5 Lessons I've Learned From 3 Miscarriages
Seven months. Three pregnancies. Different emotional reactions to each, but same outcome. My first miscarriage happened at nine weeks. During my first appointment, I was told there was no heartbeat and to come back in eight days. I knew then that this little glimmer of life was just that: a glimmer. A fleeting glimpse into possible motherhood. A temporary peephole into a new stage of life.
My next sonogram was no different. “It’s not viable” played on repeat. And with each successive loss that followed, I fell deeper into what felt like a downward spiral. While I healed quickly physically, I felt broken emotionally. But over time, new understandings began to crystalize. Powerlessness turned into greater self-awareness. Anxiety into serenity. Pain into acceptance.
But how? And what have I learned in the months following my last miscarriage? Here are five essential take-aways:
1. Putting your emotions on the back-burner won't save you any pain.
Walking around on the streets of NYC, I would wonder how many women I passed had experienced a miscarriage. I would ask myself: Why is my experience different? Am I different? I carried this emotional burden around with me, and wanted to understand it in logical terms.
But my attempt at a logical approach just served to make me feel lonely. And angry. I resented it. And I resented others. Once I understood that what I was feeling wasn't just stress but grief, I was finally able to start moving through it. This realization was profound.
Part of the issue was that much of my experience had been unspoken, such that my grief started to build and grow. It didn’t seem socially acceptable to bring up in conversation, so I allowed it to remain hidden. It was only until I recognized it, acknowledged it, and allowed myself the time and space to grieve that I began to feel progress.
2. Telling the truth is more cathartic than you can imagine (especially when you don't want to).
I opened up to very few about my miscarriages. It was a coping strategy that, at the time, seemed safe. Each time I denied it though, I was imbuing the miscarriages with more and more shame, which only caused me to feel more isolated.
But I've realized that miscarriage is a shared story; there is healing in finding community through opening up about it. While this does not conform to the societal norm of sharing the joys of motherhood (and fatherhood), it is important to dismantle the stigmas around it. Speaking about it openly is what begins to shift the dialogue. For me, starting to speak my truth feels empowering. And real. I own them, not the other way around.
3. The idea of "trusting your gut" isn't just a cliché.
After the third miscarriage, my husband and I sought the advice of a reproductive specialist. I wanted answers, and yearned for a silver bullet. But we didn’t get one. Doctors encouraged us to “keep trying” or “think about IVF,” but that advice wasn't resonating with me after feeling so hopeless and frustrated for a continuous amount of time.
I wanted to try an alternative option, and found myself exploring Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and acupuncture. While Western medicine has a place, I knew deep down that it didn’t have a place right now in my pregnancy journey. (I am not making any claims about fertility in general, or advocating that anyone give up on Western medicine. I am just sharing my personal story.)
For me, my gut led me down this different path because I needed to think about myself, and my own journey of healing. I am grateful that I listened to my intuition.
4. The mind-body connection is as real as it gets.
During my first acupuncture session, I finally realized how blocked I felt, energetically speaking. One needle in my third eye and my body (and mind) went haywire. I felt as if I was floating, hovering somewhere outside of my body. For so long, my mind had been in a state of constant overdrive.
While I've been a longtime believer in the mind-body connection, I hadn’t truly practiced what I preached until now. In other words, I hadn't been focusing on my emotional needs first and foremost, and wasn't aware this had physical manifestations. Once I realized the intensity of this connection, I was able to start refocusing my attention on the power of simultaneous emotional and physical healing.
5. Making yourself the focus is the start of your healing journey.
Trying to have a baby can become an all-consuming experience. The timing, the tracking, the repetition, the monitoring. It’s easy to get swept up in all of it and to overthink it. This happened to me. I was so consumed by each miscarriage, that I lost sight of my own needs (and my husband’s needs), my own feelings, and my own sense of self.
Hand-in-hand with my TCM journey, I now try to make it a daily practice to “check in” with myself. My journey is the only one I can fully direct, and so I am continuing to learn how to honor myself, and those special people around me. It is about trying to live a life in which I peacefully and healthily coexist with my three losses.