There’s a private club that exists and none of it’s members want to be a part of it. A “Secret Society”, if you will, that virtually nobody speaks of. Unlike most exclusive clubs where you receive a membership with pride, acceptance into this particular one causes feelings of shame, fear, sadness and anger. “Miscarriage” is the name of the club and I just happen to be it’s newest member. Today, a startling 1 in 3 pregnancies are not viable, meaning thirty-three percent of women looking to become pregnancy will suffer at least one miscarriage. What’s even more scary, the chance of losing a baby only increases with each miscarriage you have.
I’ve received flack in the past for not sharing more about my personal life. I guess sharing motivating and positive posts on social media make people think that I am not 100% authentic – which is ridiculous. I have been very open about my health condition and the challenges that arise from my kidney disease and chronic pain, but prefer to be able to keep some details on my partner, family and home life private. I have felt a wave of emotion since my miscarriage; a rotation of disbelief, sadness and anger, but the one thing that was constant was the feeling of loneliness and isolation. Feeling like I had nobody to talk or relate to. I still feel a bit that way and it’s been almost four weeks but I have noticed that the more I speak about it, the more I discover how many other women I had in my close circles that had gone through one or several miscarriages. I have literally spent the last two weeks picking my mouth off the ground, I kid you not, from the amount of women who have revealed stories to me. So I have concluded that women who miscarry feel isolated because we are conditioned to not open up and talk about the topic. Like many women’s issues, we are expected to be silent. But if we did feel comfortable opening up, the chances of us meeting and engaging with other women going through the same thing would be significantly higher. I know this sort of post is a departure from the type of content I normally share however, I felt compelled to talk about it, in hopes to let other women who are going through the same thing know that they are allowed to mourn, they are allowed to be sad, they are allowed to feel anger and they shouldn’t feel guilty.
So here’s the deal…despite my plans for my three year goals which you have probably read earlier this year on my blog, my boyfriend and I decided this summer it was time to start trying to expand our little family. After spending so much time with our nephew Leilan, I think we fell in love with the idea of having our own and that adorable little chocolate chunk made us expedite our baby plans. Before I knew it, there was this sudden urge for me to become Mom. I think some of you were on to me after watching some of my snaps and Instagram stories – saying how maternal I looked with whenever I was around the baby. In August we tried and let me just say, we were shocked to discover I got pregnant so quickly – on the first try no less. I am in my thirties and without getting too specific with a number – I would say closer to forty than I am to thirty. So naturally, with my age and kidney condition, we thought we may have a difficult time conceiving. Clearly not the case! When your pregnancy is planned, your mindset after learning you’re with child is extremely different than when it is unexpected. Planning for the baby started right away for the both of us. So here I was in late summer, pregnant with a much wanted baby desperately trying to hide the nausea, the gigantic size of my boobs, the changes to my body, which is hard when you normally work out in a sports bra and short tights, and the OVERWHELMING fatigue from clients, when all I wanted to do was scream from the rooftops that we were having a baby. This summer had by far been the busiest I’ve ever been since I started building my brand and as much as I should have probably slowed down, it was so difficult to turn down all the amazing opportunities coming my way.
We all know the rule of staying silent about a pregnancy during the first trimester but for some reason, I actually never believed that miscarriage would happen to me. Silly and ignorant of me to assume that, trust me I know. This was before I knew the startling high rate of miscarriages. I am healthy…take good care of myself. Eat well, exercise and I had no problems conceiving so I honestly thought that I would have a happy, normal pregnancy. Well, if Beyonce, who is basically a unicorn, can miscarry a child – it can happen to anyone.
