This summer began so promising and full of joy. I was nearing the end of my first trimester and was finally starting to relax and embrace the experience of being pregnant, after my first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage (I really hate that word and its accusatory implications, so it would be great if we could expand our vocabulary there). And then, on the day before my 32nd birthday, my husband and I were alerted that our NIPT screening tested positive for a rare chromosomal abnormality.
We scheduled a diagnostic test and in the days that followed, we worked long hours to busy our minds, confided in a few close friends and family, cried and prayed, and tried more than anything to remain hopeful. The days crawled by. And then our CVS tests were confirmed: for the second time since we decided to start trying for a baby, a pregnancy my husband and I desperately wanted and dreamed about came to a devastating end.
People can and did say a lot of things that are meant to be comforting: “it wasn’t meant to be,” “at least you know you can get pregnant,” and, regarding the chromosomal abnormality, “it’s like getting struck by lighting...it somehow happened once, but won’t happen again.” And they meant well, even if their wording was a bit lacking in sensitivity, when they encouragingly promised that the next pregnancy would be “perfectly normal and have a happy ending.” After all, most women go on to have successful pregnancies and give birth to healthy babies after a loss, even with recurrent miscarriages. But that didn’t change the way I felt. It didn’t leave me any less broken.
I still felt like a stranger in my own body.
And the thing I'd love for people to understand—particularly those who want to provide comfort but might not know how—is that for those of us who have suffered pregnancy loss, it is not just that we are mourning a baby that we will never hold in our arms. We are also grieving the fact that our parenting journey is not how we had imagined it. While there may be staggering numbers of people affected (around 20 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage), the experience is incredibly isolating. I still felt pregnant in the immediate aftermath, and since most people didn’t know that I was pregnant in the first place, they didn’t know that I wasn’t any longer.
I was overwhelmed by new and unwelcome feelings: self-pity followed by resentment of everyone walking around with joyful pregnant bellies or posting on social media (a real trap at this vulnerable time) that seemed to get pregnant so easily and have the process unfold so normally. I was not used to the intensity of my anger, and it unnerved me.
In response, I’ve spent the last three months trying to swim away from the heavy tide and get back to myself.
Practicing gratitude even when it wasn’t the first impulse that came to mind. Leaning on my kind and supportive partner who is right beside me on this difficult journey that has deepened our love in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Spending time with friends and family who might not have known what to say but still showed up, unflinching, steady and strong in their love—I'll be forever grateful for the way they helped me find my way when I was stumbling through the darkness.
Share your story and connect with others who are coping with grief
Join the group on Facebook
One thing that helped me maintain perspective and pull myself slowly but surely out of the “why did this happen to me?” abyss was listening to the wisdom of people from the Option B community who have opened their hearts and shared their grief with the world. I listened to podcasts and read a number of articles and posts by strong women courageously sharing their pregnancy-loss stories. Those stories inspired me to add my own voice to the choir, in case it can help one person the way others helped me.
Many explained that while you have been changed by your experience, the crushing weight of despair is not your permanent state of being. This is a valuable lesson in any context, both today and for any future challenge that will come my way. We are often unable to alter certain circumstances in our lives, such as accidents, disease, and death. Those destinations are frequently unchangeable and their impact is irreparable, but as Maya Angelou taught, “you may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”
Fear and sadness will inevitably visit, but I now know I’m more resilient than I ever gave myself credit for.
That doesn't mean that I'm not still scared of what the future will bring when we try again for a baby. It’s that I’m trying to acknowledge that anxiety, so it doesn’t dominate me. Fear and sadness will inevitably visit, but I now know I’m more resilient than I ever gave myself credit for.
I am hurting, but I am not broken.
So I mourn. I try to work through these emotions in therapy. I write both of my sadness and my joys. I use the coloring books my friends bought me to occupy my mind before bed. I meditate and pray. I donate time and resources to causes I believe in. I travel with my husband and we go on adventures together when we’re at home. I plant trees outside our window, work on home-improvement projects, and cuddle with our wonderful doggy.
Thankfully, I’m beginning to feel more like myself again.
Hopefully the next time I get pregnant, it will be an easy and typical nine-month process that will result in a healthy baby. But whatever it is, I will be a mom and we will be parents. We are fortunate enough to be able to make our dream a reality through a variety of options. And that is a luxury that, tragically, not everyone has. So I’m going to choose faith over fear, and wish for comfort and strength for everyone struggling—may we all have our happy endings.
Summer is over and I’m grateful for the new season and a new start. This has been a painful chapter in my parenting journey, but it is by no means the book.