How far along were you? IT DOESN’T MATTER. (And neither does a BFP.)

In the fall, when I received the news at work that our son had a normal karyotype, and everything I’d thought we, and the medical professionals, had figured out over the past three years went slip-sliding out of my grasp, I broke down sobbing in my car, and when my boss made me come back to work, I broke down sobbing there, too. Lovely people where I worked, nurses and other staff members, came to rescue me with embraces and soothing words. I appreciate that moment of rescue. But one person said something while I was hyperventilating that pierced me, and although I no longer feel pierced, I’ve been wanting to write about it.

Someone asked me what was wrong. And I managed to unleash some string of words about miscarrying, D & C, I just got the new of normal karyotype, we are back at square one now, I don’t understand what is happening….and so on.

“How far along were you?” this person, I’ll call her X, said, looking at me with concern.

My thoughts spun. Did she mean how far along was I when the baby’s heart stopped beating? Or how far along was I when I had the D & C?

I remember having the distinct thought at that moment: IT DOESN’T MATTER.

But what I said was: “It had a heartbeat.” Like I had to justify myself.

“Oh, oh,” X said, nodding, as if now my emotional display made perfect sense. “Well, that’s all that matters, that’s enough, that you saw the heartbeat. How awful.”

That’s enough?

I know she did not mean to say something quite so benighted. I know she was only trying to show empathy. And if I had not said anything about the heartbeat, she would have still shown me empathy—although maybe slightly more hesitantly.

I wanted to write about this because it seems to me that some people who have not experienced infertility and pregnancy loss have—unbeknownst to them—an internal empathy scale that gets activated anytime they hear what we are going through. The scale begins with cannot conceive and runs to stillbirth. Stillbirth elicits the most empathy (and I’m not saying stillbirth should not elicit the most feeling a person can muster, obviously), then they feel decreasingly less empathy the “less pregnant” you were when you miscarried. Three months pregnant or more elicits a great deal of empathy, but once you get to two months, or to the stage at which you are counting in weeks, the scale starts to tip. Blighted ovum—I’ve had two of these—which means that there is no fetus and no heartbeat, tips the scale further, and “chemical pregnancy” further still. But having had two blighted ovums, one hard-to-define loss, two chemicals, and now one miscarriage of a fetus with a heartbeat, I can tell you: They all hurt terribly, for different reasons and in different ways; I don’t consider any one of those experiences more valid, more deserving of authentic concern, than any other.

What this makes me think of are the women who are not able to conceive, who have never had a BFP. I know that this describes some of this blog’s readers. I wonder if women who cannot conceive are subject to lacks of empathy that I have not experienced. I wonder if they are subject to invalidating comments that I, as someone who miscarries, can only imagine.

I’ve never felt that I deserve more empathy than a woman who cannot conceive. The fact that I have had gestational sacs, yolk sacs, and now a fetus and heartbeat in my womb does not make me more bereft than a woman who has not had any of those things inside her. There is no better situation—they are both extremely painful. In both situations, the woman has dreamed of becoming a mother. She has imagined pregnancy, giving birth, and raising her child. She has seen herself on one path—the path of family, where she ends up in a house full of noise and life—but she has been forced down another, quieter, darker path, again and again and again. In both cases, the imagined child, the child who lives in her heart, is ripped out of her heart. That imagined child is so real! And no less real if it never had a heartbeat. And no less real if never had any cells at all. In both cases, the woman is not allowed to progress through the stages of her life in the way that she yearns to. She is arrested in one phase of human development—and must contemplate the reality that she might have to stay there permanently. BFP or BFN, menstrual period or miscarriage—both lead to the same state of childlessness that can feel torturous.

There also seems to be some sort of internal empathy scale for certain listeners when it comes to hearing about the number of miscarriages you have had, if your story includes miscarriage. One to three miscarriages elicits mostly unadulterated empathy, whereas four to seven elicits assumptions and judgments along with empathy (or no empathy at all). Some people assume you are torturing yourself. Some assume you are trying over and over to get pregnant, thoughtlessly, unethically. They never assume that of the five times you got pregnant on your own, one time was a semi-accident and one time was with condoms (as happened with me). And they know nothing about super-fertility, of course, and its relationship to recurrent loss. Women who get pregnant easily have uteruses that will nurture anything—what would be a BFN for most is always a BFP for her. But some people only hear: “Five miscarriages. Seven miscarriages.” And they think the woman must be mentally unwell.

