Miscarriage is a topic that is not often spoken about. Unless it has touched your life it can be quite easy to think it isn’t so common. Until I experienced one myself even I had no idea just how many women I knew had also been through this painful experience.
The statistics say one in four women will experience a miscarriage. To get a feel for that number, next time you’re in a yoga class, cast your eyes gently around the room and imagine every fourth woman you see could potentially have had a miscarriage. There are many brave women out there who have gone through this loss without anybody knowing.
A friend who reached out to me in the first painful days described miscarriage as being given membership to a secret club that you didn’t know existed, really didn’t want to join, but once a member you suddenly feel a deep connection to so many women who have gone through this pain before you. So far this description has been pretty accurate for me.
My husband Michael and I lost our little one at 2.5 months pregnant in January this year. We had already shared our happy news with family and close friends. When it came to my yoga students, I’d told them early on as my first trimester nausea and never-ending tiredness made it hard to hide. For everyone else we were waiting to share the news when we hit that so-called safe three-month mark. We were a week-and-a-half away from that when our world fell apart.
At nine weeks pregnant I had light bleeding begin, halfway through my 10th week an ultrasound confirmed our worst fears; that there was no heartbeat and we had lost the baby.
We were heartbroken, angry and confused that our little one was gone so soon.
As painful as it was, we made the choice to be open about our loss. We didn’t want to go through this deep grief in silence or alone. In the early weeks of pregnancy a few people had warned us of not telling a single person until we hit three months just in case I had a miscarriage.
For two reasons we did not heed this advice: Firstly, our pregnancy was a happy event and being positive felt like the right way to approach it rather than from a place of fear. Secondly, if we had the worst happen and lost the baby, we’d much prefer support than to struggle through by ourselves.
Support is exactly what we have received. I shared the news of our miscarriage on Facebook and Instragram and so many friends, family and students reached out to us in those first weeks. Messages, phone calls, comments, letters, text messages all flooded in. Women sharing stories of their own miscarriages, men touched by partners miscarrying, grandparents mourning lost grandchildren.
The support and connection was like a giant blanket of love wrapped around and holding us tightly while we were grieving.
It has been a rocky, emotional road for us both, super testing for the relationship and our individual growth. I have never experienced a grief like it.
I have chosen to miscarry naturally (rather than a surgical D&C) which is demanding from me even greater levels of patience, strength and faith as I still wait for my body to let go four weeks after the ultrasound.
Until I experienced it myself, I had no idea that managing a miscarriage could be such a slow, arduous process. Perhaps I’ve seen too many movies or tv soaps, but I always thought miscarriage happened in a very dramatic way – terrible pain, sudden loss of blood, the heartbreaking knowledge that you are losing your baby (and in the movie world often a bleeding women being carried into an ER by a distraught partner). For many women, miscarriage does occur in exactly this intense, sudden, traumatic way.
Other women like myself will experience what is known as a missed miscarriage where the baby stops growing but hormone levels remain high keeping the body thinking its pregnant (complete with pregnancy symptoms) for weeks or even months. To let the process unfold naturally in the body’s own time can be an emotionally draining wait, which is why a common option is a surgical procedure to remove the remains of conception. Managing a missed miscarriage naturally also requires constant monitoring to ensure the women stay healthy with no risk of infection.
For me, after a month of slow bleeding, I often feel shame that not only did my body fail at being pregnant, I am now failing at miscarriage too as this process drags on slowly. This is the time for the subtle yoga practices to carry me through. I keep returning to my breath, meditating, chanting mantra and surrendering to life. Trusting the wisdom of my body to do this in it’s own time.
Michael and I are kind to each other, taking things one day at a time, sometimes even one hour at a time. Some days are just crappy, some days we manage to crack a smile, some days I cry more than I ever thought possible.
I used to think of grief as something to get through, to come out the other side of. Now I’m realising just how much it is a transformative process. We will never get back to who we were and how things were. We are growing, moving forward and changing into new people. People transformed by this process of having our hearts cracked wide open with the pain. Cracked wide open to love even more.
Every woman’s experience of miscarriage is different and I can only speak of my own. Each couple makes their own choice about whether they share openly about a miscarriage or not. But I am saddened that overall miscarriage still seems to be a silent, often shameful experience for women to endure alone. I just do not believe that the default should be a woman going through this without support, having to put on a brave face and carry on with her day-to-day life. One day you’re pregnant, the next day you’re not. That is a huge life changing U-turn, one that needs honouring, support and tender care.
For anyone who has lost a baby, my heart goes out to you. You are strong, you are brave, you are not alone.
I’ve had an amazing support team of health professions with my midwife, doctor, naturopath and a clinical hypnotherapist all helping me navigate this journey with care and respect.
Online I found the work of clinical psychologist Dr. Jessica Zucker incredibly helpful and empowering. She founded the #IHadAMiscarriage campaign to increase awareness of how common miscarriage is and to provide a voice for women dealing with the shame and healing process –
Also available is Miscarriage Support Auckland (which despite the name is a nationwide support group) –
Felicity West is a yoga teacher, studio owner (Satmya Yoga) and her beautiful smile has previously lit up the Blog as a Featured Yogi.
We are grateful and filled with admiration for Felicity sharing her and Michael’s experience in the hope of helping others. “You are strong, you are brave, you are not alone.”
Both beautiful images of Felicity and Michael are credited to: Laura Evans Photos[line] © The Yoga Connection 2016