Now that my “IVF 101” series reached embryo transfer and the “two-week wait,” I wanted to touch on something that hopefully you won’t have to go through after a successful pregnancy via IVF: a miscarriage.
The pain from a loss due to miscarriage is unlike anything like you might experience in your life – and it’s a unique experience to one’s infertility, or rather fertility, journey. I’ve been fortunate, in that although I’ve had a rough infertility journey, I did get pregnant each and every time I did IVF. I was even lucky enough to get pregnant on my own. Unfortunately, though, some of those pregnancies didn’t make it past the first two months and ended with a miscarriage. I am not sure which is worse: getting that amazing news that the IVF worked and you’re pregnant, only to be let down a few weeks later that you lost it; or is it better to just “cut your losses” and hear that the cycle didn’t work and you’re not pregnant.
Now, all these years later, I can finally get through a conversation saying, “I had a miscarriage – rather, miscarriages” without welling up with emotion. Well, sort of – some days it’s still hard to get the words out without tears. Some days out of the blue I’ll see a pregnant woman or a newborn and find myself stopped in my tracks on the verge of tears. I will never forget the pain of those first miscarriages before my oldest was born. Or even the pain of my third miscarriage in between the births of my children. Looking back, I see that each miscarriage brought a unique sense of emotional pain, road to recovery (both physical and mental) and ensuing journey forward.
Each time my journey forward included a look back since there was always a feeling of blame and shame. Could I have done something differently? Was it my fault? Why was this happening (again?!?) – it’s like some cruel joke that the universe is playing on me. There certainly were times when I felt very alone. Women don’t talk about miscarriages and, therefore, it can be a very isolating experience. Just like infertility in general, because women don’t always share information, others miss out on opportunities to know that their friends understand what they’re going through and could be a in position to help and support.
Statistically, one in three women experiences a miscarriage in their life. I’ll repeat – 1 in 3!!! In fact, I bet if you mention it to a friend, they’ll say, oh yes I had one too. Unfortunately, despite miscarriages being so common, it’s hard for me to hear that women aren’t supporting each other by talking about it. Imagine how it might help your friend or family member to know they are experiencing what you did. Listen, I know it won’t take away your personal grieving, but it might help you process.
While I certainly have no clinical training, I realized for myself that moving on from a miscarriage was vital my overall well-being. I am sure that if you speak to five different women who suffered a miscarriage, you will hear five different ways to cope with the situation. For me, my saving grace was my need to plan and focus on my unwavering objective to have a family. My miscarriages were devastating, and sometimes debilitating, obstacles that I needed to conquer. As a planner – perhaps on a compulsive level – I needed to know what was going to happen next and what my next move would be in response. So once I allowed myself the time to cry and be sad (which is completely normal), I was always ready to enact the next plan.
It is important to note that I suffered miscarriages both before I successfully had my first child and after. So depending on the point in my life, I needed to consider options such as whether I wanted to try for another round of IVF; if so, then do I start over “fresh” or use “frozen;” or do I simply take a break from all fertility treatments and reassess my feelings and desires? Sometimes after taking a moment to reflect, your decision may surprise you.
I’d like to stress that I believe there is no right way to feel after a miscarriage. There is no “you should do this or do that.” Only you can determine what is right and feels natural to you. I think that you should take the time you need to grieve, feel the pain and then like any loss, learn to live with it but do not let it define you. Make a plan for your life and keep on that journey – even with those unexpected detours.
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