October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. A couple years ago, I drafted a blog post that I never had the guts to post. One, because it was scary. I was afraid what others would think if I shared our story. Two, because I was embarassed about our experience. I felt like the reality we were living was my fault. And three, because I just wasn’t ready. Things were different even two years ago. No one was really talking about pregnancy loss and I was afraid to start the conversation.
Without putting a damper on the beautiful new life we welcomed this month, I do want to share about our struggle to become parents. Two years ago, we first lit three candles in honor of three souls we were so excited to meet, but never had the opportunity to. And today, despite the incredible joy we now have in our home–two amazing girls–I think I’ll always be able to go back to the overwhelming feeling of loss that each miscarriage brought.
I can still remember the empty ultrasounds, countless rounds of bloodwork and testing, the physical pain of miscarrying, and most of all–the all encompassing fear of never knowing if we would be parents. As we inch towards the end of October, I start sharing my experience to honor three lives that never got to enter this world and think about the good that can come from letting go of a secret. The good it will do me, and hopefully others.
Chris and I tried to start a family for more than four years. After being diagnosed with unexplained infertility, we finally got pregnant (after 2 years) and then miscarried. Then it happened again. And heartbreakingly, after an IVF trial, again. Three little lives. Lost.
I’ve decided to share our story not to make anyone feel sorry for us, but to bring awareness to the subject and to hopefully help others feel less alone. Sharing also helps me let go of two other strong feelings that accompanied our loss: isolation and shame.
Infertility and pregnancy loss are tough. They’re each tough separately, and they’re even tougher together. Pregnancy loss is seemingly the only loss we sometimes keep to ourselves. I felt isolated by our experience and my silence. I also felt ashamed because we never knew what was causing our troubles–we still don’t. And as a total type-A person, I felt like I was to blame. I chose to blame myself. Almost two years since our last miscarriage, I of course know I wasn’t to blame. But when you’re in the thick of grieving, feeling the magnitude of it, you just want an answer to, “Why?” It’s painful–physically and emotionally. And as I was going through all of those feelings, I blamed our losses on every long run I completed, bumpy car rides, food I ate. Time after time, I found new reasons I could have caused our losses.
Almost 7 million women are living with infertility issues in the United States alone. It’s estimated that 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, and they believe this number is under reported. 1% of women will miscarry three or more times. I’m hopeful that when we speak up instead of being silent, we can not only come together in support, but that hopefully progress can continue. More research and more answers and less blame. Almost two years since our last loss, I see a lot more people sharing their losses, both men and women. While I’m sad that we all share this life experience, I’m happy the stigma attached with miscarriage is perhaps fading just a bit.
So, I lend my words to the voices before me to continue progress. To continue stopping the stigma. We shouldn’t to be ashamed about our fertility or miscarriages. While I would’t say I’m grateful for the experiences we’ve had, I accept them as a part of my life path. They invariably changed my life and I think for the better. I choose to think those lives, while not a part of our household physically, are a part of my heart and they always will be. While I didn’t get to meet those three babies, they impacted the most important parts of my life. My career, how I exercise, how I eat, why I travel, and more than anything–they shaped the mother I am today. I feel extra grateful, loving, and think I’m probably more patient that I would have been. I live my life with those losses etched in my heart forever and living without fear, I tell my story. To anyone going through a similar experience, may you someday feel the same comfort and peace and may we all have the happy endings we hope for.