I am oversimplifying and overgeneralizing to a dangerous degree, here, and I apologize for that, but for now I am just stumbling to articulate something that seems true. Not true for all, but for certain people who have been blessed with the freedom to not understand the complexities of not just child-loss, but motherhood-loss. The stage of pregnancy, or the existence of pregnancy, has no relationship to the validity of the pain of motherhood-loss. And when a person who is listening to our story doesn’t understand that simply holding the imagined child in your heart is enough, it makes us feel even more alone when we mourn that child’s absence.

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66 Comments

  1. While what you wrote is generally true, specifically X might not have known about your struggles to conceive a child. She might have thought that was your first miscarriage. She might have also said what she said because she herself had had a miscarriage at the heartbeat stage and thus might have felt like she knew what you were going through. So I would not necessarily say that X was trying to categorize your miscarriage. I have had my share of miscarriages and I would have probably reacted the same way as X without knowing all the details.

    Reply
    • No, she hasn’t had any miscarriages or any problems with infertility (I know because she told me), and she asked what she did, as I tried to indicate in the post without belaboring, after I had explained what was happening, how many losses I’d had, donor egg, normal karyotype, all of it. But as I said I don’t think she was aware of what she was saying, and I don’t think she is an awful person or anything, she was trying to be helpful—it is the internal scale I’m trying to pinpoint and describe, which is probably mostly unconscious. I think when someone says “oh, that’s enough” it points to that unconscious internal scale that is automatically weighing what you are going through. As humans we do this all the time, of course, weighing, comparing, no matter what the situation. But in this territory it can be particularly invalidating. Not only with X—what she said is nothing compared to what I’ve experienced before, it’s just that it was the most recent experience of this. For example, I can’t tell you how many (pregnant or with-children) people have said: “Oh, it’s just the technology available now. Fifty years ago you wouldn’t have even known you were pregnant!” When I’d been in my second month and having morning sickness. Miscarriage is a frightening territory for a lot of people who have not gone through it and they often will unconsciously minimize it—as I’m sure you know….I’m so sorry for your losses.

      Reply
    • M you are outta line and I don’t take kindly to b*tches who pick on my friends. I don’t know why TUT approved your comment, or why she responded, because your comment is antagonizing, rude, insensitive and completely missing the point of this blog post. Actually, it completely misses the point of infertility and loss blogs–we support each other. And your statement that you’ve “had your share of miscarriages” doesn’t qualify your sh*tty comment. GTFO.

      Reply
      • MLACS, you are a firecracker! Thank you for speaking out. You know I love you more than my luggage, as Clairee Belcher would say. I was actually not offended by M. But I did wonder if I’d not gotten my overall point across clearly enough—thus one of my (in)famously long comment responses. (:

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  2. I think you ask a good question, whether women who fail to conceive get less empathy. Maybe they do. Perhaps people who have not been through it don’t understand that every failed cycle is a loss when you are so physically, financially and emotionally invested. When I had my two failed IVF cycles (beta 0 and beta 4) it felt like a death. I knew my embryos had been alive and they were in me and they died. I may not have had a positive pregnancy test, but I was trying to nourish life and it failed. I think there is sympathy in this community for failed cycles, but probably not as much in the outside world.

    Reply
    • I remember your posts from around that time so clearly, with heavy heart. Yes, this community gets it, but out there can be different. What you went through was the loss of such a huge investment on all levels.

      I have a friend who once said to me: “This might sound crazy, but I sometimes feel jealous of your miscarriages. At least you’re having losses that people understand are awful.” Another friend once said that she really wanted to know what it felt like to be pregnant, even if only for a little while. I didn’t try to convince them: You don’t want this! Because I know that if I were in their shoes, it is very possible that I would. Not the horror, of course, but the experience of pregnancy, and the validation from the outside world of the loss.

      Reply
      • The validation- I get that. I kinda felt the opposite of your friend though. I was glad to be on my side of the fence. Failures sucked. But there were so many girls in my support group going through repeat loses and they all just kept saying “if I am not going to get a baby, I don’t want the transfer to work at all.” It was so heartbreaking to watch them on the roller coaster, so I didn’t have that “grass is greener” idea about miscarriage. But Every one is different, and I can see how people who don’t conceive feel like their loss is invalidated.

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  3. I am one part of a lesbian relationship where both of us have dealt with infertility (continue to deal with infertility) and I find that the longer we have been in this struggle the less sympathy we get and the more judgement. Maybe it’s because I am IN it, and this is my every day lived experience. I thought it was painful when people asked questions when I was not feeling up to talk about it, (for me) that pain is nothing compared to when people you love and are close to stop asking.

