It's called the Miracle of Life for a reason. The journey through pregnancy and child birth is astounding when you think of how scientific the body actually works. The perfect journey is textbook, wonderful, and ends with the birth of a newborn baby. A routine pregnancy and birth—the outcome every parent and obstetrician hopes for.
For parents, to plan the perfect routine birth, there’s a handy little tool one could call "pregnancy math." To determine the "best" date or the "best" year, one starts by subtracting back 10 months from when one would hope they would deliver. Add a 2-month window for "trying" and automatically there is 12 months between trying to conceive a child to the time a child will be born. Maybe someone might factor in things such as the weather when the child will be born, or what months she doesn't want to be pregnant in. Some people like to avoid 100-degree third trimesters, while others prefer to avoid driving through blizzards to give birth.
Miscarriage, however, is the divisor in pregnancy math. Miscarriage takes ones final calculation and cuts everything in half. Once an expecting mother has found out that she’s conceived, immediately she begins to plan out her year. She looks at the due date and what commitments could interfere, and calculates prenatal care appointments and clothing options. Days of her life are planned for the next year and are cut short the minute the miscarriage occurs. An entire year becomes empty, free, and isolating.
You see, most people who haven't experienced loss do not understand that the pain of miscarriage follows the person throughout the entire year after. As an OB, it may be easy to fall into this. Miscarriage is a statistic, and many women, unfortunately, routinely experience this tragic loss. Unfortunately, however routine it is for the doctor to see a patient go through this, the year ahead for the patient now has a completely different look. Because of the precise planning, the emptiness of days that were supposed to be consumed with swollen ankles and maternity clothes are now full of nothing but fat pants and sweatshirts mixed with grief.
Once a patient has moved on from the required doctor's visits after a miscarriage, the pain of the loss continues through that first year; although the pain, subsides, it does not end. When we find out that there is a child that has begun to take shape within us, we can’t help but wonder who he or she will be. Who will he look like? How will his or her sibling react? Will we choose daycare? The questions are endless, and the planning is constant.
When the loss occurs, everything disappears. There is no child. Patients will now spend the money saved on child birth and childcare on the care required to ensure a healthy end to the pregnancy. It is a constant reminder of the child who never came. Because scientifically we know that only that egg and that sperm create that child, there will be no child ever again like the one lost. We know the next child, if we're lucky enough to have one, will be completely different.
Herein lies the unspoken pain of pregnancy: The pain that drives women to suffer in silence, even to the point of wanting to take their own life. A miscarriage is the loss of a child planned out before they’ve even arrived. Scientifically, one can tell a grieving mother the facts—its simply just tissue, after all, or that it was nature's way because there were chromosomal abnormalities. All of those words, all of the science, are simply the scientific building block for the child a women carries. To us, the "clump" of cells that was "evicted" from the uterus was a life and a lifetime.
Women who share their loss become "attention seekers." They really need to just "move on." It was "just cells" and they're "better off because something was probably wrong with it." Continuously, I read and find women in support groups with nowhere to turn except for strangers who have been through the same experience. They share stories of people who tear them apart for sharing their story of miscarriage and loss. They think doctors seem uncaring and unkind because they move routinely through the loss. These women, however, are torn so much apart that they become silent in the public world about the child they will never give birth too, take to the park, or watch graduate. Their children become shadows in their lives.
Since not everyone can understand, and since we don't want everyone to understand, we simply ask this. Regardless of how you feel or what you know medically or how you believe, please know that many of us feel we lost a child for a lifetime. Please know that when we talk about pregnancy, birth, children, and siblings with others that a little part in many of us cries inside. Know that when we sit in waiting rooms and watch patients celebrate their successful ultrasound in your office, we are both so relieved for them but also reliving our own pain. Please know, that in our families there are holes that should be filled by children who never came. Our routines will never be the same.
We miss them.
We wish they were here.
We love our unborn miracles.
- Catherine Tomlinson is a wife, mother, educator, and blogger who has experienced 4 miscarriages in 18 months.