After my first miscarriage, I scoured the internet to find miscarriage stories. I needed to know my pain was valid, my grief was warranted, and that I wasn’t alone. I often say that I devoured stories like medication in those early days—somehow they helped heal me as I absorbed them into my broken heart and assimilated my own experiences in light of the larger human story.
In the years since (and through two more miscarriages), I’ve learned how common miscarriage is. Depending on which research you go with, professionals estimate anywhere from 15-25% of pregnancies end in loss. (Many say the number hikes to 50% or higher if you count pregnancies lost before a woman takes her first pregnancy test.) Now that I’m on the wrong end of those statistics, those stats no longer shock me. My own loss has exposed me to the huge, hidden grief that women (and men) share all over the world.
The problem with the ‘hush’ around miscarriage stories
Issues of fertility and reproduction are intensely private for most of us. They are also mysterious and confusing unless we are informed and feel permission to speak openly about our experiences. The paradox is not lost on me.
The problem with keeping the pain of miscarriage hushed is that it breeds shame around a type of pain and a grief so common to the human experience, and shame has the ability to cripple us from the inside out. (This applies to other forms of pregnancy loss and infertility, too.) The stigma we’re used to hearing whispers in a hurting mother’s ears: You couldn’t do it—you couldn’t stay pregnant. What kind of a woman can’t do what she was ‘meant’ to do? Your loss is insignificant. Your grief response is silly. Your body is broken.
Thankfully the internet age has given rise to honest and vulnerable talk about many issues women face that have previously been considered taboo. For countless women miscarriage sits near the top of the list. Normalizing this aspect of womanhood (and parenthood) is liberating because it affirms we need not be ashamed of that which is beyond our control.
Sharing our miscarriage and stillbirth stories helps and heals
While preparing to write my book, Grace Like Scarlett: Grieving with Hope after Miscarriage and Loss, I surveyed more than 750 women and men about their pregnancy loss experiences. As they shared their miscarriage stories with me, I became convinced all over again that sharing our stories to break the silence around miscarriage and loss both helps and heals us, personally and collectively.
The following are a sampling of those stories, but they are only a slice of a much bigger conversation. In response to this need, we are launching Our Scarlett Stories—a community dedicated to giving platform to stories of grief and hope and the grace holding us together after miscarriage and other forms of pregnancy loss. Please join us there.
Lauren’s miscarriage story of joy intermixed with grief
“It usually hits me in the middle of the night when the house is quiet and everyone else is sleeping. It burns in my throat, and my chest gets tight so I can’t breathe. The tears roll back into my hair. I put my arm over open my mouth and try not to sob. And then I start to get a headache, and I tell myself I can’t do this—can’t get a migraine from the grief. On August 23rd, 2013 we cried because there was no heartbeat on the monitor. On August 24th we cried as we said goodbye to our boy whom I had carried in my womb for 18 weeks. In September I cried because my belly should have been big and round. But it was empty and flat. As flat as it has been after having three babies. I couldn’t help but imagine it an empty black cave. In November, I cried on my oldest’s birthday. Because a dear friend had her baby that day too. And I was fine. I was happy. So happy for them. But I couldn’t stop crying as I stood in the shower thinking about bringing them a meal, wanting to hold this brand new baby girl. Is it appropriate to ask for a private moment with the baby so you don’t have to bawl with an audience? “I just need a second with your 5-day old infant.” Probably not. Why do we insist on saying we’re fine when we’re not?” —Lauren DeVries (read more of Lauren’s miscarriage story here.)
Sarah’s early miscarriage story and shock
“I missed a period a few months ago, took more pregnancy tests than I could count for several weeks till, finally, I ended up with a positive test. This was our fourth pregnancy, and it was a shock. Not what we were expecting, to put it mildly. But, a few days later, I started to bleed, and a few doctor’s visits and some blood work confirmed that we had miscarried, most likely in the first month. This, too, was a shock…and what do you tell people? How do you explain that there was life, and now it’s gone? I got home from one doctor’s appointment, lay on my bed, bleeding, and wondered at the irony of it—the body that had conceived, grown, birthed, and nursed three babies was now erasing all evidence of a fourth. It was so early into the pregnancy, we didn’t even get to find out the gender.” —Sarah Guerrero (Read more of Sarah’s miscarriage story.)