    Reply
    • Your comment really struck me to the core, I have to say. Just when you need increasingly more warmth and support, your people are closing up. I’m so sorry. I have that, too, with certain friends—they don’t ask anymore, or if I offer information anyway, they volley back with something that clearly shows they are distancing themselves. They don’t understand how incredibly slow this process is, how long it takes to figure things out, recover from failures. I wish there were better ways to explain these processes to the people who have no idea without sounding overexplanatory and defensive—but even the perfect conversation wouldn’t necessarily result in the support.

      Reply
      • Exactly. It feels like I have used up all of my empathy from them… the pain is too heavy for them to carry. I get it, it’s really, really heavy, but still… help me with the load.

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        • Ach. Unexpected tears here. I so get what you are saying. I want them to help you with the load. Help her with the load, already! I know that the distanced people in my life can’t handle the heaviness, either…I wish they could understand that they don’t have to say anything special, come up with solutions, or judge anything. All they have to do is say: “I’m sorry you are going through this. I’m here for you.” That’s it. I don’t want to drag them down anymore than they want to be dragged down. I just want to know they are there.

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    • Kali

       /  January 15, 2014

      Oh my God, I am experiencing this. As if it’s my fault for not “giving up” and “just adopting”. Especially as a single mom, people feel freer to judge and decide what you need to be happy, or even whether you deserve motherhood. I’ve had people with two of their own biologically conceived children ARGUE with me about adopting from India, I tell them it’s CLOSED to more adoption and they tell me I’m WRONG because there are so many homeless children there. . . the last time was yesterday. I’ve moved on from “WHO DO THEY THINK THEY ARE” to think they know more than me to just resignation. I’m crying so many, many tears, so much of the time, these comments just get piled on–at least the anger at the presumption and insensitivity has coolded somewhat.

      The lack of support–from people who were SO excited that I was going to be a mom, especially the last pregnancy which was showing–that is like a knife in my heart. Like I deserved it then but don’t anymore. That Calvinist idea that if I was blessed it would have happened and now I’m cursed, as if I MYSELF do not know my odds (they’re still very good with donor egg) and can’t make my own decision even though it’s ME that’s been researching and thinking of nothing else for almost three years. . . .

      I pray that I never turn my back on someone because THEIR tragedy goes on longer than MY comfort zone for it. I hope I can be a steadfast friend to someone and recognize her determination to overcome her struggle as valiant rather than foolhardy.

      They would never tell someone to give up on cancer treatments, and the analogy is more apt than it sounds–we are fighting for A life, and our happiness.

      I’m so sorry we’re all in this.

      I also had spontaneous tears reading this, btw.

      Reply
      • Let it out, girl. We run up against a lot of “experts” , and damn it is hard to keep in mind that they are trying (and failing) to help, and are unaware of anything they might be doing to save themselves from discomfort. The good thing that comes out of this?: Kali you will be that steadfast friend. You understand, and you will be.

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  4. Ah, yes, the difference between a failed cycle and a miscarriage.. A “friend” who is the same age as me and had zero fertility problems told me after one of my failed 4 OE IVF cycles that I didn’t lose anything. They were “just cells”. They weren’t a “baby”. She said “You know that, right?”. I haven’t spoken to her in over a year. I won’t forget that comment. I have never been naturally pregnant. I was never pregnant with my eggs despite 5 IUIs and 4 IVFs. I “only” had a biochemical with my second set of donor eggs. The beta never got above 575 and I’ve never seen a sac or heartbeat. I will admit that I felt a bit more “validated” to have had that chemical pregnancy because people do treat miscarriage differently with respect to empathy or sympathy than they do a failed cycle. I also don’t use the term chemical pregnancy to describe my last cycle because I know that will invoke blank stares. Miscarriage means “more” to the general public. Yet, I hope this cycle is just a BFN and not another chemical or later miscarriage. It is easier to move on from a BFN.

