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My Miscarriage Was NOT “Normal”

At first, I thought it was cancer.

We all looked up at the glowing screen trying to make sense of the sonogram with all of its tricks and shadow— my husband, my wiggling toddler, the ultrasound tech, and I. There were four black, ominous circles staring back at us through the grey. They looked like fossils etched into a cave wall.

“What kind of fertility treatments have you been receiving?” the tech ventured nervously.

“None,” we replied.

Just as our confusion lifted, she vanished. Sneaky.

I was pregnant. With spontaneous fraternal quadruplets. I had discovered the pregnancy three weeks earlier after nearly vomiting on a pygmy goat at a petting zoo. I took the test huddled in the bathroom with my son who made a remarkably stylish chapeau out of the EPT box. It was glaringly positive, and we were thrilled. All three of us. My son waddled around the house for weeks calling all of the lamps “baby.” Now, it seemed, I was going to have to teach him the plural.

In the waiting room, amid the shushed muffle of magazine pages turning and throats clearing, I could hear all of my ex-boyfriends breathing a collective sigh of relief. Four babies. I was carrying four babies. I looked over at my white-faced husband who, presumably, was calculating the cost of five Ivy League tuitions.

The following weeks were a hazy circus, and my uterus was the main attraction.

Everyone was excited—frantic even—the doctors, the nurses, the perinatologist, our families, the woman responsible for fulfilling my artisanal ice cream craving whom I just HAD to tell.

“How extraordinary!” they shouted.

“You must feel like quite the stud,” people chided my husband (which he kind of loved).

“NO family history?! Bizarre!”

And my personal favorite, “Congratulations! That is really…unusual.”

Our doctor cautioned us. We knew it was a dangerous pregnancy, and we tried not to get excited, but as the weeks grew on, my belly began to swell, and the blood-work remained positive. We found ourselves preparing for life as a family of seven (!!!!!!!)

At 11 weeks and 3 days, we went back in for an additional ultrasound. This would be the one we would stick under our Andy Warhol magnet on the fridge, the one that would travel around the world, shocking the hell out of our friends. When we looked at the same ghostly screen we had marveled at only three weeks earlier, they were gone. We had lost all four babies—none developing past the eighth week.

The tech’s voice dropped to a whisper. “I’ll give you some time.”

“It happens to 1 in 5 women, you know,” they told me after they ushered us into an exam room equipped with so many Kleenex boxes, I could only assume it was designated especially for delivering bad news. “Miscarriage is perfectly normal.”

We didn’t cry right then. We just listened.

They kept using the word “normal.” Rattling it off, over and over again. Reassurance upon reassurance: I was normal, the miscarriage was normal, and one day I was going to have another normal pregnancy. As the doctors explained our options, I couldn’t even look at my husband. His shock was palpable, washing over the entire room. In a moment, they sent us out through the back door and into our world—which was changed once again.

When we left, I started using the word “normal” too. I insisted upon it; and for a brief spell, I actually believed it. That afternoon we shared the bad news with family and friends. I told everyone it was perfectly fine and that miscarriage happens all the time. Miscarriage is normal. I said we were prepared for the loss on some level, that God doesn’t give you more than you can handle. Four babies would have been too much for anyone. The good news I told them, chuckling, “At least I know I can get pregnant again.”

I was positively crumbling inside.

I scoured the internet, sopping up every statistic I could, proving to myself over and over again that pregnancy loss is just one of those regular girl things. There was no need to be upset. I clung ferociously to the commonality of it all. Normal became my mantra. I knew it would never mend what was broken, but it saved me from staring at the fragments by my feet.

When I woke up from the D&C and the doctor told me they had gotten “it all,” I told myself it was normal. When my body was curled around the toilet, still ravaged by morning sickness a week later, I told myself it was normal. When I watched my rounded torso shrink bit by bit in the mirror each day for an entire month, begging for its return, I told myself it was normal. When I looked at my son’s dimpled cheek blushing in the sun and ached to imagine what his siblings would have been like, I told myself it was normal.

I had spent nearly three months pregnant—anxiety ridden but joyous, nurturing my children, dreaming of them, and now, they were gone—voided by forces I will never, ever understand. My chest left heavy and weighted by a grief that was viscous and bonding to what felt like every pulse. But unlike my “unusual” pregnancy, THIS process, this loss I was told was “normal.”

It wasn’t.

It isn’t.

There is nothing normal about it. 1 in 5 women experience pregnancy loss, and I can promise you that the singular woman does not feel normal—whether she loses one child or four, whether she is already a mother or struggling to conceive. Pregnancy is normal. Motherhood is normal. The excitement of bringing a child into the world is normal. The loss is not. The loss is staggering.

