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When The Worst Happens: Dealing with Pregnancy Loss

Mar14

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Hi Amy,
I know that you have not experienced this particular pregnancy horror, but you give excellent advice and also maybe some of your readers out there have been through this.
Up until last week I was pregnant with twins. 19 weeks pregnant! Supposedly past the point where the bad stuff can happen! And yet, it did. After a totally normal ultrasound on Wednesday, my water broke Thursday, and, although the babies were still fine in there (normal heartbeat, etc.), there was nothing they could do but deliver them, and they were stillborn. Nothing I’ve experienced in my life so far quite matches the horror of having to deliver dead babies. The doctors say they are not totally sure what caused it, maybe a subchorionic hematoma (I had bleeding at weeks 10-12), and they said this is no indication that I couldn’t have a normal pregnancy next time (this was my first pregnancy).

But – I am so scared. I know the odds are good for a healthy pregnancy next time, but what happened to me this time was against all odds – twins are rare (these ones were identical, and not produced after IVF or anything), and supposedly the chance of a second trimester miscarriage is only 1% and yet it happened to me. I’m nervous that I have a incompetent cervix, or some other issue that they don’t know about, and that this is going to happen again. And I’m afraid that the only thing that will show me otherwise is a live, healthy baby in my arms – which would be fine, except for the 40 anxiety filled weeks that are sure to come in producing that baby. Everything I read on the internet just scares me more, and makes me think I had this problem or that problem, and so I think that reading the internet is not the way to go in this case.

Any advice you could give me in how to move on from this, and how to have a relatively happy non-anxiety filled pregnancy next time would be much appreciated.

Thanks,
Heartbroken in SF

Oh, oh, OH you sweet thing. I am so SORRY. I just want to give you a hug, I really do. I am so sorry for your loss and your pain and that I am just now getting to your question, even though you sent it a month and a half ago and that I’ve spent that month and a half talking about being pregnant!pregnant!pregnant!

You mention that reading the Internet has not been the best thing for you, but what do you think about writing on the Internet? A blog, perhaps? I know many grief counselors suggest journaling as a way to deal with losses like yours — you know, letters to your babies, that sort of thing — a that could also be an option. But there can be something extra therapeutic about publishing your musings on grief, even if no one else ever reads them.

Your babies were here and you loved them and they were real and part of your family, and now they are gone. Write them letters, create a tribute with your ultrasounds, refer to them by their names. There is no reason (in my mind) to mash your emotions and grief down as quickly as possible in the name of “moving on.” Women, in particular, just aren’t wired this way, I think.

Gwendomama (who lost her son to a growth disorder at 13 months) had a great post recently about how she handles the loss vs. how her husband deals with it:

Not surprisingly, dh and I have processed our grief about Elijah in completely different ways. In my opinion, he did what most fathers in his position would do – he jumped off the emotional cliff. I wallowed in it. He didn’t want to talk about it; I needed (still need) to talk about it. He has a low tolerance for my need to process the details over and over, and so I rarely process with him. But he also has, on occasion, taken this sort of superior status on his process, as he condescends to me in my grieving path. For instance, you do realize, that I choose this pain, don’t you? I choose to hold on to this grief. But he, because of his buddhist leanings, is not holding on to it! See? Simple.
But I don’t judge him or tell him that I think he is full of shit and grief. I just let him do it his way. Who am I to say what works? Dead babies don’t get you some sort of special manual, you know.

I imagine we’d have the exact same dynamic at my house, too.

Gwen has had another pregnancy and baby since losing Elijah, as have many other bloggers who experienced earth-shattering losses: Karla at Untangling Knots, Cecily at Uppercase Woman, Julia at Uncommon Misconception, Tertia at So Close, Julia at I Won’t Fear Love.

Other bloggers are still in the thick of their grief. Beth at I Should Be Folding Laundry. Kate at Sweet|Salty. Alexa at Flotsam.

