Statistically, up to 15 per cent of pregnancies end up in a miscarriage. One mum shares her miscarriage experience with us...
When it comes to miscarriage, there seems to be an unspoken taboo about the subject. But I know many women had suffered from a miscarriage in the past but just never talked about it. In fact, according to the World Health Organisation, between 10 and 15 per cent of pregnancies end up in a miscarriage. That is only the ones that have been recorded; many are unaccounted for.
If you have recently suffered from a miscarriage, I am terribly sorry for your loss. I know telling you the statistic would not help you feel better, so I hope my story will give you some comfort.
My miscarriage story
My first pregnancy was not planned. It was an accident – or a surprise, to put it nicely. When I found out I was pregnant, I was unprepared but happy. On the other hand, my husband was in sheer panic, as he was not mentally ready to be a father.
I still remember my first ever ultrasound and when I first heard my baby’s heartbeat. It was the most overwhelming feeling I had. Knowing and hearing that a life is growing inside me brought tears to my eyes. It was magical. It pushed any doubt I had about this pregnancy, and I was excited and ready to be a mum. (Meanwhile, my husband was pissing himself and panicking!)
Being my first pregnancy and not very traditionally Chinese, I didn’t believe in or pay much attention to all those Chinese superstitions. My friends and family knew that I was pregnant before I was 12 weeks in. I drank cold drinks all the time. I carried heavy things and was still very active. I even went to a funeral to pay my respects to a dear family friend (in Chinese culture, pregnant women are advised against attending such events). I was very blasé about it because having a miscarriage didn’t even cross my mind!
On top of that, I had all the early pregnancy symptoms: fatigue, terrible morning sickness, and weird cravings… you name it, I had it. So I never even considered that there was anything wrong with my pregnancy.
The day we found out
Then came my 12-week ultrasound check-up. I was very excited to see the baby again, and my husband had already begun to wrap his head around the pregnancy. The doctor did the first ultrasound on my stomach. She moved the pulser around for a while, before telling us she would do a transvaginal ultrasound (the one that they stick up your vagina!) for a better view. At that point, it didn’t even click in my mind that something was wrong. I just thought the baby must be in a weird position. After the second scan, she told me to put my clothes back on and have a chat in her office. I thought it was strange at that point, but this was a different OB-GYN to the one that I saw the last time, so I figured this was how she ran her clinic.
When she sat us down, she calmly told us that she could not find a heartbeat… we had lost our baby. My heart stopped, tears welled up in my eyes, and I just broke down. To be honest, I didn’t remember much of what she said as I wasn’t really listening at that point. The only thing I remembered her saying was, “It’s not your fault. You’ve done nothing wrong.”
At that moment, I didn’t realise those were the most comforting words I could hear because all I wanted to do was cry.
Accepting my miscarriage
Like any loss in life, I went through the seven steps of grief:
1. Shock and denial
For the first two weeks, I had hoped the doctor had read the ultrasound wrong. I still have all the pregnancy symptoms, and I wasn’t bleeding. I was told that my body would pass out the fetus like a normal period but gunkier… which never happened.
2. Pain and guilt
The heartache and guilt came instantly. After the initial shock and tears, I was riddled with guilt. I started questioning myself. Was it my fault? Did I do something wrong to cause this? Did my body fail me? Was it because I went to the funeral? Was it because I had one too many cold drinks? Did I jinx it because I told people before the 12 weeks?
3. Anger and bargaining
I was mainly angry with myself. Angry that I didn’t listen to my mother, angry that my baby didn’t survive, and angry that my husband wasn’t excited about the pregnancy. I remember saying to him: “You must be relieved that I lost the baby.” But he wasn’t. He was as heartbroken as I was; he just processed it differently than I did. I pleaded with God to grant me a miracle for the baby to have a heartbeat again.
