did at the time. Such an emotional event suddenly became a clinical series of discussions about the process and booking in the procedure.
I went into that weekend being pregnant but not expecting while awaiting my appointment on the Monday that would thrust me back into reality. These days are a blur of sadness and heartbreak. My appointment to have the D&C finally arrived and the walls of artificial strength I'd build up to protect my husband and daughter from as much pain as possible, suddenly came crumbling down as I was wheeled to the operating room. Counting down to the final farewell, 10..9...8...7... I was out.
The D&C didn't go according to plan. The suspected hydrops turned out to instead be a condition called a partial molar pregnancy, a chromosomal abnormality that caused my placenta to wreak havoc on my uterus, leaving it full of clusters of cysts. I lost an enormous amount of blood and required four blood transfusions just to survive the procedure. I was transported to the biggest women's hospital in the state to be monitored in the intensive care unit in case any further complications arose. Fortunately, they didn't and I was released from the hospital a few days later. Unfortunately, due to the nature of our miscarriage I was required to undergo intensive weekly testing for just under six months, before I was finally allowed to try to fall pregnant again.
Obviously, this is a super condensed version of my miscarriage story, you can read more about my experience here and here. I just felt it was important to give you a bit of background before I told you about how I managed to mentally and emotionally survive this time.
I know a lot of people believe that everything happens for a reason, and I respect their belief around this. For me however, I can't subscribe to this belief and I highly recommend never ever using that phrase to anyone who has suffered from a miscarriage or lost a child. I understand that scientifically a miscarriage generally occurs because a baby has begun developing abnormally, however the fact that this abnormal development occurs at all, let alone so frequently, for me, feels void of greater purpose and meaning. Instead, I believe that sometimes, incredibly terrible, heartbreaking and nonsensical events happen in our lives and we have the power to choose how we respond to them. By this I don't mean our primal, automatic emotions of grief, heartbreak and sadness. I mean whether we chose to survive and grow from our experiences or allow ourselves to get lost in them. This is how I was able to focus on some points of gratitude within my miscarriage, despite the fact that my heart ached and that I would give anything for that baby to have survived. These points of gratitude acted as buoys that helped me resurface from the depths of my enormous grief.
My Points of Gratitude:
I Was Still Alive
I had lost over 40% of the blood in my body, this volume of blood loss requires immediate and major resuscitative help or your organs will begin to fail and your life will cease to be. If I had lived in a country or time that lacked immediate access to donated blood I would have died. Also, if I had of started haemorrhaging over the weekend prior to my D&C, I'm unsure I would still be here. A huge component of this point of gratitude is for those who have ever donated blood, because of people like you I am still alive, my husband still has his wife and my daughter still has her mother. I will be forever thankful for blood donors. If you are eligible to donate, and would like to do so. I will be forever grateful.
That I Didn't Have to "Choose" to Terminate
The moment during that final ultrasound when we were told that our baby no longer had a heartbeat brought with it immense relief, not because we wanted to miscarry, but because the alternative was making a choice that wasn't at all a choice. I can only speculate, but I think having to make that decision would have broken me in ways the miscarriage didn't. I'd feel an overwhelming sense of guilt, despite having no real control in the outcome. So, I'm grateful that decision was taken out of my hands.
My Uterus was Still Intact
The following morning after I was transferred for observation, I had a group of doctors come to monitor my vitals and to check my recovery. While they were there I was advised that I was very lucky to have avoided a full hysterectomy. Now I'm not sure why this didn't occur and even if it technically should have, but I am forever grateful that it didn't. If I had of woken to the news that my uterus had been removed, I have no idea how I would have maintained my mental health. Fortunately, though, our dreams of giving our daughter a sibling were still a possibility.
It Wasn't Hereditary
One of the first questions I asked the doctors was whether or not the condition was hereditary. Thankfully, the version of molar pregnancy I had suffered, a partial molar, was not. I was flooded with relief. I knew I was strong and would survive this experience, however I could imagine nothing worse than my daughter having to endure and survive what I had.
My Daughter Cadence
My god, the sunshine and existence of Cadence not only helped me breathe, but knowing that regardless of what happened next, I was a mother, gave me so much perspective and gratitude. I remember just thinking about my friends who had suffered from reoccurring miscarriages or who were unable to fall pregnant to begin with. As bad as everything I had been through was, I had my beautiful, healthy daughter Cadence, and that made me lucky beyond measure. Already being a mother also prevented my mind from spiralling too far down the realm of what if's...what if I never fall pregnant again, what if this happens again, what if there is something wrong with me. Every time my mind started to explore these dark thoughts, the light of Cadence's sunshine pulled me back to the present. Also, it is really hard to get too lost in your thoughts when you have a 1 year old who is solely dependent on you for all of their needs.
I had the most wonderful support through all of this. My incredible husband took time off work to care for Cadence and drove two hours each day while I was in hospital, just so I could spend an hour with them. He even drove an extra half hour in order to bring me some treats from one of my favourite cafes to help lift my spirits. This wonderful man was grieving both the loss of his unborn baby and the near loss of his soul mate, and yet he put all his own grief on hold in order to do anything to lessen my own. My beautiful mum travelled down shortly after my release to help me with Cadence and to allow me to rest and recover. The rest of my family checked up on me constantly and gave me so much emotional support.
My mothers group in particular were beyond supportive during this time. Aside from all their love and emotional support, they banded together to provide meals for my family to eat over the next couple of weeks. That gesture made me feel so much love and gratitude. Lots of women are placed into mothers groups which they find judgemental, competitive and cliquey. From my group I felt nothing but unwavering love and support, I will cherish these friendships always. My other friends supported me through this with visits, flowers and messages of support. When you feel like you're sinking, knowing you are valued and loved by your beautiful friends is immeasurably important.
The Extra Time to be a Family of Three
As much as we were ready to expand our family, things didn't go to plan, so instead of spending those six months consumed by grief, we instead chose to make the most of our extra alone time with Cadence. We so cherished the extra time we had to spend with her alone and we soaked up every moment we could, and were able to focus on giving her our all before we had to share our affections and time with another.
This one may seem strange. Often women who experience miscarriages feel deceived by their bodies and feel resentful towards them. I can totally understand how you might feel this way. For me though, given the way my miscarriage journey unfolded, I had a new sense of appreciation for my body. Not only had it created my beautiful daughter, it had recognised that our baby's body wasn't strong enough and did what it needed to in order to make way for a body that was, and it had managed to survive the complications my miscarriage brought with it. I am grateful for my body.
My Rainbow Baby
I only recently discovered the term "rainbow baby" and I absolutely love it. I fell pregnant with Ezra during our second round of trying after the extensive testing I had completed for just under six months finally came to an end. This meant, I had actually fallen pregnant the week before I would have given birth. Even though I didn't know by the time that unfulfilled birth date rolled by, I had hope in my heart which helped me survive that day. We had both chosen to view our miscarriage as the loss of the body of our baby, and not of their soul. We believed that our baby's soul was just waiting for us to create a body worthy of them. This transition of dates really helped to cement this belief, for Ezra would not be the Ezra we know without the exact succession of events that proceeded his arrival, and he is exactly who he is meant to be... our wild, spirited, kind and affectionate blue-eyed boy.
This post was initially published on andsoshethought.com