    Reply
    • Her comment. Wow. Talk about saying precisely the worst thing, at the worst possible time, in the worst possible way. Ugh! I’m sorry. How hurtful. What makes the situation even more frustrating is that she probably really thought she was being helpful! (It makes me want to hand out free copies of Carl Rogers’s On Becoming a Person to everyone everywhere and demand that they learn active listening skills.) Thank you for sharing all this, and helping me sort of wrap my head around what this experience is that I’m struggling to articulate. I don’t use the term “chemical” either because outsiders imagine something completely painless and non-existent. My own sweet mother (I have since educated her thoroughly and gently) used to call my losses *false pregnancies.* Um. No, Mom. Not false pregnancies. Real ones. As for your current cycle…I know all too well that sad hoping for the least entangling loss, instead of daring to hope for success much. Sigh. I’m hoping for you. And am trying to cultivate hope for me, too, an up-down-up-down process. xo

      Reply
  5. Yes to all of this. You have verbalized something I’ve been thinking and have experienced for years. All of it true. Thank you for writing this and bringing awareness to it. XOXO

    Reply
  6. A new spin on an ongoing topic of Pain Olympics. I really like this perspective, though and appreciate all you said here.

    Unfortunately there’s still this assumption that pain is somehow more intense in certain situations than in others. Granted, I know that losing the Beats would definitely be the worst thing in the world for me, but that doesn’t negate the pain someone who had never been pregnant feels following a failed cycle. I think why people use this scale has to do with the default assumption of not wanting to offend people when offering condolences. It also has to do with others while othering support. I have been attacked by a grieving mother who’s child was born still for consoling someone who had just suffered an early miscarriage. It was clear she was suffering, but she failed to see that her actions were demeaning to the other woman.

    The message needs to be clear: pain is pain, no lesser or greater than another person’s. Thank you for speakin out

    Reply
    • I hear you. I’m actually kind of sick of writing about pain, thinking about pain, and sometimes I’m just like: I can’t can’t can’t write about this anymore. But then something compels me to keep exploring it…with hopes it might resonate for people and help them feel less isolated, and hopes it is healing in some way to excise, analyze, share. Pain is pain—you’ve got it. “It’s all from where you are at,” someone once said to me…

      As a counselor I’ve seen one patient get as upset about her broken air conditioner as another patient did about the death of someone close to her.

      What I learned when working on the suicide crisis hotline also comes to mind: “You never know.” That was the overarching philosophy. You never know what someone else is going through, so do not assume.

      Reply
  7. To TUT: I so hear you. Been there done that too many times to remember. People say really insensitive things for a wide array of reasons. It doesn’t matter. They all cut like knives and lay beneath our skin a long time. I’m sorry for your suffering.

    To Mrs. McIrish: I am so sorry for your anguish as a mom. I am sorry and just wanted you to know I recognize your pain and your motherhood.

    Reply
  8. Yeah…people with no concept of infertility should just STFU, pardon my French. This type of tactless, insensitive and borderline brutish spewing of nonsense should really entitle the suffering party to brandish a cattle prod and wield it with impunity at the offender!! While I can’t begin to imagine the terrible heartache that comes with m/c as I’ve never been pregnant yet (its own bag of grief), I would NEVER say something to utterly ridiculous. It’s like saying to a cancer patient, “Oh, ONLY stage 3? Well you’re not quite terminal, yet, then.” People REALLY need to think more before they speak. BIG HUGS!

    Reply
    • Cattle prods! You are funny. I tend to forgive these things but as spiritbabycomehome says, they lay beneath the skin a long time. I hear you re: the cancer comparison, that’s apt. I’m sorry for your stupid bag of grief, hugs back.

      Reply
      • I think it depends on the situation and the person. I have to admit that if I have to listen to one more “why don’t you just adopt?”, I’m going to have a hissy fit. I mean, really? Would you make random suggestions to someone dealing with an illness you’ve either never heard of or, yourself, have no experience with? It’s just ignorant. Personally, I think the best thing someone can say is “I’m so sorry you’re struggling/having to deal with this” – rather than offering inane platitudes. But I get where you’re coming from – sometimes you can tell the person is just blabbering because they want to say something supportive but aren’t quite sure how to.

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        • Oh yes, preaching to the choir—I’ve often wondered: Would I tell someone who has just disclosed their cancer diagnosis that they really should try eating more yams because I read this article about XYZ? Ummm, no. And the whole “just adopt” thing is hurtfully ignorant. Such fraught territory we live in.

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          • Very true indeed. It’s really the main reason why I don’t disclose our “issues” to people outside of the IF communities – I don’t want or need the pity, the uncomfortably awkward silence OR some advice – albeit perhaps well-meant – from someone who doesn’t have the foggiest idea of what I’m going through. One thing that does bother me, though, is when people who DO have children – and conceived without problems – don’t GET how terrifying it is to be in this situation, especially when confronted with the possibility (or, indeed, reality) of not being able to have biological children.

