(Content warning: pregnancy loss)
The first time you have a miscarriage, your loved ones might send you flowers. You might get a beautiful tree to plant from a loved one who has found peace in her own grief. Someone will send a box of chocolates - the finest ones they could find - with a note that says, “Sending love. Hope this helps.” It doesn’t, but you appreciate the gesture. You’ll take a week off work to grieve. You’ll watch movies without really seeing them, you’ll cry until your face is raw, and you’ll eat every chocolate in that box. Even the ones you hate. Nothing tastes the same anyway. A few times you’ll laugh but you’ll feel guilty about that, which will make you cry again. One night the insomnia will be impossible to overcome, and you’ll give up trying to sleep, opting instead to scrub your kitchen from top to bottom at three in the morning. You’ll need a surgery. Your doctor will solemnly tell you that there was a one in four chance of this happening, but he offers some reassurance that there’s only a one in a hundred chance of it happening again. You’re comforted by this statistic.
The second time you have a miscarriage, it’ll be a little quieter. You weren’t able to get pregnant on your own this time, so this was an IVF pregnancy. You thought for sure the medications and the testing and the monitoring would make a difference. You’ll get a few kind texts: “I’m so sorry.” “I’m here if you need to talk.” “Can I do anything?” You’ll also get a few that mean well, but still sting: “At least you know you can get pregnant.” “At least you’ve been through it before.” “You knew it could happen, so maybe you were better prepared this time.” You need surgery again, so you take a few days off to rest. You watch your regular television shows, you cry a couple of times, and you buy yourself chocolates this time. Your doctor promises to run more tests so this won’t happen again. Next time will be the one. Third time’s a charm. He tells you there was less than a three percent chance of this happening. You are not comforted by this statistic. You wish he’d kept that one to himself. By now, you’ve collected a group of friends that you met in online support groups full of people who have felt your pain, and they will hold you up until you can stand on your own again. You’ll love those people for the rest of your life.
The third time you have a miscarriage, even you don’t know what to say. Some of your loved ones will still send texts, and you’ll be grateful for those. Someone will say “at least it was much earlier this time.” You’ll want to punch that person in the face. For better or worse, most everyone assumes that by now you’re used to it. Maybe you are. Shouldn’t it hurt less, though? This time you don’t even bother taking the day off work. What’s the point? No surgery this time. It’s business as usual. You still cry, but only quietly to yourself, afraid that you don’t deserve to grieve this one. You walk around for a few days in a fog. When the bleeding starts, you breathe a sigh of relief. Finally. The beginning of the end. You toss and turn in your sleep, when you can sleep. You pray, whether you believe in that or not, that this is the last time. You’re so tired. You play the blame game like you always do, despite the doctors and nurses assuring you that it isn’t your fault. Despite your partner telling you they know there’s nothing you could have done. Your friends, the ones who get it, are ever sturdy. They love you as fiercely as always. The burden they carry for you and with you is a gift you can never repay. You’ve never been in the same room, but you’ve been in each other’s hearts for a while now and you can’t imagine your life without them. Your doctor says there will be more tests, more experiments. You’ve only got one more shot. You try not to think about that.
Everywhere you look, people you love are pregnant. Sometimes it was an accident and you’ll feel jealous. Sometimes it was hard fought and preceded by losses of their own, and you’ll feel deeply grateful for their success. You’ll feel hopeful that it will happen for you too. You’ll feel terrified that it won’t. You’ll buy baby shower gifts from the list of things you’ve been dreaming about for years. You’ll donate the samples of formula that the companies keep sending you because they don’t know you aren’t pregnant anymore. You’ll stare in the mirror at your empty belly and wonder if you’ll ever see it grow with new life. You’ll feel cramping and wonder if you’ll ever feel contractions. You’ll see blood and wonder if you’ll ever know what it feels like for your water to break. On particularly hard days, you’ll hear a baby cry in the grocery store and wonder if you’ll ever be comforting your own child in the dairy aisle.
I don’t know what happens the fourth time you have a miscarriage. I hope I never find out. What I do know is that if it happens to you once or twice or ten times, you can be assured that you aren’t alone. You can find the rest of us out there, holding you in our hearts, feeling your pain and carrying your loss no matter what number you’re on. We’ll wrap ourselves around you and we’ll tell you that you’ll be okay, because we know you will. We’ll tell you it’s okay to cry and grieve whether you were four weeks along, or twenty or forty. Whether it was your first loss or the latest in a long line of horrible endings. Whether you have children already or are still hoping for them. We’ll be there. And if you tell me you’re going through it, I’ll send you chocolates, because I know that they don’t fix anything – but I also know they don’t hurt.
Hope this helps.