Guest post written by Meg Blancato
In May of 2017, my husband and I decided to start a family. Always having wanted to be parents, we made the decision with conviction and excitement! Months passed, and I wasn’t getting pregnant. Each month, it grew harder and harder, but we prayed for patience and understanding that our time would come.
In January of 2018, I got my first positive pregnancy test, and the worrying and waiting melted away- we made it! We were pregnant! We bought baby blankets, we told friends, we talked about shower dates and when we’d start decorating the nursery. My first ultrasound was positive. There was a heartbeat and baby looked good! I went back at 10 weeks to do blood work and have an another ultrasound. For some reason I was very nervous for this ultrasound and had told my husband so. As soon as the image came up on the screen, he said “everything’s okay babe, I see the baby!” The ultrasound tech was silent for what seemed like minutes but might have been a few seconds. She clicked a few buttons, measuring the baby, and then said “Baby stopped growing at 8 weeks, 3 days. I’m sorry, there’s no heartbeat.”
We both started crying, I got dressed, and was asked to go into my doctors office and wait for her. She came in and said she was so sorry, that I did nothing wrong and that I should go home immediately to rest. She would call me with the “next steps”.
I had what is called a silent miscarriage meaning the baby’s heart stopped beating without any physical sign. It’s hard to summarize the emotions and what is was like to process that, but to say it was hard and heartbreaking is a drastic understatement. I felt embarrassed by the nearly two weeks I had spent thinking I was carrying a healthy pregnancy- sharing with friends, planning, talking to my stomach. Three pregnancies later, and I still have a hard time trusting my body because it felt like a betrayal. How could my body not let me know the baby I was carrying wasn’t alive?
Because my body didn’t expel the pregnancy on its own (another thing I felt shame about), I had a D&C a few days later.
After my body had healed, we started our journey again and couldn’t believe our blessing to have another positive pregnancy test within a couple months! Cautiously optimistic, I walked through this pregnancy in prayer with dietary alterations, supplement support, additional blood work and a close eye from my doctor. Surprisingly, I didn’t feel too nervous. I had heard at that point about a lot of women I knew miscarrying once and going on to have a healthy pregnancy, and I just felt that would be my journey. I felt so truly grateful, humbled and excited for this baby!
After a positive early ultrasound at 6 weeks, the 8 week ultrasound revealed that once again the baby’s heart no longer beat inside my belly.
The first miscarriage shocked us and broke our hearts, but the second left us feeling angry and empty. What was wrong? Why was this happening?
The reaction from friends and family was different too. The first miscarriage brought flowers and food, the second brought questions and doctor referrals. I knew people were confused as well and trying to help. It was all just so different.
The thoughts then crept in of – will I ever carry a healthy baby? Is there something unfixable with my body?
This put me into a very challenging time of my life, one of the most challenging times I’ve ever experienced. I was distraught, untrusting, resentful. Like dominos, more and more people in my life got pregnant and I just felt broken and alone. I cried myself to sleep more nights than I can count.
Just a couple weeks after finding out we were pregnant the second time, my sister and her husband told us they were expecting their third child! She was due two weeks after me, so our babies would be almost the same age and we would get to be pregnant together!
After the joy of their news sunk in, I remember the fleeting thought cross through my mind, “oh gosh, it would be so hard if I miscarry again and she gets to stay pregnant.”
Two weeks later, when we found out the baby in my belly had no heartbeat, it was one of my first thoughts. How could I watch her be pregnant while I grieved? When I called to tell her, I remember her saying through sobs “I’m so sorry you have to watch me be pregnant.” I didn’t want her to feel guilty about her joy just like she didn’t me to hide my grief, but it was such a hard thing to navigate.
My sister and I are so close; closer than nearly any other sister combo I’ve ever met or heard of. Just as the news of her baby gave us both so much joy, the news of mine broke our hearts. We talked about it several times, processing together, trying to understand the other, protect the other, support the other.
5 months later, I found out I was pregnant a third time. The first thing I said was, “please God, let us keep this baby.” I jumped into action, doing a slew of things to support this pregnancy and whether or not it was anyone one of these things, or this pregnancy would have been healthy on its own, by the grace of God – I stayed pregnant. In September of 2019 we welcomed our double rainbow baby, Poppy June, our beautiful rainbow after the storm.
Throughout my journey, a constant theme I’d heard is “why doesn’t anyone talk about this?” You so commonly hear about the positive pregnancy tests and affirmative ultrasounds because no one mentions the pregnancies that might have come and gone before without ceremony. Approximately 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, yet it remains a quiet, unspoken, almost shameful thing.
There have been a few women on social media who have been very open about their journey with miscarriage and infertility, and that felt like such a lifeline to me while I was feeling so isolated. It gave me the tiniest comfort to realize I wasn’t alone, I wasn’t broken. I decided if my story makes one other woman feel less alone, it was worth it. So I shared, and then I shared a lot. I reached out to anyone who I heard went through a similar experience and talked as openly about it as I could. To feel less alone and make others feel less alone.