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    • Definitely agree that they should just STFU! Had one person come out with the classic ‘you could always have another’. Right… a) it took 5 years and IVF to get this far and b) that was a baby I lost, I didn’t drop an ice cream in the street. That was the one time I lost it (to some extent) – told them you wouldn’t dream of telling a recently widowed person to get on match.com and find someone else so why was it appropriate to say something so crass and stupid in this situation.

      Reply
      • Drop an ice cream in the street! Those are good words to remember. Brute minimization is an unbearable thing to endure. And those woefully uneducated suggestions—shh, shhh, people!

        Reply
      • First of all, if I haven’t said this before: my absolute most heartfelt support to all of you who’ve lost a baby. I don’t care how long it was there – if you KNEW and if you struggled to get there, it MATTERS!!! I mean, even for women who don’t struggle, a m/c is awful – but how much worse when you worked so hard just for that precarious BFP (to say nothing of mortgaging yourself up to your eyeballs) and then it’s just taken away from you. How DARE people act like it’s no big deal, like you should just brush yourself off and continue along, maybe whistle a tune while you bake a pie? WTF, seriously. (Sorry for the diatribe but this really makes me angry!).

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        • Kali

           /  January 16, 2014

          I had to stop myself from saying exactly this to a friend this weekend–she’s a professional contact as well, and that’s the hardest because I can’t just let it all out.

          Reply
          • I can imagine. I think that if, at least, you can tell someone’s TRYING to be sensitive or encouraging it may be a little less aggravating – but then you KNOW some people just say crap that has absolutely no thought behind it. I mean, one family member I initially told about our issues and how heartbroken we were said, oh why do you want children they’re so messy. SERIOUSLY??

            Reply
  9. Thank you for this post. I’ve never had a BFP. 3 years trying every month, 2 rounds of IVF and not a hint of a second line, and I know there are so many others who have tried far longer than I.
    I’ve had someone say to me “but at least you haven’t had a miscarriage, that would be terrible” and of course they’re right, miscarriage is terrible. But as you say I’ve had to mourn the loss of the life I thought I’d have too

    Reply
    • Those words “at least.” I wish more people understood that words of understanding never begin with “at least”—like in that Ted Talk Empathy v Sympathy. Seeing that stark white instead of the second line for three years—I’m sorry. xo

      Reply
  10. Here in Australia, fertility specialists use the term ‘missed abortion’, this is what was initially on my results slip at 7 weeks when I went for a scan, until they found a heartbeat… suddenly it was deemed a miscarriage. I was so upset by that terminology and thought I can’t tell people it was a ‘missed abortion’ it sounds like I terminated this baby willingly or worse, accidentally. Miscarriage is a miscarriage in my eyes. Like you, I don’t correlate gestational stages with levels of grief once a pregnancy is lost.

    Reply
    • Well said, and yes, “missed abortion” has to be the worst term ever! And I hear you when you say “accidentally”– woops I aborted. Wha? “Missed miscarriage” is better, but just “miscarriage” will do.

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  11. Looking back on the experience of repeat IVF failure as well as miscarriage–ironically, most of my IVFs were BFN and most of my pregnancies were natural–I won’t deny that the failed cycle is a loss. It’s like what Mrs. Mcirish said: something was alive in me and now it’s dead. Emotionally that’s only slightly different from early pregnancy loss. But with pregnancy loss there is the physical toll as well–the cramping and bleeding, the D&C, the wait time to recover, the fears of scar tissue, the lost fallopian tubes. But at the end of the day, it’s really the feeling it gives me, like I am a death factor, my body a haunted house filled with dead embryos. It’s the opposite of everything a woman wants to feel: motherly, nurturing, fertile, in rhythm with the flowers and and the bees. I wish a word existed as a counterpart to “emasculating.” And, yeah, people don’t get it. I give up on them. There are probably many brands of suffering that are beyond my comprehension and to which I might fail to be adequately sensitive. They can’t help me or hurt me anymore anyway, callous veteran I have become; the only thing that can do that is outcome. And outcome has no conscience.

    Reply
    • Right—that physical and physiological toll is its own macabre obstacle course, and the recovery times really draaaaaaag everything out. Having a dead embryo inside…don’t know how I walked around work like that. WTF. It is certainly the opposite of that goddess-y fecundity we’ve been moving toward our whole lives. xo

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  12. Tess

     /  January 15, 2014

    I’ve had 3 fresh IVF failures and 2 FET failures. I make a lot of eggs, but the embryos don’t implant. All of the outcomes have been BFNs.

