I suffered through three miscarriages before my 15-month-old son, Ford, was born. Each pregnancy loss was incredibly heartbreaking. In fact, I believe that miscarriage is one of the most painful trials a woman can go through. Yet, miscarriage is rarely discussed publicly. We don’t tend to want to talk about, and therefore relive, the bad things that happen to us. However, the thing that’s helping me heal, the thing that makes me feel like the pain I went through (and still carry with me) is somehow not in vain, is the hope that if I talk about my experiences I might be able to help others heal, too.
The first time I was pregnant, my husband and I planned a trip back to Tennessee to see our families and announce the news. I even had t-shirts printed up for my nephews that said, “I’m Getting a Baby Cousin!” Shortly after I returned to our home in Los Angeles, I went to a routine doctor’s appointment and received the devastating news that the fetus no longer had a heartbeat. Making the phone call to my mother after I left the doctor’s office was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I burrowed in and wept on my couch for days while my precious husband made the personal phone calls to every other friend and family member with whom we’d shared our news. I had a D&C to remove the fetus, and then waited three months to try for another baby, per my doctor’s instructions.
I was blessed with another pregnancy almost immediately, only to lose baby #2 shortly thereafter. This loss happened much earlier in the pregnancy than my previous miscarriage had occurred, and my anxiety surged. I needed answers, so my husband and I had every test imaginable taken: scans, MRIs, extensive blood work, egg and semen tests; we even did allergy testing! But no one could find anything physically wrong with us (or in our genetic history) that explained why these miscarriages were happening. Just bum luck, I was told. Back to square one.
Baby #3 followed, but I knew in my gut that something was wrong when my nausea abruptly stopped at the end of my first trimester, even though Google told me that what I was experiencing was perfectly normal. My husband and best friend told me I was just freaking out because of my previous experiences. The odds were just too low for this to happen three times. “Calm down,” they lovingly said. However, I insisted on a doctor’s visit. Call it mother’s intuition. While I was in her office, she told me, “We’ve taken every test you can take. You had bad luck before, but I promise, everything is fine now.” Her face turned white when she performed the ultrasound, and I knew. She said this was all random; it was like lightning had struck me three times. The D&C that I had after my first pregnancy loss was a traumatic experience for me, so this time I let nature take its course and I waited until my body naturally released the fetus. I was not prepared for how difficult those days would be as my body held on to a baby that I knew had no heartbeat. I woke up still pregnant, but knew that I would not be able to raise this child.
I struggled with profound sadness during this period of my life. Even though I did not carry full term, my hormones were still a wreck and I went through stages of postpartum depression. I battled bitterness. I had PTSD. Just driving in the direction of my doctor’s office would trigger early signs of a panic attack. I felt like a failure, like somehow my self-worth was tied to my ability to procreate. I didn’t feel like I could talk about it. I did NOT want other people’s pity, so I mostly kept my story and my feelings to myself.
My confidence felt shattered, and so my career and many relationships in my life suffered for a time, too. However, my relationships with God and my husband ended up growing stronger. I had to believe this was all for some higher purpose, and my husband, who was also devastated, was a continual support. There were fights, there were tears, but we ultimately leaned on each other.
I found that what helped the most was channeling my energy into helping others. I sought out opportunities to volunteer. One of the most healing things I consistently did was go to my local animal shelter to play with the neglected dogs. It was a win-win — great for the dogs and truly great for me.
I think a lot of the reason behind my secrecy was that I didn’t know of anyone who had been in a similar situation to mine. Certainly I’d never heard any celebrities speak about it in interviews. The whole subject of miscarriage seemed taboo. So, I want to change that. I think we need to bring the topic into the light. I want other women to feel they have permission to tell their stories of miscarriage. When a woman opens up about her fertility struggles, I feel less alone, and I hope to help others in the same way. Talking about our experiences (especially difficult ones) brings healing. So let’s talk about it.
Photo: Ashley Burns Photography