First of all, I want you to know that you’re not alone here, in this multiple loss purgatory where nothing makes sense and you feel like you don’t have a place.
But you do.
The first loss was bad enough, I know. Not only having the rug ripped out from under you like that, but also being consumed with a type of grief you didn’t know was possible. The type that when it hit, it felt like a Mack truck covered in railroad spikes.
But you survived.
You also had a home. You became part of The Miscarriage Club – that unfortunate 1 in 4. You rolled the dice and lost the first round, but at least you weren’t alone. Literally millions of women were right there with you.
And just like with everything else, when it was over, you picked up the pieces and moved on – because that’s what people do. And perhaps in a naive moment, you thought that maybe you got it out of the way. That maybe from now on, your body will know what to do.
Next time, it’ll stick.
And maybe it did. But then it didn’t again, and now you’re stuck in this weird, awful place that’s so much harder to define. Who are you now? What group do you belong to now?
And try as it might, your rational brain can’t silence your emotional brain – because grief is not rational. You wake up in the middle of the night making lists of the reasons why it ended again: stress, work, flying on an airplane, scooping cat litter, drinking half a beer, having a cold, taking 14,000 steps a day, moving furniture, mopping the floors.
You’re exhausted and angry. You’re inconceivably sad, but you don’t want anyone to know so you self-medicate which leads to self-sabotage and one morning after yet another mortifying blackout night you realize that you’re done.
You can’t do this anymore.
You can’t keep hurting yourself, and the people who love you.
So I need you to know a few things, so that like me, you don’t end up doing shots of pure vodka one night and wake up the next morning with a laundry list of apology letters to write. Or worse.
1) You have a place
Remember earlier when I said you have a place? I meant it. It may not seem like it, but recurrent miscarriage still affects millions of women, so you’re not even close to being alone. And if you need help like I did in silencing your irrational brain, these 5 Myths About Recurrent Miscarriage are surprisingly helpful.
2) You’re not stupid for having hope
It’s okay to lower your expectations so that if things go south, you don’t feel disappointed. This is a common defense tactic that in theory, is a great idea. But here’s the thing: being a pessimist doesn’t lessen the blow. Because no matter how brave a face you put forward, it still hurts like hell. So don’t kick yourself for believing in something. Just because it’s not happening for you right now, doesn’t mean it never well. Pain is real, but so is hope.
3) Not everyone knows how to talk to us, and that’s okay
I’m sure you remember this from your first loss. Meaningless platitudes are infuriating when you’re grieving, but be patient with the people who love you. They may not know what to say, and they almost always say the wrong thing, but it’s not their fault. They love you and they are trying. Remember that.
4) It’s okay to be angry
I’m mad as hell, and you should be too. So be angry. Don’t pretend that you’re not because trust me, the second you shove all those feelings deep down into the pit of your stomach (and in my case, pour alcohol on top of them – see #6), they make a pact to jump back out at the most inopportune times and have the potential to carry some pretty heavy consequences.
5) Be kind to yourself
No one sees how hard we are on ourselves behind closed doors. Why didn’t I eat better? Lose some weight? Put my feet up more? I should never have lifted those boxes. The human brain is designed to look for cause and effect when something terrible happens because as human beings, we’re desperate for answers. Of course, most of the time we never get them, so sometimes we simply believe we’re to blame. Or we’re broken. But guess what? We’re not broken. And it is not our fault. Sometimes we slip-up too, and that’s okay. You’re allowed slip-ups, just like anyone else. Forgive yourself.
6) Don’t pour alcohol on top of your feelings
This one, I unfortunately know a lot about. As the title of this blog suggests, I’m no stranger to problem drinking. It’s been my coping mechanism ever since I was a teenager, and it’s only gotten worse with time and tragedy. Instead of dealing with my feelings in a healthy, adult way, I have always been more comfortable burying them at the bottom of a box of wine, or several cases of beer. As you can imagine, it’s been highly ineffective. I’ve come to realize that aside from hurting literally everyone who cares about you, drinking doesn’t allow you to feel anything. It masks the pain, and until you feel each loss—I mean really feel it—you will always be stuck at the bottom of a bottle. Don’t get stuck there. It’s uglier than you could ever imagine.
7) Take care of you
No one else knows the anxiety you face, or will face, the moment that line turns pink. While most women jump for joy and even live-blog the minute their urine translates into an adorable plus sign on a stick, we cringe and sweat and our heart leaps into our throat. What if it happens again? Our minds inevitably shift into replay mode and the past flashes before us like some sort of twisted home movie. It’s not exciting anymore – it’s terrifying. So take care of yourself, and allow yourself to grieve. Sleep, even though your mind doesn’t shut off. Eat, even though everything is tasteless. Talk to someone. Vent to your best friend. Write about your pain. Slow down. Put your feet up. Grab a big bag of Chicago Mix, and take a deep breath. You’ve got this.
October is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month. To read more about the PAIL Network, click here.