*The author's identity has been omitted for privacy reasons
Time heals. In every circumstance, it's the most effective medicine against pain. It relieves, soothes, and improves that painful feeling that penetrates your gut; the feeling that stops us from breathing. We know time heals everything, but when we lose our footing, we forget to give ourselves time. Indeed, we all suffer, and every person suffers in their own way.
I needed a lot of time to be able to share my story, which I know is the same story shared by a lot of women. It could have been worse—or better, it could have been different—it could have, but this is my story. It's not a chapter from a novel, a soap opera episode or an article in a magazine. It is real. And it happens everyday, every hour.
I had a miscarriage when I was 11 weeks pregnant.
I, a healthy woman, 32 years old at the time, had a miscarriage. Biologically we couldn't have called him a baby, but damn science, I lost my baby at 11 weeks. And the worst part? I couldn't do anything to avoid it.
When the pregnancy test was positive, I could only think about him. I didn't get to the point of naming him—I know many women do it soon after finding out, but for me, it was only "my little being." At the time I wasn't trying to get pregnant but the news was well-received. I knew the statistics, the risks, I repeated all of it to myself, I spoke it out loud. But again—damn science, I was going to have a baby and I had the right to think about him. He was there, shaping inside of me, forming, growing, with a heart beating faster than mine. I thought about myself, about him and us, about the future—first year, second year, school, college, when he would speak, sing, dance, get married. Yes, I know around a quarter of pregnant women suffer miscarriages before the first trimester, but I believed I could dodge this statistic. I was going to be a mother. The exams indicated that. Ultrasounds showed me that. Why would I believe in the bad statistics?!
Everything was fine, absolutely fine, until suddenly it wasn't fine anymore. On Friday afternoon the pain started. Then I started to bleed and had to check in at the hospital in Lisbon. Due to work my husband wasn't in the country, but fortunately I had my parents with me. The first night, fear joined the pain; I was told to rest and see what "could happen." Over the next few days, the pain returned much stronger than before, as did the bleeding. Another sleepless night followed; I started to realize that the worst could actually happen. I browsed stories from other women online, looking for something I could lean on for hope. I wanted to read that this was all normal, that everything eventually would be fine again. But all the stories I read told me the exact opposite.
I lay my hand on my belly, caressed it and asked "my little being" to hold tight while I was fighting for him. But there was nothing I could have done, as my body was rejecting him. Later I was told that this was some sort of defense mechanism when something is not right with the fetus' growth and development, so the body expels it without consulting us. When the pain faded, I knew it was all over, that I had lost this fight.
Eventually the ultrasound confirmed what I already knew: his heart had stopped beating, and once again I felt helpless. I felt a lot of things, actually. I felt sadness, pain, fear, a huge emptiness, I felt wronged, embarrassed. I thought about all my friends with their healthy babies and pregnancies, their thriving kids. And I felt like I didn't have the right to it—not me. As if the emotional burden wasn't enough, the physical suffering then followed: I had to take pills to expel the lifeless embryo, some analgesics and a tranquilizer (I had never taken them before). I recall the crying from that night, the sorrow and my mom's butter toasts that made everything a bit easier to handle.
Days of mourning followed. I didn't go to work, I didn't feel able to face the world. Many women are obligated to do so right after a situation like this. I dodged questions from curious colleagues and concerned friends, as I told a few of them what happened while I was trying to rebuild myself. I felt so scared for the future, of not being able to get pregnant again, of more miscarriages and not being able to overcome this trauma. I haven't forgotten it, I'll never forget it. But I overcame it, I got pregnant again and now I have a baby.
I write this story for people afraid to go through something like this, for people living this right now and for those who have lived through the same thing. It is hard, definitely, but don't feel frustrated or guilty, don't feel less of a woman, don't feel inferior. Not everything depends upon our will, but our will is also fundamental to everything.
The most important thing to know: you are not alone!
Miscarriage is the most common pregnancy complication (1). Around 20% of early pregnancies end in miscarriage, many before a person even realizes they are pregnant (2). About 80% of all pregnancy loss occurs during the first trimester (3, 4), and up to 85% of first trimester miscarriages are caused by chromosomal abnormalities (1). Miscarriage is usually accompanied by vaginal bleeding and loss of pregnancy symptoms (1). If you think you are having a miscarriage, call your healthcare provider immediately.
If you experience miscarriage, know you are not alone. It’s common to feel loss and grief after a miscarriage (1), but please reach out to a mental health provider if you experience depression or anxiety that doesn’t resolve. Many people who experience miscarriage and their partners need mental health support (5, 6).
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