What It’s Like to Suffer a Miscarriage

What is it like to suffer a miscarriage or experience a pregnancy loss? Learn how you can both embrace your loss and heal your heart.

Losing a baby is beyond words. Only a select population understands what it is like to suffer a miscarriage and even then, "understand" is probably the worst word to describe such an event.

I'll never forget hearing these words from my doctor:

"I'm not picking up a heartbeat, Pam. There doesn't appear to be any fetal movement. I think the baby is dead."

In disbelief, my emotions began to run wild and unchecked.

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Engulfed in a jumble of scrambled thoughts I wanted desperately to hear the doctor say, "Wait a minute – I'm wrong. I've made a mistake. Now I see the heartbeat."

Those words never came.

During the next half hour in that little examining room, my life was a blur.
Everything was out of focus.
I hated my humanness.
Why can't I change this and make things different?

Nothing made sense. Angry questions darted back and forth in my mind.

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Why is this happening to me? To us? It's not fair! Why are we getting ripped off? I hate this!

The tears poured out. I sobbed long and hard, trying my best to listen to the doctor. He painted a picture of what might have happened: "Based on the measurements on the ultrasound screen, I can see that the baby is fully formed according to schedule, and most likely just died recently. More information will be gleaned from pathology tests."

His words overshadowed my own thoughts, "I can't believe this is happening!"

The day had started out so normal. I bounced into the doctor's office wearing a colorful new maternity dress, excited to hear the baby's heartbeat again. It was my routine five-month appointment, filled with the typical measurements and weight check.

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The nurse began to probe with the sound device to secure a clear picture. For what seemed to be hours it was unbearably quiet in the little dark room.

I painstakingly blurted out, "Do you see a heartbeat? What are you finding? Can I see the screen?" only to be quieted with, “I don’t have a clear picture yet, Pam.”

More long drawn out minutes passed. Once again I bombarded the silence with, “Can’t you tell my anything? Are you seeing a heartbeat?”

And then the ripping truth came. There was no heartbeat. Our baby was dead. More information would be gleaned from pathology tests after delivery.

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After delivery.

Those words jolted me into reality. It would be necessary to go through the normal labor and delivery process – but I would deliver a dead baby and go home with empty arms.

It was all too incredible to grasp.

I had entered the doctor’s office cheerful, bright, and excited about hearing the sound of life within me. I was leaving as full-figured as before, shattered, broken, and fearful of tomorrow. What would I have to walk through in the days ahead?

He that lacks time to mourn, lacks time to mend.
~ Maya Angelou

When your dreams crash into reality, a season of mourning begins. Losing a baby touches every part of your life:
Your view of yourself
Your hopes and fears about the future
Your pocketbook
Your beliefs about life and death and God.

Questions and emotions run wild. We wonder where God is, and why He didn’t show up to write a different ending to our story. In what feels like a God-forsaken place, we are faced with critical choices of the will.

  • Will we give death the final say and hold onto despair?
  • Will we pretend everything is fine, or be emotionally honest with ourselves and others about our heart-shredding loss?
  • Will we sidestep and gloss over our sorrow, or take the time we need to face and embrace our pain, and let it go?
  • Will we trust that God is a good, redeeming genius who is planting seeds of new life in the cracks of our broken heart?

Brain science research says that 59% of those who suffer a miscarriage get stuck in prolonged unresolved grief.

That’s more than half of us.

What blocks us from healing and moving forward? There are a number of things, but two stand high above the rest: keeping our feelings buried inside and avoiding our grief.

I’ve seen the sticking power of unresolved grief.

While meeting with a depressed woman who had been referred to me by her physician, I learned that she had given birth to a stillborn baby years ago. After leaving the hospital, she never spoke of it again.

It doesn’t do any good to dredge up the past, or talk about things you can’t change. It makes things worse, not better,” she said, almost robotically.

When I asked her to tell me the story of her stillbirth, it was like the event had happened just yesterday. The dam broke and years of bottled-up grief poured out. She had carried that heavy weight all by herself for many years.

We aren’t wired to carry things alone.

So, how do we face and embrace our loss so that our hearts will heal? Step-by-step guidance can be found in the Empty Arms Journal: 21 Days of Good Grief Exercises for Healing After Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or the Loss of a Baby.

For now, please grab this important take-away: Healing comes in the context of emotional honesty with ourselves, God, and safe friends.

Have you experienced similar grief, either personally or vicariously through a friend or loved one? How have you pushed through the pain of loss? We'd love for you to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Pam Vredevelt

Pam Vredevelt

Pam Vredevelt is a Professional Counselor and Coach, Best-selling author of Empty Arms, and the Empty Arms Journal. Jessie Vredevelt Schultz is a business consultant and transformation coach. They co-lead Healing Your Empty Arms: A transformation experience after the loss of your baby or child, for emotional healing, personal growth, and spiritual renewal.

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