    There is a lack of empathy, but that is true for all aspects of infertility. People have a very difficult time relating to this experience. But, honestly, I’ve been through family tragedies (death) and people don’t really know what to say in those situations. They are more verbally sympathetic, but they don’t have much tolerance for sadness or mourning. And they say surprising and clueless things. (It’s VERY similar to infertility.)

    It’s actually quite similar to infertility, except with tragic death people are bit more empathetic, but that lasts for about 2-4 weeks.

    Reply
    • I agree, the empathy limitations don’t just target IF-World, that’s a very good thing for me to keep in mind. It’s a human limitation, and all sorts of people are subject to its isolating effects.

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      • Tess

         /  January 16, 2014

        On stupid IF comments — this was the most hurtful. I unexpectedly started to cry, and I was trying to explain why I was uncontrollably crying in public. She said to me, “being a mother is hard too.”

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  13. Thank you for this! I have had a slew of BFNs, a freakshow ectopic, and an early miscarriage. THEY ALL SUCKED. No matter how you slice it, if you want to be pregnant and have a baby and that doesn’t happen, it is terrible. I did feel a bit of relief with our first loss, because it meant that implantation could occur, but it did not make it less horrific or painful and I CERTAINLY would never suggest to someone else that they feel better about a chemical pregnancy or a miscarriage because it meant something new. It still means no baby. I make excuses for people who don’t know any better all the time (how can I be mad at someone who offers me her 21 year old child when I say vaguely “It hasn’t happened yet” when she doesn’t KNOW all I’ve been through?), but your coworker’s comment definitely has sting to it. You’re right, a loss is a loss and it shouldn’t matter if it was 9 weeks or 4 days or there was a heartbeat or not. It shouldn’t matter if it was a living collection cells that failed to implant. It was a potential life, a potential baby, very much wanted, and very much mourned. I have never had a heartbeat but my miscarriage was the single most painful moment of my life, even though the ectopic was more physically painful. And people totally were more sympathetic about the ectopic because it was scary and lifethreatening and surgery, which most people can relate to somehow. The response to my miscarriage at 5 1/2 weeks was incredibly minimal. That scale you mentioned is all too real for some people. And Lindsey, I totally agree with you–saying NOTHING is far worse that saying the wrong thing (most of the time, I don’t know about that “friend” of Mrs. Mcirish’s who said “You know that they’re not babies, right?” because that was HIDEOUS). I have had people drop out of our lives too and not be able to talk about it with me anymore because of the weight on them, especially when some are successful (either with or without treatments) and some are not. It hurts. Man, I wish there was just LESS HURT in all of this. Thanks for speaking out on this Scale of Loss and how awful it is.

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    • I’m sorry for all the anguish you’ve gone through, gah, and that’s interesting what you say about the ectopic—that because it is more understandable to more people, and life-threatening, it garnered more support. Yeah, once you start counting in weeks, you get a lot of responses like: “So that’s just like a heavy period, right?” Opportunities to educate, but I definitely usually don;’t have the strength to educate anyone in the moment.

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      • Kali

         /  January 16, 2014

        I had a D&C without anesthesia (they said it didn’t work, I think that idiot nurse anesthetist didn’t give it to me, they continued despite my screaming) so no, IT IS NOT LIKE A HEAVY PERIOD.

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  14. Thank you for this post. In August I had a miscarriage at 7 weeks pregnant. I’ve had a difficult time telling others about it. When I told a friend(/acquaintance) about my miscarriage, her immediate question was, “how far along were you?” .. and I felt as if she was invalidating my pain because I was “only” 7 weeks. You’re exactly right that it doesn’t matter how far along you were… it still hurts.

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    • Yeah, that just should not be the first question—maybe the fourth or fifth, to learn more about your story, but not the first! You make a good point—I realize now that that is why it was particularly invalidating, because that was the first question that came to mind. When no it doesn’t matter. I’m sorry for you loss.

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  15. As one in the “never had a BFP” camp, I want to thank you for acknowledging the pain and grief that goes along with this. It’s different, although no less real, than for those who’ve lost pregnancies. I’ve thought about this issue a lot myself, because like you said people who’ve had miscarriages tend to get a lot more sympathy. In a way I agree with this, because even to me (who’s living the constant month-to-month and cycle-to-cycle disappointment) it just seems so much more terrible to have thought that you finally had something in your grasp and have it taken away. I personally would much rather never be pregnant than go through the joy of a BFP only to have it taken away. But for other people, I know that at least knowing they were pregnant at some point brings them some happiness…like the whole “better to have loved and lost than never loved at all” thing. It’s so personal and individual and exactly why we should never judge anyone for their emotional response / lack thereof to a given situation. We all hurt and handle hurt differently.

