The M Word

A while ago I wrote this post on being pregnant at 40.  Last weekend, I ran into a friend who had read it and we got to talking about how everyone has their own personal journey when it comes to creating a family. Because I have four kids so close in age, she, like most people, was surprised to hear that I’ve also had two miscarriages. Yep, that makes six pregnancies in as many years. So while I’ve been lucky enough to start having children well into my thirties and still have four healthy babies, I also know what it feels like to have a “bad” ultrasound. And I know how once that happens, you never feel the same about seeing your unborn child on the screen.

After my first miscarriage, a few months before becoming pregnant with our first child, Emmett, I was jealous of the mothers-to-be who felt only excitement at the thought of seeing that tiny little ball of cells at their first ultra sound appointment. I felt that way once, but it ended quickly, with the ultrasound tech looking and looking for a baby that was no longer there, despite my body’s insistence that it was.  A week later, towards the end of my first trimester, I had to have a D&C because my uterus refused to recognize what had happened. My sense of loss was fully formed, despite the fact that my little ball of cells never even reached the tadpole stage.

Still, as months passed and I quickly became pregnant again, I made the decision to enjoy every moment of it and try not to worry about the what ifs. I never went to a doctor’s appointment without fear and anxiety tainting my feelings of excitement about becoming a mother. But I also never took for granted the miracle of growing a little person in my belly. I didn’t feel like the morning sickness, really 24-hour sickness, or the leg cramps, or the heartburn, or the impossibility of finding a comfortable sleeping position was too much for me to bear. And every kick was reassurance that everything was going to be ok.

The second time I miscarried, it was early, just 6 weeks in and honestly, if we weren’t trying I probably would have assumed it was just a bad period. Things were so different than they had been before. I had a sweet, happy one year old who kept me busy and cheerful even in the face of this setback.  Also, the first miscarriage took away my naïve sense that “it wouldn’t happen to me” when it had already happened to so many of my friends and acquaintances. I understood that it could very well happen to me and felt fortunate that I was able to get pregnant so easily, knowing that just getting pregnant is half the battle, especially when you’re 37.  A month later, I was pregnant again, this time with Isla, my fierce now three-year-old daughter who seems capable of anything.

Against all odds, statistically at least, there were no issues whatsoever with either getting pregnant or staying pregnant after that.  I ended up having my last two children when I was 39 and 40, respectively. Both easy births and easy babies. I know I’m lucky and that so many people struggle with infertility.  I know that miscarriages are very, very common. I also know that we don’t find a way to talk about them as much as we probably should.

When I had the first one and told people about it, a lot of women shared their stories with me – co-workers, family members, friends. I was amazed at how many women I knew also had one or more miscarriages. I wished I had known earlier because I think it would have helped me understand the likelihood that it could happen to me – better than the statistics ever could. I might have been more prepared. I might have felt more optimistic.  I might have understood that it was just part of our journey.

Women are getting better at pooling our collective wisdom to reach greater heights than ever before. And we have a distinct propensity towards sharing experiences and expressing empathy. What stops us from talking about these experiences more? Is it because we think that no one is interested? Or because it’s such an unpleasant subject to bring up? Whatever the reason, I challenge you, if you have faced obstacles in your journey, to share them.  It might help someone.

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