How to Survive the Broken Road to Motherhood
Updated: Mar 26, 2021
Did you look up one day and find yourself in the throes of infertility or pregnancy loss? If you’re like me, you were minding your own business when you stumbled upon the broken road to motherhood. Maybe there was a specific point in time the realization washed over you like a tsunami. Maybe you hopelessly whispered to yourself:
“How on earth did I wind up here?”
“Is this really happening to me?”
“How will I survive this?”
Life isn’t always easy. It’s pretty hard most of the time. Yes, there are seasons when the clouds part, the sun shines on your face, and your heart is full.
But there are also seasons so uniquely dark that you can’t believe you're walking through them. Seasons of miscarriage, loss, and bareness.
HOW TO SURVIVE
When I experienced my miscarriages, I was not okay. And five years after that difficult season, I’m still convincing myself that it was okay to not be okay. If you are stumbling around in the dark trying to find the light, don’t give up. God is close to the brokenhearted and I believe with all my heart, He is close to your busted- into-a-million-pieces heart.
I realize now that some of the greatest lessons of my life were made possible through the furnace of affliction. It was hot and it burned like crazy but I’m a better woman for it. I know you’re rolling your eyes or crying because of that statement. I’m sorry I had to say it… because one day you will believe me!
I want to share with you how I survived the broken road to motherhood because everyone deserves a fighting chance! It wasn’t my mental toughness, my physical strength, or my abilities that helped me finally accept my miscarriages were out of my control. And if I were a betting woman I’d bet you think you’re in control. The truth is, you’re not. You will never “fix” your way out of miscarriages, loss, and bareness. Trust me, I’ve tried.
But there are things you can do to make the road feel less broken. So let’s go back to the start of my journey…
Waiting for the arrival of my baby was so exciting! I was experiencing a season of infertility so when I saw my first ever positive pregnancy test I was shocked, excited, scared, and nervous all at the same time. But of all the emotions I felt as I anticipated the arrival of my baby, the excitement was the winner.
I don’t know about you… but I never bought into the “eat whatever you want” lie people tell you when you get pregnant. Pregnancy refined my eating routine. Yogurt, edamame, kale, and bananas became my best friends. I also had the craziest cravings for lemons which I later found helps curb morning sickness.
I spent my free time researching the best jogging strollers, travel strollers, and strollers that can somehow fold into a square the size of a small suitcase. Pinterest was my go-to for baby reveal ideas. Thanksgiving was going to be the perfect holiday to share the news with my entire family. “Eating for Two”, “There is a Bun in the Oven”, and “We are Thankful for Our New Turkey” were a few phrases my husband and I were debating.
Stretchy pants, comfortable sneakers, prenatal vitamins, and sleeping on my left side were second nature as I entered the second month of pregnancy. I was doing everything in my power to help my little poppy seed grow into an apple seed, my apple seed grow into a sweet pea, my sweet pea into a blueberry, and my blueberry into a raspberry.
For ten short minutes, my first ultrasound was blissful. I’ll never forget the little peanut shape on the monitor or how my heart jumped for joy as I looked at something my husband and I created together. The doctor smiled at the life growing on the monitor and my husband inched in for a closer look. But as more time passed I knew something was off. I could see it in my doctor’s lips as they slowly went level. The anticipation of my baby and our beautiful moment had been mounting for a year. And my mountain of lemons, stretchy pants, baby reveals, and strollers came crumbling down with the words, “I’m sorry but there isn’t a heartbeat.” There was no beautiful life growing inside me.
I had no say in the matter. One second I was a mother-in-progress and the next I was thrown into a group of unfortunate women – a group zero percent of women believe they will ever be a part of. There was nothing I could do to stop it. I begged God to bring my baby back, to reverse time, to wake me up from this new nightmare. But He didn’t. Instead, my husband cradled me like a child. Then, in a haze, we went home.
There are many different types of miscarriage. I later learned that mine was a missed miscarriage and like most women who experience this type of loss, it came without warning.
There I was, sitting in the hospital room talking about options to get rid of my baby when I was supposed to be talking about how to keep my baby safe and growing. The gynecologist said I could choose one of three things:
See if I naturally miscarry, which could take up to 6 weeks.
Do a clinical abortion operation to remove the fetus (D&C).
Induce miscarriage with the abortion pill (Mifepristone).
When my doctor explained this to me, I waited a few seconds for the fourth option.
4. Wake up from this nightmare.
But that didn’t work.
I tried to process all the new information, but I was still in a state of shock. Terrified, I declined option one. I was afraid if I naturally miscarried, I would be at work when it happened. Six weeks of random passing of blood, fetus, and placenta was out of the question. Even worse, if I didn’t naturally miscarry I’d have to come back to the doctor and re-live this nightmare all over again. I wanted all of this to be over as quickly as possible. The clinical operation, while initially an interest to me, was ruled out after the doctor explained the risks of scar tissue in the uterus. So we defaulted to option three. An option that was counterintuitive to everything my husband and I had been longing for, for so long.