It took me months to dispose of the notion that my miscarriage was nothing more than a routine health incident and accept the grief I was starving for. The idea that being normal—feeling normal—is somehow intrinsically better than the alternative is pervasive in this world. We like to think that we outsmart it when we grow up and buy houses and have babies and lose the ones we love, but we don’t. It is still here, sitting in the back of our minds ready to offer questions. I know that my healthcare providers (whom I adore) would never have wanted to minimize the trauma of losing a baby, that the friends who rationalized along with me wanted nothing more than to believe that I was at peace with what had happened, and I know the information available to women and men who have suffered through miscarriage is meant to provide comfort—even though, sometimes, it does quite the opposite.

While pregnancy loss might be widespread, I can assure you the experience is not normal. On a personal level, it is earth shattering, it is terrifying, and it causes your faith to tremble—unsettling even the most steadfast heart. However, it is not without redemption. I’m learning this as I continue to accept the loss of the babies, embrace the fact that something bad happened to me—something that wasn’t normal, something that weakened me and still wakes me up at night, hand cradling my tummy. I had a miscarriage. It traumatized the heck out of me, and I am dealing with that. I find comfort in letting myself grieve deeply, or laugh, or—on occasion—drink the extra glass of wine. I find comfort in knowing that I, along with anybody else who has wondered if they are feeling the right things, deserve to define their own hardships, to determine their own “normal,” and to find their own way to cope with the endless surprises this life delivers.

To anybody dealing with pregnancy loss, know that my hand is outstretched to yours. I’m sure there are other hands too, and I urge you to take them and not deny yourself the love and support you deserve.

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14 Responses to My Miscarriage Was NOT “Normal”

  1. Ariana October 15, 2014 at 9:50 pm #

    Not normal. I lost two. I had no idea you had too, and that is often the saddest thing—that our losses are secret, and no one knows how to grieve with us. I wrote a lot about it and told lots of people, and often got a secret, whispered, “Me too.” Thank you for sharing this with us.
    http://themusicianandthegeek.blogspot.com/2012/09/beautiful-and-precious.html

    • Shannon Lee Miller
      Shannon Lee Miller October 18, 2014 at 7:27 am #

      I’m so sorry for your losses, Ariana. I’ve been thinking so much about the strange culture of secrecy surrounding early pregnancy and pregnancy loss. We all stay hidden away, lips sealed during the first three months, a vulnerable time that we need the support of our loved ones the most. Then, after a miscarriage, we’re left feeling alienated from the ones who would grieve alongside us. Other cases of loss are treated so differently, I mean, there is an obituary section in the newspaper, death is literally announced to the world, but for some reason, miscarriage has been ostracized from this collective mourning.

      • Michelle January 5, 2015 at 6:54 am #

        I agree with this statement completely. Especially the contradictory comparison with death of anyone other than an unborn baby. I have had 3 miscarriages. 2 in one year’s time and those two were at 11 and 14 weeks. I have said the same thing about the secrecy. People stay quiet with me on the topic because they don’t want to upset me. They think they are doing me a favor. And I love that they are trying to protect me. But I want to talk about it. In the same way you talk about other loved ones who have died.

        Thank you for sharing.

  2. Abby October 16, 2014 at 4:28 pm #

    I am so sorry for your loss Shannon. Your story has me in years! Thanks for sharing it.

  3. Amanda January 6, 2015 at 5:19 pm #

    I love this article. I still grieve over my miscarriage 2 years ago. I don’t think you truly get over it. Not a lot of people talk about the subject either. It was amazing after I had mine that so many of my friends came forward and told me they had one also

  4. Jan January 6, 2015 at 8:36 pm #

    Thanks. I had 3 in one year. I spent more time pregnant than not. My 4th and 5th pregnancies were a time of trepidation and elation, but “normal” was always floating around the back of my head. Nagging me. My boys are healthy and wonderful. But I’ll never forget the pain of losing those babies and I wonder if that is “normal”.

  5. Chris January 7, 2015 at 6:08 am #

    Thank you for putting into words what so many of us have experienced. I’m so sorry for the loss of your sweet babies. I too lost my 1st and 3rd babies. I went on to have 5 children, but those two were absolutely devastating. We all understand your pain. The “normal” doesn’t help with the grief.

  6. Maria January 7, 2015 at 7:47 am #

    Thank you for writing this! After having two children, we decided really wanted another child. I got pregnant right away. Had no idea anything would go wrong, after all, the first two pregnancies were a piece of cake.

    Just weeks into second trimester, I started bleeding. A lot. It started while I was sitting in a beauty shop chair getting a hair cut. I had to leave immediately. That baby was due December 28. Not a single Christmas has gone by in the past 10 years that I don’t think about that first baby we lost. I wonder if it would have been born on Christmas day. The 28th hits me like a gut punch. Still.

