I have heard it said that the only thing stronger than fear is hope.
This saying really speaks to me, but it’s a very hard concept to hold when you are in the middle of a miscarriage and there is absolutely nothing that you can possibly do to stop it or change it. And it is near impossible to be pregnant after a loss and not be worried that it might happen again. You wait for every single milestone - starting with your first few pregnancy hormone levels, to the heartbeat, to graduating into the second trimester, and so on…
Of the many feelings I carried with me after my losses - shame, fear, guilt - I would say the fear was the strongest. The fear of this happening again. The fear of the unknown. I feared that I would never have or carry my own biological children - two things that I dreamed of and longed for.
When you have a miscarriage so many things are taken from you - your innocence is one of them. Any dreams that you had about a beautiful, perfect pregnancy are shattered. Subsequent pregnancies are often overshadowed by the fear of an impending loss. Miscarriage also horribly referred to as “spontaneous abortion”, can happen at any time without any warning before 20 weeks. And when you have suffered through one it can be so hard to let your guard when you become pregnant again.
Miscarriage is so much more than the loss of the baby. It is the loss of everything that was to come - how my life was going to change forever. My hopes of making my husband a father were taken from me. My dreams of motherhood and how we would be as parents were crushed.
So, how could I continue? How could I possibly put myself in that situation again? First, trying to get pregnant and being heartbroken every month. Next, if I did achieve pregnancy would the pregnancy be successful?
And then this overwhelming feeling of starting ALL OVER AGAIN. I remember thinking that the only way that I would get over my miscarriage was to get pregnant again. Well, that completely backfired when I had back to back losses. And it couldn’t be further from the truth.
In yoga, the term Samskara, means impression. I have also heard it referred to as a “scar”. Not so much a physical scar as an emotional or energetic one that remains in your body. Samskaras stay with you. So even as one moves forward after pregnancy loss and tries again, those samskaras remain.
So does that mean you simply stop trying?
For some people, yes, that is the answer and I can relate to that. When I was told that I could no longer try to get pregnant, it was surprisingly liberating. I was “forbidden” by my nephrologist to get pregnant because I could possibly lose my life and lose the baby. When I received this news it was heartbreaking and I was devastated. But as life moved forward I wasn’t depressed every month and I began to focus on other things - such as my health. As a couple, we focused on other ways to start a family - and we explored gestational surrogacy.
But for many hopeful parents, the dream is too strong to let go of. And that, I can most certainly relate to as well.
How do you continue to be hopeful when fear is inevitable?
With so much out of my control these five things helped me move forward. What worked for me was to find acceptance, pause, set real expectations, detach and have faith.
Acceptance was by far the most important step. I had all of these ideas about how we were going to conceive our children, how I was going to tell Jeff, how I was going to give birth... I had a lot of things planned out in my head and one by one, they didn’t turn out how I had imagined. It was sad to let go of those dreams, but it would have been sadder to hold on to something that just wasn’t going to happen the way I “planned.” Once I accepted the cards that were dealt to me, it opened my life up to gestational surrogacy and less than a year later, our son was born.
Pausing to take inventory of my feelings gave me clarity. After each loss I made time to reflect. I thought about why this was happening and often thought maybe I'm not supposed to have kids - maybe it's so hard for a reason. Pausing made me reflect on what I really wanted. Children are a life-long commitment (and a daily challenge). Was I so attached to having children because I really wanted them, or because I was told, as a woman, that it is what I am supposed to want? Even in 2016, I think it takes a very strong and secure woman to admit that she doesn’t want to have children or that she would rather choose a life that doesn’t involve raising children. I admire these women and at times I wished I felt the same! I have heard it said that having a child is like watching your heart walk around in front of you. I completely get this now. It is as heartbreaking, scary and gut-wrenching as it is remarkable, joyful and heartwarming. Pausing helped clarify what I truly wanted.
Setting expectations for subsequent pregnancies was very important. It helped me manage my overwhelming emotions and to not get blindsided if we received unfavorable news. I knew that it wasn’t going to be an easy road as I would likely be scared and analyze every sensation that I was having. I made it a point to take special care of myself emotionally, mentally and physically when we were approaching milestones in pregnancy when I began to have complications, and suffered loss.
Practicing detachment/not being attached to the outcome, was a challenge. I mean, the outcome is having a child, so how can I not get attached to that?! What helped was to take it one day at a time. Looking at the big picture and all the unknowns, can be daunting and it always made me feel incredibly out of control. That didn’t help at all. I needed to get centered. I needed to stay grounded and in the moment. I needed to simply take each day as it came and one step at a time. Every time I got quiet - whether in meditation, prayer, by taking a run or just doing something that made me happy, I would find an inner peace. And I would know in my heart that although I didn’t know what the outcome would be, I knew that in the end everything would be exactly as it was meant to be and that I would be ok.
Keep the faith. Dr. Martin Luther King said “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” My faith was often tested, but it never wavered.
Bottom line is this. The fear and sadness never go away. At least, they haven’t for me. And after you have children that sadness is still within you. It's a misconception to think that the pain will just disappear once you have a child. The sadness is not just from the actual pregnancy loss, but it's also a sadness that things didn't turn out the way you dreamt.
My son is 2 years old now and I am so proud of him and honored to be his mother. I am so proud that my best friend offered to carry our child. I am so proud of our story and everything that led up to the surrogacy experience and everything that has come after it.
I would be lying though, if I said I didn’t long to carry our children. I wish I could have nurtured Garrison the way Stephanie did for 9 months. I wish I didn’t take toxic medication so I could have nursed him. I wish I could have had the experience of watching my body change and birthing him. I wish I could have felt my husband’s hand rubbing my belly to feel our baby kicking inside of me. But I didn’t and I couldn’t.
And so although I wouldn't change a thing about our experience and how Garrison came to be, there is still a sadness within me that things didn't progress the way I always imagined they would. Even when I look at photos of myself before my pregnancy losses I seem profoundly happier. In all of my more recent photos, I still see the sadness in my eyes. It’s just part of life, I suppose. Experiences are not always favorable, or how we expect them to be, but they shape us as individuals and make us who we are. The most painful moments of my life have also been the most transformative. And for that, I wouldn’t change a single thing that I have been through. It is what gave me the strength to continue and to ultimately see the birth of my son Garrison. I believe that I had to go through it all to meet him. And it is what gives me the courage to share my story and to help others as they navigate their unexpected journeys into parenthood.