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The Education of a Miscarriage

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If you are familiar with my blogs or with any of the various articles I write, you know that I am a business woman and an educator. I own an education company and have for 17 years. My staff and I educate children, consult parents, and guide families in their academic pursuits. That is what I do -- I educate. Generally, I write about edifying topics that are not extremely personal in nature, all with the goal of helping others learn and grow. Sometimes though, life is paradoxical and the teacher becomes the student.

A few weeks ago, I suffered a devastating miscarriage. It was my first pregnancy and I was eight weeks along. The news was shocking and came on an early Thursday morning. Now, I assume that most women are shocked by their miscarriages, but this was truly a shock because my week 6 and 7 ultrasounds had been so great and on track. The goal that Thursday morning was to find the baby's heartbeat, as is usual practice around that time, and there was no anticipation that we wouldn't find it. As my husband stood at my head stroking my hair, we both looked at the ultrasound screen and intently tried to make out the various shapes and hues of grey. We saw the large gestational sac, the yolk sac, and a small fetal pole, but there was no flashing little ray of light. As the doctor looked on, I could see him keenly looking at the screen, trying hard to find what we were all looking for. He then started to speak and say how we needed to find that heartbeat today, and how he was concerned, and how this little one didn't appear to make it, and that... blah blah blah. I have an amazingly sympathetic, articulate, and intelligent doctor, but at this point, I no longer heard what he was saying. I no longer needed to hear the actual words because I think I knew. I held it together until I looked up at my husband whose eyes were filled with tears. He looked down at me, stroked my hair, and tried to give me a half smile as if to say, "I'm so sorry baby. We will make it through this." That is when I began to cry. I knew the truth had registered with John before it did with me, and his tear filled eyes were all the confirmation I needed. The following days were tough both emotionally and physically, but through it all, I came away with some of the greatest wisdom. Surprisingly, through the heartache and trauma of it all, I have learned three amazing lessons: lessons that have redefined the way I think about my life, my plans, and myself.

The first lesson I learned dovetails with that old joke: "How do you make God laugh? Tell him your plans." I am big on having plans, and boy, John and I had plans. As of December of this past year, John and I had been married for exactly one year, and that fit in our plan of having a year together before starting a family. We had decided we wanted to get pregnant in 2012, another part of our meticulous plan, and boom we were pregnant by Valentine's Day. It all went so according to my plan -- so I thought. I am a person of faith and I have always known that I wasn't the only one in charge of my life, but this experience reminded me of that. Miscarrying forced me to release my Type A control tendencies and my meticulous plans. It made me realize that I can't fully control this life endeavor. It was an exceptional reminder that God, the Universe, Destiny, a Life Force, a Divine Being, whatever you would like to call it, has a strong hand in our lives. We can certainly make plans in life, we just need to be adaptable when those plans take a left turn, don't turn at all, or simply run into a dead end. Adaptability, acceptance, and loss of control were all lessons I was encouraged to re-learn over the last few weeks, and that experience has been humbling to say the least.

The second lesson I learned was that unless someone has been through a miscarriage herself, she will not truly "get" the experience. Unless your girlfriend has suffered one, or your male cousin has been through it with his own wife, people generally aren't able to truly comprehend the loss. There are some exceptions to this, I must admit. Some girlfriends are such empathetic people that even though they never went through a miscarriage, they truly feel your pain and know the right words to say. Barring these few exceptionally high emotional quotient friends though, many others will not say the right thing to you, will say stupid things to you, or will not even say anything at all. Although this awakening was a bit jarring, this is not the entirety of the lesson I learned. The lesson I also learned was that I needed to forgive these friends and not harbor resentment toward them. When one of my dearest girlfriends never once even said to me on the phone how truly sorry she was for my loss, it cut me. I then realized though that she just didn't "get" it. She loved me and tried to sympathize with me, but she was so far removed from my specific situation that she was unable to communicate to me what I really wanted to hear. It wasn't her fault that she didn't know the right words to say, and I needed not to be hurt by the her reaction, or lack thereof. Funny how I thought that I was the one who deserved the slack during this trying time, yet I ended up extending it to others. I realized that giving people slack and not harboring resentment actually made me feel more calm and in turn, enabled me to heal more easily.

The third lesson was what I consider the most powerful and important one. It is certainly not a lesson I didn't know, nor was it one I don't practice, but it was one that I didn't expect to be so omnipresent during this period of loss. The lesson was gratitude. I was insanely grateful from minute one of this experience. I know that sounds strange, and do not get me wrong, I was exceptionally sad and at moments mad, but I was also immensely grateful. Let me tell you a few of the things I was grateful for:

  • My amazing husband whose undying devotion and love for me was expressed at every turn and in every way on this journey. John is an exceptional man who has realized that although he can't "fix" this for me, he can instead support, fortify, and steady me.
  • My Mom, Dad, and brother who were my bedrocks. Especially my Mom, who had been through a few miscarriages of her own and knew exactly how to comfort me, guide me, cry with me, and support me when I was suffering.
  • My health. I was so appreciative of my healthy body that did everything textbook perfectly during this pregnancy and will do it again soon.
  • I was also grateful to Mother Nature who figured out relatively early on that this fetus wasn't healthy enough to survive and as a result, prompted my body to self-regulate and self-correct accordingly.
  • My amazing doctor. I was so appreciative of my brilliant doctor and his attentive and nurturing medical team. In fact, three days after my miscarriage I actually wrote my doctor a heartfelt thank-you note telling him how much I appreciated his expertise, bedside manner, and medical prowess. I mean how many docs receive a thank-you note after a miscarriage?

I could go on about being grateful for wonderfully supportive girlfriends, for a few very understanding clients who found out, for the wine I can drink again, for the career I have that allows me the flexibility to take an immediate leave of absence during such an emergency, for the feta cheese I can eat again, for my favorite abdominal exercises I can do again, etc. I know some of these sound silly, but that isn't the point. The point is I was overwhelmingly grateful during a time when I could have been overwhelmingly sad, angry, and anything but thankful. It is amazing how gratitude can turn sorrow and disappointment into optimism and hope.

Through this colossal learning experience, I take away so much more than I had with me the day before that drugstore stick test read "positive." From that day until now, the teacher became the student, and if you ask me how I think I did on my report card, I'd tell you I deserved an A-. If the teacher were to write a comment, I think he would say, "Shows such great potential as a Mommy, and has grown so much as a woman this trimester. Sometimes needs to play more agreeably with others and limit crying episodes during hormonal break-downs, but overall, Kelly is a diligent student, a keen observer, and a willing learner. I enjoy having her as my pupil and look forward to seeing what new little 'bundle' of inspiration she will bring to the classroom this time next year."