Chantelle’s infertility story and reoccurring grief
“I always wonder if my loss counts, like somehow it’s less devastating than having a miscarriage or a stillbirth. And how would I know? Maybe it is. But it’s my loss and has been the greatest grief of my life. No one talks about this stuff when you’re on the other side of it. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I’d get married, grow my career to the place I felt I could quit to have babies, and then have those babies never come. My loss happens over and over again every month. It’s the loss of a dream and an expectation and even my ability to feel like I fit in with all the rest of the women around me. It’s also been a loss within my marriage, while at the same time has brought us closer together. Being infertile has been the heaviest disappointment of my life. And yet even in all of that I’ve learned that there is life beyond the womb. I’m still learning that, but my future is hopeful… even if different to what I once thought.” —Chantelle Thomas
Kathryn’s miscarriage story of letting go of control
“Weeks 7-9 are my trigger time. I rushed out of the conference room with the image of a mother sitting by her baby in the plastic NICU bassinet. Down the hallway I saw my supervisor’s open office door. He talked slowly, helping me find my breath in order to slow the panic from taking over. This was my fifth pregnancy. I dared not hope she could be the third born. How desperately we look for answers, for a way to know why it happened or what will happen. It was first a miscarriage at seven weeks, then a live and perfect birth, then a miscarriage at nine weeks, then a live and perfect birth and now…now what? We made it through week 7, then week 9, then to the second trimester. During my third trimester, my friend learned her baby, at 37 weeks was stillborn. Will the peace never come? We want to hold on and have control, to explain and predict, but it is out of our hands. Even when they are born, as was my alive and perfect daughter from that fifth pregnancy, they are never fully in our hands. We have to let go, do the best we can, and keep our courage to try again.” —Kathryn Anne Casey (Read more of Kathryn’s miscarriage story.)
Maria’s story of infant loss at 36 weeks after 90 sweet minutes
“True confession? Sometimes I go into #infantloss on Instagram just to make myself cry. I cry for the pain of every single Momma that posts in there. I cry for the pain of this world, that for as long as we are here Mothers will lose their babies. But I also cry to feel him close again. My tears bring him back. For only a moment, with those hot tears on my face, I remember what it felt like to hold him. To kiss his cheeks and to play with his toes. I miss him so much. Every. Single. Day. Yet there is this thing that happens when we have hope. This thing that happens when we believe in a God who is all powerful and all knowing and we can still trust Him even in our loss and our suffering. This thing creates in us something beautiful.” —Maria Furlough (Read more of Maria’s baby loss story.)
Sky’s recurrent miscarriage story
“September’s friendliness welcomes in the new. The trees wave more often than in summer, the geese call out their pleasantries on their way out, unripened colors crop up. This is the month that Lulu was due, the early beginnings of a fresh season. Instead we lost her in February, “I cant find a heartbeat,” the cold settling in all around. We laid her in a fresh bed of soil, planted a Wisteria that blooms purple in its time. The kids play all around and in her soil, plastic construction trucks and plucked buds find their home in her pot. Butterflies flit around her curly vines; the curly hair I imagine her to have had. A few months later we are surprised to be pregnant again, another chance to hold a new life. I wait and watch and finally hear the strong whir of a healthy heart. This baby waves and bounces. But September finds us having to say goodbye, again. Our baby boy has gone to play in bluer skies with the ones who wait for him. I deliver him wholly, second-trimester; his tiny body, a perfect plum plucked too soon. We haven’t picked a tree for Will yet, the fourth in our backyard garden, his ashes sit on the mantel my husband built for him, it faces the window where hummingbirds hover, their wings a holy heartbeat that let me know how close God is in our love and loss.” —Sky Sanchez-Fischer
Cynthia’s stories of varied grief responses after miscarriage
“I lost two different babies in the same week, four years apart. The first loss broadsided my joy like an eighteen-wheeler on black ice. The second time, grief wore clothes of disbelief. A repeat miscarriage hurt just as much as a first. My medical chart now contained the foul words, history of loss. The second time my body let go when it should have held fast, I was less surprised but still aching. Bracing ourselves for the impact of pain never really lessens the blow, does it? Grief clothed in anger and self-preservation is a real thing. It’s tempting to rely on our own ability to cope quickly; we’re frustrated when we can’t take any side streets to being okay again. But the process of pain is one that cannot be rushed. In the crushing realization that it truly still hurts— that is where we find Him. Deep in the pain that is far from fading, is the beautiful mystery that He is doing something new. I now know that it takes how ever long it takes. One day the wait will be over. We will see with our eyes what we felt in our souls all along. We will agree with C.S. Lewis and say, “Things are far better ahead than anything we leave behind.” So here we wait for that day. We press on holding both the joy and the pain. The grief and the hope of what will be.” —Cynthia M. Stuckey (read more of Cynthia’s miscarriage story here.)
