My first miscarriage effectively tore away the rose-colored spectacles I’d been wearing when it came to pregnancy. Instead of a time glowing with joy and specialness, I saw what the reality is for so many – harsh cruelty, turmoil, and anxiety.
I realized quickly that miscarriage is pretty common. All it took was a quick search on Google and a chat with an Emergency Room doctor. So, okay. It was nothing out of the ordinary. I must just have been lucky to have already had two healthy babies without a loss.
Naively, I assumed that now I’d had my allocated miscarriage, I could just get on with the plan – to conceive, carry and give birth to our third and last baby. That’s truly how I believed it was. Whenever I talked to my husband, family or friends everyone agreed that a miscarriage wasn’t unusual. There was no reason why my next pregnancy wouldn’t be successful.
It’s funny what we do to maintain our rosy view of life. We feel sorry when we hear something bad has happened – illness, an accident, death or whatever. But there’s also that little voice in our head: “Thank goodness it didn’t happen to me.” It’s a natural reaction, relief that we’re not affected and can carry on as normal.
Until it does happen to you. Then, there’s shock and disbelief. You see the monsters waiting to take away your zest for life. I was suddenly aware of them when I miscarried. I felt anger, guilt, and sadness.
I felt so fragile. I needed a sign over my head: “My baby died – please be gentle”
We waited seven months to try and have another baby. To be honest, I was too afraid in case it happened again. I didn’t want to feel the waves of guilt or like I had to keep everything bottled up because nobody wanted to hear about my pain anymore. I didn’t want to lose another baby.
My first miscarriage happened early and quickly. I was six weeks pregnant, and it wasn’t really that long between realizing what was happening to it being over. It was still one of the most painful things I have ever experienced, physically and emotionally. It was just a few days before my birthday, and I felt so fragile. I needed a sign over my head: “My baby died – please be gentle.”
Thanks to my husband, a few wonderful family members, and my best friend, I got through it. And reached the stage where we decided to try for our third and final baby. I don’t have a problem getting pregnant – though believe me, I feel for every woman who does – and it was just two months later when we learned I was expecting again. I felt cautious. Terrified.
I’m a pretty open person, so I find it hard to keep my own news secret. When I was having our second child, we told everyone right away. I felt every pregnancy deserved to be celebrated. But the third time, I didn’t say anything – except to family and a couple of friends – until after the miscarriage. Then, I went public on Facebook – it was easier than telling people individually.
I was seeking support, which I got. But there was frustration, too, when people didn’t meet the expectations I had of them. I blame myself – I should have been more open about what I needed. But it was my first experience of this situation. I didn’t realize that people just don’t know how to handle it or what to say.
I did six pregnancy tests. Yes, six. I wanted to be sure
It was different again with my fourth pregnancy. I’d gone to my friend, Sam’s house to take the test so I could surprise Richard if it was positive. I did six pregnancy tests. Yes, six. I wanted to be sure. Sam was ecstatic for me, but I said I couldn’t let myself get excited until I’d heard a heartbeat. I didn’t plan on telling anyone until after my first medical appointment and was terrified I’d miscarry again.
Richard was so happy, and that did rub off on me a little. We shared the news with our immediate family and closest friends, and that was all. I was trying to protect myself. I didn’t dare give in to my hopes and dreams. Instead, I tried to push the anxiety aside and looked after myself as well as I could. I ate well, took my vitamins, cut out the bad stuff.
Even though I loved this baby, it didn’t feel real. It seemed too good to be true. And I was aware, painfully so now, that not every pregnancy ended with the parents taking their healthy baby home. I didn’t have many symptoms, but I told myself each time was different for everyone.
My first appointment was scheduled for 8.5-10 weeks. I’d tracked my cycle for three years, so I was pretty sure of my dates, but I allowed for some wiggle-room. I can’t tell you how nervous I was, but I was excited to see my doctor – the same one who’d delivered our eldest, Olivia, nearly four years earlier.
He remembered us, so we took a little time to catch up. I remember my blood pressure was up and I felt so, so dizzy. I lay on the table feeling unready. If what we expected to see wasn’t there, I couldn’t cope. It would break my heart. And as soon as the doctor put the wand on my belly, I knew.
There was a sac, but I couldn’t see a baby. I felt as though the room was overheating and struggled to breathe properly. My doctor was very quiet. I told him there was nothing there – it wasn’t a question.
How could this be happening again? One miscarriage, not uncommon. But two in a row?
