Five women share what it’s like to have a miscarriage

ake1150sb/iStock(NEW YORK) — If you or your partner haven’t had a miscarriage, statistics indicate that you likely know someone who has.

For women who know they’re pregnant, 10 to 20% will experience a first-trimester loss, according to the Mayo Clinic. That number is likely higher, many experts said, as it’s common for a woman to miscarry before she even knows she’s expecting.

What’s more, one recent study indicated that 43% of mothers reported having had one or more first-trimester losses.

And still, miscarriage remains a taboo topic.

“It’s one of the many topics in medicine that we need to de-stigmatize and we need to bring out of the shadows,” said ABC News Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Jen Ashton, a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist. “It’s so common and so many people, unfortunately, experience it.”

Five of these women, from all around the country, opened up to ABC News’ Good Morning America about their experiences.

Lauren Riggs, 24, Nashville, Tennessee

“I am actually oldest of seven and just from a very early age knew that I wanted to be a mom. My husband and I got married in 2017, and we started trying for a baby in April 2018. I found out I was pregnant at the end of July. We got to see the baby when I was seven weeks along, got to see its heart beat at the bottom of the screen. It was just so surreal knowing that we had created something so beautiful living inside of me. We were just completely over the moon.

“We passed the 12-week mark and decided to share with social media that we were pregnant. The day after, I started bleeding pretty heavily, so I called my OB-GYN and was kind of reassured that sometimes it’s normal [to bleed], and not to panic. She said if it persisted over the next few weeks to call and make an appointment. So for the next week, I tried to do that — just stay calm and trust that everything was gonna be OK.

“A week after I started bleeding, I woke up to a lot of blood and I just knew something wasn’t right. I went to my OB-GYN and they scheduled an ultrasound. When the ultrasound tech came in, she pointed the screen away from me. After about five minutes of silence, I said, ‘You see the baby, right? The baby’s there, right? Is everything OK?’ And she said, ‘I see the baby. I’m taking measurements. I’ll get you back to the doctor.’ I didn’t get to see the baby that day. I just kept telling myself everything was fine. She saw the baby. Everything’s fine, because I passed my 13-week mark. Everything was supposed to be perfect at that point.

“My doctor came in and she told me that there wasn’t a heartbeat. I just remember feeling like someone had thrown me into deep hole and slowly started to pour rocks on me because it was just crushing. Every second was worse than the last. It was just devastating.”

“The next day my doctor called me and I told her I wanted to try to miscarry naturally. She prescribed some pills for me, so I could try to pass the baby as naturally as possible. A few hours later I started passing blood clots and cramping, and my doctor told me to go to the hospital and to make sure everything passed correctly. When we did, they did another ultrasound and found that we hadn’t passed anything. My husband and I just stared at the screen; it was just so much different than what I had seen the first time, when I saw it moving around the screen. The next day we picked up the medicine and I started the process again. The medicine just didn’t work.

“My husband and I made the decision to have a D&C done. We found out on Monday; this was Friday, so it was a very long, drawn-out process. I don’t remember anything from the day I had my D&C, and I think it was a gift because I was so emotionally tired. I do remember telling every single person I saw, ‘I really don’t want this to happen. I really want you to just fix it.’ I just wanted to have my baby back.

“We started trying again in April of this past year and found out we were pregnant June 28. A week later, we found out we were miscarrying again, and that process was a lot different. I was not as far along. We decided after that we were just gonna start trying again immediately. There’s a part of you that just doesn’t want to do it again because it’s so terrifying and there’s a part of you that wants to know that you have the ability to do this. I don’t think I’ll ever have a normal pregnancy where I’m happy all the time and never feel any fear or anxiety. I’ve learned that it’s OK. I have to let myself heal how I have to heal.”

Kate Lemmon, 28, Boston

“I’m originally from San Antonio, Texas, and I’ve been living in Boston for seven years now. I live with my husband; we celebrated our third wedding anniversary in April, and we’ve been together for six years. I’m lucky to have him; he’s been a super rock through this whole thing. I don’t know how I would’ve gotten through this without him.

