I had two miscarriages before my beautiful daughter was born. After my first many friends and relatives told me of their own experiences with such loss. One of the many things I walked away from the experience wondering is why women feel like they should just pretend like nothing happened.
More than anything the miscarriages made me feel somehow as though I was less than other women. I remember thinking to myself that drug addicts had babies every day but that I could not. It was a demeaning experience for me. My self esteem really suffered. I began to doubt my body; to think that I wasn’t genetically good enough to reproduce. It was as if somehow nature had given me a failing grade in natural selection. For the first time ever I really felt my own mortality. Somewhere in the back of my mind I had always thought I would live on through my children and then suddenly I became aware of the finality of death. I had always pictured myself one day old and wise with my own grandchildren all around me. I then realized that my husband is seven years older than me. Suddenly my picture was of me old and completely alone. I didn’t desperately want babies I just always thought of them as a given. Miscarriage made me really think about my life and I started to plan a new life with the possibility that there may never be children in it. It wasn’t just the loss of the baby that was upsetting to me it was the loss of the entire life that I thought I would have.
This painful loss made me re-evaluate what I considered family to be. It showed me the value of friendship. It’s almost as if I was taking my friends for granted thinking that family were the only people who I should be sharing my life with. My best friend and I made a plan to grow old together and play cards and go on cruises after our husbands die. I know it sounds morbid to plan this but I really needed to feel like I could be happy at the end of my life without children to brighten my days. Even though I have a baby now this is still my plan. I like my new plan better because it is personally tailored to suit me not just some generic mental picture of being a grandmother.
My entire identity was shaken by the fear of not being able to have kids. Suddenly the status quo was no longer an option and I had to really ask myself who I was and want I truly wanted. It occurred to me that I wasn’t pursuing my dreams as actively as I should have been. I realized that I had been so busy with everyday distractions I didn’t even really know what my dreams were any more. I had just been following the dance routine of: graduate, get a job, get married, have kids…on auto pilot and hadn’t even stopped to think about what I really wanted. I realized that I could do anything. I could be anything; whether I had kids or not. I felt strangely liberated. I was still sad about the loss but I felt like I had just been reintroduced to myself. It occurred to me that simply having children was not enough for me to be happy with me and my life. Parenthood alone could not have possibly fulfilled me nor should I have ever expected it to. Miscarriage brought to my attention that I had been living a life without intention, without thought and it made me focus and really ask myself what would make me happy.
Ironically just when my husband and I had come close to deciding not to have children at all I became pregnant again. The universe seemed to be playing some sort of joke on us by always giving us the opposite of what we had planned for. Again we had to reorganize our lives and make a spot for a baby after all. This little twist of fate which truly was a blessing for us just made me realize that I am who I am regardless of who shares my life with me. Of course the people I love and interact with add to my world but it is ultimately my responsibility to shape my own world. I have a new practice now where I imagine that it is the end of my life and I look back on all that I have done and ask myself if I am proud of the life I led. I am working on living with purpose now rather than just living.
I believe that everything happens for a reason. When I had the second miscarriage I really struggled for a couple of years to understand what possible benefit such a terrible thing could add to my life. It took me a long time to reach the spot that I am at now. I am still sad and angry that this was my experience. The experience of losing two babies changed me permanently. If you are reading this because you have experienced miscarriage first I am so sorry that was your experience secondly there are a few things I would like to share in hopes that It may help you.
- Having a baby did not make the pain from my miscarriages disappear. I spent three years desperately trying to replace the first baby and then both babies thinking that if I just proved to myself that I could have a baby that would make all the pain go away. I learned that you cannot replace one person with another. There are no substitutions for something as remarkable as a human life. I’m still sad to have lost each baby. Don’t rush, this has happened to you and there is nothing that you can do to stop the loss you have already suffered. Be angry, go through your grief and know that time will slowly make it easier to accept.
- It was not your fault. My amazing doctor always told me. There is nothing on earth that can save a pregnancy that isn’t strong enough to survive and there is nothing on earth that can stop one that is. You can go skydiving when you are pregnant and if that baby was meant to be born it will be.
- There is nothing wrong with you. Most miscarriages occur because the egg or the sperm was not perfect. Even if you do have issues with a medical condition it doesn’t make you less than other women. Try to see yourself as a whole person with many features. You are so much more than just a woman who can or cannot have babies.
- Most women go on to have perfectly healthy babies after even two or more miscarriages. After having two miscarriages you are still no more likely to have another one than the average woman.
- No matter what happens you are still going to go on to have an amazing life. To a certain degree we have the ability to choose whether we are happy or not. You have the right to be sad about this and you should allow yourself to process and feel your true feelings. However when you feel like you are ready you can start to ask yourself what would make you happy and work towards that. In the beginning I felt like by feeling happy I was betraying my baby. After all, what kind of person could ever be happy again after having lost a baby? It felt to me like by being happy I was saying that baby didn’t matter. This is not a useful way to feel. I got over this by telling myself that my baby loved me as much as I loved my baby. My baby wouldn’t want me to spend the rest of my life sad. I gave myself permission to love and miss my babies and be happy at the same time. I decided to use the pain of the loss to make my life better. This way even though each baby was only with me for a short period of time my life was better because of them and they did not exist for no reason.
As Aimee Mullins said in her TED talk about adversity we are who we are BECAUSE of our adversities not in spite of them. The universe would never give you something that you can’t handle. You will survive this and you will be a stronger and better person because of it. Even if it’s just by being able to understand someone else’s sorrow.