Throughout the pregnancy I never felt any real major concerns to make me feel like something was wrong. At the time to my knowledge, all of my symptoms were textbook. I still felt pregnant. My hormones were still crazy making me feel like I wanted to rip my boyfriend’s head off like a praying mantis over the smallest things. More importantly, I had no spotting or bleeding. I did however notice some cramping starting around week six or seven but just attributed it to gas, because I had a lot of it, and from what I read, gas was a very normal side effect. Pregnancy has some uncomfortable symptoms and I kept mum about the gnawing pain not wanting to be one of those crazy first time mother’s calling my doctor with a different concern every single day. Once your 35, you’re considered high risk and with my kidney ailment, my family physician was on heightened alert. Highly suggesting I choose a traditional pregnancy path and birthing my plan for safety in lieu of having a home birth with the assistance of a midwife that we so badly wanted. Also, he suggested that I have an early ultrasound, just to ensure everything was ok in the early stages. I was a bag of emotions prior to the eight week ultrasound but mainly excited to hear the heartbeat our little creation for the first time with Rejean. After what seemed like 15 minutes of internal imaging from a technician with a very distressed look on her face, I knew right away something was terribly wrong. “Ms Exeter, are you sure you’re 8 weeks pregnant? Have you had any bleeding or concern that you may have had a miscarriage? Because I am not seeing a heartbeat“. If you’ve had an ultrasound for anything in your life, not just for a pregnancy, you know the technician is not allowed to say anything during your visit. Their job is to take the imaging and send it off to your doctor. Why she was divulging this information to me while I was still lying on the table still puzzles me to this day. My immediate panic made the technician back pedal quickly and tell me that it is not uncommon for a heartbeat to not be visible this early. It could also be because of the position of the fetus. But the red flag was not only the missing heartbeat but also that the size of the fetus in the dating ultrasound, which did not match how far along my doctor and I believed I was in my pregnancy. Results were sent to Dr. Fischer, who could have told me right then and there my pregnancy did not have a chance and discuss my next steps. I was given the “option” to re-test my HcG levels to check my hormone count but it came across as more of a suggestion and not mandatory. We were heading to Chicago a couple days later so I decided to just leave it until we returned. I wanted to enjoy some time away from my partner stress free. I also was in a bit of denial, trying to somehow convince myself that if my doctor felt there was an actual cause for serious concern, he would have said so right away, so all should be good. A follow up internal ultrasound was booked two weeks later and during that appointment it was confirmed there was still no heartbeat at 11 weeks. The fetus had in fact been dead inside of me for 6 weeks. Receiving this news felt like a building had literally came crashing down on me and I was tramped underneath piles of rubble with my lungs gasping for an ounce of air. I could not breathe. It was my worst nightmare coming true and a million and one questions began popping into my head. “Why me? What is wrong with me? Am I too old? What did I do that could have caused this to happen? Why me? What is Rejean going to say? Is he not going to want to try again? And what about the people we told? How am I going to tell them this news? If the fetus had been dead all this time, why hadn’t it already expelled from my body?” I felt ashamed, terrified, stressed the fuck out and just so very sad.
After speaking with a midwife and my naturopath, I now know that I should have be told right after the first ultrasound that the pregnancy wasn’t viable and given options on next steps. I should have been instructed to have my HcG tested immediately and without question, a follow-up ultrasound should have been performed a couple days later, not a couple weeks. I was referred to St. Joseph’s hospital right after the it was determined it was a silent miscarriage to have a D&C procedure to remove the fetus and clear out any waste from the uterus. However after nine hours of blood work, internal pelvic exams and waiting, I was sent home without having it done due to lack of bed availability at the hospital which is ludicrous. I was instructed that I could either wait for nature to take it’s course or get a prescription for Misoprostol, a pill to help induce the passing of the fetus, and tylenol 3 for the pain. I decided to ask for the script from the doctor – I didn’t want something that wasn’t alive in me a second longer after knowing it was sitting there for six weeks. Well, after a long day in doctor’s offices and the hospital, by the time I was discharged at 1:30am, the bleeding and cramping has started to begin on it’s own. It was too much stress on my system the so my body finally started to do what it needed to do. Nobody really prepared me for what was going to happen next. Not even the OBGYN student assigned to me, who was doing her residency rounds that night. Before leaving the hospital we were not given adequate information to prepare for what was to come, which was 12 hours of severe cramping or contraction-like pain one would expect during labour, having to see the remains of my pregnancy leave my body and having to pass the placenta that had developed during the pregnancy a day later. Trust me, there are just some things you can’t unsee. I, like most women who had never had a miscarriage, thought it would be similar to a bowel movement – some stomach pains and a trip to the washroom and it was over…leaving you to deal with the emotions afterwards. Not even close – or at least for me in my situation. Drug free, it was very painful, extremely traumatic and afterwards feeling your pregnancy symptoms slowly disappear as your hormone levels start to drop, acts as a cold reminder that your body no longer houses another life.