“We tried starting in January, found out I was pregnant right in July, and then I miscarried about three weeks later, at about 6 1/2 weeks.

“I expected that a miscarriage was a very real possibility. In fact, I Googled the miscarriage statistics every single day that I was pregnant because it was always a fear, but no sort of awareness beforehand could’ve prepared me for exactly how much miscarriage threw us for a loop. We had put so many hopes and dreams into this pregnancy. Each cycle was a crushing blow on its own, so when we finally did get the positive test in July — this was after six months of the whole fertility journey — I was so excited that we had come to the end of the trying part and we were passing into the pregnancy part. I was just so excited to be starting our family.

“I only knew I was pregnant for three weeks, but in those three weeks our entire lives changed. In the instant that you find out that you’re pregnant, you’re already a mom. You instantly start to bond with your baby and everything is based around pregnancy. So when I miscarried I felt like all of that came shattering down all at once. It wasn’t just the baby, which is obviously so sad to lose because I had dreamed about this for so long, but I think it was also for us the loss of first pregnancy. I know that miscarriage is hard for people no matter what, but I felt like there was something especially tricky about having a miscarriage for our first pregnancy, just because I lost the ability to have an innocent pregnancy in the future. I know now, if we are lucky enough to have another child, it would be filled with a lot of fear and anxiety at least at first.

“My husband and I grieved in different ways. I wish I’d known that was OK at the time, because immediately following the miscarriage, I was crying all day and couldn’t get out of bed, and I think he was waiting for more official news from the doctor. He was processing it in a different way. I wish I could tell myself, ‘Even though your husband is grieving in a different way, doesn’t mean the loss hurts any less for him.’ I wish we had worked harder in those initial days to understand each other’s grief.

“I wish I had some sort of happy ending to give you but to be honest, the part after miscarriage, which we’re immediately in, has been stressful for the two of us. In a way it’s brought us closer together because we’ve had some really deep conversations and planned a lot for the future. But in other ways, there’s no glamorous way to put it: We’re just kind of tired. Grief is tiring and trying again is tiring. It’s been a long year for us. I’m thankful that our marriage has come through this and it seems like it’s stronger than ever, but it’s a journey I wouldn’t have chosen. I’m still trying to find things to be grateful for in the middle of it.”

Aftan Sylvester, 34, Glen Burnie, Maryland

“My husband and I found out that I was expecting at the very end of March or the beginning of April of this year. I’m obese, I’d been diagnosed with hypertension and my 35th birthday was near my due date, so I was considered a high-risk pregnancy and they were keeping a watch on me. I had my first appointment and sonogram at six weeks when it was confirmed that I was pregnant, and then I kept going every other week after that. Everything seemed to be normal. In fact, my doctors were really excited because my blood work looked so good, but I did have a little bleeding. It looked like old blood.

“I went in for my 10-week checkup, and when I was checking in, I told the nurse about the brown blood. Because of that, after the doctor did his exam he asked if I had time to do an ultrasound. I did.

“I’d been seeing the sonogram tech every other week, so I’d was getting to know her. I knew immediately something wasn’t right; her demeanor changed. She got really somber. She switched over so she could see the heartbeat and all you saw were lines. She said that she needed to talk to the doctor and I probably sat in that room alone for about 10 or 15 minutes. I just knew that my baby was gone and I could not stop crying.

“Finally, the doctor came in and he said, ‘I’m very sorry to have to tell you this, but it’s evident that your baby doesn’t have a heartbeat.’ I could not believe that this had happened.

“I drove to my husband’s job to tell him face to face, and on the way, I started feeling anxiety. I was like, ‘How am I going to tell him this? And why do I have to tell him this? Why is this happening to us?’ When I got there, I couldn’t even look at his face, but I could hear in his voice that it was cracking. He took the rest of the day off of work.

“The doctor had been pushing for me to go ahead to have a D&C but I didn’t feel comfortable in making that decision right away. Once I was home, I researched it versus letting it happen naturally, and decided that for me, it was better to just get it over with. I felt like the D&C was a way for me to just be able to move on.

