When my husband and I first started trying for a baby we had some unexpected difficulties. My sister-in-law gave me the book, “Taking Charge of your Fertility” by Toni Weschler and right away I started charting my cycles, hoping we could help a baby come. After a few months of charting I was starting to get a feel for what was normal for me and so I was surprised when my period was a few days late. I noticed that my breasts were a bit more tender than usual and  I started to get hopeful that maybe a baby was on its way. Yet the next day my period came, a little heavier than normal. I bawled. It wasn’t just that I wanted a baby, it was that I felt I had just lost my baby. I didn’t know how to explain what I was feeling. I didn’t have any real proof that I was pregnant, I just knew that I had been. For two days I cried and I felt my loss keenly. The hardest thing was that I didn’t know if I was overreacting to a late period, or if what my soul had told me– that there had indeed been a tiny life conceived and then lost– was true. I didn’t tell anyone, except for my husband, about it because I didn’t want them to belittle my loss. Several years later I read Lani’s post about her early miscarriages and I felt so validated. I wanted to share it here because I feel like it is important to give voice to the things that a woman’s soul can know, even if there isn’t any physical “proof” of it. 

Here is what Lani said when I asked if I could share her post:

“I originally wrote this post in April of 2008 to provide comfort to women (like myself) who have lost a child very, very early in pregnancy, particularly those who never had “proof.” I found that there was so much support online for women with proven miscarriages but almost nothing for women like me, with only intuition. I felt driven (by God, I believe) to write my feelings in this post. And it has been so rewarding to see how many women have found great comfort in what I have written. I hope it may bring many more hearts peace.”

 

I have experienced what I believed to be two [now three] very early miscarriages in my past, both while actively trying to conceive. How do I know they were very early miscarriages and not just late periods? The truth is, I have no concrete scientific evidence. The only evidence I have is my own intuition that I was pregnant and beginning to experience my body’s pregnancy cues. I did not have positive home pregnancy tests to back-up my hunches. There are some who want to exclude me (and others who lack concrete proof of pregnancy) from the club of “true miscarriages.” They would dismiss our experiences as insignificant, make light of our anecdotal “proof” of pregnancy, or chuckle to themselves at our apparent “wishful thinking.” Unfortunately, for those experiencing very early miscarriages, finding understanding and comfort is no easy task.

Look up “miscarriage” in any pregnancy book or website and nearly all of them tell you the same thing: “If you suspect you are having a miscarriage, call your care provider immediately!” When I had my first miscarriage, I was frightened and a little panicked. Everything I had read led me to consider it a sort of emergency. So I called my health clinic to speak to a nurse for guidance. After waiting on hold, I explained that I thought I was having a miscarriage and wanted to know if I should come in. She asked me a few clarifying questions and concluded, “It sounds like it was probably just a late period.” I explained why I disagreed, and she said, “Well, if you want to do a pregnancy test, we can see if you were pregnant or not.” What good would a pregnancy test be now that the pregnancy was over? I was a bit rattled by her callous and abrupt manner. “Ok, um… so I don’t need to come in? Is there anything I need to do?” She seemed impatient to end the conversation and move on to a patient with a real crisis, “No, there’s nothing we can do for you.” Ouch. “Okay, bye.” Ouch.

The day my second miscarriage began, I stumbled upon a website with information and comfort for women experiencing pregnancy loss. I felt initially fortunate to have found the site and plunged right in expecting it to quell some of the ache in my heart. Ultimately, I left the site feeling worse than before (and angry to boot). In the section with answers for those who aren’t sure whether they were pregnant, I was bombarded with statements implying I was wrong to think I had experienced a miscarriage, that my “evidence” was only proof of my ignorance of female reproductive cycles and their quirkiness. A positive pregnancy test was the only valid ticket into the club. I felt ill as I read it. Comments sections of the site are filled with “Thank you so much” statements. I am certain this website has brought countless women comfort in times of great pain and loss. However, it was the opposite for me–a twisting knife in a wound that had only just begun to bleed. I was not welcome. Once again, the baby I was mourning the loss of was “just a late period.”

Speaking for myself, I can say that I know my body very well. I know my menstrual cycle very well. I’ve had late periods. And I know my body’s “pregnant” cues. I feel confident that my intuition was correct for both of my miscarriages. I have found that far too many in the medical community are slow to trust women’s intuition about their own bodies, particularly when it comes to pregnancy and birth. Ultimately, for a woman who believes she is experiencing a miscarriage after trying to conceive, whether or not it was an “actual pregnancy” is completely irrelevant. She believes she was pregnant, and that belief alone is all it takes to make that pregnancy real enough to be mourned when it is taken away. Telling this woman that her loss is not a real miscarriage will not be helpful to her.

In an interview with the Vancouver Sun, Linda Layne, author of Motherhood Lost, describes the “breathtaking insensitivity” toward miscarriage in western society. She says, “[T]he additional hurt that bereaved parents feel when their losses are dismissed and diminished by others is needless and cruel”(source). That is exactly how it felt to me–needless and cruel–when I was cast aside by those I looked to for comfort.

Fortunately, there are groups like M.E.N.D. where all varieties of pregnancy and infant loss are acknowledged. M.E.N.D. (Mommies Enduring Neonatal Death) is a Christian non-profit organization offering resources to families experiencing miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death. In a 1998 M.E.N.D. newsletter addressing miscarriage, Rebekah Mitchell explains:

I have found that society drastically minimizes early pregnancy loss. . . . As mothers, we are attached to our babies the moment conception is confirmed and sometimes even before fertilization occurs if the pregnancy was planned in advance. . . . Most of the parents who attend our M.E.N.D. share groups have either suffered a late term stillbirth or a neonatal death. But there is always at least one set of parents who have lost their baby to an early miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy. The grief is no different for any of the parents. . . . Occasionally, a mother who has miscarried will attempt to apologize for being there as if she didn’t belong. We never compare grief! Every parent who has lost a child deserves to mourn and have their grief validated. (source).