Summer’s ectopic pregnancy story:
“I had never even heard the term ‘ectopic pregnancy’ when the doctor pulled me aside into his office after my ultrasound. I remember feeling like I was outside of myself or like it was a nightmare. He said I had to have surgery to remove the pregnancy or else my life would be in danger but all I could think was is he asking me to have an abortion? Ultimately I did have the surgery, but I still sometimes wonder if there was another way. Mostly I know the truth, but I still have my days. In the beginning I struggled with so much guilt as well as anger toward God. But then I began to connect with the pregnancy loss community and realize there are thousands of women going through the same thing as I am. Knowing I wasn’t the only one was so reassuring. Being connected to others while I grieved has helped me not only learn how to process my grief, but has helped me grow in my soul and in hope for the future. I couldn’t have shouldered this grief in secret.” —Summer Adams
A story of infertility
“I wake up feeling gross and groggy. I head off to work and am greeted by my good friend and colleague who’s coming up to eighteen weeks of pregnancy and she’s holding the cake she made for morning tea for her big reveal of the gender. As morning tea comes around I brace myself with a big smile to go in for the big reveal. The middle is blue and it’s a boy. I stand around smiling, sharing my congrats, looking at the latest scan, and ohhhhh-ing and ahhhh-ing. I look at my watch and think I’ve done my fair share of joining in and slip out to the restroom to find that yep… another month and one more chance gone for becoming pregnant. I feel myself beginning to get angry… There’s been so many moments over the last few years that have been a challenge. It’s hard because you don’t want to stand on a roof and yell, “look at me—poor me—I want kids but for some unknown reason God hasn’t given them to me!” … Sometimes I think being around Christians is harder because they’ve got these expectations that you’re meant to have kids. So many assume that we’re newlyweds because we haven’t got them. Some have the nerve to ask,” do you want kids?” It hurts so much because who doesn’t want kids?” —Anonymous (read more of her infertility story here.)
Elli’s story of acknowledging her pain of miscarriage years later
“Eleven years (and three healthy children) on, I struggle to admit that my miscarriage was any kind of big deal. I know women and families (heroes) who have suffered so, so much more, and those who are still battling. I feel embarrassed to mention it. To make a ‘thing’ of it. But excuses are not necessary. No—more than that—excuses are dangerous and limiting. They separate us from each other. They diminish our experiences and compel us to keep our true selves hidden. Excusing our pain away, placing it out of sight to make ourselves and others feel comfortable, is stopping us really living. While we tell ourselves: my suffering isn’t bad enough to justify acknowledgment, or everybody else seems to be fine with it, so I shouldn’t make a fuss, or, I have so many other good things in my life, I cannot possibly complain.… no one else can every really know us. And we cannot know anyone else. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: trying to be perfect will only separate us, keep us from each other. Because you cannot touch anybody else’s pain, when you refuse to acknowledge your own.” —Elli Johnson (read more of Elli’s miscarriage story here.)
Update May 2018:
Resources to Help You Heal
For further resources to navigate grief after miscarriage and pregnancy loss, or to learn how to best support a friend experiencing loss, please visit my Miscarriage Stories and Resources page. You will also find a free grief journal and a free 7-day devotional.
If you’d like to go deeper in exploring how to grieve with hope, I’ve written a whole book for you: Grace Like Scarlett: Grieving with Hope after Miscarriage and Loss (available at all major retailers).
Update May 2020:
Grief Support Groups
Join us for an 8-week “Deep Dive” grief support group to help you navigate life after pregnancy loss. Find out more here.
Pregnancy Loss Community
Join us at the kindest place on the internet: Our Scarlett Stories – online community, resource library, and more.
Featured photo by: Kseniya Petukhova