“When I checked in for the surgery, my husband went with me and I remember feeling like a failure. I wasn’t prepared for the amount of grief that I felt. It’s crazy to have that much grief for a child that you never met. When you find out that you’re pregnant you have all these hopes and you start planning for the future. What if it’s a girl? What if it’s a boy? You think about nursery colors and your baby shower. When you find out the baby didn’t make it, all of that stops abruptly. If you’ve never gone through this you will never be able to understand how much it really hurts.

“We started trying again after my post-op appointment, two weeks after my D&C. I found out the day after Father’s Day that I was pregnant again. It happened very quickly and we were happy, but cautiously so. I felt like I could not allow myself to get attached to the baby in the beginning. I knew I was pregnant but I kind of put it in the back of my mind because, it was like, what’s gonna happen this time? Will it happen again? I felt like I needed a sonogram every week just to make sure the child was alive. And then, at 12 weeks, I passed a blood clot. I was freaking out, but it was fine. I have no idea what happened and the doctor doesn’t either, but he said it’s not uncommon to bleed at that time. It’s nerve-wracking even still, though, and I’m 18 weeks now. My husband said he’s going to worry until the baby comes out.”

Chelsea Caris, 28, Oakdale, California

“I’ve had four losses total. My husband and I recently went through infertility treatments that didn’t work. Twice we were able to to conceive and would be pregnant for three or four weeks and then I would miscarry. Those were very early on. The miscarriage that I usually talk about are the twins. I was almost 20 weeks along when I lost them.

“My husband and I conceived naturally the first time. Twins don’t run in either of our families; it was one of those luck of the draw things. At the time, we didn’t want to do extra testing because we felt it was unnecessary. What ended up happening threw us: At about 19 1/2 weeks, I started feeling really heavy cramping. I didn’t have any bleeding, but it was just a really odd feeling — almost an intuition kind of thing. We went to the doctor and found out that I was having a molar pregnancy, which essentially means that [the fetuses] had benign tumors growing on their bodies at a very fast and abnormal rate.

“Sadly, if you have a single fetus, the molar pregnancy can take over and you will miscarry. Most women who have it don’t even know they have it because they’ll miscarry on their own. Because we had twins, the molar pregnancy started on one fetus and the other kept the pregnancy going, which is why my pregnancy lasted as long as it did. I had to deliver them. One delivered and the other had to be removed surgically. It was surreal — we got all the information and then I was in surgery two days later. There was no real moment to accept it. I knew there were high-risk pregnancies but you never think it’ll be you, especially if you’re healthy and never had issues before.

“Once we lost our twins, we tried again for two whole years, and we got nothing. We didn’t understand what happened. My doctor told us that my uterus healed just fine and there shouldn’t be any reason why we couldn’t conceive again. It was so confusing. When I started my Instagram, I looked up how many people were going through infertility who’d had miscarriages and there were so many. I remember telling my husband, ‘I can’t believe how common this is.’

“Infertility doesn’t just cause issues with your fertility. It causes issues everywhere else too: your social life, your sex life, your relationships, your financial situation. It literally affects everything else. It causes problems with your husband, your friends who have kids, the money you have to save for procedures and medications — even your self-worth. You ask, ‘Why is my body broken and hers isn’t?’ You think people who are battling infertility are only having one problem, but no, they’re having a very loaded problem.

“I felt like nothing would ever be OK again, ever, but my husband and I are pregnant now after undergoing IVF. We just got past our first trimester. My stepson, Silas, is really, really excited. He’ll kiss my belly and he’ll talk to it and say, ‘You need to come out this time. I need a brother this time.’

“I still have my moments where I panic. We’ve done extensive testing on this baby and everything looks fine, but there are moments where I’ll break down and need my husband to reassure me that it’s gonna be OK, no matter what happens. That’s what I need — the faith part. Because when you lose a child, your faith just goes out the window. One of the best things that I ever heard was, ‘Losing a child like that is like losing an arm or some other limb: You can survive it, but it’ll never be the same. You just adapt to the missing part.’ There’s no silver lining there. You heal but it’s just not the same anymore. You just adapt.”

