Miscarriage, Years Later

I just read this post on miscarriage. Every time I come across someone’s story of miscarriage, it is painfully familiar…

Seven years ago I went in for my 10 week appointment, excited to see my baby’s heartbeat, a little life already so loved. But instead of pointing out a flickering light on the screen, the doctor started asking questions. When exactly had I taken a positive pregnancy test? When was the first day of my last cycle? Had I experienced any cramps? A cold silence came over the room. No one spoke as the doctor continued to search the screen. I waited, knowing with each passing second of silence that the pronouncement of loss was more and more likely. But still, I hoped against it, even as he said the words. No heartbeat. Empty sac. Missed miscarriage.

For six weeks I believed I was pregnant. Every future point I had thought about during those six weeks - my upcoming dentist appointment, presenting a report at work, the start of the new semester  - included my pregnancy. But instead of sharing my good news with the dentist as I declined x-rays, the appointment was characterized by thoughts of how I would have been 16 weeks pregnant… Every aspect of my life was tinged with this loss, I could not escape it. The sadness lasted a long time. And even now, after three children, I have not forgotten the first.

But my perspective has changed over the years. At the time, I would have given anything to have my pregnancy back. Now I wouldn’t undo the miscarriage. Partly because of the children I have today that I might not have had if that first pregnancy had worked, but it extends beyond that. The miscarriage has greatly shaped the mother I have become. When Katherine was a newborn, no matter how exhausted I was or how frequently she wanted to nurse (every two hours day and night), I felt grateful to have a baby to nurse. How would I have handled the difficult newborn days if I had not been through a miscarriage? Would I have felt irritation towards my baby instead of gratitude? When she was a little older and had to be rocked to sleep for an hour and would still start screaming as soon as I set her down,* the frustration would well up inside me. But then I’d remember how I felt when I didn’t have a crying baby to soothe and my frustration would melt away.  Would I have been able to savor rocking her to sleep if I didn’t know the devastation of miscarriage? Today, years later, I still call upon that loss to put my parenting challenges in perspective. The miscarriage does not give me infinite patience and compassion, but it does remind me that I really, really wanted to be doing this.

Now when I hear of a mother going through the grief of a miscarriage, my heart aches for her. But my own feelings of loss are gone. Only the memory of the loss remains, and it is a memory I am grateful to have. I think it makes me a better parent.

*Never take sleep advice from me.