Last fall, my wife and I experienced a pregnancy loss. A few days ago Sarah asked if she could borrow the blog to share some of her thoughts on the experience, and I was happy to loan it out.
Jason and I are thrilled to be expecting twin boys in early November! We feel especially blessed because of the long road we had to get to this point. For two years we tried to get pregnant, but didn’t. Medical tests couldn’t explain to us why this was happening. For those two years, try as I might to be positive, I often felt a mixture of frustrated, disappointed, confused, angry, jealous, and heartbroken. I finally convinced myself that we were not called to have our own biological children and started to look into the process of adoption. Then we found out I was pregnant. We were overjoyed! We knew I was pregnant for six weeks, but they weren’t easy. There were signs that things weren’t going as they should, and finally at the end of October of last year, we lost our baby. It was devastating. It would be for anyone, but I was so angry and heartbroken that after all of our struggles we finally got pregnant only to have our baby die. I ranted a lot to God. We were blessed by an outpouring of love, support, and prayers from friends and family, which is the only way I could get up and function immediately after. Along with my deep sadness I also felt a deep sense of fear. What if that was our one chance? Who knows if we would ever get pregnant again? Knowing that it was physically possible gave me hope, but in a way that almost made me feel worse at that moment because it once again created a world of not knowing. I’m not great with not knowing. One of my constant life prayers is to have more trust in God. One thing we did know after our loss was the diagnosis of the cause of our infertility (finally). I’m not at all sure why it took so long for our diagnosis because what is wrong is incredibly common. As many as 5 million women in the US suffer from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), and it turns out that I’m one of them. PCOS can make it very difficult for women to get pregnant, but fertility medication can help increase the chances. Several months after our miscarriage I went to my doctor and got a prescription for medication… and the next month we found out we were pregnant again. I never thought it would work so fast. Actually, I had myself prepared that it wouldn’t work at all. I was too scared to get my hopes up. Now I’m almost 29 weeks pregnant with two healthy baby boys! I still miss our baby we lost. I will forever miss our baby. And I think I have had more fear throughout this pregnancy than I would have if we hadn’t had such a long journey to get here. But, I also think I’ve had more gratitude.
I’ve thought about writing about our experience for a while now. I thought it would be cathartic for me, but also felt a need to speak out. Infertility and pregnancy loss are more common than I realized, but they are rarely talked about. Twelve percent of women in the US suffer from infertility, and 10-25% of all clinically recognized pregnancies in the US end in miscarriage. I understand why we don’t talk about this - it is terribly painful - but, I hope that by speaking out I may help others know that they are not alone. I’ve also learned that some seemingly benign questions and statements can unknowingly be very hurtful for people who are suffering from infertility and pregnancy loss, so it would be kindest for us all to stop saying them. Things such as...
When are you going to have kids?
I always felt this was a personal question, so I only asked it of my very closest friends. Even then I phrased it something like, “Have you and your spouse talked about having kids?” because I didn’t want to assume that they wanted children. Not every couple does, and there is nothing wrong with that. Before our struggles began, this question simply seemed invasive to me when it came from those I was not close with, but afterwards it was actually quite painful. Because the answer was we didn’t know. We didn’t know if we would ever be able to have children, and that was heartbreaking.
Regarding infertility: At least the trying is fun! *wink wink*
Just no. Attempting awkward humor is embarrassing, and it belittles the suffering the couple is experiencing.
After a loss: At least you know you can get pregnant!
True, but I would have preferred not to have found this out by losing our baby. Getting pregnant is also not a guarantee of birthing a healthy baby.
After a loss: There must have been something wrong with the baby.
Yes, and we never ever would have wanted to our child suffer terrible pain for her entire life, but this is not a comforting sentiment when your baby just died.
To a pregnant woman: Is this your first child? (Even worse: Is this your first pregnancy?)
If you don’t know me well enough to know if I have other children, then this question is too personal to be asking, especially in public, especially when I’m at work. I wouldn’t have realized how painful it can be until we suffered our loss. Our twins are not our first children, though to the outer world it must seem like they are.
To a pregnant woman: Do you want a boy or a girl?
I think any woman would simply want a healthy baby, but this question felt especially insensitive to me after our loss.
To a pregnant woman: Horror stories of pregnancy, birth, and miscarriage.
I’m not sure why some women feel the need to share their own (or even their friend’s) difficult experiences with me. Is this their awkward way of trying to connect? To prove their strength? I’m not sure, but I’d very much prefer not to hear them because I have enough fears of my own! A friend of mine is a birth doula and suggested interrupting these women and politely saying, “If this isn’t a positive story, I’d prefer not to hear it.” At first I felt rude doing this, but I’m making myself because those negative stories are hard to shake off.
It can be hard to know what to say when someone is suffering. Throughout everything, I found the most helpful things were not words of advice but words of love and support. So, to those of you who are struggling with infertility or have suffered a loss, please know that I feel your pain and am sending love and prayers your way.