So much of your first pregnancy is about learning as you go. Yes, you’ve done your research and read a lot about pregnancy, and have friends and family who were or currently are pregnant. You’ve looked at their big bellies and wondered how it feels. And you’ve gotten a lot of advice. But no one really gets what it means to be pregnant until you actually are. Then you start to hope: that you’re reading the signals from your body correctly, that your baby will grow as they should and be healthy, that you won’t have to throw up all the time, so on and so forth. In short: that everything will go well.
But having a miscarriage destroys this hope. Losing a baby makes it difficult to feel hopeful and excited again in all pregnancies that follow. Any woman who’s gone through a miscarriage knows how it feels. Being torn between welcoming the new life inside you and providing a safe home for them to grow, while simultaneously wanting to shield yourself from going through the unbearable pain of miscarrying again.
My first pregnancy lasted only three and a half weeks. Not much time to process that I was carrying a baby. My gynecologist said, “You’re a little pregnant,” when he saw the dot in my uterus on the ultrasound. So I changed gynecologists. The next one said, “Your endometrium isn’t thick enough, it won’t last.” I couldn’t even process what I heard. The very next day, the bleeding started. I flushed my baby down the toilet in my friend’s bathroom when we were over for dinner. I didn’t tell anyone what had happened at the time. The next day, I had severe cramping. The realization that I had lost my baby washed over me and put me in a pit of despair. I was left asking why.
Many women who miscarry blame themselves. They wonder: Was it something I ate? Did I over-exercise? Had too many drinks? Waited too long to have kids? Is this my punishment for getting an abortion back then? Or did I choose the wrong partner?
Women who have succeeded so far in life – with their education, career and/or relationship – have to understand that it’s usually not possible to prevent a miscarriage by working hard. Even if you’ve done everything right – tracked your cycle, had sex at the right time, taken vitamin supplements, refrained from drinking alcohol – it still can’t stop the miscarriage. This too makes many women ask why. Why is what I’m doing not enough when others around me seem to have babies so effortlessly?
From a medical standpoint, there’s usually an answer as to why the miscarriage happened. But far too often, doctors don’t investigate deeply enough. This was the case for me. My doctor didn’t seem to care at all why I miscarried. With his conclusion that my uterine lining was too thin to support a pregnancy, he seemed to have done his job.
For a while, knowing that was enough for me. Plus the knowledge that one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage.
My second pregnancy was a surprise. To this day, I don’t know how we managed it. I had my period on time, but it was very light. When a friend called me a few weeks later to tell me she was 3 months pregnant, I got a really strange feeling. I spontaneously bought a pregnancy test – and it was positive. Although we hadn’t planned the pregnancy, we were overcome with joy when we found out the good news. I was already two weeks further along than in the last pregnancy and thought this must be a good sign. Still, I was afraid to visit my new gynecologist. I lay on the exam table and anxiously waited for the ultrasound machine’s judgment of whether my pregnancy would last this time or not.
And then there it was: the heartbeat. For the first time, I could see and hear a tiny heart in my belly beating over 100 beats per minute. Amazing. I got dressed and sat in front of my gynecologist feeling like I’d just won the lottery. But he seemed unsure. “You’re still early,” he said, almost critically. “Let’s wait and see first.”
Great. You’re excited, and then get reminded that you may have another miscarriage. At the time, I was on the verge of changing gynecologists again. Today I know that it’s not easy for gynecologists to deal with each pregnancy individually. One woman wants a baby and doesn’t get pregnant, the next woman is pregnant and wants to have an abortion, the third finds out by chance that she is 4 months pregnant. It takes a lot of sensitivity – and not everyone has that.
A few days later, I started bleeding. I panicked. The blood was dark, and I read on Google that dark blood isn’t fresh and can mean anything. I didn’t want to go to the hospital. The next day, the bleeding stopped.
We went on vacation. I had never noticed before how many holes there were on the highway. With every tiny jolt, I was afraid I would start bleeding again. I sat cramped in the car seat for hours, trying to cushion each little bump with my thighs… I had sore muscles for days.
On vacation, fresh, bright pink blood suddenly started streaming out of me. I was at my wits’ end and just thought – ok, that’s it now. I was too exhausted to look for a doctor and waited for the miscarriage. But it didn’t come. The bleeding got slower, the morning sickness got stronger. It was the most horrible vacation. EVER!
Back home, I went to my gynecologist, who found a hematoma while examining my uterus with an ultrasound, probably caused by the light menstrual bleeding. He said that I would have light bleeding for a few more days, but that the pregnancy wasn’t in danger. He also said that my baby looked like a girl.
I was happy. For the first time, I felt like I could fully commit to this pregnancy. I threw up that day for the first and last time in this pregnancy, and from then on didn’t have any complications.
