The day started out like any other: I woke up and went for a run. I showered and sipped coffee. And then I got work, sitting at my kitchen counter and typing away.
But by nightfall, things would be different — I would be different — because just before dark, I started bleeding.
I lost the baby I didn’t even know I was going to have.
It started innocuously enough: with pain and cramping and a fairly heavy flow of blood; but I didn’t think much of my symptoms, to be honest. I assumed it was just my period starting. A few days early, but my period nonetheless. But later, while talking to my husband, something different happened. Something strange.
I felt something leave me. I felt something pass.
I excused myself and went to the bathroom, removing my jeans and pulling down my underpants. And that’s when I saw it: a sinewy, tissuey, golf ball-sized clot.
At first, I was in shock, but I knew what had happened: I had just lost a son. Or maybe a daughter. A sibling for the only child I already have. And the realization of that stung in a way that left me numb.
But as the hours, and then days, passed, a new feeling washed over me: I was calm. I was thankful. I was relieved.
Of course, there is shame in me writing those words. In saying that. In acknowledging this truth out loud. I know all too well just how many couples struggle to become pregnant — my husband and I were one of them — and here I was celebrating a loss. Here I was thanking God that this didn’t come to pass. What kind of person am I?
The truth is, deep in my heart I knew — and still know — that this wasn’t the right time for a baby. I wasn’t in the right frame of mind. I wasn’t ready — physically, emotionally, or financially.
You see, a few months before my miscarriage, I received a new mental health diagnosis. I didn’t have depression, as I’d been told for many years — I had bipolar depression. Bipolar II, to be precise.
I was a mess. My mind was all over the place, and my medications were being adjusted. A non-negotiable collection of medications which aren’t safe to take while pregnant.
To make matters worse, I’d just lost one of my predominant sources of income and, while we were making do, things were tight. Money was stretched. And my marriage was rocky, at best. It wouldn’t just have been a bad idea to have a baby at this time, it would have been unfair. He or she deserved more. They deserved better.
But my feelings of relief still felt awful because I believed they were insensitive and wrong. So I beat myself up for them. I felt sadness, guilt, and shame consume me all at once. That is, until I talked to my therapist. Until I finally shared my thoughts aloud.
Because my therapist (bless her soul) gave my feelings credence. She gave them weight. And she gave me a pass. She told me that they were normal. That I was perfectly normal.
She reminded me just how common miscarriages are. In fact, according to the March of Dimes, “as many as 50% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage … often before a woman misses a menstrual period or even knows she is pregnant,” which was the case with me. (I lost my baby at five or six weeks.) And while many women grieve their loss, some do not; and some — like me — grieve and celebrate at the same time. And that’s okay. Because no woman is the same. No situation is the same. And because there is no one feeling associated with a miscarriage.
(To quote my daughter’s favorite, Daniel Tiger, “there are so many feelings for you to know.”)
But most women do not talk about them — at least not all of them — because of shame. Because of guilt. Because there’s a stigma that good feelings over this are somehow bad or wrong.
So please know that if you too have had a miscarriage, your thoughts are valid. Your feelings are valid. No matter what they are or how conflicting they may be, they are normal and okay. And you are okay.
You may be struggling, happy, thankful, relieved, angst-ridden, guilt-ridden, despondent, or sad, but you are okay.