He asked how sure I was of my dates. The gestational sac on the screen was around six weeks, but he couldn’t see a fetal pole or yolk sac. Maybe I’d got mixed up. He said I should get my HCG levels checked that day – a Monday – and then again two days later. Then we could see if there was an increase, and how much it was.
I felt numb. How could this be happening again? One miscarriage, not uncommon. But two in a row? My doctor said he’d call on Wednesday after the second test results and we left. I was trying to keep it together but seeing so many obviously pregnant women was the final straw. I started to cry uncontrollably.
Richard helped me to the car, and we sat in silence until my phone pinged. It was my mom, asking how we’d got on. I sent a group message to the few people we’d told about the pregnancy, again feeling it was easier than separate explanations. Then we went for the blood test.
I remember hearing a lady on the phone next to me. She’d just found out whoever was on the line was pregnant. I wanted to grab the phone from her and smash it. How could the world keep turning normally for everyone else while I was facing my worst nightmare?
My results that day showed my HCG levels were 7100. Two days later, they were 9000. An increase, but nowhere near enough. At this stage, they should double every two to three days. My doctor said he was almost certain it was a missed miscarriage, but I’d need another ultrasound to confirm it. We booked the scan for a week later. It would be the longest seven days of my life, but I told myself I could do it. It would be over. We’d know.
But things are never that simple. On the Sunday, two days before my appointment, I felt intense pain in my lower back and on my right side. I was mentally drained, physically exhausted, and I was done waiting. I decided to go to the ER.
He moved the screen so I could see it. “There’s a baby in there measuring six weeks, one day”
They took more blood to test my HCG and took me for an ultrasound. The technician made it clear I was an inconvenience, causing him to be called in at 3am. When I told him my dates, he asked if they hadn’t seen anything at the last scan…and then moved the screen so I could see it. “There’s a baby in there measuring six weeks, one day,” he said.
I stared in disbelief, but I could see it too. A tiny baby. He decided to do an internal ultrasound, and that’s where it got confusing. The technician said he could see a heartbeat, but I saw no corresponding flutter on the screen. He was also convinced he could hear a heartbeat of 102bpm – he kept making me hold my breath to listen. But all I could hear was silence.
I tried to explain how a heart condition meant my resting heart rate was always above 100bpm, but he wouldn’t listen. He told me to cancel my upcoming appointment and said everything was fine.
Everything didn’t feel fine. In my heart, I didn’t trust what he’d said. The dates didn’t add up. How could a pregnancy of as much as 11.5 weeks show a baby of only six? The technician said I might have miscarried without realizing and got pregnant again. I told him there had been no bleeding, and after having one miscarriage, I knew it wasn’t something you’d easily miss.
The whole thing just felt wrong, like a cruel joke. I wished I’d never gone to the ER. When I told the doctor there how I felt, he shrugged. My HCG levels were 13,000, he said, and I should see my own doctor as planned.
There was sadness on his face as he explained he was certain it was a missed miscarriage
So we did. My lovely obstetrician told us ER technicians looked at lots of different organs and tissues every day. It was easy for them to get confused, especially at 3am. Then he did another ultrasound. The sac had grown, and he could see the fetal pole and yolk sac. But however hard he tried, he still couldn’t find a heartbeat. There was sadness on his face as he explained he was certain it was a missed miscarriage. But he still couldn’t make the final call as my HCG levels had gone up and the sac had grown. He apologized for how long this was dragging on and said I needed to be strong for just a little longer.
He asked us to schedule an appointment with his most trusted technician, who would do an internal ultrasound. That wouldn’t be for another eight days – it would give them the chance to see just how much growth there was. It meant the baby would have time to develop if it was going to – after all, nobody wanted to get rid of a baby that was alive.
I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to explain how it feels to carry around what you’re sure is a dead baby for a month. It messed up both my heart and my head. I felt disgusted and disappointed with myself. I wanted to claw at my own body and scream. One night I broke down fully. I cried and shook, struggling to breathe. I kept apologizing to Richard for not being able to give him another baby. What had changed? How could my body produce two healthy babies and then betray me? I was so angry.
Eight days later, we found ourselves in a waiting room ahead of the final ultrasound. I’d already decided to have a dilation & curettage (D&C) this time. Natural miscarriage was too traumatic and painful, and my uterus hadn’t even started to collapse yet. My body hadn’t done its job, even now – it still thought it was growing a living baby. It could be a couple more weeks before anything changed. I’d already effectively had a month-long miscarriage – I couldn’t cope with any more. I needed this to be over.
