"I don't think I'll stop feeling scared and apprehensive": pregnancy after multiple miscarriages

Updated Oct 12 2015
the_kellbot
Miscarriage card from Etsy seller Ogea Designs
Miscarriage card from Etsy seller Ogea Designs

I don't remember a lot about my third miscarriage. With the first one I went through all the classic stages of grief — even going so far as to argue with the ultrasound tech who couldn't find a heartbeat. The second, which happened just past the end of the first trimester, made me angry. But by the third, I felt mostly an empty sense of resignation. I remember going in for surgery (a D&E to remove the "products of conception" for testing) and how sad the nurse looked when she recognized me.

With the help of some recent high-profile announcements, we as a society are starting to get better at talking about miscarriage, but when you clock three in a row no one really knows what to say.

I've got one healthy child, three consecutive miscarriages, and now a fifth pregnancy that has stuck around to the 20-week mark and is still hanging in there. In the past two years, I've been pregnant for a total of 11 months.

I abandoned any and all "rules" about when to tell people about my pregnancies. I made it up as I went along depending on how I felt. I warned people when I told them, "I'm pregnant, but I have a history of miscarriage, so I'm not ready for 'congratulations' yet." Most people were very understanding, a few offered to keep their fingers crossed for me. I stopped getting excited about pregnancy, mine or others'. I hid friends' pregnancy announcements on Facebook.

People ask if the subsequent miscarriages were any easier or harder than the first. I suppose the mundane aspects are easier; I already know what to expect from my doctor's office. The emotional stuff is different but just as hard. One of my miscarriages was at 13 weeks, after we'd seen a heartbeat. I don't know if I'd say it was harder on me than the ones at six weeks and eight weeks, because infinity plus 1,000 is still infinity.

From a medical point of view, having a miscarriage is unfortunate but pretty common (a fact which is not particularly comforting when you're having one, by the way). Statistically speaking, having two in a row is more likely to be "bad luck" than anything else. After each miscarriage, my doctor would order various tests, looking for increasingly esoteric problems (thyroid issues, diabetes, blood clotting disorders, celiac, etc.), but everything came back negative. I felt a little bit of relief after the third miscarriage, when we'd finally crossed over from "bad luck" and into "I'm writing you a referral for a fertility specialist."

What my fertility specialist lacked in answers (spoiler alert: We never found anything wrong with me) he made up for in honesty. Despite how common miscarriage is we don't know a ton about it. It's hard to design good studies, and it's not a blockbuster cause like cancer. The good news is that most people in my situation, with recurrent miscarriage and no obvious cause, will indeed go on to have healthy children.

But I can tell you first hand that "try, try again" is really not what you want to hear after your third miscarriage. I asked my doctor about various supplements. He shrugged and said there wasn't really any good data for or against most of them, but I was welcome to take them if I wanted to. Then he eyed my 24 oz. cup of gas station coffee and suggested I switch to decaf.

Ultimately my fertility specialist didn't do anything. He ran some fancy blood tests and gave me a guided tour of my uterus via ultrasound, but that's it. When I got pregnant for the fifth time, he sprung into action monitoring things. Blood draws every other day, weekly ultrasounds… if I was gonna lose this pregnancy, at least we were gonna learn something from it! At each step of the way, everything was normal.

I've been open about my miscarriages on Facebook. With this pregnancy, which my doctor says I am "probably safe to get excited about," we told friends and family in person but didn't mention anything on Facebook until around 20 weeks, when I desperately needed to find some maternity clothes to borrow. I was totally blown away by the support and joy we received.

I don't think I'll stop feeling scared and apprehensive until the moment I have a screaming infant in my hands. But I get the feeling that every person I've ever met is rooting for this baby. No matter what happens, I know they've got my back.

  1. Oh man, I've been there. I was ready to give up after miscarriage #3 but my husband convinced me to try just one.more.time. And now the product of that pregnancy is eating yogurt at the kitchen table. I was a ball of nerves for the first few weeks of that pregnancy but by the midway point I was able to relax a little – I hope the same is possible for you. Regardless, I'm wishing you the best of luck because I've been there and it's tough. Sending all kinds of thoughts for the coming weeks!

