Eight weeks into my fourth pregnancy, it ended. Spots appeared as if out of nowhere; these little specks of hopes and dreams lying against faded fabric. I saw the dark blood and broke a twenty-five-year streak. I dropped my first f-bomb.
The word echoed around the bathroom, feeling unfamiliar and rough against my lips. I glanced over at the toddler who was sitting on the couch, happily chewing on buttered toast and watching an episode of Paw Patrol. His two-year-old-self was completely oblivious to the emotional earthquake threatening to shake our small apartment, and for that, I was glad.
I sat in silence and struggled to breathe through lungs that were no longer working properly. What air was left in the room had grown heavy, weighing down upon my shoulders and pressing into my chest. Few words seemed strong enough to contest the range of emotions that had suddenly slammed into me. I cried black mascara tears and gently hugged the flabby belly that had been stretched and loved on by five babies. My heart aching, I whispered and prayed over the child I would never know. “Stay strong, wee one. Stay strong.”
And she did. Until she left us, five days later.
This is pregnancy loss. It is not polite or polished. It breaks us up and knocks us aside, leaving behind bloody trails of a broken self. I wish this story didn’t belong to me, but it does. It belongs to me, and it belongs to you. It belongs to your co-worker, and to that woman patiently waiting at the bus stop, to your childhood grade three teacher, and to your best friend.
This story belongs to all of us.
Society does a great job of sweeping sensitive subjects under the rug. We love glowing pregnancy ads but hate to use words like “blood” or “cramps” in the same sentence as “woman.” In our desire for delicacy, we’ve forgotten that the truth still needs to be told. We’ve let miscarriage and pregnancy loss become taboo topics that are “better left undisturbed” and in the process, abandoned a cloud of invisible women.
Yes, miscarriages are ugly. They’re emotionally and physically scarring, and yet 1 in 4 pregnant women bear these wounds. These statistics are astonishingly high for something that we tiptoe around so frequently.
I’ve had three miscarriages and a stillbirth, and I’m not alone in this. It’s probably easier for me to count the number of married friends who haven’t had a miscarriage than to count the ones who have.
I wish that I didn’t understand pregnancy loss so well. Four out of five babies have disappeared from my womb and left me wondering “why?” We all know that life is precious and delicate, but when you’re slapped in the face with that reality over and over again, you wish you could go back to taking it for granted. It hurts less to be naive. But the cost of naivety is too high if we’re leaving women to hurt and grieve on their own.
It’s not easy to wake up each morning checking for blood, analyzing each cramp and twinge, and wondering when you’ll hit the end of this beautiful dream. Every pregnancy, I told myself that if we could just make it to that first ultrasound, if we could just see a heartbeat, then I could begin to hope. But the truth was that from the moment I saw those two pink lines on the pregnancy test, hope had already begun to bloom.
Because how can you hold yourself back from dreaming of the little life hidden deep within? How can you not begin to imagine your baby’s entrance into this world: pursed lips letting loose a glorious cry, ten wrinkled toes squirming, and baby blues struggling to see for the first time? A child that looks like me, a child that looks like him. A child that will one day be an artist, an athlete, a dreamer, a friend.
And when that blood appears, when their little life begins to ebb away, you crumble. You’re left with aches and labour-like pains but no baby to show for it. You struggle for clarity, feeling desperately alone but too vulnerable to tell anyone what you’re going through. You have loved for mere days but when this little babe disappears, they take a chunk of your heart with them. Life no longer looks like what you’d thought it would.
And the truth is, this may not be the first time you’ve gone through this, nor the last. 1 in 6 of every known pregnancy (women who have had a positive pregnancy test) ends in miscarriage. While we’re familiar enough with this statistic, we’re less likely to discuss the approximate 2% of women who experience two miscarriages in a row. Less likely still to think about the 1% of women who experience three or more miscarriages in a row.
This is my story and it might be yours too.
You ate your greens and popped your prenatal pills; you steadfastly avoided hot tubs, sushi, and roller coasters, but this baby still left. You feel as if your body has failed you and wonder if this loss was your fault. Was it that cup of coffee? That box of groceries I carried from the car?
It’s difficult to break miscarriage myths when no one talks about reality. It’s difficult to share our stories when we feel ashamed of them. So in case no one has told you this yet, this was not your fault.
You had a miscarriage but you are still strong.
You had a miscarriage but you are still a mother.
You had a miscarriage but you are not alone.
We’re in this together, so let’s talk about it.