There was no longer any doubt. I asked her to turn off the heartbeat monitor. I couldn’t handle the silence
Our technician this time was sweet, understanding and wonderful. She listened calmly and compassionately, even as I cried and struggled to explain the situation. She was just what I needed. When she did the abdominal ultrasound, we saw the gestational sac – measuring six weeks and one day. That’s when I knew, finally and absolutely, that there was no baby. It was gone, had been gone the whole time. She did check with an internal ultrasound, but there was no heartbeat and no growth. There was no longer any doubt. I asked her to turn off the heartbeat monitor. I just couldn’t handle hearing the silence.
She called my doctor there and then to let him know her findings. I said I was worried about miscarrying at home, as I’d started spotting very slightly. Usually, he carried out medical procedures on a Wednesday, and this was Thursday. He told me there was no way he would make me wait almost another full week – he’d perform the D&C the next day. He’d known us too long, and we had already suffered enough.
It felt unreal – dropping the girls off with my mother-in-law, driving to the hospital. I told Richard I wanted to key each and every car parked in the labor and delivery parking area. Everyone was so kind, and it was a relief not to have to go through our story again. They knew what had happened, why we were there. The nurse in pre-op said: “I’ve had one, too. I’m so sorry you’re going through it again.” I appreciated her openness, her empathy.
Afterward, at home, I slept a lot for the next few days. We were lucky to have fantastic family and friends, who looked after our girls and even brought us meals. The physical healing took around two weeks, but the emotional recovery is far longer. I have good days and bad days. Angry, bitter days. Happy days. Sometimes I can be optimistic about our future as parents; others, I can’t see myself ever wanting to try for another baby.
One thing I’ve realized is that nobody knows what to do or say, or how to act, when something like this happens
We’ve been told they won’t run any tests until I’ve had three miscarriages. If that weren’t such a terrible possibility, I would laugh – I can’t imagine having to go through this again before being taken seriously.
One thing I’ve realized is that nobody knows what to do or say, or how to act when something like this happens. Someone close to me learned she was pregnant shortly before I had the D&C and she was scared to tell me. She didn’t want to hurt me or make me feel even worse.
I’m grateful for her compassion. And yes, it is painful and difficult and heartbreaking to see or hear about other pregnancy announcements. I try not to feel bitter and resentful, but it’s hard. I would never wish this pain on anyone else, though.
Sometimes people say the wrong thing. “At least you know you can get pregnant.” “At least you already have two healthy children.” “At least the miscarriages happened early on.” “At least your young and can try again.” Or, my absolute favorite: “At least you’ve only had two.” Aren’t two miscarriages enough? Since when did pain and heartbreak become a competition?
Yes, I’m eternally grateful for my two healthy girls. Yes, I’m capable of getting pregnant. There’s no reason why I won’t in the future. Yes, I am young. There is plenty of time to try again. But what difference does any of that make if I can’t carry the baby to term?
I am truly grateful for all we have. For a family that cares and listens. For a husband that does the same
For now, I’m wondering if my body has stopped working properly. If Richard and I will only have two biological children when I know there’s a third that should be ours. It will be at least a year or two before we even explore this, though. The wound is still too raw, the fear too present, to think about trying again yet.
I am truly grateful for all we have. For a family that cares and listens, who take our girls and give us a break when we need it. For a husband that does the same. I am grateful for those friends who let me vent my anger bitterly when I feel the need. But I wish, so much, that I could have in my arms those two sweet babies who are now in heaven.
I need to be gentle with myself. When emotions flood my heart, I have to let myself feel them before I can work through them. It’s ok if I struggle to be happy for others who are pregnant. This is the grieving process, and it will take as long as it takes. There’s no right or wrong way, no time limit.
It’s a little scary to share my story so candidly, but I’ve found that miscarriage isn’t discussed very often. It’s still something of a taboo, even though so many women experience it. It’s less common to have two in a row, as I did. Just 2% of women will experience that. The numbers don’t matter, though. Whether you’ve had one, two or seven miscarriages, each loss is as real and relevant.
If you’ve experienced it, I am sorry. You aren’t alone, and you are allowed to work through your grief in any way that helps you. It wasn’t your fault. Your mind will try and convince you otherwise. Don’t listen.
Forgive those who are unintentionally hurtful and say the wrong thing. Understand those who don’t know how to reach out. Expressing sorrow is hard for some people, and many just don’t know how to react. It doesn’t mean they don’t love you.
Don’t be afraid to tell people what you need from them. You can get through this. I tell myself that every morning, and every time I see a pregnancy announcement. Be patient with yourself. Love yourself. And believe you will heal.