  2. I understand. I still don't know if mine "count" – years of infertility then two round of IVF where I was only pregnant for a couple of days before my levels dropped and I was obviously not pregnant any more – but I was petrified the whole first trimester with my son. Even when we started telling people I felt like a complete poser because I was still convinced something would go wrong. I finally relaxed, but even when he was born it still felt surreal the first few weeks (sleep deprivation probably didn't help…) because I almost couldn't believe he was real. Now he's napping in the next room. Crazy.

    Best of luck to you and your little one.

  3. One of my regrets is that I wasn't able to relax and appreciate my last pregnancy. I spent every single day worried that I would miscarry again or go into extremely preterm labor again. It was a hard and high risk pregnancy that did ultimately end in delivering early. But now I try to be present and appreciate every day with my crazy kids.

  4. Best thing I did was say during my prenatal class that I has had 3 mc. Over two other ppl who also had three, and One of them is now mu Bestie. Good luck and try to enjoy being prego!!

  5. Thank you for sharing your story. I have had seven pregnancies, resulting in two children and five miscarriages. One before my first child, three between my two children, and one after. My children are 22 and 14 (I am 40) and were from my first marriage, along with four of the miscarriages. The last one was mine with my current fiance. We have since decided not to attempt for another child, even though he has no biological children, just mine. It was difficult; however, it is right for us. I remember how afraid I was when I was pregnant with my daughter and the last child I lost.

    I am happy that you got so much support from your friends and family. It did not sound as if they got upset that you waited so long to tell them. Good luck with everything.

  6. I am right there with you. This is my fifth confirmed pregnancy and I am 22 weeks and I am only slightly relaxing. I had severe ppd with my daughter eight years ago and with miscarriages so I am a bit nervous I won't appreciate him when he is here and squealing in my arms. Just know you aren't alone and I am so glad you have had support. One of the hardest things for me to deal with is people not getting it and my in-laws thinking I have a "normal" pregnancy.

  7. Strangely enough, my son helped me. He was almost four by the time I was finally pregnant with my daughter, so he decided he was having a baby too. A boy, because boys have boys. And when I told him I was scared about this baby, he said cheerfully, "My baby's okay!" We blew bubbles together, with me wishing for a healthy baby on each burst bubble, and finally I laughed and decided, If I'm pregnant for five minutes, it's a good five minutes. I wrote about this in my book, The Unfeeling Doctor Betwixt Birthing Babies.

    Wishing you and your little bean lots of love and luck.

  8. My first pregnancy (in 1988) resulted in a very premature baby (27 weeks) who is today a perfectly healthy, gorgeous, funny, brainy, amaze balls human being! My next pregnancy didn't happen until I was in my mid-40s, a 22-year break in between the first and what would turn out to be the last. Devastatingly, it ended in a miscarriage during my second month.

    The grief and pain from my second pregnancy lives with me even today; it is very much at the forefront of my mind on most days, in fact. I went through counseling to help with my feelings of loss and sadness, but other than helping me to compartmentalize those feelings and to generate a small mite of gratitude that I'm not parenting with my former partner today, the grief and loss really haven't gone away even a smidgen.

    Most people think I'm on the nutter side for still (or ever) feeling such devastation over a pregnancy loss so early on. I realize many people don't think of a pregnancy that early as being a baby and believe (rather righteously) that I'm not entitled to my grief "over cells," but I was—I am. Every dream I had for a full term baby lived within that first trimester loss as fully and hopefully as any pregnancy that grows. If anything, my first pregnancy producing a lively perfect human after only 27 weeks taught me that, for me, life is life (I am not talking politics here). But, as I said, people would tell me I was being drama for feeling the way I did/do. So much so that I never talk about it out loud anymore. I just let the words hover in my mind, usually. I've learnt that lesson sitting thorough lots of the eye-rolling. Someone once even suggested to me, early on, that I didn't really feel grief for the baby ; I was just feeling grief that it was my last chance at youth and now I had to face my mortality, which isn't even remotely true. Grief is real. It's not a projection of self. It's a profound loss.