4. Depression, loneliness, and reflection
This came when I had to go to the hospital to get the fetus out. I was having bad stomach cramps about four weeks after the miscarriage. The fetus still hadn’t passed out, so I had to go to the hospital to remove it. I opted for the medication method, which I wouldn’t recommend in hindsight. The medication causes your uterus to contract and push out the fetus. It was both painful and unpleasant. As you don’t know when the medication will take effect, I was all alone and in pain when it finally happened. The nurses at the public hospital were not very nice about it either, making the whole experience even more depressing.
In reflection, I should have opted for the operation and gotten it over and done with quickly and – most importantly, painlessly. My friends who went for the operation didn’t feel a thing.
5. Upward turn
This is different for everyone, but for me, writing about it and talking to friends helped me heal. The more I talked about it, the more I accepted it and realised there was nothing I could have done to prevent it. It was a good way for my brain to process the loss and for me to release the pain that was building up inside me.
The best thing I got out of this experience was that it made my husband realise how much he wanted to be a dad. After this experience, we knew we were both ready to be parents.
7. Acceptance and hope
This experience brought my husband and me closer together because it made us realise how much we wanted a family together. We also kept reminding ourselves that we were still young and had time to try again. This gave us hope that we would have a family of our own one day.
My biggest challenge: dealing with what people said
When you tell people about your miscarriage, you’ll come across an array of comments. Some are comforting, some are not. Just know that people are not trying to upset you or belittle your feelings; most people don’t know what to say in this situation.
The most common responses are:
“It is very common. I know so many people who have gone through it.”
“You lost it early, so it is not so bad.”
“What do you think you did to cause it?”
“You are young; you can just try again.”
“I am sorry for your loss.”
But for those who know someone who just went through a miscarriage, the most comforting response is: “I am really sorry for your loss. You have done nothing wrong, and I am here for you.”
Whether the pregnancy was planned or unplanned, losing a baby is still devastating. We all handle grief differently, but just know that whatever you are feeling, they are valid. No matter how you feel or how you are handling the loss, a loss is a loss, so don’t ever let anyone tell you how you should or shouldn’t handle it. Give yourself time and allow yourself to process these feelings because only then can we accept them and move on.
Moving on after my loss
Do you ever get over a loss? I think that is a very personal question that only you can answer. But one thing’s for sure – time heals all.
It’s been seven years since I miscarried, and I can still clearly recall the experience. Is it as painful for me to think about it now? No, because I have dealt with the loss, accepted it, and moved on. But it’s definitely never forgotten. Here’s what I did to help me move on:
1. Learning about the science and knowing it’s not my fault
The most common feelings women have after a miscarriage is self-blame and guilt. After all, I’m the one carrying the baby. So I felt all the weight of the miscarriage on me. This feeling stopped once I started reading up about why miscarriages happen. Knowing that most miscarriages occur because the fetus isn’t developing as expected gave me comfort because I could finally stop blaming myself for what happened.
About 50 per cent of miscarriages are associated with extra or missing chromosomes. Most often, chromosome problems result from errors that occur by chance as the embryo divides and grows — not problems inherited from the parents.
2. Talking about it with other women who had similar experiences
No one’s experience will be exactly the same as yours. But talking to someone who had gone through something similar helped. When I talked to my friends who had also miscarried, it helped a lot. I felt they were the only ones who truly understood how I felt. We just had a mutual understanding of the pain, guilt, grief, and all the other feelings in between. And it brought comfort knowing I am not alone.
3. Getting pregnant again
When I finally got pregnant again, I was both nervous and excited. Excited that after three long years, we finally managed to get pregnant again, but also super nervous because we were so scared of losing the baby. When my son was born, that was my final step toward healing. Not only is he the best gift ever, but knowing that I was able to have a full-term pregnancy without any problem was the best validation that my body did not fail me.
To all the women who have gone through or are going through a miscarriage, I want to let you know that I am terribly sorry for your loss. I know it is one of the most painful experiences you have gone through. Get the support you need, and just know that you are not alone in this journey. I cannot tell you how long it will take to heal, but you will because you are strong and resilient, and you will get over this.
Time heals all.