My daughter was one and a half years old when my period was late. We were happy with our little family and didn’t plan on having another child so we were always using contraception. So I didn’t think much of it. I didn’t have any other signs of pregnancy and blamed my late period on the stress of moving. But when it still didn’t come several weeks later, something seemed off and I took a pregnancy test. It was very slightly positive. I knew immediately that I was pregnant, but that it wouldn’t last.
My new gynecologist (I switched again after my former OB-GYN made me wait three hours in the waiting room for my appointment when I had a newborn and exploding breasts) asked me when I had my last period. I didn’t know for sure and felt ashamed about that. The ultrasound showed two embryos without a heartbeat. Their size indicated that I was around 6 weeks pregnant. I knew I had to be at least 8 weeks along, but couldn’t prove it. The doctor told me to come back a week later; if she couldn’t find a heartbeat again, it would clearly be a miscarriage. She seemed somewhat relieved when I told her that the pregnancy wasn’t planned.
I had mixed feelings. On one hand, I was happy because we were going to give all of our attention to our daughter in addition to our jobs. On the other hand, I now had the very clear feeling that something must be wrong with my body.
The ultrasound one week later just showed one embryo – without a heartbeat. My body had already absorbed the other embryo. The gynecologist said that I could wait for a natural miscarriage, and she saw no reason for a dilation & curettage (D & C) procedure. And so I waited. Two weeks later the bleeding came. To this day, I wonder why so many women get a D & C when the embryo has no heartbeat. In medical terms, this is known as a missed miscarriage (when you don’t wait long enough for the bleeding to start). In most cases, the female body manages to cope amazingly well with a non-viable pregnancy.
One of my best friends got pregnant at the same time, also with twins. I could see from her growing belly over the coming months what I would have looked like had my pregnancy continued. But I didn’t feel jealous and was able to share her joy and excitement. My husband and I were still set on being a family with an only child.
But when the twins were a few months old, I changed my mind. They loved to be carried around all day, cuddled a lot, and knew exactly what they did and didn’t want. Overnight, I was overcome with an intense longing for another child, which consumed my relationship with my husband for a while. We agreed to start trying again.
I quickly got pregnant, but lost the baby before my first appointment with the (again new) gynecologist. It felt like a routine.
I joined all sorts of fertility and miscarriage forums online and learned all the medical terms about the different types of miscarriage and why they happen: genetic defects, blood clotting disorders, anatomical abnormalities, hormone imbalances – you name it.
I tried homeopathy and soon was able to get pregnant yet again. I waited until my 8th week to visit the gynecologist – I just felt nervous and didn’t have a good feeling. The ultrasound showed that the embryo had a heartbeat, but was too small for the 8th week. “Maybe you ovulated later,” the doctor said. I knew exactly when I had ovulated, but the doctor wouldn’t accept it. A few days later, I suffered my 4th miscarriage. At the follow-up appointment, my doctor told me with a pitiful expression, “Well, it can’t always work out.”
Can’t always work out, seriously? Out of five pregnancies, four ended in miscarriage. You really don’t have to be an expert to know that something is wrong here. I insisted on a comprehensive genetic and immunological test, which my doctor agreed to, even though he thought it was unnecessary. And I switched doctors once more, this time going to a specialist in recurrent miscarriage.
The tests revealed that I had higher levels of certain antibodies that are responsible for fighting pathogens. Because of that, my immune system perceived my growing babies as foreign bodies and essentially fought them as they would a tumor. “Overactive immune system” was the diagnosis.
My new gynecologist took her time – a lot of time. Our first appointment lasted almost an hour, during which we talked about all the different possibilities of how to proceed. To my surprise, therapy for an overactive immune system was relatively simple and also inexpensive (and still is today). “Why aren’t more diagnostics being done in this area?”, I asked my doctor. “Because the pharmaceutical industry doesn’t earn anything from the treatment,” was her dry reply.
Three months later, I was pregnant again – and stayed that way thanks to the medication. My sixth pregnancy. It was actually wonderful to see how my body managed to conceive again and again. So many women never get pregnant, but for me it always worked out on the first or second try. I found out later on that higher fertility can actually lead to repeated miscarriages.
My daughters are now 9 and 13 years old. They know that I’ve lost some babies. They also tell me from time to time that one of their friends’ moms just lost a baby. I think it’s good to talk about miscarriages. I talk about it too, and every time I do so publicly, women come forward and share their experiences with me. One in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage – so chances are that we all know several women who’ve had at least one miscarriage.
Miscarriages are part of nature, and they are important to human reproduction to prevent babies being born with genetic defects. However, if you’ve had multiple miscarriages, there’s a good chance that there is a reason for it. It’s probably not a freak accident. I want to use my story to show how important it is to keep pushing to get to the bottom of things. And don’t assume that doctors always have the right answer for everything. It’s not easy to find a doctor who fully supports you and sees you eye-to-eye, but it’s so worth it when you do.
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