CALLOUS DIRECTIONS ON PRESCRIPTIONS
I had no idea what I was walking into when I walked out the doors of the hospital with my bag of prescriptions. The miscarriage came without warning and so did my deep involvement in the disposal of my baby. I know the technical term is the fetus, but I’m going to refer to the beautiful creation as my baby.
Before I left the hospital, my doctor offered to administer the pills vaginally on my behalf, but still, I couldn’t wrap my mind around what that meant. I declined her offer because I was too depressed to take my clothes off again. I just wanted to crawl into bed and cry first. I needed time to mourn my loss, even if it was just for a few hours alone at home.
When I opened the brown paper bag full of prescriptions in my bathroom I couldn’t believe how callous the directions were. I’ll never forget the hesitation I felt when I read, “Do not take if you think you are pregnant.”
You’re asking a woman, who thought she was pregnant a few hours ago, to now confidently trust her doctor who said she isn’t?
There should be better guidance provided to women who must mentally transition to a new, harsh, baby-less reality. Women who are miscarrying for the first time need directions from their doctors that are specifically tailored to them. Why? Because the majority of us are in a state of shock. Because the majority of us will be required to take abortion pills the same day we learned our baby is no longer alive. Because the majority of us have no idea that these little white pills can transform into torture tools in a matter of minutes.
THE REALITY OF MISCARRIAGE
So there I was, administering pills from a prescription warning label that said, “Do not take if you think you are pregnant.” I chose not to take the Vicodin that came with the drugs as I’ve always been overly cautious with pain medication.
I sat for a few minutes but it didn’t take long for the process to begin. It was an experience that changed me forever. I didn’t fully grasp that my body was going into labor. I was too early in my pregnancy to attend labor and delivery classes and the thought of what a contraction might feel like never crossed my mind. I was innocent, naïve, and completely unaware of how excruciating the pain would be. Halfway through, I begged my husband for the Vicodin.
I always imagined the moment I’d be holding my baby in my arms and never thought of the painful delivery that must come first. But instead of being surrounded by nurses, doctors, and loved ones crying “Push! You can do it!” I was crying alone in a bathroom afraid of what was going to drop into the toilet. It’s not how anyone hopes to meet their baby. And nothing can prepare a woman to let go of her dream for this. Especially in one day.
There are a few things I wish I knew about mifepristone before I administered the pills. While the RU-486, mifepristone is the safest pill option to remove tissue and reduce the risk of hemorrhage and infection in early pregnancy loss it does have its side effects. I broke into a cold sweat and was dizzy and nauseous for a few hours after. I sometimes wonder if I should have taken a smaller dose of the medication and waited a few days to see if the misoprostol could be used in a two-step process. I’m petite and smaller than the average woman.
What I didn’t know at the time was that mifepristone can be taken along with misoprostol, also known as Cytotec. It also starts labor, causes abortion, and treats postpartum bleeding. Coupled together, it has a 97% success rate. Yes, success is the word doctors use to describe its effectiveness. Sometimes doctors encourage women to take them together and other times it’s a two-step process. For me, I believe the first dose of misoprostol I administered was too strong and that I could have had a less traumatic experience with a different approach. I was eight weeks pregnant but women can take the pills up to 70 days after their last period.
If your struggling to choose the lesser of three evils like me, just remember each state and practice has its own set of laws. Doctors prescribe administration differently across the country. My recommendation is to ask questions, even if you're still in a state of shock. Worst case scenario you can write your questions down and have your husband ask the doctor for you.
My mind was unable to process the news as fast as I was expected to act. I needed more time to make sense of what happened to me, to my baby, but that wasn’t a luxury I was given. Instead, I went back to work and started studying for my final exam in graduate school. My body was on autopilot for weeks. It’s the closest thing I’ve ever experienced to a true survival mode – where my mind shut off while my body kept things moving.
The fact that I wasn’t able to hold my baby compounded my grief. There was no closure. I had already imagined my baby in our lives. The hopes and dreams I had for our family crossed my mind at unexpected times and it was triggered by things I’d see out in public. But because so many people were unaware of my pregnancy, I hid the pain behind a forced smile.
It’s scary when you stop and think about how difficult it is to create a baby. It took my husband and me eight months to get pregnant. Eight months is a long time to wait for anything. Two months after that, not only was I not pregnant I was also concerned my body wasn’t up for the task. I had an unhealthy growing fear of time. I automatically tacked on an additional 40 weeks of carrying a baby to my best-case scenario of conceiving again. I was afraid of waiting years to hold a baby in my arms, not months. Deep down I was terrified that my body would let me down again.
I had a few friends who experienced a miscarriage and went on to have healthy babies after (and the majority of women do). That gave me hope that my story would be the same. I knew how to track my ovulation and my husband and I felt we had given my body enough time to heal. Four months later, I got pregnant again. This time, it was on our first try. I thought my bad luck was over.
The first few weeks I had an odd mixture of excitement and guilt. I missed my first baby but I also wanted to move on. I told myself every day that I had a responsibility to the new life growing inside me. While I struggled to find closure with the first loss, the second pregnancy forced me into a much-needed emotional recovery. In a lot of ways, it was healing to get pregnant for a second time. It forced me to care for myself because, in turn, I was caring for my baby.
