What My Fourth Miscarriage Taught Me About Happiness
Updated: Oct 16, 2019
Do you believe in happiness without a “happy ending?” I do.
In March, I had my fourth miscarriage at eight weeks. It certainly was not the ending I’d hoped for, but through it, I learned some surprising lessons about happiness.
If you’ve been through a miscarriage, you know how painful it is, physically and emotionally. You can feel as if you’re the one to blame (or that someone or something else is to blame—the doctor, your demanding job, whatever it may be), that you’ve let your baby down, or that your body’s let you down.
It takes strength to face all those fears and make peace with the loss of a baby. I’ve had to be willing to accept what’s gone wrong (or what others or I might have done wrong), rather than resisting it, or feeling ashamed or resentful about what “should have been.” That’s how I found hope, healing and happiness again.
“Peace is a conscious choice.” - John Denver
Different Struggles, Same Pain
I never thought I’d be the kind of woman who miscarried over and over. In some ways, this fourth miscarriage has been the easiest to cope with, because I knew what to expect: the intense bleeding, cramping, and grieving. I was in a healthier mindset than before too, so I was as prepared as any woman can be to lose her baby.
In other ways, this miscarriage was the most painful for me. It surprised me; after three healthy babies, I foolishly thought I was “past all that.” Also, this time, I knew what I was missing: what it meant to carry a life inside of me, to give birth and hold that baby in my arms. For weeks, I’d been looking forward to that, then it was suddenly gone. Thankfully, with this loss, I felt a kind of peace I hadn’t felt with my 3 previous miscarriages. That gave me perspective—I knew I’d be alright—and helped me avoid some of the emotional downfalls from before, especially the pain of shame and bitterness.
Still, that didn’t prevent me from suffering the physical affects of my loss: anemia, loss of energy, a storm of hormones, and inflamed breakouts on my face and neck. It’s been three months, and I’m not feeling quite back to myself yet, which means I haven’t been able to run, go to dance class or do some of the other things I enjoy as often. It’s just going to take time.
The point is, while we can avoid self-inflicted suffering—believing we’re helpless or beyond hope—we can’t avoid all suffering.
I know plenty of women have been through harder things than this, and I’ll probably face harder things still in my life. But what I’ve observed is that, although every struggle is different, but the pain is the same.
For example, having an unplanned baby can feel just as stressful as spending years trying to conceive (I know, because I’ve been there, and there). And having a bigger family can feel just as demanding as having only one little newborn (I’ve been there and there, too). I’ve seen this paradox time and again, in as many women as I’ve ever met: from stay-at-home moms to working single moms, and from brand-new moms to empty-nesters. We all face pain.
Finding Happiness When Life Feels Hard
Life is full of struggles; there are no perfect circumstances. There will always be pain—and happiness, too, if we choose it. They go hand in hand, and yet, we often wish things would change. We think if the pain would only go away, then we could finally be happy.
The truth is, you can never be happy waiting for things to change, or wishing your life was different. It’s only when you’re willing to accept your pain and imperfections that change can actually take place—not outward change, but inward change—the kind that brings true happiness, and has nothing to do with how perfectly things fall into place.
I’m talking about growth. I’ve learned that I’m not necessarily happier in the absence of hard things. On the contrary, I’m happiest in sweet surrender, so that rather than suffering from the unfairness and wrongness of it all, I can put that energy into what I love and value most: my family, health, or even simple joys like lighting a candle or settling down with a good book and cup of chamomile tea.
A Traumatic Miscarriage
I first came to this realization about happiness after my third miscarriage. That loss was extremely traumatic for me. I bled for nearly three weeks before losing the baby, living in fear that the smallest movement would trigger another miscarriage. I worked full-time through all of this during my company’s busiest time, because my boss didn’t feel he could grant my request to stay in bed and work from home.
And so I worked, visiting the bathroom every hour, and the doctor every day—hoping for the best, but fearing the worst. Ultimately, I lost the baby, and I could only be grateful that I was at home instead of at the office.
For a long time after, I saw myself as a failure. I felt I’d let everyone down: my boss and coworkers, the people closest to me, my baby and myself. I’d tried for a baby for so long—almost 5 years—and all I had to show for it was an unsolved case of recurrent miscarriage and a career that seemed to be on the brink of ruin. Happiness felt completely out of reach.
Then one summer day, I was driving down a country road with the windows down, the sun in my face and hair, and I was overwhelmed with a kind of joy I hadn’t felt in years. Suddenly, it struck me that my ability to feel happy had never changed. Even in my darkest times, I could choose to enjoy my life—and so that’s what I set out to do.
Experiencing Both Sides of Fertility
From that moment, I had hope again, but even when I was finally diagnosed with a blood-clotting disorder and was able to become a mom, I found that choosing happiness wasn’t necessarily any easier. In fact, it was harder.
