Today, October 15, is World Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. It is estimated that 1 in 4 women will lose a baby during pregnancy, delivery, or infancy. To shine a spotlight on these experiences and help us grow in our understanding of how to help these moms, I’m grateful that a colleague has offered to share her story.
Tell me a little bit about yourself, your family, and your therapy practice.
I am a 36-year-old Latina and mother to two children: a daughter who is 3 1/2 and a son who is 1 year old. I have been happily married to my high school sweetheart for 9 years.
I began my private practice in 2015 when I was pregnant with my daughter. I saw a few clients here and there while I maintained a part-time position at a nonprofit agency. I continued to do this until I became pregnant with my son in early 2018. I had terrible nausea with him— along with caring for a toddler and a newborn that would soon arrive, I chose to stop seeing clients at that time. I stopped working altogether and have not returned to work since early 2018.
I have been at home raising my two children while my husband is employed full time and able to financially care for the family. I hope to return to private practice within the year, and my goal is to become certified in perinatal health.
Please share your story about your journey to motherhood.
My husband and I married around the age of 27 but it wasn’t until around the age of 30 that we agreed we were ready for children. In the early stages of our marriage he was finishing up grad school, we were both securing full time salary jobs, purchasing our first home, and paying off debt and knew we wanted to wait until all of that was out of the way. We are both perfectionists and we calculate our moves to achieve the best results as much as possible.
I became pregnant pretty much immediately as soon as I stopped birth control. It was scary at first because while we said we would be ready, we didn’t fully think it would happen quickly— so it was shocking. My husband was thrilled. We went to our first doctor appointment not knowing what to expect AT ALL. Do they do ultrasounds? How far along was I? I couldn’t really remember the first day of my last menstrual cycle. So when the doctor’s first piece of feedback was “I am not seeing what I would like to be seeing”, I was completely dazed. Confused, heartbroken, and just in complete shock. No one even knew we were pregnant yet. The doctor went over the miscarrying options (D&C, natural, etc) and said she would check my progesterone to be even more certain miscarriage was inevitable, although she already didn’t seem to have a doubt.
After the ultrasound, my husband and I were both in so much shock, but we kissed each other, said our words, agreed to wait and see what the progesterone tests showed, and went off to work. Of course, “work” for me was to go see clients. I was in such a daze and in denial perhaps. I cried hard on the way to work, sucked it up, and went in. I didn’t tell ANYone— not that day. I took a few days to gather my head, and once the progesterone showed what we expected, then I told the people closest to me and my parents. And mind you, I have a GREAT and AMAZING support system. But I still bottled up my feelings.
I ended up miscarrying naturally at home and it was AWFUL. I ended up in the ER and, well, I miscarried. It was just awful in every way. The doctor did not give me an idea of what it would and could entail to miscarry on your own. I wish she had. The ER experience was traumatizing, I fainted for the first time in my life, and the follow-up sucked too because I had to get multiple ultrasounds to ensure I ‘passed’ everything.
Once it was all done, I carried on with life as normal. Only a few very, very close people to me knew. I continued working. I think I only took off the day of the ER and the next day. The doctor told me to just try again a month after getting my period again and said it’s “very unlikely to happen again.”
Well, it DID happen again. I got pregnant RIGHT away once again and we were thrilled. In some ways, it almost felt to me as if this was going to erase the pain from the previous miscarriage. Like, “Well, I’m having a baby now so the miscarriage was just a fluke and ‘it happens to so many women.’” I kept it quiet from others again because I needed confirmation from an ultrasound first. The first ultrasound was super early (5 weeks along) because I was so anxious. So many places won’t see you that early, but my OB did, and even detected a heartbeat. I was so happy. To me that was confirmation that everything was going to be okay (according to Dr. Google). I continued to be pregnant for another 3-4 weeks before I began spotting. That was terrifying, but I was told over the phone not to worry unless it was heavy. Well, I kept spotting until one day it just felt wrong. It was heavier and I just knew it was bad. I went to the ER (hello PTSD!) and got confirmation it was once again going to end in miscarriage. Now it felt like the weight of the world on top of me. The very FIRST thing I said to my husband was “Something is wrong with me. “
I went through with a D&C (one thing I was definitely sure about after having had my natural miscarriage trauma) and found that the physical healing process was easier. However, psychologically and emotionally I was at my most depressing point in life. I was so fearful that I would not be able to carry a full term baby. Also, during this time I had a very close friend who had major fertility issues including IVF that failed.
What supports, resources, treatments, etc have been helpful to you in making sense of or recovering from your experiences?
I went through my own therapy (EMDR to be exact) and it was incredibly helpful. I saw an acupuncturist and got some extra tests from my OBGYN (a new one— I had a change of insurance after my D&C and went to a new practice with AMAZING doctors. My new OBGYN was incredibly supportive and reassuring). I journaled, took a vacation with my husband, and shared my feelings with close relatives and friends. I then went on to have my two healthy kids.
The therapy, acupuncturist, friends/family members, and journaling were all really helpful in my process. EMDR helped deal with the trauma that was miscarrying and what narratives I was holding on to. Therapy helped me grieve, release some suppressed emotions, and gave me a sense of hope. My therapist opened up on the first day that she had also miscarried once, and while some therapists may judge that or have decided not to do that themselves, it was absolutely helpful and validating to hear that.
What else would you like others to know that could help us care for moms in similar situations?
I think it is helpful to know that there is a large spectrum when it comes to journey to parenthood. I went from miscarrying to thinking I will not be able to have a baby. I thought I would keep miscarrying, but that is just not the case for everyone. You really don’t know what is going to happen next and its easy to jump to negative conclusions when you are scared.
Be present, be kind, and really assess how the trauma of miscarrying (both physical and psychological) continues to impact them. Many individuals feel their time is ticking so they just want to rush to the next step on how to become a mother (especially if they have no other children), but taking the time to assist them in grieving this loss and processing that trauma will only help facilitate their transition to motherhood when the time arrives.
Many thanks to this colleague and other women who bravely share their stories so others don’t feel alone when they experience pregnancy loss. If you have experienced pregnancy or infant loss and need some extra support, I would love to join you on your journey of healing. Please contact me for an intake session today.