As someone that has experienced four pregnancy losses and four years of infertility, Agni’s Director of Marketing and resident Health Coach, Elisa Henry Morton, is no stranger to the magnitude of physical and emotional changes that occur during and after a miscarriage. When Elisa experienced her first miscarriage, she was completely overwhelmed and out of her depth. During this time, she didn’t know who to speak to, where to turn for support, or how to navigate and process this type of ambiguous grief. Despite having a somewhat relatively smooth physical recovery each time, the emotional impact of her losses took much longer to recover from.
Below, Elisa shares 5 things that she wishes she knew when navigating pregnancy loss:
Healing takes time, and the same can be said for life returning to “normal” after experiencing a pregnancy loss. Yes, the physical recovery will take time, and it will take time for your hormones to balance themselves, for your boobs and belly to deflate, and for your cycle to regulate itself, but it will also take time for you to feel like yourself again, including how you relate to others. I remember going from ‘expectant mama’ to just me again in the blink of an eye, the crushed hopes and dreams of a future I had already begun to plan for. I found it difficult to communicate with the women in my life that were still expecting and found they, too, began to share less and withdraw from our conversations. My relationship with my husband became strained by the stress of deciding when/if it was time to try again and the reality of multiple losses. After four consecutive pregnancy losses, my mental health began to suffer, and I began to experience symptoms of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. During this time, I began to feel disconnected from myself and the things that had once brought me joy.
Tip: Think about a time in your life when you felt your happiest, most vibrant self. What were you doing at this time? Find opportunities to schedule events and activities that make you feel like this most abundant version of yourself.
Despite their best efforts, even those closest to you will say the wrong thing, and this isn’t because they are being insensitive about your experience it’s because pregnancy loss is rarely talked about. When speaking with friends and family (that have not experienced a pregnancy loss), they may struggle with finding the right words to support you and in most cases, say the wrong thing. I remember a close relative saying, “stop crying, you’re bigger than this,” and another friend describing my loss as “sucky”, at the time, this felt hurtful and unkind, but I later realized this was not their intent, they were simply not equipped with talking about this kind of loss. Another surprising thing that I experienced was the lack of genuine care and compassion from medical professionals. Despite seeing this type of loss on a regular basis, comments such as “it’s common” and “I’ll see you again when you’re pregnant” are not helpful to someone dealing with the aftermath and emotional turmoil of a miscarriage.
Tip: If you anticipate someone close to you saying the wrong thing and adding to your distress, you could offer them the invitation to provide you with an act of service, such as a home-cooked meal in place of words of sympathy.
I had always thought a miscarriage was something that happens quickly and suddenly (the same way that labor is portrayed in a movie). Why this might be the case for some, it was not my experience. In my first and third pregnancies, I suffered what is clinically known as a missed (or silent) miscarriage. With my body not rejecting the pregnancy, medical intervention was required; this meant that although psychologically I knew we had lost our baby, there were no physical symptoms, no cramps, no bleeding, nothing tangible that I could associate with a loss. In these two pregnancies, my ability to process the grief and move forward became dragged out while I waited for a D+C (also known as dilation and curettage), subsequent surgery recovery, and the results from chromosomal testing on our embryo. When I did try and move forward, the trigger of receiving a medical bill for a procedure related to the loss would immediately take me back to that moment. The experience of a natural miscarriage 7 weeks into my second pregnancy was one thousand times more painful than my worst period, and unlike a D+C, where the procedure itself is quick, this physical loss was much more confronting for me. Looking back, I wish someone had told me that I would need overnight sanitary pads, comfortable underwear, and something to manage my pain (similar to the same list of things you are bombarded with when preparing for a birth) that, in my state of shock and disbelief, I simply overlooked.
Tip: Healing takes time. Even when you feel physically capable of moving forward, be sure to take certain things (such as returning to exercise) slowly and give your body grace for all it has endured. If you experience any pain or feeling of discomfort, it might be worthwhile checking in with your physician or medical provider.
When I was deep in the throes of pregnancy loss, I felt like life was moving forward without me. Friends were having babies, getting promotions, traveling the world, upgrading their homes, and planning for the future, and I was stuck, unable to plan for a future, and unsure what my future even looked like anymore. With each positive pregnancy test, life resumed, and just as quickly, it would come to a grinding halt with the news of another loss. This cycle of pregnancy and loss continued for four long years and began to dictate not only our present life, but also our future happiness. It became difficult to plan for anything beyond this life stage, and so our world became smaller and smaller until it was just the two of us.
Tip: There is lots of uncertainty associated with miscarriage and recurrent pregnancy loss, but in between the trying, hoping, and waiting, find opportunities to commit to things that are in your control, such as a weekend away with your partner, or a girl’s night out with your nearest and dearest.
Telling people that we were no longer expecting after our first loss was like exposing my deepest darkest secrets. I felt vulnerable and shameful about what had happened. Not wanting to relive this experience, I began to withdraw from family and friends and stopped telling people where we were on our fertility journey. This, of course, meant that our second and third miscarriages were incredibly isolating and painful to experience. I found solace in an active online community of other women navigating loss which helped me to feel less alone. Reading about other people’s experiences helped to validate what I was going through and armed me with the knowledge to seek out online support groups, and maternal health practitioners specializing in recurrent pregnancy loss.
Tip: Find your people. Whether it’s an online community, a mental healthcare provider, a therapist, or a coach. Anyone that can help you (and your partner) to feel less alone during this time.
Note: This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your mental health professional or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding your condition. If you are in crisis or experiencing a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.