I don’t mean to turn this column into a morbid blogroll of death, or anything — I just admire these women very much and am…grateful, in a way, that they’ve chosen to share their stories over the years and given me the chance to pause and say a prayer/blessing/wish for the children that they loved and lost. Some of these bloggers started writing as a way to deal with their grief; some were already writing and continued to write furiously through every stage of it. It seems to have helped. I hope it helps.

Since I have never been where you are right now, I have no idea if clicking on any of these links will help or if you simply can’t imagine reading about a story remotely similar to yours. Even if you can’t read those blogs, just know that you aren’t alone. That there’s no “right” way to grieve over your particular loss, and that your fears for the future are completely normal. Your experience will color future pregnancies. Of course it will. Again, perhaps writing about your fears will help you keep them organized and in check, instead of letting them drive you to WebMd and EverythingThatCanGoWrongWithYourBaby.com day after day.

There are happy endings to be had, in many shapes and forms and delicious healing baby smiles. I hope you get yours soon.

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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19 Responses to “When The Worst Happens: Dealing with Pregnancy Loss”

  1. Jezer Mar 14 at 11:26 am Reply

    Heartbroken, I just said a prayer for you, and I am so sorry for the loss of your babies.
    Amy, you continue to amaze me with your thoughtful and spot-on recommendations.

  2. kalisah Mar 14 at 11:53 am Reply

    I was shocked to learn when I (and my friends and siblings) got to be of child-bearing age, just how many pregnancies end in miscarriage or don’t go full-term. NO ONE EVER TELLS US THIS!!
    Every single woman in my family – sisters, sisters-in-law, mothers, mothers-in-law etc. have lost a baby early. Every one of them have also gone on to deliver healthy babies, so I do believe you will too.
    Talk to your doctor at length about it – if she says there’s no reason why you can’t, then try again some day. Hopefully the advice Amy gave you will help to ease your anxiety and pain. It will all be worth it some day when you have a healthy baby.

  3. Isabel Mar 14 at 12:26 pm Reply

    Heartbroken in SF, I’m so sorry for your loss. Oh man, I can’t even imagine how you must be feeling. I’m so sorry. I hope you have a good support system surrounding you on a daily basis…whatever your support may be.
    My two miscarriages happened in the later part of the first trimester…which means people didn’t know about the pregnancies yet. Which, for me, made it easier to deal with. I’m a masochist, so I just wallowed alone. And while that seemed to work FOR ME, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.
    While finally pregnant, with what my doctor referred to as my “take home baby”, I found that blogging about my previous miscarriages helped me to be more open about it in real life. Again, this worked for me. Talking about it online helped me heal.
    Long live the internet and being around those who have done this before and are wise and wonderful.
    Thanks, as always, Amalah for your lovely advice.

  4. Sharon Mar 14 at 1:07 pm Reply

    Truly heartbreaking. So sorry for your loss. I hope Amy was of help to you!

  5. leahkay Mar 14 at 1:29 pm Reply

    You know how parents are always saying to non-parents “You can’t possibly know what it’s like to have a child until you have one of your own?” Well, I think the same thing goes for losing a child. No one knows what it’s like unless they have been there themselves. I’ve found a lot of comfort in reading the stories of other women who have been where I have been, and I hope that knowing there’s a personal community out there (as opposed to a medical community) will help you too.

  6. Marnie Mar 14 at 2:16 pm Reply

    I am very sorry for your loss.

  7. meredith Mar 14 at 2:30 pm Reply

    I just wanted to address your question on having an anxiety-free pregnancy in the future. The truth is–you won’t.
    I had a previous late miscarriage and I’m currently pregnant again. Your husband will laugh at you because you are simultaneously telling him you’re positive something’s wro…bbbleeaach. Then the second trimester will come and…you’re not sick. You can’t feel anything ohmygodohmygodohmygod NOT AGAIN. Your mother will yell at you to stay off the internet. You will go to the doctor and hear the hearbeat and relax for FIVE WHOLE MINUTES. Then you will proceed to freak out again. But you will get through…because you have to. And because that little onesie (the one you let yourself buy) already belongs there and just needs someone who can fit into it.