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    • Beautifully said! You are welcome. I’m glad it resonated. Wow, I guess I’ve never thought about it too closely until reading your comment, but I *think* I am glad I’ve been pregnant rather than never pregnant—but, Universe, once would’ve been totally enough.

      Reply
  16. There have been times where I wonder, had I been given the choice between 3 BFNs or 3 pregnancy losses, which one would I have picked? I can’t answer. I’d happily have done away with the turmoil of pregnancy loss (my first loss sent me into a tailspin, the second I was a lot more detached from, and by the time the third came around , I was mostly numb). But I’ve learnt so much, from a science standpoint, because of my losses. And some people have actually been helped by what I learnt, and that makes me happy–a really good friend calls me a wannabe powerpuff girl, and she has good reason to do so.

    The second thing is it made me stronger in a way that few things could have, and I’m grateful for that.

    As to pregnancy loss, I have realized that nobody has a clue how to react to it. The majority of the population is not very empathetic to start with, and you get some idiotic responses. I had one guy tell me that the key to sucess was feeling positive when you were pregnant.

    I’ve just stopped telling people that I am trying. Nobody knows other than like 3-4 people.

    You have to become that way with RPL to stay sane. And there is another curveball this process throws at you.

    Reply
    • I hear you—very few people know the specifics in our world, either, because it just gets ridiculous, trying to explain it all. You mention something really important—learning so much, and helping others with what you have learned. I don’t see myself as a martyr AT ALL, but doing the research and posting it here and helping women in need gives this whole show MEANING. And it is one of the very best things about this experience. This blog, for me, is one of the most amazing developments to come out of this, and the pleasure I receive when someone feels heard, when someone feels educated, get the info she’s looking for, is huge. I know your blog is a wonderland of info, too. It seems like learning from the losses and sharing what I learn is sometimes the only thing I am grasping onto, that keeps me going, when the throes are bad. I hear you also about the strength it cultivates. I’ve found myself wondering if all of this is going to help me deal with the inevitable losses down the line (my beloved Ma-Maw, my parents). Talk about showing yourself that you will be okay, no matter what! RPL is bootcamp for resilience.

      Reply
  17. Thank you so much for writing this, it’s put into words what I’m sure a lot of us are thinking/feeling. I’ve had one BFP in over 5 years (after ICSI). The many. many months where there’s just AF to show for our efforts hurt just as much as the one time we got to actual embryos. I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve even lied about how far along I was a couple of times. Not that many people even know about the miscarriage, but still the ones that did thought to ask how far along I was (like that makes any difference). I found myself adding a few weeks on, almost to make it seem more real for them, as if my twins only counted after a certain point. We lost our longed-for children, why on earth would we try to measure the hole that left in our hearts and lives in number of weeks??

    Reply
    • Don’t be ashamed!! I have found myself upping the number too! Isn’t that bizarre? I should have included that in this post, that would have been a perfect thing to explore…Yes, I have added a week or two, or I have decided to say I lost the baby at 10 weeks (the time of D & C) rather than at 6 weeks (the time of discovering blighted ovum). It’s all understandable—we are trying to tip that empathy scale! Yes, trying to make it more real for the person who has no idea. Thank you for mentioning this. And yes, that is why, I think, I am often bewildered by that question, what you say about not wanting to measure the hole, the absence, in number of weeks. I’m sorry for your losses—the AF ones, too, of course.

      Reply
  18. I was on the BFN side of the fence for over 11 years. My one miscarriage was exponentially more emotionally devastating than those 140 consecutive BFNs combined. But I think at the end of the day, we’re all hurting and should never be required to justify our grief with cell counts, days, months, weeks etc. But that doesn’t excuse us from trying to maintain perspective for each other.

    Reply
  19. I found this from Stirrup Queens roundup.

    All I can say is right on. And I’m so sorry.

    My miscarriages were 1 “blighted ovum,” 1 6-week loss involving no ultrasound, and a couple questionable chemicals… they destroyed me, in part because what was lost was so nebulous and, yes, caught up in my ideas about motherhood.