Heather Hodnicki, 30, Hamilton, New Jersey

“My son, Cole, just turned 1 in August. Probably when he was about 10 months old, I got my first cycle back. At that time my husband and I made the decision to start trying and we actually got pregnant on the first try. I did have some light bleeding for three days before we got a positive pregnancy test, but they say you can have implantation bleeding. Two weeks later, at about six weeks [gestation], I had a blood test where they tested my HGC and progesterone levels and that came back very reassuring. We weren’t going to have an ultrasound until eight weeks, two days, and then we were going to leave for a family vacation the next day. We were planning to have the ultrasound and then tell our families the good news.

“At the appointment, they did a transvaginal ultrasound and everything looked different from the first [with Cole]. The ultrasound tech asked if I’d had any bleeding, and I had had intermittent bleeding but it was brown blood which they say isn’t worrisome. My friend had bleeding her entire first trimester and her pregnancy was fine. The ultrasound tech said, ‘There’s a hematoma, a little hemorrhage, around the baby,’ but at that point the baby had a great heart rate. The techs can’t tell you much more than that. We followed up with the doctor and he told us what we already knew: The subchorionic hematoma could reabsorb or the pregnancy could go on to be normal. I said, ‘I know you can’t give me an answer, but if you could, what are the chances that this will be a full-term pregnancy?’ He said, ‘Let’s say 50/50.’ I cried because you start to love that potential baby as soon as you pee on the stick and see two lines. The heartbeat made it more real.

“That Wednesday I started feeling crampy. I went to the bathroom and saw a little bit of red blood. I put a pad on and kept it to myself. I tried to tell myself, ‘It’s just the hematoma coming out. The baby’s going to be fine.’ But the bleeding kept getting heavier and the cramps were still there.

“I made my husband break the news to his family. He said, ‘Hey, we’re pregnant, but before you get excited, I think we’re miscarrying. Heather’s going through this right now.’ That night, I kept running back and forth to the bathroom wondering, ‘When is it gonna stop?’ Finally a large clot of tissue came out and I knew that was it. My husband tried to walk into the bathroom and I pushed the door closed and locked him out because I was scared. I didn’t want it to be true.

“The next day we had an ultrasound at an radiologist affiliate place and they wouldn’t let my husband into the room. You’d think at that point you’d want the female to have her partner with her but I guess they had their reasoning. Once they put the probe in you could obviously see what’s going on. As a nurse, I knew right away. I said, ‘I can’t see anything.’ The ultrasound techs aren’t supposed to give you medical information — it’s supposed to come from a doctor — but she was actually able to exchange her miscarriage story with me while she was finishing her measurements and I was just crying. It was comforting talking to her. It’s weird, because you’re not happy that someone else went through it but it’s nice to know that you’re not the only one in this position.

“I have a negative blood type, so within 72 hours, I had to get a RhoGAM shot to protect myself from antibodies that could attack my next pregnancy. That process drove on til Friday. On Sunday we went home, and that’s when I started to process things more. Earlier I had to sweep it under the rug — be a mom, and be happy on vacation. I was supposed to go to work on Monday but I wasn’t ready. I felt fine physically, but emotionally I was a mess. I was on YouTube searching for how people felt: am I supposed to feel this way? Am I supposed to be over this by now? What am I expected to feel like? It’s hard to find answers.

“Miscarriage humbles you. It makes me so sad to think that some people have miscarried so many times in a row and I’m sitting here and it’s like, ‘Why should I feel so sad? I have my son and some people don’t have any kids, and some people can’t have kids. Do I even have a right to feel sad when I was lucky enough to have the child I have?’ It’s crazy the places that your mind goes.

“But I felt empty, physically and emotionally. There are so many things to be thankful for, but no matter how beautiful everything is, you still feel like something’s missing. And it’s OK to feel that way because something is.

“This past Monday I made a doctor’s appointment because I wanted someone to to tell me I’m OK. My gynecologist was very comforting, and one of the questions I asked was when I could try for the next baby. We want to try to conceive again as soon as possible. Let’s say I do get pregnant in October or November: that baby wouldn’t have existed if I hadn’t had the miscarriage. I can’t wait to give my son a brother or sister.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

About the Author