  8. christin Mar 14 at 5:05 pm Reply

    Thanks Amy for answering my question (I’m “Heartbroken in SF”). Since writing to you I found out that I had a placental infection, which in a way I guess is a “good” way to lose your babies (if such a thing exists) since it is unlikely to happen again.
    Anyhow, the single most comforting thing to me during this whole thing has been hearing the stories of other women who went through this and were successful the next time, so as always your advice is spot on. Thanks to all who commented about their own experiences, I really appreciate your thoughts and prayers.

  9. Lori12309 Mar 14 at 5:08 pm Reply

    Heartbroken, I miscarried twins late in the first trimester, so I know your pain. Please accept my sympathy. Sixteeen years later, I still think about my babies, although I was blessed with a beautiful daughter after I lost them. The pain does subside–the memories haven’t.
    You are in my prayers.

  10. Jaycee Mar 14 at 9:21 pm Reply

    Hi, Christin (Heartbroken) I’m so sorry about your babies. You’ve had a month or so now to process and you have an “answer” as to why your babies died. That answer doesn’t always help though. I was in your shoes 17 years ago when my first son died, a full-term stillbirth. Not a single damn day goes by that I don’t think about him and wonder what might have been. I had a tear in my sac that allowed an “infection” (not harmful to me, lethal for my son) to kill my baby. As you now know it changes your life forever. I, too, hope that you have good support and that the “helpful” people are not driving you over the edge. (You would not believe the stupid things people said to me and it made every hard day even harder.) I did go on and have 2 more beautiful, healthy boys even getting pregnant 6 months after losing my first. Very tough, but you can do it! It sounds so trite but this is your path now and you have to figure out which route you want to take. Writing did help me so much, but the internet wasn’t exactly happening back then, so I encourage you to click those links Amy gave you and absorb and wallow away! Believe me, you will have a lifelong interest in the subject, since you are now a member of the least appealing club ever! I wish you the best and hope you are holding a beautiful, healthy, breathing(!) baby very soon.

  11. Marilyn Porter Mar 15 at 5:38 pm Reply

    Add me to the “been through hellish loss but have had healthy baby and am pregnant with another” list. I can definitely attest to two things here: 1) Blogging is FANTASTIC therapy, as is reading blogs of others who have been or are going through what you are going through and 2) the next pregnancy is pretty much a nailbiter but there ARE things you can do to ease your worryings.
    Hang in there. *hugs*

  12. Carrie Mar 16 at 2:07 am Reply

    I am so sorry to read about your loss. I just lost my baby at 16 weeks, and had a very similar experience. Just the day before, I had been to the doctor and had a healthy ultrasound. The next night, my water broke and although my baby was still alive, it couldn’t live in that environment for too long. It was an experience that I know many people can’t even begin to relate to, and I must say I envy them. I also worry about a future pregnancy and can’t imagine being able to even breathe during it. I will keep you in my prayers and thoughts, for your pain to ease and soul to find peace, and for a healthy future pregnancy.

  13. Lindsey Mar 16 at 4:34 pm Reply

    Heartbroken-
    I am SO sorry that you are going through this right now. 6 years ago I was in the EXACT same position. 19.5 weeks, with identical twin boys. No IVF. Except I found out at what was supposed to be my “normal ultrasound” that they were no longer living.They ultimately determined that it was twin-to-twin transfusion that took my babies.
    I want you to know that a healthy baby WILL happen for you. Your next pregnancy will be riddled with anxiety-there’s no way around that, but you will experience a joy like no other at the end of it. I have 2 beautiful boys to prove it. (including 1 where I was diagnosed with a subchorionic hematoma)

