My journey to becoming pregnant had many ups and downs, but looking back on the whole journey, there is one process that I consider as a turning point for me as a person and woman: it was my ‘missed’ miscarriage. That is why I would like to share this personal story with the hope of inspiring other women who either had miscarriages in the past or are trying to decide what to do in case of a (missed) miscarriage.
A miscarriage is often a disappointing and discouraging experience, especially for those who are experiencing fertility challenges. Yet, just like any other obstacle one might face in life, even a miscarriage can become a source of power, hope, and trust. However painful it was while I was going through it, this miscarriage was for me an empowering one at the end of the day.
We were by then trying to get pregnant for 2½ years and going through fertility treatments for 1½ years. I had already had a miscarriage after the first round of treatment with Clomid (a drug stimulating ovulation) with 5½ weeks of pregnancy. We were definitely sad as a couple when the first miscarriage happened, but since it was so early on in the treatment process and the pregnancy, we shifted fast to a hopeful mood. Yet months passed, and we had not seen any positive pregnancy tests afterwards. Hope was slowly giving way to doubt.
Thankfully, almost exactly a year after my first miscarriage, the + sign appeared on the pregnancy test again – I was naturally pregnant (or ‘spontaneously pregnant’ as it is called by fertility doctors in the Netherlands). In our case, this was always a possibility as there was no medical reason for us not to get pregnant as a couple. When this possibility became a reality, we were very happy. And since it was such an unexpected gift by then, we trusted that this would be our wonder baby.
Unfortunately, when we went for an early scan with 8 weeks of pregnancy, we were shattered with what we saw on the screen – the baby (which is technically called an ‘embryo’ at that point) looked like it was 6-6½ weeks old, and the heartbeat could not be detected. I could not believe what the doctor was saying, since my body was still feeling and acting pregnant thanks to the pregnancy hormones.
The doctor proposed to do a scan a week later and to talk about the options then. The next week, which felt terribly long, I was talking to my baby and praying it would grow up with my love and cries. In the meantime, I was looking for stories that could give me hope. Unfortunately, the symptoms began to diminish, and our baby was as big as last week when we went for a scan at what should have been 9 weeks.
It was devastating to have lost this gift. And there we were in the doctor’s room talking about miscarriage options. Before this experience, I did not even know about the existence of a ‘missed’ miscarriage, which is the term used for a miscarriage which has not taken place following the death of the ‘embryo’. So practically, I was walking around with a dead baby, even though it did not feel that way for me. The gynecologist explained that there were three options:
At that moment, tears were running down my eyes, and I told the doctor that I could not choose for an abortion, either with pills or an operation, of a child which I had been longing for, for so long. My choice was right away to wait for nature to take its course. I felt very strongly that this child was conceived naturally, so the miscarriage should also take place naturally. The nurse followed us to the hallway and gave us the pills anyway, in case I might change my mind, but I knew that I would not use them, and I didn’t.
From that moment on, I began to read stories of women who had had miscarriages at home, so as to prepare myself for what to expect. By now, I was ‘9 weeks pregnant’, so it could take another 3 weeks, and it actually did! At ’10 weeks’, when I did a pregnancy test, it was still positive, indicating that my pregnancy hormones had still not dropped below the pregnancy test threshold. Apparently, my body needed some time to build off the pregnancy. Actually, this was one of the reasons I opted for a natural miscarriage, I wanted to trust my body to regulate its hormones, so that it would reach its non-pregnant state again.
The waiting weeks not only gave my body to adjust to the situation physically, but also gave me the space and time to process this loss emotionally. I was sad. I cried. I tried to give it a place in our journey to pregnancy. These weeks were heavy, hard, and long. Yet, this whole pregnancy, despite the fact that it ended in a ‘missed’ miscarriage taught me to trust nature and the natural course of events. It taught me to be patient.
And yes, it was this miscarriage that made me a mother in my eyes because when the miscarriage happened, it felt just like birth. Two days before I hit the ’12 weeks’ mark, I lost some blood, which was the first sign that the miscarriage would soon begin. The day after, I had some light cramps. It really began that night, just like many births tend to. Whereas my first miscarriage felt more like heavy menstruation cramps, this was different – I was feeling it on my belly and back – just like birth contractions. Yet even though I usually take painkillers for menstruation cramps, this time around I used a hot water bottle, pressing it where I was feeling the contractions the most – it helped! I was changing positions and following my body – sitting on the toilet, under the shower, on hands and knees, on knee-chest. The ‘active’ miscarriage took around 16 hours, and also in that sense felt like childbirth. When it was over, I was feeling very tired, but relieved. It was only then that I took some painkillers and slept for the next 12 hours to recharge.
Physically I was feeling tired, but emotionally I was feeling very strong – I did it! This was actually my first birth, and I did it all on my own, unassisted, at home, with my husband helping me when I needed him. I felt reborn and powerful as a woman, as a mother.