How Miscarriage Saved My Marriage

Passion. It makes life interesting. I had always been jealous of people with passion—people who experience a calling to become a teacher or an artist or a scientist. I would marvel over how it must feel to be compelled to have true purpose every day. For the longest time I thought of a calling as being limited to the workforce. Eventually, I realized that motherhood qualifies as a job and a passion—the most challenging and rewarding kind. In fact, looking back, it has always been my aspiration. From the time I was a little girl, I never questioned my destiny: I simply assumed that I would one day I become a mother and raise children of my own. Motherhood was my calling. It was what I was born to do.

It seemed perfectly natural for me to presume I would become a parent one day because parents were everywhere. Everyone had them! I had grand plans for myself: I intended to give my future children everything I loved about my own childhood and carefully omit the things that scarred me. I imagined myself shaping my children into amazing people. And I envisioned doing it alongside a loving and supportive mate, someone who shared my values and worked to protect and cultivate a happy and healthy family. While life had always dealt me a fair hand, it wouldn’t always be so kind. It was poised to steal from me, robbing me of ideals and plans and innocence. Pregnancy was the wildcard that would change everything.

When I became pregnant for the first time, like most pregnant women, I could barely contain my excitement. I had waited my whole life for this moment, and now it had finally arrived. My dreams were coming true! My husband was more stunned than enthusiastic. But we forged ahead, and I willingly (if not miserably) trudged through morning sickness, dutifully munching crackers until, at week 17, trouble began. I was spotting—just a little, but it was an undeniably troublesome sight. The doctors could find nothing definitive on the ultrasound, so they sent me home with a diagnosis of “presumed placental abruption,” meaning they couldn’t actually see any blood clots causing my placenta to detach from my uterine wall, but they were assuming some were there. They told us to watch and wait. My husband did so in stony and helpless silence. I, on the other hand, was single minded in my focus. I would protect this baby with every ounce of my will. My pregnancy became a battleground—a series of struggles between my body and me that would land me in the ER on five different occasions. Each skirmish left me feeling more worried and nervous, but I was determined to win the war for the sake of my baby. For the sake of our burgeoning family. For the sake of our destiny.

The three of us made it to only 29 weeks, but it was enough. My daughter, although tinier than I could have imagined, was perfect. Her struggle to grow and thrive would prove much greater than the average newborn, but she rose to the challenge. She blossomed into a lovely and bright little girl with no long-term effects of her prematurity. She had her health, and I had my title: Mom.

After the worst was over, my husband and I sought the advice of a specialist. Was our experience a fluke? What were the odds that this could happen again? My husband couldn’t fathom tempting fate a second time. I was too shell shocked to weigh in but sensed I should leave my options open. The doctor gave us a 50/50 chance of having a second successful pregnancy. Those odds weren’t great, but we filed away the information, in case there came a time when we might need it.

Meanwhile, our daughter’s entrance into the world had taken a tremendous toll on our marriage. The way partners handle crisis can either bring them closer or tear them apart. A chasm had opened between my husband and me during my pregnancy and the first year of our daughter’s life. We were living separate lives: I was joyfully engrossed in the trials of parenting—from diaper changes to mommy-and-me music classes—while he lived a life of rote obligation in emotional desert, trudging from work to home, to the grocery store and back again. There was a time when I wondered if we’d ever recover.

Five years later we finally decided to try for a second baby. My mental picture of “family” had always included more than one child, and as crazy as it might sound, I wasn’t yet ready to abandon that dream. For the first time since having our daughter, my husband became interested in helping me fulfill my vision of motherhood. When it came right down to it, our daughter deserved a sibling, so we felt bound to at least try.

