What It’s Like To Have A Miscarriage
Written By: Brianna Snyder
Miscarriage and pregnancy loss are prevalent in the United States—10 to 25 percent of pregnancies will be miscarried—but it’s not something you’ll hear very much about.
Because October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, we wanted to talk to someone who’s lived through the frightening and lonely experience of miscarriage. Common etiquette dictates women to not share the news of their pregnancies in the first trimester—just in case of a pregnancy loss. In other words, it’s a system built to silence those who’ve experienced this sometimes traumatic event.
Pure Healthy Living talked to Jen, who asked that her last name be withheld for privacy reasons, about her miscarriage 10 years ago.
PHL: Let’s start right at the beginning. When was your miscarriage?
JEN: January of 2008.
PHL: And how far along were you?
JEN: 12 weeks.
PHL: So what happened right before you miscarried?
JEN: I went to the regular appointment that you’re supposed to go to hear your baby’s heartbeat. That’s so you can tell people you’re pregnant officially. I hadn’t told anyone at all.
So when I went to my midwife to have that test, she couldn’t really hear the heart. But she was like, “Oh, we have this crappy old-school equipment. You should go get an ultrasound [at the hospital] so they can see it better.” I was freaked out but not really. She made it seem like no big deal.
She booked [the ultrasound] for the next day and I knew [my husband] couldn’t go because he had to work. We thought, “Oh, this is probably nothing.” I called my best friend, who had had a miscarriage, I was like, “I had a weird appointment. They can’t hear the heartbeat. Should I be freaked out?”
She said no but she arranged childcare and said, “I’m gonna go with you.” I said, “Why? Are you worried?” She said, “No. As like insurance. I’ll go with you so nothing will go wrong.” We went the next day to the appointment and immediately when the tech started [the ultrasound], immediately her face looked different. When I had gotten there she was so cheery and bubbly. But now I could tell something was wrong.
She wouldn’t say it. They won’t tell you. She was like, “OK. OK. Hmm.” And she was doing it for a very, very long time.
PHL: Did you ask her what was wrong?
JEN: I was like, “What’s going on?” and she said, “I need a better picture.” She went to a vaginal ultrasound and I was like, “Oh, this isn’t sounding like good news.” It was a very different vibe than when we started. They sent me back out to the waiting room, where my friend was. She said, “What’s going on?” and I was like, “I think it’s going bad.”
PHL: Ugh. So then what?
JEN: They had me meet with the midwife, who told me the baby had died--and had been dead for three weeks. They thought the baby had died around Christmas.
PHL: How were you feeling?
JEN: I was totally numb. It just seemed unreal. And then when I went down to the midwife practice my midwife wasn’t there. This woman came out who I’d never met before. She introduced herself to me and said, “I’m so sorry this is how we’re meeting.” She told me the baby had died and laid out my options.
PHL: Did they say what may have caused it?
JEN: They said there’s no way of knowing. But that it was nothing I did. This happens all the time and there’s just no way of knowing.
PHL: What were your options?
JEN: I could go in and get a D&C—have the baby removed. Or eventually I would just have a miscarriage, they said.
They said I could have the weekend to think about it. It was Friday afternoon of a holiday weekend and I knew I needed to pick up my daughter from daycare. They said it doesn’t need to be decided right now, this baby’s been dead for a while. The thought of that creeped me out.
I went home and then I had a miscarriage on Saturday morning at home. There was nothing to do at that point. There was nowhere to go, nothing to do.
PHL: So you didn’t really have to decide after all.
PHL: What was the miscarriage like?
JEN: It was like my water broke. And there were just buckets of fluid gushing out of my body. It was chunks of matter--gross, horrible. Kind of like if you had an explosive stomach problem.
PHL: Was it painful?
JEN: Yeah. Really the worst cramps. And then this explosion feeling.
I had asked [arranged childcare] for my daughter on Saturday just to give myself a break. An hour after she left, it started. So the timing was good but it was horrible.
I was in the bathroom crying myself sick over it. And [my husband] was in the hallway not sure what to do. I didn’t want anyone near me. It was stupid because I didn’t tell anyone I was pregnant because I didn’t want to jinx myself.
PHL: So you were left by yourself to grieve.
JEN: Yeah. I took a week off work because I didn’t feel good. But I still had another child and I had to take care of her. I had to wake up every morning and make her breakfast and take her to school. What else are you gonna do? You’re physically better and it seems like you should just get back to work. My due date was July 24 or something and I think I felt [bad] up until my due date passed.
Also, I lost the baby right around the time Heath Ledger died, which sounds weird but it was doubly depressing. I really liked Heath Ledger. I was like, “And Heath Ledger, too? Jesus Christ.” [Laughs.]
I had never given my baby a name so in my mind the baby is always Heath Ledger.
PHL: That’s funny.
JEN: It was such a weird thing.
PHL: Did the hospital or your midwife offer support?
JEN: They asked about my social support, whether I had friends and family to talk to. I had a best friend who had a miscarriage at five months, which was way worse than mine. She had to deal with much worse consequences--like her milk coming in--and she had to have a procedure. It was way worse for her and she’d gone through it before me so I had her to talk to. I think maybe because I had an older child I didn’t feel like I had a lot of room to grieve it or be sad or upset about it.
But then I got pregnant with [my second daughter] around the 4th of July so right around my due date was when I confirmed I was pregnant again.
PHL: How has that experience affected you in the 10 years since it happened?
JEN: I would say I still think about it but not as much. And maybe it helped having another baby afterward. That definitely helped. I think I did tell my father that I had lost the baby and he told a lot of people, which is really annoying. The upside of his telling a lot of people was that soon afterward my younger sister had a miscarriage and she felt she could come to me.
It’s another life experience that makes you more compassionate with other people. I’m sure millions of people have miscarriages and never talk about it. Also, it doesn’t feel as tragic to me because I ended up with two kids.
Other people feel like they have more closure. They have a ceremony or an ornament. I did not do anything like that.
PHL: Do you wish you had?
JEN: I feel a little guilty. I thought maybe I was being weird that I didn’t do anything.
But also the fact that the baby had already died well before I found out-- I think the fact that I was walking around being pregnant with a baby that had died... it really freaked me out. It really bothered me. That’s what I found most disturbing. So I didn’t really want something to remind me of it.