At eight weeks pregnant, I was honored to host my best friend's baby shower. The next morning, I woke up with blood.
I am a part of the 2% of women who will experience back-to-back pregnancy loss. The emotional trauma of the second loss was much worse for me. I was terrified of getting stuck in a never-ending cycle of loss, recovery, try again, hope, excitement, worry, and back to loss. I also found it more difficult to cope with the news of colleagues and friends who were easily getting pregnant. Each announcement was a blow to my self-esteem as I asked myself, “Why can’t my body do that?”
I was desperate to know the cause(s) of my miscarriages and I refused to sit around and wait to become part of the 1% of women who have three or more consecutive pregnancy losses. I told my doctor I wanted to start testing to see if something was wrong with me. Sure enough, there was a lot wrong with me. And while I don’t have time to go into the details of my plethora of body issues (like Balanced Robertsonian Translocation), trust me, I have them.
HOW I SURVIVED
Recovering from a miscarriage or coping with bareness is a process. It takes both time and patience. Here are a few things I did to cope with my grief after miscarriage (these are also things you can do if you’re experiencing infertility).
Talking about a miscarriage is extremely difficult for so many reasons. And truthfully, there are times when we shouldn’t talk about a miscarriage. Know when you’re ready and take your time. Conversations provide room to process our experience which also gives us the tools we need to heal. Vulnerability frees us from the bondage of shame and also gives other people, like our spouse or parents, room to heal too.
It took a while, but I finally got to a place where I was comfortable talking about my miscarriages. Not only did the honesty help me heal, but I felt that I was honoring my first two babies. Their memory not only lives in my heart, but it lives in others who’ve heard my story.
Writing is an important tool we all have access to but it’s an underutilized coping skill. So many people choose not to write or journal because they’re worried it won’t be good. Others think they just don’t have the time. Trust me, neither is true.
You shouldn’t worry about being a bad writer or not having time, just form the habit and start writing. Whether it be poems, letters, or a grief journal – it doesn’t matter. Writing will help you combat avoidance and find a constructive way to cope with your grief.
After my second miscarriage, I started documenting my experience. It helped me work through my anger, anxiety, and grief. Through writing, I reached a “letting go” state that helped me find closure. Not only did I feel physically and mentally better after writing, but I was able to transform my personal experience into a published book. Writing has somehow brought value to my losses. It has given me the strength to be vulnerable because I have learned vulnerability is what helps other women feel less alone. For that, I am grateful.
Oh, the whisper God gives to a stricken soul bent over in prayer. Nothing can heal a broken heart more than that. There isn’t much else to say. Just get on your knee’s girl… get on your knees and be honest with God. I think we can all agree He knows a little about suffering.
Long-lasting peace and comfort come only from time with God in his word. Yes, talking and writing are very important but nothing can replace the nourishment of scripture. After my two losses, I found stability and peace in the scriptures provided here. Some verses made me cry. Others brought me healing in my brokenness. I hope these words of truth will help you keep walking this broken road to motherhood with faith.
As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb[a] of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.
…The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. My eye wastes away because of grief… for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping. The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord accepts my prayer.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?
1 Samuel 1:27-28
For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.
For more inspirational quotes to help you through miscarriage, click here (coming soon).
YOU TOO WILL SURVIVE
Research has shown over and over again that women who experience miscarriage, loss, or bareness are at higher risk of clinically significant depression and/or anxiety. Repeat pregnancy loss and infertility are traumatic and life-altering events. You can try to “fix” your way out of your situation or you can give yourself time and space to grieve. And while there is no easy way to grieve after something like this happens, you can start with the four steps I’ve listed above.
You can also check out more tailored Christian advice in my featured article by Sit Still My Daughter Magazine called The Temptations of Infertility. In this article, I discuss the negative news I received and how I failed to recognize the battle being fought for my mind. I talk about how Satan wants to deceive women who experience miscarriage or loss by using the most emotionally straining moments of our adult lives to his advantage. Read more to see how I won the battle for my mind… long before my infertility challenges were resolved.
In my new book, My Miscarriage, I go even deeper and do my best to share how even as a Christian woman my confidence in God’s love was shaken. I share all the pitfalls I encountered in my search for answers during a season of chaos and pain. And I reveal one of the most important decisions of my life.
Deep breath. I know that was a LOT… But before you go I have something very important to say.
I’m so sorry you are here. I really am. You are not a statistic. You are a beautifully, fearfully, and wonderfully made woman.
I’d like to leave you with a prayer.
To all the readers who want to start a family, I pray you will find peace, that you will learn to trust God even amid your pain, that you never forget how much He loves you. Yes, it will take a while to pick up the million pieces of your heart but I pray you trust God to help you pick them up. They might never fit perfectly back together on this side of eternity. But God holds those pieces. Every single one. And one day… when you see Jesus face to face… I pray and believe all of those pieces will be fully restored.
One day you will be okay, even if it's not today.
~ Traci McCombs, Amazon Bestselling Author