Content warning: Discussion of miscarriage/pregnancy loss/infant loss ahead.
On six separate occasions, I’ve felt the nearly imperceptible effects of joy coursing through my body after learning that I was pregnant. Six times my heart rate increased and an ear-to-ear smile was plastered on my face before rushing to share with my husband that we were about to start (or rather grow) our family—and with it the next chapter of all of our lives.
And three times I’ve felt the exact opposite. The sinking of shoulders, the weight of grief with a miscarriage, in learning the pregnancy wasn’t viable and comprehending that all of those wants, hopes and plans were no longer a reality.
Every loss is different. Every loss carries a different set of reasons to feel grief and despair, which changes you—as well as what the rest of what your family’s life might have looked like.
I recently heard Michael Lewis discussing how exhaustion was one of the stages of grief in processing the heartbreaking loss of his daughter. Exhaustion because your brain is rewiring what it assumes the future might hold for you and your loved ones. While the circumstances around his family’s loss were different and unimaginable, his comments around grief broadly resonated.
Pregnancy loss is brutal because it’s so much more than just one thing.
I remember once rolling my eyes at the philosophical debate of what the opposite of happiness is: the absence of happiness or the state of sadness? While it felt like a linguistic rabbit hole, I have come to appreciate the inverse of the debate in dealing with losses.
Is the opposite of sadness the mere absence of it or happiness? This became all too crystalized during our third loss. We already had two amazing children and were trying for another, but it wasn’t meant to be. In the immediate aftermath of being informed that we had lost the pregnancy, I felt filled with two juxtaposed truths.
One was the overwhelming nature of my grief. The other was my immense gratitude, paired with some guilt, in knowing we already had two incredible kids. The notion that I could be simultaneously feeling so much immense despair and loss while also feeling gratitude was unthinkable—yet I was thinking it.
Pregnancy loss is brutal because it’s so much more than just one thing. It’s the extinguishing of the future your mind begins to chart. It’s the physical pain and trauma that your body undergoes to get back to “normal.” It’s the despair of not knowing if you could have done something differently or, maybe worse, if there’s nothing you can control about it at all. And then there’s the road ahead in wondering if the next time will be different.
With our first loss, I set my sights too high. I wanted the opposite of what I was feeling without stopping to grieve or recover. All of my hoping and wanting and planning couldn’t do a thing to will me from grief to happiness again without first recovering.
I hope anyone reading this never needs to follow this advice, but I’ll offer it anyway: ask for support, go easy on yourself and take care of your body. Don’t treat recovery as a weigh station on the way to happiness, but instead as a critical component to dealing with what you’ve just been through. Allow for exhaustion, but know that you are far from alone.
In honor of Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month, Perelel’s Co-Founders Victoria (Tori) Thain Gioia, Alex Taylor and Dr. Banafsheh Bayati wanted to bring healing to their community with a Recovery Support Pack meticulously formulated for women’s bodies going through the healing process after any reproductive loss—including miscarriage, still birth, or any form of fetal loss.
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