I was 18 when I found out I was pregnant. Five weeks prior, I was raped by my then-boyfriend and, in my determination to forget what had happened, forgot to get emergency contraception. I missed a period and then bought some pregnancy tests, which I took on my lunch break from college in a McDonald's toilet stall.
The first test came back positive and the second was inconclusive. I decided they were probably wrong anyway and pushed the worry of a possible pregnancy to the back of my mind, along with worrying about my exams, my shitty relationship with my parents, and how many times my boyfriend had cheated on me that week. I was scared, alone, and felt like there was nobody I could talk to.
And then I miscarried.
My miscarriage happened a week after I took the pregnancy tests; it was a Saturday morning, and my family had gone out together. I was home alone and woke up drenched from my hips down in bright-red blood. I felt like I was being devoured from the inside out, and the entire scene probably looked like something out of a Saw movie.
Things get a bit hazy in my mind after that, but I remember rushing to the bathroom and locking myself in. I remember lying on the cold floor tiles behind the bathroom door trying really hard not to vomit. I remember the amount of pain I was in — an extraordinary amount — and I remember crying because of it. I remember being scared and shaking and eventually kind of passing out on the floor. When I came to the the bleeding had slowed down from a gush to more of a trickle, I ran myself a bath before phoning in sick to my waitressing job.
Physically, the pain was over. But emotionally I was running on nerves; I still wasn't ready to accept that what I had gone through was an early miscarriage. I was trying hard to make myself believe that it was just my period.
For about a month, I didn't tell anybody what I thought had happened. Then I told my then-boyfriend that I thought I'd had a miscarriage. His response was, "Don't be stupid. Stop lying."
A couple of nights later, I tried to tell my mum about it. She didn't believe me either.
I didn't mention it again after that. I tried really hard not to even think about it, but I'd find myself thinking about the pain of it all and how I could have been a mother. The truth is, I felt guilty. I hadn't wanted to be pregnant; I wasn't ready to start a family. And if I'd had a baby with my then-boyfriend, I know I wouldn't have been able to leave him. But I also knew that I wanted children, and I felt guilty for being thankful that I'd lost a child when I dreamed of starting a family one day.
There were a lot of feelings that I was suppressing and a lot of things I had to deal with before I was able to start processing my feelings toward my miscarriage. And it's only now, two-and-a-half years later, that I've been able to do that.
So if you are in a similar position, please keep reading.
You might feel alone and afraid just like I did. Or those are feelings you can at least empathise with. So this is for you; it's what I wish someone could have told my 18-year-old self when I was going through my miscarriage, and it's what I tell myself even now. I hope that it provides even a little comfort to you.
You are so brave.
You are braver than you think you are. You carried a tiny life inside you and now, for whatever reason, you are letting that tiny life go. Whether your child is the size of a lentil or a melon, saying goodbye to that life is hard. And accepting what you are going through is harder. But you will get through it, and you will be stronger because of it.
You are strong.
You are stronger than you ever imagined you could be. You are strong for getting through the physical pain you are in, and you are even stronger for facing the emotional pain you are in. It will ache deep inside your heart no matter how you felt about your pregnancy. Whether you were over the moon to be having a baby, whether you were terrified, whether you really didn't want this child — it's all OK. Whatever you are feeling is valid. It doesn't make you a bad person if you feel relieved or sad or anything. If you feel numb, then that's OK, too. And you don't have to carry any guilt around with you. It's not your fault.
You are allowed to grieve.
You are allowed to grieve for this baby, for this lost life, for the child you never met. You are allowed to give them a name, an identity, to dream of who they might have been. You don't need to feel stupid about doing this.
After I spoke to my counselor and doctor about my miscarriage, they suggested making a memory box with letters and drawings in it to remember the baby by. In my memory box, I like to press pretty flowers, like forget-me-nots, and keep them in there. I also keep a stuffed bunny in the box along with some letters I've written and some photographs. The point is to make the box your own — everybody grieves differently, and everybody holds different things as special and significant. Put whatever you like in the box, anything that makes it special to you.
Charities like Project B.E.A.R send teddy bears to parents and families who have been through a miscarriage to give them something physical to hold on to. Ideas like this are very useful in giving you something tangible to hold onto and look at and reflect on.
You will get through this.
You might feel like there's no way you can get through this or move on. But you will. You will go on to do all the things you want to in your life whilst still remembering the life you held inside you. You don't have to give up living. You will be able to be happy again. Honest.
That's all I really wanted to say. I found it very cathartic sharing what I've been through because for so long it had been locked up inside of me. I hope that somebody finds something useful in this, and I hope it makes at least one person out there feel a little better.