  14. lizneust Mar 18 at 4:22 pm Reply

    I, too, lost my first child after the 17 weeks of a perfectly normal pregnancy. We were devastated after having tried for over a year before conceiving. We know that he was a boy and genetically “normal”, but we will never know what caused his heart to stop beating.
    I too think of him quite often, even though my lovely funny little girl would have never been born had he lived. She was conceived before his due date. My second daughter followed a few years later, and they are both delights.
    One thing to remember is that the next pregnancy – and I am sure as anything there will be a next, complete with baby – may be difficult for you emotionally. Once medical science has failed you – told you that things were safe and they weren’t – it is hard to regain that trust. Give yourself room to grieve now, but also to grieve again once you are pregnant. Give yourself room to be afraid and scared, even while you are over the moon. It is normal, right and part of the healing process.
    God bless and best wishes.

  15. kirsty Mar 18 at 4:38 pm Reply

    After nearly 3 years trying to conceive, I lost my first daughter at 23 weeks for no apparent reason (none ever found, anyway). I can’t begin to describe the devastation, or the different (and sometimes conflictual) approaches my husband and I had to our grief. Second time around, I’d calculated – being morbid and wallowing – the “equivalent date” and was a wreck till then. That date just so happened to be 9/11, so the stress gave me contractions and landed me in hospital for a week. But all was well. I felt awful, sick, nauseous right till the end, when my beautiful Carla was born on 12/27/01 at 8 months. Tiny, weak, not very well at all, but ALIVE. She’s now 6 and in great shape. My third daughter, Lydie, was an easier – less stressful – pregnancy, but no picnic either. And she was born at less than 8 months (36 weeks) on 27/04/04. And she’s just as beautiful and in great shape too.
    Christin, you’ll never forget your horrible experience (and, if you’re like me, you’ll never want to – I hate having to say I only have 2 children, but rarely want to get into the “so how old are they all?” thing if I say 3, nothing like dead babies to put a damper on a conversation) and your next pregnancy will be hard. But you’ll survive, and you’ll have a baby, and you’ll move on.
    Trust me, I’ve been there!
    Take care of yourself, grieve however you want, and believe that one day this dreadful time will be behind you!

  16. boofyq Mar 19 at 9:02 pm Reply

    I’m living proof that successful pregnancies can occur after late a miscarriage. My mom lost boy/girl twins at 20 weeks. She didn’t even know she was expecting twins – she just thought she was carrying big.
    A few years later, she decided she was ready again, and 40 years later, here I am!
    Give yourself time to grieve and heal. When the time is right to try again, you’ll know and you’ll still worry – but one loss is not a predictor of future loss.

  17. Kim Mar 21 at 10:28 am Reply

    I’m so sorry about your loss. I too have lost children – two of my daughters were killed when a state trooper hit their car at 102 mph. Whether stillborn, newborn, babies, toddlers, tweens, pre-teens, teenagers or grownups, nothing prepares a parent to bury a child.

  18. Shelley Oct 28 at 1:11 am Reply

    Heartbroken! Iam sorry to hear about your loss! Also to please get a hold of me some how are way because I have got your exact story in my LIFE! Pregnant with twins yes, subchronic hemphrage, sono at 19 weeks found out there sex to be boys water broke hearts still beating but nothing they could to they had to take them. This just happened to me on aug 4th 2008 and I would like to talk with you and ask you how you are and what have you been doing for yourself through this? Shelley

  19. sammie Nov 11 at 9:12 am Reply

    A few years ago i was 8 months pregnant with twin boys, I had everything i ever wanted till one night i was craving McDonalds so I went there to get some fries, when a young man crossed over the double yellow line and hit me head on. Before I knew it i was in an ambulance being rushed to a hospital, where I miss carried my boys. In less then a minute my entire world was taken from me, so if anyone can relate to you, i know that i can. Hang in there and just remember that God will never put more on your plate than you can handle.

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