    Then, a couple weeks ago, I had to have some tests that involved biopsies and inter-vaginal sonograms, etc., to determine the source of post-menopausal bleeding. (The tests aren't back yet, but I'm not worried. Even if it is something, it's early enough to fix the something.) The thing that threw me during the evaluation was when the doctor asked me how many pregnancies I'd had. And I paused. In my head, having checked myself so many times from mentioning it out loud, I wondered if I was allowed to say "two." But, then I didn't. I said, "One." I didn't want to have to explain.

    • I'm so sorry and saddened that you've received such a lack of support over a very real loss. I try to remember that just because some people do not understand the grief and loss that comes with miscarriage doesn't make it any less real or meaningful…and honestly I hope they never have to face the reality of it themselves because I wouldn't wish that kind of pain on my worst enemy.

      If you cannot find any support groups or friends who can relate, then you might check out http://UnspokenGrief.com/ or even better, a book called About What Was Lost: 20 Writer's on Miscarriage, Healing, and Hope. They've been some of the most helpful resources that remind me I'm not alone in this grief, that whatever I am feeling is valid and that I can move forward. (Moving forward does NOT mean "getting over" this life-altering loss…just that I can carry the pain with me on new ventures rather than let it swallow me up.)

  9. I've had two miscarriages… The first one was traumatizing… The second heartbreaking…. And then got pregnant a third time literally the first time my husband and I could after my D&C.

    I was a nervous wreck in between appointments… Thinking anything and everything was going wrong. As the pregnancy progressed I got slightly less anxious with every ultrasound…. Every flutter I felt in my stomach. I didn't even mind when he would kick my side… Because at least he was kicking and I knew he was ok (except when I couldn't remember the last time I felt him kick and would convince myself it had been too longer when it was probably more likely an hour ago and I had just forgotten)

    My baby boy is now seven weeks old and thriving. I'm actually breastfeeding him as I type this.

    All I can say is have patience and faith in your body to know what to do. After my miscarriages I tried to remind myself that there was likely a reason the pregnancy was not viable and that my body did what it needed to do.

    But let me tell you… Once the baby is born there'd a whole new (and bigger) set of anxieties…. But they are so worth it

  10. Thanks for all the kind comments everyone. Just wanted to circle back and say I had the baby! She's cute and charming her older sister is even taking the change fairly well. I linked my name above to her birth story for anyone who is into those.

  11. I'm so happy to hear that I your pregnancy went well! Congratulations!

    I'm in the multi-miscarriage club, too. Doctors have told me I must have miscounted a dozen and a half but it took 10 years with multiple miscarriages for us to have a successful pregnancy; 11 years and several more miscarriages to have a second child. I was told I didn't make enough progesterone, that I needed fertility treatments (at 23 & 5 years of trying), that I would probably never carry to term. My successful pregnancies were not without complications, especially the second, but I was not going to be thwarted by my own body!

    When my daughter was 7, my 29 year old sister had a stroke, which led to me having some testing done. My family carries a fairly common genetic mutation called MTHFR. My sister's version causes strokes & a 30% increased risk for Downs, and my version causes…miscarriages. I was so relieved to have a reason and more relieved that while it's not curable, the treatment is supplements not drugs. Of course, insurance doesn't pay for supplements… But methyl-folate, D3, and a few others weren't an immediate magical fit-it; my son was born 4 years later. I am now on a mission for everyone to get tested for MTHFR; 23andme does it if your doctor won't.

    In retrospect, with a 17 year old and a 6 year old now, I was lucky; all of my miscarriages were first trimester. Having successful pregnancies only temporarily erased the pain of losing those many happy beginnings. There was no counseling in the late 80s or early 90s but the advent of the interwebz made it possible to find a community who understood. Thank you all for sharing, and for persevering.

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