Trigger warning: Miscarriage
Miscarriages happen more frequently than we know—according to a paper published in 2018, most human pregnancies end in miscarriage, because miscarriages can occur before someone even knows they’re pregnant. And, according to WebMD, 15-25% of known pregnancies end in miscarriages.
But that’s not what it feels like. For many it feels like they’re all alone in the experience. That they did something wrong, that there’s actually something wrong with them.
A big part of that is the silence surrounding miscarriages. And when there’s silence around a traumatic experience, shame and stigma grows. But there is no reason to feel ashamed for having a miscarriage. Feelings of loss, sadness, anger, sure. But shame? Nah, sis, we’re not letting you do that to yourself.
In order to normalize this very common experience, we’ll be sharing resources and support to help destigmatize miscarriages, and telling the stories of women who have lived through them and gone on to create the families they’ve always wanted.
Women like Dominique Clayton, an arts manager and writer based in Los Angeles:
In 2010, I was in my late 20s living in New York. I had a very colorful artistic life with a lot of energy and a lot of people. My now husband and I had this whirlwind romance and found ourselves pregnant a few months after we moved in together. Having this pregnancy that I wasn’t necessarily planning was just another exciting thing going on in my life.
I wasn’t really thinking, “Do I want a midwife?” No one in my immediate circle had children. Even my committed relationship wasn’t something that was expected in my group of friends. We weren’t settled by any means and suddenly I was the opposite of that. I was in this marriage and creating a family now.
I looked in my insurance provider’s directory and arbitrarily found the closest OB. It was like a birth mill, there were so many women. It took forever to get the first appointment; they were very clinical—just bloodwork and tests.
‘What’s going to happen to my body?’ I wondered. ‘What does she mean, ‘It’s not looking too good?’
Her whole office had this busy vibe—you were in and out—and because of that she had this very brute, rushed bedside manner. She wasn’t really involved and didn’t appreciate that this was my first pregnancy experience.
At my second appointment, there were some differences in my hormone levels. She very abruptly told me, “Well, it’s not looking too good. Your levels should be here and they’re not, so I don’t think this is going to end well.”
She was so matter of fact, she must have assumed I’d been pregnant before.
“What do you even mean?” I asked. “What are you talking about?”
“Just prepare yourself,” she said.
I made the mistake of Googling everything: I lost hours of sleep seeing horrible stories, pictures, videos of miscarriage… What’s going to happen to my body? I wondered. What does she mean, “It’s not looking too good?”
‘This Woman Is Miscarrying’
I did not want to go back to her. Even if I wanted to, the next available appointment was far away; I didn’t even have her as a reliable resource.
So I distracted myself. I started getting bigger. I reached about 13, 14 weeks, and I thought I was fine. I sent an email to my friends: “Hey guys, I’m pregnant! This is the next chapter of my life, I’m really excited about it!”
One night, around the 15-week mark, I started having cramps. I went to a different doctor who was closer to my apartment.
“There’s a heartbeat,” she said. “Maybe this is not a miscarriage.”
But I said, “I think it might be because I’m bleeding and I’m cramping. It’s just not looking too good.”
I literally said what the other doctor had said weeks before.
I was admitted and sent to the emergency room. Another doctor confirmed my worst fears to her team: “This woman is miscarrying. There’s no heartbeat.”
All of these things happened quickly. It was this rush of, “Ok, we got to get the baby out. Is she actually going to give birth or do we need to go in?”
But I was already in the labor process and contracting.
I went into the bathroom and I just felt this urge to push, and that’s where that experience ended for me. I don’t really remember. The doctor gave me some drugs for the pain, and I kind of went to sleep, I guess.
I woke up and was laying in the bed. My husband was there.
“How do you feel?” he asked.
When the doctors came in to check on me, they said, “Whenever you’re ready to go home, just let us know.” It was all just done.
You’re not meant to see something like that in real life. It’s scary.
It felt like a huge, physical and emotional loss, like a gaping hole. Literally. The only thing I can compare it to is if you’ve ever seen a terrible car accident happen in front of you. You’re not meant to see something like that in real life. It’s scary.
It’s an out-of-body experience. I’m looking at some lifeless thing that was just inside of me. That part I wasn’t prepared for.
I felt very empty, and it was compounded by the fact that I had sent this celebratory email to my friends, had told my mother, told some of my closest coworkers. So that was hard. I took a week off of work—my boss sent me an email that said, “Take the time that you need to recover.”
A couple of friends had replied to the email, looking for an update. I sent an update a couple of weeks later to briefly state what had happened. People had already replied to my first email saying “Congratulations” and then I had to go back and correct them, and say, “No, this is not happening now.”
Some people didn’t reply after that.
Some people said, “Oh my god, I’m so sorry.”
I have a friend who went through this. One of my friends talked about her mother, someone who had multiple miscarriages and it’s normal. There were a couple of emails that were encouraging like that.
My husband and I were there for each other. It was emotional, but I feel like it definitely brought us closer together and our intentions of actually really wanting a child and growing a family were even more clear at that time.
We just kept thinking, How soon can we try?
We’ll share part two of Dominique’s story on Monday. Have you experienced miscarriages? You are not alone. Visit Sisters In Loss for support and resources. If you’d like to share your miscarriage story, email firstname.lastname@example.org.