I was sitting in my new doctor’s private office when she said the words, “I’m sorry but there’s no heartbeat. Your pregnancy won’t progress.” I instinctively placed a hand on my stomach. How could this be happening? I was only 8 weeks but so nauseous, so bloated, I felt so pregnant. She explained that I was experiencing a “missed miscarriage” which meant the tiny cluster of cells in my womb with a flickering heartbeat that was supposed to grow into my first child had stopped flickering, only my body didn’t know it yet. It was the cruelest betrayal of nature I could imagine.
“The good news is this means you can get pregnant.” “You can try again.” During the immediate aftermath of a pregnancy or infant loss, these common phrases, though well intended, may offer little comfort.
When a loved one dies, people gather, there’s a ceremony, a community to support the bereaved. When you lose a pregnancy, it’s different - there is no set of rules or rituals to grieve this kind of loss. The potential for this kind of loss the very reason we learn to keep our pregnancies secret and yet the secrecy brings a sort of stigma. It is what makes us feel we need to suffer alone - at a time when most people need the support of their friends and families.
After my miscarriage, I both understood and regretted the cultural norm of keeping ones pregnancy a secret, “until it’s safe.” But what I learned is that once you experience loss in this way, pregnancy never feels truly safe. You know all too well that a little plus sign on a pregnancy test doesn’t automatically mean you get a baby. When I did become pregnant again, I was a nervous wreck before every milestone prenatal appointment. I didn’t want to know the baby’s sex until the 20 week scan, I couldn’t risk getting attached to the idea of it’s a girl or it’s a boy until I felt reassured that it would grow into my baby that I could hold and kiss. I was processing my loss and growing my new baby at the same time, my first of many experiences with the dichotomies of motherhood.
The reality is there’s no right way to mourn the loss of a pregnancy. Grief, sadness, anger, denial, relief, guilt - these are all common feelings for both you and your partner to go through after a loss. Another common phrase comes to mind, “this is not your fault.” And yet, you may really feel like it is - in the search to find a reason for this worst possible outcome - ascribe blame to yourself. As hard as it is, there’s something a friend said that finally comforted me,“Your body is working just exactly as it should.” And she was right, my miscarriage was due to a random chromosomal abnormality - and no amount of wanting would have made that cluster of cells with a heartbeat into my baby. I started to heal.
Today, I’m lucky to have given birth to two souls who call me “mama.” But I will never forget the baby that isn’t here. Every year on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness day (this year it was October 15th) I remember. I hold him or her in my heart even though I was never able to hold them in my arms.
If you or someone you know has experienced a pregnancy or infant loss and is struggling, please get help. Here are some resources to get started:https://nationalshare.orghttps://www.marchofdimes.org/complications/loss-and-grief.aspxhttps://www.postpartum.net/get-help/loss-grief-in-pregnancy-postpartum/
Article by: Jessica Kivnik
Jessica Kivnik is a writer with TV credits including Bosch (Amazon) and Devious Maids (Lifetime). In her extremely limited spare time, she enjoys driving around her neighborhood with a sleeping child in the backseat, scraping mystery snacks off the carpet, preparing plain spaghetti and serving it at the perfect temperature on only the heart plate or the princess plate, looking for her sunglasses (hint: they’re usually on her head) and scrolling Instagram. She lives in Los Angeles with her British husband, two kids (4.5 and 14 months) and two very fortunate cats who came to live with them at the start of the pandemic. Minimalism and organization aren’t her strengths, but she’s always ready for a sing-along or a living room dance party. Her pretend British accent is admittedly very bad. She’s thrilled to be writing for Mina Baie and to have the opportunity share some tips and resources that make motherhood a little easier.