About 1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss, yet many hopeful parents feel isolated by this experience. Recognizing October as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month was established to support those who have gone through this tough and painful event. Many people don’t experience the same path to becoming parents, and we are highlighting one of those stories. Here, Sarah opens up about her journey to becoming a mom.
Did you have any expectations about how you’d become a mom?
Like most of us, when starting out on our TTC (Trying To Conceive, for those new to the language of pregnancy initialisms) journey, I expected that the moment we stopped using birth control I would be pregnant in the blink of an eye – an expectation that was happily reinforced by both friends and the friendly receptionists at my OB/GYN’s office alike. And that expectation was nearly fulfilled. I found myself pregnant the second month after I stopped birth control. I took a test with shaking hands, and, as soon as I saw the pink second line, I ran out to buy some ice cream, certain this would be one of my last times to enjoy it before morning sickness set in in a few weeks. But, what I didn’t expect was that I would lose that pregnancy less than 12 hours later. I brushed this first one off as just “bad luck,” and I was sure that next time would be the one! Sure enough, after a few months, I was soon pregnant a second time. I stayed pregnant with this one a few weeks longer and my hopes were even higher, but that one failed just as suddenly as the first. Then there was the time I lost my third pregnancy while on vacation in Hawaii. This wasn’t how it was supposed to happen.
How did you find the courage to pick yourself back up after loss?
Each time a pregnancy failed, I felt more and more discouraged. It was hard for others, including my husband, to relate and often the well-intentioned comments that were meant to console me ended up making me feel worse. It felt like I wasn’t “allowed” to grieve a life that never technically happened. I joined several online message boards about recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL, as it’s called in the TTC world), and found people who understood the range of emotions I felt. I met a woman who had experienced even more losses than I had (six!), and she told me her mantra was, “The only thing that can keep me from my baby is if I give up.” This inspired me, so I threw myself into researching the possible causes and treatments for my recurrent losses – everything from IVF, to supplements, to acupuncture, to diet – and I felt my new knowledge could give me more power over my situation.
Still, it was hard to maintain that level of optimism, especially after doctors expressed concern. In October of last year, after four different health professionals pleaded with me to pause TTC until the root cause of the losses could be discovered, my husband and I decided we would finally listen to their advice. Our pact was we would pour our efforts into becoming the happiest family of two we could be before revisiting whether we could become a family of three.
Wouldn’t you know, that same month, I fell pregnant again. I ignored the pregnancy for a few weeks, convinced it would result in another loss. But, this time it was different. This time, there was a heartbeat at 5 weeks. And now, 31 weeks later, there’s a healthy, squirming, giant baby girl who shares my body, signaling she’s nearly ready to be born!
What resources have been helpful to you?
I found both books and online message boards were immensely helpful during this time. Toni Weschler’s Taking Charge of Your Fertility was a great start, and I give a ton of credit to Rebecca Fett’s It Starts with the Egg for helping me get my body ready for a baby. I also found online message boards super helpful. But, be careful! These are not all equally supportive! I had to leave several after some not-so-supportive interactions. Oh, and I probably went through several hundred of those ovulation test strips and cheap pregnancy tests. I’m embarrassed at how long I continued to take those tests just for the rush of seeing the lines get darker, even after it was clear my current pregnancy was likely to “stick.”
How are you preparing for giving birth?
I spent so much of this pregnancy worrying about loss and celebrating my baby’s tiny milestones that I really forgot to think about giving birth until the third trimester snuck up on me! Even though I’ve spent half of this pregnancy living through a pandemic, I’ve actually never been happier. Every morning when I wake up and realize my baby is still here, I know it’s going to be an amazing day. In terms of prepping for birth, thanks to some inconveniently-located uterine fibroids (likely a culprit in my initial losses, in my non-professional medical view), my doctors have decided the baby has to be delivered by c-section at 39 weeks. The rollercoaster of emotions between RPL and the pandemic has taught me to be extra flexible, so I’m up for whatever it takes to get my baby here safely. In the meantime, I’m treating myself to nightly bath soaks, lots of naps, good food (I mean, ice cream counts as a serving of calcium, right?), and long phone dates with friends since I know those will be harder for me to enjoy in just a few short weeks.
What advice would you give to someone recovering from a miscarriage?
Allow yourself to acknowledge this as a genuine loss and give yourself permission to grieve as long or as short as you need to. Also, recognize that everyone processes grief very differently. Some people may not be able to talk about a miscarriage, and others, like me, may be verbal processors who need to talk about it. Identify how you need to process the grief and educate others on how they can be a help to you since most people really won’t “get it.” Above all, don’t allow the loss to turn you and your partner against each other. You both will feel the loss on different levels, and it’s easy to resent a partner who doesn’t seem to be grieving the way you feel they “should.” Remember you’re on the same team here. There can be both healing and growth with your partner when you’re able to turn towards each other during tough times.