So what happens next? Well, to be honest it’s a very strange and troubling thing. Although most women feel heartbroken, guilty, shameful and have endless internal questions, we for some reason feel as though we must put on a brave face and keep it moving. Go back to work like nothing ever happened, coo over a friend’s new baby or attend a baby shower with a smile when we’re devastated and still in mourning or hide our tears whenever we feel a wash of emotion come over us. Because while losing a friend or a relative activates an immediate support network of sympathy and understanding, losing a baby brings a very lonely silence. With the rise of miscarriages today, it is not uncommon for someone to know at least one person who has gone through it, however that person has probably spared their friend, sibling, colleague, etc all the gory details and ugly truth as to what they actually experienced, leaving people who have never been through it to say things like, “Oh wow, sorry to hear that. It’s just so common now…so many women have them.” – marginalizing the situation as if you have just contracted a common flu or cold. If I had a dollar for every time I heard this response, I would be retired and rich living on a private island in the Grenadines. Others will elaborate and mention that they know people what have miscarried and went on to have healthy pregnancies, which I will admit, is much more comforting than the former response. There are some, thank God, who have been so kind and showed so much empathy, filling our home with flowers and our hearts with love. For those who have called, texted or come by – I am so very appreciative! As the calls decrease, the flowers die and the visitors stop coming, shit starts to get real. It had become extremely difficult for me to see a pregnant woman or a woman with a young baby. Believe me, I have come undone at the seams more times than I want to admit in public. What was probably the worst part was going from sharing the excitement of pregnancy with a few of my friends who were also expecting, to then having to watch them continue through their pregnancy while I was battling these emotions. It FUCKING sucks. It’s like a constant reminder of where I should have been if I was still pregnant and as a friend, I am so happy for them but still so very sad for myself. Not an ideal situation and it’s been hard for some of them to have empathy and understand that.
Just like many other women who have just gone through a miscarriage, I wanted to find a way to make my feelings of sadness and lost disappear as soon as possible. So my first thought was to get pregnant right away. Sounds absolutely nuts doesn’t it? Well, it would to me if someone else told me that. My advice to someone else would be to chill, rest, take some time to digest, etc but nope, I had my mind set on a baby and decided that I needed to get pregnant ASAP. There are thousands of online discussion boards where women are expressing they are frantically trying to find ways to conceive again quickly. They say that you become more fertile 60 days after miscarrying or having a baby, so many women quickly get back into baby making mode on a quest for what is called a “Rainbow Baby” to fill a void. I was not thinking rationally but after speaking to my partner and Naturopath, I have come to my senses and have decided to press pause and take a much needed break. And a vacation and time off work wouldn’t be a bad idea either. Getting pregnant doesn’t seem to be an issue for us, I just need carry my next pregnancy to term and the best way for me to do that is to wait for my pregnancy hormone level to go back to zero, allow my uterine wall to build back up and improve my Kidney Chi via weekly acupuncture sessions to improve my chances of a healthy, full term pregnancy the next time around.
As you can imagine, I have replayed my entire pregnancy over and over in my head. Searching for clues, trying to figure out what went wrong, what I did or what I could have done differently and the answer to that is – nothing! The body is highly sophisticated and intelligent, knows when there is going to be an abnormality or issue with the baby, which results in the pregnancy not progressing. I am learning to accept this and understand that nature’s interception in my pregnancy did more good than harm. More importantly, a miscarriage does not mean I won’t go on to have a happy, healthy pregnancy in the future. To help my recovery over the last week, I have been talking to a lot of women, especially those who have one or more children. Some I know personally and even women I just met. I think so many of us make the assumption that women who have a child probably had no issues with their pregnancy journey. When it turns out, so many I’ve spoken to have suffered multiple miscarriages secretly or had fertility issues that they hid because they were either embarrassed or felt that they didn’t have anyone who could relate to them. It seems as though that with time and a healthy pregnancy, these women are able to now talk about their experience with a tiny bit of detachment and I long for the day when I can do that too. In the meantime, I am finding solace in the small network I have built from being open and honest and if any of you reading this post is going through a miscarriage, do not suffer in silence. Once you start opening up you will discover a support system around you, you never imagined existed. It’s as if women don’t want to say anything until you say something first. Trust me, you will be very surprised. If you’ve made to the end of this beastly long post, thank you for taking the time to read this. As much as I hope this may be helpful for someone else, writing (or typing) these words have been extremely cathartic for me and has helped me in my recovery. xoxo