Something happened recently that made me think about loss.
We all have experienced loss in our lives, from losing menial objects like an eraser, to losing something much more significant, a friend, a lover, a parent or – what I now view as the worst kind of loss – a child.
Technically, I have never lost a child, what I lost never gets a chance to be a child. It was a little blob in the ultrasound machine, a plus sign on the pregnancy test, an hCG number in the blood test. My ex-husband did not even think of it as something to mourn about.
Even some of those who have experienced what I did do not think of it as a miscarriage. I was texting with a friend, and in the middle of the conversation, she texted, “We got pregnant, but then we didn’t,” and then continued talking about something else. At that moment I was sad but was also confused. Should I talk to her about what happened? Or should I keep my mouth shut? In the end I decided to talk to her about what happened. And the conversation turned into a heartbreaking process of trying to conceive.
Our short conversation, separated by miles of sea, made me think. Was I wrong to feel the overwhelming grief? How old should a fetus be before losing it warrant grief? Eight weeks? Twelve weeks? Can we grief for the loss of a two-week-old fetus?
Before my pregnancy I did not want a child. I used to think that the world is overpopulated and therefore having a child would be selfish. When we decided to get pregnant, the first thing that we tried was the IVF. We had been married for 5 years, I was not on any contraceptive drugs but for some reason I could not get pregnant. The IVF program was a nightmare. I was terrified the whole time and was sick with worries. And at the end of the two-week wait, my pregnancy test was negative. I was sad, very sad.
After the failed IVF I became obsessed. All I wanted was to have a positive result. I would track my ovulation dates and bought all kinds of supplements. My nights and days were spent reading, researching, exercising, going to different doctors, anything so I would be pregnant. I was racked with the guilt of once not wanting a baby. I thought I was cursed for having said once that I did not want a child, did not want to get pregnant, and never felt maternal.
One day, it happened: two red lines. A high hCG number. I was pregnant! I was so happy; and I felt that I would do anything I could to stay pregnant. I was also terrified of everything. I could not sleep, and the fear of losing the child was enormous that I would have nightmares about it.
Then came the first scan, and there they were: two sacs. I was carrying twins. I was so excited. I remembered thinking, well, this make up for my failure to get pregnant the first time. I will have two babies at the same time.
The nightmare started during the second scan. I was getting a blood test, and the doctor said my numbers was not increasing enough. I sat in the doctor’s chair while being told that one of the sacs was not growing, though the other was still developing. I remembered getting so obsessed with different stories on the internet. I would read and read and read, I remembered the feelings of dread, desperation, panic, and sadness, all happening at once. The guilt and the feeling of being a failure, the same feeling I had months ago during my IVF began to emerge. My world crashed during the third scan, when I was told that the development in the other sac also stopped.
I wish I could tell you that I handled my first pregnancy loss with grace. I wish I could tell you I did not cry. I wish I could tell you that I was not in denial, that I did not change to a different gynecologist, hoping that the outcome would be different. That I did not wail in the operating room when I had to get a dilation and curettage. But I was a mess, and still a mess. Maybe when I lost my babies, I did lose a bit of myself. And that sense of failure, of not being able to be a mother, when other women could, I still feel it now.
My ex-husband told me that my being a mess was one of the reasons he stopped loving me. A Psychologist even told me, “other people have experienced loss greater than you, you should not feel this sad.”
The irony of this condition is that my degree is in Psychology. I have spent more than eight years studying psychology in different countries. And never in those eight years have I ever come across a theory that said that one’s grief is greater than others. Grief is relative, and all loss, sadness are warranted. All women who have lost their child or children, no matter at what age, will feel grief, whether it is mixed with failure of not being good enough to carry a child or not being a good enough mother.
Grief related to early miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy and chemical pregnancy is something that we do not talk about enough. Women either feel bad discussing something that they think is trivial, or maybe they tried to discuss it but was dismissed by other people. But from what I have experienced, the grief is real. I feel it long after it happened and we should really talk about.
Illustration by Karina Tungari