Every single time I am seen by a doctor and they recount my medical history, I have to hear those words: Gravida 8, Live birth 3. Most of you may be wondering what kind of score that is. Only if you have been in my pants will you know that it is possibly the saddest score that a woman can keep. The one that puts the number of her pregnancies side by side with the number of kids she actually has. Ideally, those numbers are the same. Any discrepancies, like in my case, mean that that woman has lost at least one pregnancy.
Did you already do the math? In my case they were five. Five lost pregnancies that I am actively reminded of every time I sit in a doctor’s office. Not that I need that much to remember them, but it still brings tears to my eyes every time I hear those words. Because those words make me feel like a failure. Like my body wasn’t able to keep the tabs. Like I did something wrong.
Most of my friends are finding out about it right now, while reading this. They may have wondered, or even asked why my kids are so far apart in age. It’s not that I have been necessarily shy about it, but I learned early on that miscarriage, especially early miscarriage, is something that’s better not to mention. Not because there is anything to hide, but because most people don’t know what to do when you mention it, and more often than not, they say the wrong thing. They are not trying to hurt you, on the contrary they are trying to comfort you. But at the end, they cause more pain, and on top of that, you are the one who ends up comforting them.
I have heard it all.
“It was for the better”
No, it wasn’t. A chubby baby would have been for the better
“For sure there was something wrong with the baby and your body took care of it”.
We’ll never know that. But as of now, you are already blaming my body and, by extension, myself for my miscarriage.
“You will have more kids”
I may. But they won’t replace the one I just lost.
“Have you tried to relax? You see, if you relax next time everything will go well”
Of course it will, as relaxation fixes everything, right? By the way, thank you for the extra blaming.
“You are lucky that it happened that early”
I am not lucky. I am having a fucking miscarriage. And I know that my pain is not comparable to the pain of a mom who losses a 26 weeker, or has a stillbirth, or loses a twelve year old. But it is still my pain, the one I am feeling here and now.
“You should quit breastfeeding”
No, I shouldn’t. Breastfeeding has nothing to do with miscarriage, except for a few rare cases. More blaming, anyone?
“They were trials to practice for the beautiful babies that you had afterwards”
This one just left me speechless.
“You were not really pregnant”
Sure, six weeks is not a real pregnancy. I didn’t get real positive pregnancy tests, I didn’t feel real excitement, and I hadn’t developed real feelings for this baby. Funny enough, this one came from my own mom.
So, after the first two losses, I decided to spend them under a duvet, with the sole company of a good book. Because, honestly, there was nothing in the world that could have consoled me at that moment when I knew that I was losing a very wanted baby.
It is been more than six years since my first miscarriage, but I can still tell you when each of them happened.
The first one started in an outlet mall. While eating ice cream at Cold Stone with my husband and two year old boy.
The second started at Fullerton beach, with my niece, my husband and my toddler. We went for lunch to RJ Grunts. Then I went to the ER. It was awful, and being the guinea pig of two clumsy OB/GYN residents made me promise myself that I would never step in an ER during a loss again.
The third happened shortly after, during my best friend’s baby shower. I made sure not to wear white pants, which was my planned outfit, just in case.
The fourth happened while I visited said friend and her baby in the hospital. As soon as she saw me enter the room she knew. She understood. She handed me her baby girl, in a very daring move. It went the right way, and holding that tiny, warm, and helpless girl gave me endless comfort.
The fifth started at the park, where I was with my first rainbow baby. Rainbow babies are the ones who are born after their mom has a miscarriage. The calm after the storm. Very fitting.
They all happened between the 6th and 7th week. Very early, you may say. And that is right. But when you are monitoring your fertility you find out by week three. That is four full weeks of emotion, attachment, love, excitement. I considered at once to ignore the fact that I was pregnant so I could avoid the heartbreak if things didn’t go right. But I rejected it fast enough. It didn’t seem fair to give up on the baby from the beginning. If not even their mom was rooting for them, how were they going to stay? So I gave them my all every single time. All five of them.
We never really found out the cause. Sometimes you don’t. And I have made peace with that. At least our doctor found a loop and a way to increase our chances of keeping them in.
I have been lucky to find a fantastic specialist who helped me have my two beautiful rainbow babies, on top of the one that I already had. I have been lucky to belong to a group of women who opened up right after I told them about my first loss and shared theirs, which made me feel less isolated, less guilty, less broken. They made me stop questioning what I had done wrong, what could I do differently next time, why my body wasn’t working. They made me stop blaming myself. I have been lucky to have a supportive partner who has respected my boundaries and timing, and has given me the space to process this
But I will never forget the five babies that I don’t have, and a day doesn’t go by that I don’t have a thought for them.
As you read this, hundreds of women are having pregnancy losses. Considering that at least 1 in 5 pregnancies ends in a miscarriage in the US, with some studies raising that percentage to 50%. You surely know more women than you think who have gone through this. And, most likely, they have gone through it alone. In silence. Sometimes even in shame.
After all, we have been told to keep it quiet until week 12, until things settle, right? That is thought as a good rule of thumb so you don’t have to explain to a lot of people what you are going through. But at the same time it also prevents all those who surround you from having to face the uncomfortable moment when you share your sad news. And it makes women feel more isolated. Feel like there is something to hide. And that is a shame. Because they could use some company. And a hug.
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month. If you want to honor it, consider donating to this UIC fund that raises money to advance the research on RPL (Recurrent Pregnancy Loss). You can click here to do so.
And if you want to read more about my experience, I used to write a blog about my journey towards a VBAC that ended up taking me through a very different road than the one I had planned.
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If you want to contact me, you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.