As a pelvic floor therapist, I have the honor of sharing in the very personal details of my patients’ lives. We cover anything from going to the bathroom, leaking urine, childbirth, sex, and everything between. From time to time, patients will even trust me with the knowledge of a past sexual trauma or struggle with fertility.
And, when it comes to these types of painful experiences, it can be incredibly difficult for us to talk about. Whether it’s because it hurts too much, or we just feel like we are the only ones who have gone through it.
Today I wanted to share my own story of dealing with the loss of a pregnancy from a blog post I wrote some time ago. I hope you will feel encouraged to find someone trusted to share your own story with. Thanks for reading!
Heather Draper PT, DPT
July 1st was a Saturday. It also was the day I simultaneously learned I was pregnant and discovered I was having a miscarriage.
It’s a lot to take in at once. And, not to be overly dramatic, it was somewhat traumatizing. I am a doctor raised by a doctor, so forgive the detail that follows (or feel free to skip ahead). I know people whose periods are like clockwork; I am not one of them. My period being a few days late, then, was not a particular concern. What did strike me as odd were the horrific cramps that woke me early that morning. They were coming in waves and were so painful I could barely breathe. I woke my husband up because I was in too much pain to get out of the bed. He grabbed some aspirin & a glass of water for me. I eventually fell back asleep once the pain subsided sufficiently.
The next morning, I assumed those “cramps” were due to my late period. As if my period was coming with a vengeance. How could I have known those were contractions? How could I have known that just a few hours later I would be holding a mass of tissue in my hand, the unformed tissue of twins? My twins.
Skipping ahead, I’m staring at my reflection in the bathroom mirror and wondering what the hell just happened to me. I tried turning to the internet for answers but didn’t find that helpful. I called my mom (the aforementioned doctor) next to ask her: “Heather, I think you had a miscarriage.”
“That can’t be it,” I thought as I hung up the phone.
Five minutes of google image searching later, however, the reality, the gravity of it all began to set in. Five minutes after that we were in the car on the way to meet up with family in town for the week to celebrate the 4th of July.
There was barely time to dry the tears off my cheeks before we walked out the door. It wasn’t exactly ideal timing – as if there ever were an ideal time. I never really felt I had the time I needed to grieve. Certainly, having to rush out the door immediately after didn’t allow appropriate time, and neither did finishing up my final year in a doctorate program in the months that followed. Which is why, I suspect, a year later, I am still working through all of this as if it just happened.
Ever since last July, I have been struggling to process my emotions around this loss. I have always wanted a family, and as a married woman in my 30s, I fear the ticking of my biological clock as if I were Captain Hook on the run from Tick-Tock the Croc. Never mind the logical part of my brain reminding me that a full-term pregnancy would have delayed the completion of my doctorate, reminding me this wasn’t a planned pregnancy.
As I write this, I am only days away from the year mark, and I still feel the grief and sadness over losing my babies. Some days hit me harder than others. Mother’s Day was so much harder than I expected. Other things have caught me off guard as well. A commercial on TV. A Facebook post. Simply being around a pregnant woman can stir something deep within me.
I have muddled my way through my grief. I have cried. I have written down in even greater detail than above the events of that day. I have painted pictures for each twin. My husband and I gave them names & decided on a day to acknowledge them and our loss. Still, I have been overwhelmed with feeling like it wasn’t enough. I have felt guilty for not knowing they existed until they were already gone and struggled with wondering if I could have prevented the miscarriage if I had known. And, perhaps most cruel, I have felt guilty for even feeling so grief stricken over something I never really had to begin with.
I recently started seeing a counselor to help me process all of this. It has helped me realize it’s okay to still feel…whatever I feel. The bigger picture is that there isn’t an end game when it comes to grief. There isn’t going to be a point where I “complete” my grief. The good days will be more frequent. The bad days will be fewer and farther between, but I will never not have a sense of loss around this pregnancy.
I want so badly to put a bow on this post and say something encouraging. While I can definitely say that things are getting better with time and distance and work, a loss is still a loss. It hurts, and most days it’s a struggle for me to be present with the pain when there are so many distractions out there. I want so badly to walk away from this experience somehow having figured out how to be present in my emotions, though.
So, that’s where I am. I am learning to have grace for myself for things that are out of my control anyway and using this opportunity to learn how to grieve.
Lastly, I just have to say thank you to the enumerable friends and family who have sat with me, cried with me, held me and shared their own stories of loss. It all helped because I needed to know – and still need to be reminded – that it gets better. No matter how much it hurts, it does get better.
Heather Draper is a physical therapist that covered Merci’s maternity leave here at Functionize Health & Physical Therapy. She specializes in treating patients with a variety of pelvic health conditions as well as low back, hip and SI pain. She earned her doctorate in physical therapy from the University of North Georgia where she participated in research related to diastasis recti causes, effects and treatment.
For more information on pelvic health physical therapy visit www.functionizehealth.com.