    After that miscarriage I had two more. I remember being wheeled into the D&C surgery room, for the third time in two years, my husband holding my hand to the last second and we just sobbed. I was ready to give up. A male nurse who was caring for me hugged us both. He said his wife had 5 miscarriages, and then a healthy full term baby. I have never forgot his telling us this. It was instrumental in our not giving up. I wish I could find him now and thank him for his kind words.

    After the third loss, we headed to a wonderful infertility OBGYN. He found I had Asherman’s Syndrome, an odd scar tissue spider web like material in my uterus. Easy to fix with a simple surgery.

    We got pregnant 3 months later and 8 months after that our beautiful amazing 3rd daughter was born. By this point her older sisters were 10 and 13. We didn’t want her to be an ‘only child’ with so much distance between she and our older girls. And we had always wanted four children. So, we started trying again.

    And I had a fourth miscarriage. It was just as devastating as the first three. This time I opted for no D & C. I miscarried at 35,000 feet on a long flight to the west coast. Luckily, I was upgraded, and the flight attendant, who asked if I was okay after repeated trips to the bathroom, kept my wine glass full, hugged my husband and I, and kept stopping by to squeeze my hand. I will never forget that. And not getting a D & C was awful…the whole process of losing the baby lasted many days. I ended up in an ER, with a callous doctor, far from home.

    We got pregnant again three months later…and 9 months later….we had a beautiful healthy baby boy!

    I would not change, for the entire world, that we have the two amazing little ones we have. I often think about how I wouldn’t have these precious children if I hadn’t miscarried the others.

    HOWEVER, I still mourn each of those four losses. They would have been our special and unique children, just as precious to us as our 3 daughters and son. Having a baby after a miscarriage does not erase the fact that you lost a baby. Yes, it eases the pain some, but it doesn’t magically wipe it away.

    What still hurts are the comments so many people made during this time. “You already have two children, so be glad for that.” and many comments along the same line. Secondary infertility is just as painful as primary infertility, but in a different way. You already have a child or children and know the depth of parental love you have for them, so losing a baby via miscarriage hurts beyond words. You are not losing a ‘pregnancy’, you are losing a child.

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful insight. Although it has been six years since my last miscarriage, I cried when I read it. It is so very true, and you perfectly expressed the pain and the frustration with the whole “It’s normal” BS. THANK YOU!

  7. kaitlin January 7, 2015 at 2:28 pm #

    Thanks for this. Currently sitting on my couch recovering from a d&c this morning, as we lost our baby as well.

  8. Katie Stack March 2, 2015 at 4:50 pm #

    I absolutely loved this article. I experienced a miscarriage July of last year. We went in for a regular OB visit at 11 weeks to hear the heartbeat, and there was none. The ultrasound showed no sign of life, and I was told my baby hadn’t made it passed 8 weeks. It truly was the worst experience of my life. But I didn’t know how to handle it. I so badly wanted to be comforted through it, but I hadn’t told hardly anyone I was pregnant, and it felt weird telling people we miscarried without telling them we were ever pregnant. Our family members we did tell treated it like it was “normal” saying things like “it happens all the time” “you’ll have another one” etc. I know they were just trying to be nice, but it was such a traumatic experience for me, and no one was treating it as such. I thought maybe I was overreacting to it all. I felt like there was something wrong with me because I was having such a hard time with it. I am glad there are women like you who come out and say how hard miscarriage is, no matter how far along you are, and that it isn’t just a normal part of a woman’s life to lose her unborn baby, and it’s okay to grieve. It makes me sad that women feel the need to be silent about it. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and giving other women the courage to share theirs.

  9. Beth September 24, 2015 at 9:28 pm #

    Thank you. Today, I have been dealing with sadness, as one month ago, I started miscarrying. Being my fourth pregnancy, and at 8 weeks, no one thought the first bleeding was unusual. I was freaking out. Not one in my other pregnancies, did I bleed. I was also on vacation away from my husband, which made it harder. Three days later, I ended up in the ER, because of clotting. I thought I was getting back to normal, but then today showed up, and I realized that the emotions are still there.

  10. Lindsie January 3, 2016 at 9:27 am #

    Thank you for this. I am currently recovering from an ectopic pregnancy. Women who have shared their story have been so encouraging to me as I’ve processes this loss.

    • KBrewer December 20, 2016 at 7:23 pm #

      So sorry. I had an ectopic last March bc of meds I had to take. I am taking the meds again and clinging to the faith that I am not in control. :/ It’s hard. So much fear to suppress.

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