Reading these words was extraordinarily comforting as I mourned my second miscarriage, particularly after reeling from the exclusionary and insensitive words I had read elsewhere.

I want all women experiencing any form of pregnancy loss to feel validated. My heart goes out to all parents whose hopes and dreams slip away from them with each drop of blood, regardless of when that blood appears or whether it had a prelude of a positive pregnancy test. I honor your pain. I have known the loss you feel. It is not “just” anything. It is real. I hope to see a day when peace will be easier for us to find because compassion is easier to find as well.

Have you ever experienced a very early miscarriage? How did you know? What helped you deal with it?

4 Comments

  1. My first pregnancy ended in miscarriage at a little past five weeks, but I’d only known I was pregnant for about 2 days. I’d told a few friends in my ward, and they were all fantastically supportive. One brought me dinner that night, and another showed up the next day with some delicious chocolate cookies with M&Ms. My sister-in-law was the only family members who’d known I was pregnant, besides my husband of course, and she was also a wonderful support because she’d had a miscarriage a couple of years before and was still dealing with secondary infertility (she had two older kids). The two of us did lots of commiserating together! I also was working in the Provo temple at the time and stayed after my session to do some reflection…and who should walk in off a session but my aunt, who had had several miscarriages herself. Her words were the most helpful and healing.

  2. What a wonderful, thoughtful post. I experienced 2 very early miscarriages. I didn’t share that information with many people so couldn’t expect much sympathy. It was all just too soon and too personal. But despite the fact that I didn’t have positive pregnancy tests or ultrasounds to prove it, I knew I was pregnant, I knew what I lost, and I knew that the Lord was still in control.
    Much earlier I had a miscarriage at 11 weeks along — that one was accompanied by all the bells and whistles: a hospital stay, sympathetic doctors and nurses, flowers, meals in and a wonderful priesthood blessing that reminded me that my willingness to have a child meant as much to the Lord as actually giving birth. The memory of that blessing and the knowledge of the Lord’s mindfulness of me helped me cope with that loss and my other miscarriages too.

  3. Warning, may be a little graphic….

    I’ve had three known miscarriages (suspected an additional two). My second miscarriage was at 4 1/2 weeks. (we were trying for baby #3) It was traumatizing because the doctor was so patronizing! I’m rh- and my kids are rh+, so I thought I needed a rhogham shot. The doctor asked why I thought I was pregnant (+test, and we were trying), and why I thought I’d miscarried. Um, I had a previous miscarriage, and I had severe cramping and bleeding and passed tissue. He said that I needed to have a blood test to definitively determine loss of pregnancy, and the need for rhogham. Got the blood work done, had to go back in to see him a second time, and he said “you’re right, you were pregnant, and you do need a rhogham”. I later read on the internet that rhogham isn’t necessary until after six weeks. I determined right then that I wasn’t going to take a pregnancy test again until after I was two weeks late with my period. I’m pretty consistent with my cycle, and very in tune with my body. I believe that I had two more early miscarriages over the next 9 months, before I finally conceived my #3.
    I had my latest miscarriage last February. It was totally different. A very trying, painful, yet sacred experience. I was 11 1/2 weeks, and knew via ultrasound and blood tests, at 8 weeks that it wasn’t a viable pregnancy. I waited 3 1/2 weeks to miscarry naturally. When I went in for my rhogham the nurse was very kind, acknowledged my loss, and tried to validate my feelings by saying that it was the loss of a dream that I had for this baby. That fell so short of my experience! What about the spiritual loss? I haven’t seen that mentioned yet, anywhere. In my quiet moments, while still pregnant, I communed with the spirit of that baby! He told me his name. I felt his immense love for me, and excitement to be there with me! I felt his presence even before he was conceived, and almost constantly over the next month. I noticed when he left, but I attributed it to being upset (at happenings with extended family) and therefore being less spiritually sensitive and able to feel his presence.

    After 5 c sections, I finally got to have a ‘home birth’, which I had been longing for, though it was not quite the circumstances I wanted.

    So, to those who know that they have been pregnant through intuition, I totally believe you! And you may have felt the spirit of that baby, and keenly felt the loss of that association! Not only the loss of your “hopes and dreams”.

    How have I dealt with it? It’s varied. Avoidance. Anger. Bargaining with God. Crying and processing with my best girl friend, and my husband. Praying, soul searching, reading scriptures, journaling, priesthood blessings. (Once I even used herbs to help get my cycle back on track and alleviate the hormonal imbalance that was causing some depression.)

    I must say that it helps me to realize that God’s ways are not my ways, and that His plan is perfect, even if painful. And I try to find growth in the experience. As I look back over all my pregnancies, miscarriages, and births, I see tremendous personal and spiritual growth, and I realize that these trials were personalized for me, for my growth. And because of that I would do them all again.

  4. What a great post! I experienced a miscarriage at about 8 weeks and when I went to see my OB to confirm that I was miscarrying, they very bluntly told me that I hadn’t “been pregnant”, it was simply a blighted ovum. Um, excuse me? Without validating those hopes and dreams that had been very real for me, they told me that it hadn’t been “real”. I wish that medical professionals would learn how emotionally fragile women are regardless of when or how a miscarriage occurs. Please lend some credibility to our pain! Thanks so much 🙂

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