Talking about my journey to become a mom is something I feel so passionately about because I know other women have, are and will experience something similar, and I want so badly for them to know they’re not alone, there’s nothing wrong with them and there’s more to their story. You will never forget the pain, it will shift your view on everything, and one day, life will look so different.
Things to avoid saying to someone who has miscarried or who is in a season of waiting and trying to conceive:
•”It’s so common” – Yes, miscarriage and infertility are common, but leading with something along the lines of “this happens all the time” can make the person going through it right then feel like their grief isn’t valid. To them in that moment, it’s the biggest thing in their world. It has completely turned their world inside out and upside down, so to make them feel like it’s commonplace only intensifies the feelings.
•”You’re so lucky it’s just the two of you” – this was a funny one, but I was surprised how many people would act like us not having kids yet or the time we got after miscarrying was like fun bonus time. Yes, I am so grateful for the time my husband and I got as a couple before becoming parents, but I don’t think of being “lucky” during the nearly 2 years we waited for children and experienced 2 miscarriages.
•”Oh you don’t want kids?” when they heard we didn’t have them yet. There’s a mentality in our society that if you wanted kids, you’d have them. Assuming a couple (or woman, because this isn’t a question men get as much) doesn’t want kids can lead to a lot of pain when they/ she want them so badly without success.
•”The baby [or pregnancy] probably wasn’t healthy anyway.” – it’s also true that a reason for miscarriage is that your body recognizes an issue with the baby or pregnancy and therefor abandons it, but this again lead to feelings of shame. Why did my body create an unhealthy pregnancy?
•”At least it was early” – of course, there is a huge difference in losing a baby at 10 weeks vs. 20 weeks vs. at birth; however, when you see that positive pregnancy test, you immediately envision how your life will change. You think of when the baby will be born, how that will affect work or how old your other children will be when the baby is born. You don’t expect to be pregnant and then not so soon so “an early loss” doesn’t feel like a consolation when you’re world is completely shattered.
In no way, shape or form would I ever want someone to quell the joy of finding out they‘re pregnant. It’s such a gift and should be celebrated fiercely.
Before I started my family planning journey, I didn’t think much of when I’d hear a woman say, “I got pregnant right away”. It sometimes surprised me a little but then I’d move on without too much thought.
After several months of trying to get pregnant without success and watching people around me do so then announce their timeline felt like tiny paper cuts in my stomach.
Every time I heard “it was the first month” my heart broke a little. Why wasn’t this happening for me? What was wrong with me?
Things to be mindful of saying if you conceived with ease:
•We got pregnant “right away, the first month, or without trying.” – to conceive easily is a miracle and something that certainly comes with a mix of emotions- joy, pride, overwhelm. I can imagine that if you weren’t planning to get pregnant, how that would be a huge part of your narrative when sharing the news; how if you conceived right away, there would be a sense of pride that you had achieved your dream so quickly! However, leading with statements like these can sometimes make couples who are not so lucky feel self conscious, disappointed, and ashamed. I’m not saying that you should lie or hide the truth, but perhaps think about why or how you’re saying that/ what company you’re in before you do. You might not know who’s struggle to conceive behind closed doors. Perhaps try instead: “This was such a joyful surprise!” or “We were grateful to conceive quickly.”
•”It’s a ___, but I wanted a ___” – I understand that people sometimes have a preference for a boy or girl, but saying so openly that you’d rather have a different sex than what you’d been given when some are waiting so patiently for a healthy baby at all can seem brash.
Things to say or do when someone you know miscarries:
In our society, there is such little ceremony or honoring when someone miscarries. It is a loss, a death, a passing, a grave and very sad day for a family. Showing your love and support means the world.
•Send food or a treat
•Send a note or message that says “I’m so sorry for your loss. I love you.”
•Send something cozy – a robe, a book, tea
•Find a way to honor the baby – you can plant a tree or make a donation in the family’s name
•Check in on the woman or family for a while after. This goes for any loss, most people go back to their daily lives quickly and forget the person who experienced the loss is still grieving.
If you have or are currently experiencing a prenatal loss or an infertility journey – be kind to yourself. Honor your feelings and have patience. You are whole and perfect, and there is more to your story.
If someone in your life is experiencing a prenatal loss or an infertility journey – my advice is to be mindful, be kind, and ask them about it. Honor the loss or the challenge of their journey, and strive to make them feel less alone. Miscarriage and infertility are so delicate and specific to each woman/family who experience them, what they need might vary.
Although this has been an incredibly painful road to walk, I’m grateful for the opportunity to share my story so that others may feel less alone, and so that if one day someone you love walks a similar path, you might know how to love them through it.