After 16 weeks of pregnancy, I gave birth to a baby girl. Ella Claire McMillian was born at 9:08 p.m. on July 19, 2014. She was about 7 inches long (18 cm) and weighed 5 ounces. I’m honestly not sure if I should be writing about it yet because I don’t have a neat and tidy bow to tie it up with yet, and normally my blog is more upbeat. But if I’m writing an honest guide to anything, it should be honest. So here we are.
If you want to hear the whole story of what happened, I will tell you, but it’s pretty graphic because my pregnancy was much more advanced than most are when miscarriages happen. So for now, I’m just going to stick with the emotional fall-out from it because I think that is not so unique to my situation and perhaps more helpful to you if you’ve had a miscarriage and somehow found my blog looking for help.
If you have had a miscarriage, I’m so sorry. I am so, so sorry. You are not alone. Your grief is valid and completely warranted. Your feelings, whatever they are, are respected here. I’m not going to tell you about statistics because as helpful as they can be, statistics have not been as comforting to me for the past two weeks as simply having permission to feel what I feel. I’ve been very lucky to have friends and family who have given me that permission and freedom, but who have also encouraged me not to beat myself up.
In an honest guide to miscarriage, I should start by saying that your hormones are going absolutely insane for the first week or two at least. And this massive hormone shift will make your already-intense feelings just completely out of control. When I am able to remind myself of this fact, it makes things a little more manageable, I guess because I know that eventually my hormone levels will go back to normal, and I’ll be able to feel things normally again.
In the midst of all the hormonal changes, here’s what I’ve been feeling:
My husband has had to tell me a LOT not to beat myself up. Two doctors told me there was nothing I could have done or not done to prevent it, and we had just had a prenatal appointment 4 days earlier where everything looked perfect, so intellectually, I know it wasn’t my fault. But there’s just something so frustrating about it not being anybody’s fault, about there not being a reason for it at all. I don’t know how I would feel if I knew for sure that it was my fault. I’m sure it would be worse, and that I would require years of therapy for that, but part of me still thinks answers – even horrifying ones – are better than no answers, so I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I did wrong.
I’ve gone through the quasi-plausible mistakes – I didn’t exercise enough, I didn’t rest enough, I strained too hard when I pooped, I accidentally rolled onto my stomach in my sleep, I didn’t eat well enough, I didn’t take my vitamins consistently – and the philosophical ones – I complained too much about the discomforts of pregnancy, I didn’t appreciate what I had when I had it. But none of it really adds up. Women who treat their bodies terribly and don’t want the babies growing inside them have been having healthy babies for centuries. There’s just no logic to it.
The thing is I didn’t do anything wrong. The doctors said so. And my counselor friend pointed out that if I didn’t do anything wrong, I must have done everything right. I hate that right now because I still want to know why this happened. I want to know how we can prevent it from happening again. I want to trouble-shoot so that next time, I can do pregnancy perfectly and keep my baby safe. There is a chance that I will get some answers. They’re running some tests on the baby to see if she had some sort of chromosomal abnormality that prevented her from developing, and in a few weeks, I’ll have a follow-up appointment where they’ll start looking to see if there’s anything physically wrong with me that can be fixed. But the truth is that nobody knows why a lot of miscarriages happen.
There just are no answers, and there might never be, which really pisses me off. What has medical science been doing for all these years that there are still no answers in one of the most devastating situations ever that SO many women go through? I’m also mad at my body for not doing its job. I’m mad at Facebook for showing me all of my pregnant friends’ happy pregnancy posts. I’m mad at the rest of the world for continuing to spin and function as usual when my world has completely crashed down around me. I’m mad at myself for getting so wrapped up in pregnancy that it became my whole world. I’m mad at the fact that women who don’t take care of themselves or their unborn babies have completely healthy pregnancies, that women who don’t want or love their babies still carry them to term, that we were supposed to be in the clear, having made it squarely into the 2nd trimester, and that we’d gotten so excited and told everybody the news just to have it completely shattered.
I’m angry and sad about the same things, and sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between the two emotions. I think the only way to tell (for me) is that when I’m angry, I want to destroy something, but when I’m really depressed, I want to destroy everything. I’m not saying I’m suicidal. I would never, could never do that to the people I love. But when the sadness becomes overwhelming, you just want it to stop, and you care very little about how that is accomplished. And in the midst of all those hormones, sadness can turn into intense depression very easily. These are just the facts. I think I’m out of the woods on this one, thankfully. After a lot of crying, a lot of talking with my husband, a lot of board games and Parks and Recreation on Netflix, a lot of praying, “Help,” over and over and over, a lot of friends and family bringing food and babysitting me, and a little bit of time to adjust, I have more hope. And hope goes a long way. Here’s what I have told myself often over the past two weeks:
Where there is love, there is life, and where there is life, there is hope.
Will and I love each other like crazy. Our friends and family have shown us so much love. We believe that God loves us completely. And even though it hurts, we loved and still love our baby. The joy we feel loving each other and the pain we feel loving Ella both remind me that we are experiencing life. And where there is life, there is hope.
Hope and fear play a terrible tug-of-war in my mind and my heart. As soon as I think, “We can try again,” I am immediately afraid that this will happen again, and I don’t know if I can do this again. When you have a miscarriage, everyone wants to tell you success stories about people who had a miscarriage, but who now have healthy kids. It’s helpful in a way, but it doesn’t stop you from being terrified of trying again and going through this pain again.
Right now, we’re in a never-ending fear-hope-sadness cycle. I start to feel ok, but then I do a load of laundry, and there are still maternity clothes in there. I start to feel ok, but then I eat something I craved when I was pregnant, and it reminds me. I get sad, and then I think we’ll try again, and then I’m scared. It just doesn’t stop. I’m told that that’s normal, and that it will probably continue, especially if I get pregnant again. I’d like to see longer stretches of hope and shorter stretches of fear in the cycle, but I suppose I need time for that to develop. For now, I’m eating chocolate cake for breakfast and looking forward to a weekend away with my husband because when the past is painful and the future is terrifying, all you can do is focus on what you have going for you right now.
If you knew how many life lessons I’ve learned from the Broadway show Rent, you’d either feel like you don’t understand me at all but you love me anyway, or like we are absolute soul mates, depending upon the depth of your love for musical theater. Different ones hit me at different times in life. Right now, it’s this:
Or life is yours to miss.
Give in to love,
Or live in fear.
The rest of the song is sort of hit or miss, but I really love those lines about giving in to love and not missing out on life. It isn’t fun at all right now. It hurts, and it’s scary, and I wish I could fast-forward through this part of life or just cut it out entirely, but I’m starting to think it’s possible that I might make it through to a place of joy again at some point in the future.
A good friend who had a miscarriage a couple of years ago sent me a message that I’ve kept in mind a lot these past two weeks. She said that you never really “get over” it, but that it’s like a drop of ink in water, and over time, it goes from being a drop of ink in a shot glass to being a drop of ink in a bathtub. I hope (and feel like) there is truth in that. And I think that every kindness, every loving thought, word, and deed, every bit of grace and truth, every casserole and chocolate cake delivered, every card, email, text, call, and Facebook message, every prayer, every hug, every moment that folks sit with me and just let me cry, every heart that is broken with mine, every moment of snuggling with my husband, every funny/cute animal picture, every episode of Parks and Recreation, every board game, every warm shower, every breath of fresh air is a drop of water in my glass. It’s still pretty dark, and I think it will be for a while, but it’s diluting slowly.