    Reply
  20. I’ve had two miscarriages – both early. One a molar pregnancy and the other just an early miscarriage, before the heart started beating. I’ve had one son. That’s there pregnancies and one healthy baby. We have been married for 7 years and have never used birth control. My son is three and a half and we just haven’t been able to have another one. We also have two adopted daughters. I don’t get much sympathy because I have 3 kids. People don’t get that it still hurts when you have a loss and it still hurts when you so desperately want to be a mom again and your body just seems to be failing over and over.

    Reply
    • Wow, that’s a story I don’t hear often and I’m so glad you shared. Secondary infertility is something I just sort of automatically feel empathy for even though I know I don’t really understand the nuances of it at all—it must be so isolating to have that desire and not have many people reflect back that it is okay for you to have that desire, not many people to reflect back that the devestation is okay to have when it doesn’t work out, again and again. I’m glad the post resonated and sorry for your struggles!

      Reply
  21. I came across this post from Stirrup Queen’s roundup today, and it’s really thought provoking. I think people have less empathy to earlier pregnancy loss because it’s so much less concrete to them and therefore they conclude incorrectly that it must have been less concrete to you. By eight weeks in my first pregnancy (when I learned I’d had a missed miscarriage), I’d planned that kid’s life out already! I didn’t make that mistake again, but grieving the loss of potential was no less for later pregnancies. I also agree that number of miscarriages affects people’s views too. I had three and got less sympathy with each one, even though they only got more devastating for me. Anyway, great post!

    Reply
    • Thank you! I’m so glad it resonated, and sorry for your loss—it does change us, doesn’t it. My first pregnancy I had designed an entire pregnancy journal and planned out my entire diet for 9 months by week 6. Wow! So much more cautious now. Yeah, I found myself even fudging the numbers a little bit when people asked “how far along were you,” adding a week, two weeks, just to make it for “real” for the listener.

      Reply
  22. Blerg…I just read this as I came over from Mel’s round-up (looking at back stuff). I totally related to this. My “shop” is ALL closed up. NINE pregnancies, 1 singleton & a set of twins out of those nine pregnancies. I would list all the awful things I heard from people during the varying trimesters of loss I had but it would probably just make you sick. The one phrase that should be completed deleted from language “AT LEAST”, in any form.
    I started to get embarrassed to say that I lost another pregnancy..and honestly the 1 time I had a blighted ovum (very first pregnancy) that was the hardest.
    I don’t think it matters, in my opinion, if you can’t get pregnant or you have a miscarriage or on and on and on and on. It’s freaking hard. Infertility, RPL, etc. is just flat out hard. I don’t blog anymore, I am two plus years out from my twins (live) birth and those comments from people and losses are like a little bowl of jelly with hardened edges that sit by my heart.
    For me it doesn’t leave. Like I said when I had one of my most painful losses (20w) you move forward you don’t move on.

    Reply
    • First off, I’m so happy to hear that you have three children out of all of that loss, and secondly, I could not agree with you more about the words “at least.” When I try to gently educate friends or family that is one of the first things I let them know—“Just drop the words ‘at least.’ ” I’m starting to get embarrassed, too, which is all the more isolating. There are some of the (few) “outsiders” I could go to for support that I’m now not feeling comfortable doing so with (it could be all in my head, though). Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment.

      Reply
  23. Elizabeth

     /  February 7, 2014

    Oh, thank you! Thank you! Thank you for this entry and all the wonderful comments. I miscarried at 8 weeks but always “upped” the number when asked. I was starting to fear that I was turning into some attention seeking compulsive liar. Really, I feel so much less shame now.

    Reply
    • Aw, there’s no shame in that—it makes perfect sense. You are most welcome. I feel less crazy, too, hearing that it’s such a common thing. We’re not looking for attention, just trying to make it understandable to other people who are shielded from all this in their own lives how extremely painful it is. If that means giving them a higher number, then that’s what we do. I’m so glad you feel less shame!

      Reply
  24. I just found your blog through notsonewtoivf’s and wow.. does this hit the mark. I’ve had one chemical pregnancy, and I only caught the tail end if it so only saw my 1 BFP. I’ve had people brush it off as a faulty test, even though my follow up bloodwork showed declining hCG. It doesn’t matter how early it was, I KNEW, and that’s what breaks my heart. The fact that we have only been actively trying for a short period of time also renders less empathy even from some of those in the IF community. I can understand how you would get jaded from all the trials but it’s good to remember that the first 6 missed cycles hurt as well. Maybe not as much as the 26th or 36th but they hurt.

    Reply
  1. Underestimated | NewtoIVF

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