I got pregnant right away. I knew within days. A few weeks later, it was confirmed with an ultrasound. We saw a perfectly round sac on the monitor, but no heartbeat—yet. It was still early, plus I felt pregnant, so I kept my hopes up. A week later we went back, and the news was devastating. Again, no heartbeat. The sac loomed ominously on the monitor. It’s known as a “blighted ovum,” when a fertilized egg implants itself in the uterus but fails to develop into a baby. The doctor explained that it’s a usually a result of a chromosomal “mistake.” It’s nature’s version of natural selection. She also mentioned that this was likely not related to the complications during my first pregnancy.

I was too shocked to cry. But my husband surprised me. Never one to show emotion, he looked at me with tears in his eyes and confessed that he felt sad, mostly for our daughter and me. We were the reason he had been willing to risk my becoming pregnant again. He knew how much a second baby meant to me. And he had wanted to give the lifelong gift of a sibling to our daughter. His heartfelt openness softened my heart. I felt like I wasn’t alone.

And so when I was sent home to “naturally” miscarry, I did so with more courage and comfort than I imagined possible. But miscarriage turned out to be more complicated than it sounded because my body wouldn’t cooperate with the plan. It stubbornly hung onto the fetus. When we went back a week later, not only had the placenta continued to grow, but the doctor actually detected a heartbeat! We couldn’t believe it! It was truly a miracle! But we also felt confused…was this baby viable? Or was its delayed development a bad sign? In other words, could we count on this fetus to develop into a healthy baby?

Two weeks later, we went back for another ultrasound. Our worst fears were realized: no heartbeat. And this time it was final.

It seemed unreal. I couldn’t believe life could be so cruel. My hopes had been slung around like a rodeo cowboy on a bucking bronco. My husband didn’t know what to say, but he stood by me, ready to support me in whatever ways I needed.

My guilty conscience weighed on me. It was one thing for me to put myself willingly into this messy situation. Now I had dragged my innocent husband into this. If it hadn’t been for my insatiable need to “complete” our family, he wouldn’t be on this wild ride. Plus my resulting medical expenses were siphoning our family funds uselessly away. To top it all off, the physical toll this pregnancy was taking on me was even beginning to affect my daughter. She was acting out on a regular basis, and I knew it was because she could sense that something wasn’t right.

I felt stupid—stupid for being cavalier enough to laugh in the face of our odds. Even if the two pregnancy mishaps weren’t the result of the same complication, clearly I was cursed with bad luck. I was angry! Angry because I still felt pregnant, but I wasn’t. Not with an actual baby, anyway—just a mass of cells that were leaching precious energy from my body. Every wave of nausea, each emotional outburst, each pair of pants that didn’t quite fit were reminders that all my miserable pregnancy symptoms were without a payoff. It seemed like a cruel joke. Of course I was upset that this pregnancy hadn’t worked out, but it wasn’t the loss of a “baby” that really affected me. I was suffering the loss of my dream. I knew that it was unlikely that my husband and I would be brave enough (or some might say foolish enough) to try again. I had come to a crossroads where I would have to reconfigure my ideal of what my family would be as well as my role as a mother. I’m still struggling with that.

My husband and I both recognize how lucky we are to have what we do. We managed to create one healthy, beautiful child. And that seems something of a miracle given what we’ve been through. But the silver lining in this dark cloud called miscarriage is something that I never imagined. Over the course of our second pregnancy misfortune, my husband and I had grown closer. Instead of repeating our past mistakes, this time we got it right. We supported each other. We listened to each other. We loved each other. Desperate situations either bring people closer or tear them apart. The first time around, we let life wedge itself between us. We didn’t know how to lean on each other. The second time we relied on our marriage the way we were meant to. In the process, we gave our daughter something much more valuable than a sibling: We had found a way to give her the gift of a strong relationship. We were finally able to model a healthy marriage, the way we had always hoped to do. And through our struggles and disappointments, while we weren’t looking, we became a stronger family.

How Miscarriage Saved My Marriage


New Orleans, United States

  • Artist

Artist's Description

In this firsthand account of two pregnancy mishaps, a couple salvages their relationship in ways they never imagined.

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