One of the blessings I’m most grateful for is that I’ve experienced so many sides of motherhood. I know what infertility is like. I’ve had years go by that I couldn’t get pregnant at all. I’d wait and hope and pray, and then I’d miscarry. A year or two later, it would happen again. This happened three times.
I've also had three babies back-to-back-to-back, and I know how overwhelming that can be, too.
When our son was born, he was our miracle. But before I knew it, I was pregnant again, and becoming a mother to two babies within a year and a half was, hands down, the hardest thing I’d ever been through up to that point. My mind and body had a lot healing left to do, but I had no idea. I just knew that I felt overwhelmed and exhausted all the time, even though I felt like I should be happy. I mean, after all those years of infertility, two healthy babies should be the ultimate pay-off, right?
In fact, I’d counted on it. For years, I’d prayed for a family, imagining that when I had one, I’d be the strong, confident, happy mom I’d always wanted to be. It never occurred to me that those years of infertility were the time to be strong, confident and happy—or that becoming a mom would actually bring out my weaknesses as much as my strengths.
Motherhood Brought Out the Worst and Best in Me
So there I was with two beautiful babies, and face to face with all of my ugliest flaws and insecurities. I didn’t know what to do. For months, I felt hopeless. I loved being a mom, but under the surface I was struggling—always on-edge, desperate for a break, or something or someone to cheer me up.
When I found out I was expecting my third, I felt what I can only describe as panic. Eventually I decided, there had to be a better way; I couldn’t spend the rest of my life feeling afraid of hard things. I wanted to enjoy my life and family, not escape them. I finally realized that if I wanted to be happy, I needed to change my thinking. Obviously, this didn’t come naturally to me, so I had to make a conscious choice. I devoured books, articles and podcasts to shift my mindset; I prayed, journaled and meditated. This was the beginning of a beautiful breakthrough for me.
I’m still growing, and often struggling (you know what they say about happiness being a journey, not a destination), but the lessons I’ve learned so far have given me a beautiful sense of peace, patience with myself and others—especially my three kids—and a new ability to cope with stress and disappointment.
Here are a few of those lessons in happiness from my fourth miscarriage.
1. The more love you give, the more love you feel. Since this loss, I’ve never felt so loved in my life. However, it struck me that the reason wasn’t because more people reached out to me than before. With my first three miscarriages, I felt hurt and alone. Nothing anyone said or did could help me feel better, and often, it made me feel worse. Now looking back, I see how many people were supporting and grieving with me. I couldn’t see it then because I was so focused on my own pain and fear. This time, I made up my mind at the beginning that I would simply love people for trying, even if they were awkward or said the “wrong thing.” The lesson: when I’m feeling hurt and offended by others, it’s because I’m already hurting inside; when I choose to reach out with love and patience for others, I feel only love.
2. You don’t have to be enough. It’s popular today to say to yourself, “I am enough.” I’m certainly in favor of more confidence and less insecurity, but I think there’s an even better way: being at peace with not being enough. After every miscarriage, I felt broken. The truth is, we all are. None of us are perfect. I’ll never be able to prevent every tragedy, avoid every mistake, solve every problem, or please every person, no matter how hard I try. I’m not meant to. Only God is capable of that. Knowing this, I don’t need to feel that I’m “good enough,” and I don’t need others to be “good enough” for me either. We can always come back from mistakes and heartache and keep trying.
3. Blame is no relief for grief; only love is. When you miscarry, it’s easy to feel like it’s your fault, and the truth is, it might be. (See above on not always being enough.) In this case, I’d been experiencing some hormonal imbalances, and I probably should’ve seen my doctor about it. Although I was taking daily shots for my blood disorder, my miscarriage could’ve been caused by low progesterone. I found out later, it could’ve also been caused by the nasty virus I probably picked up from a sick toddler I’d been taking care of at church. At the time, I knew the toddler should be taken home, but I didn’t say anything to the parents. Was it my fault? Was it theirs? Maybe, but what if it was? That doesn’t change what happened, and it doesn’t change anyone’s worth in God’s eyes. Even if I’d made the terrible choice of intentionally ending my pregnancy, I could still find redemption from that. Blaming myself or others brings only more pain; love and forgiveness is healing.
4. Happiness is a feeling you create, not a possession you’re entitled to. I used to have thoughts about my miscarriages like, “This shouldn’t have happened,” or “I should be finding out if it was girl or boy this week.” With those thoughts came the fear that I’d been denied something essential to my happiness, or that I must not deserve it. And honestly, that was even worse than the pain of losing a baby. Now I realize that there’s nothing we can ever deserve—good or bad—rather, everything is a gift. In other words, if life was fair, I wouldn’t have become a mom at all, because how is that fair when other women still wait? It’s not what we have or don’t have that makes us happy, it’s the growth and learning that life offers us, especially the hard times. Happiness is a feeling we create in our minds and hearts, regardless of circumstances; it’s the enlightening and expanding of the soul.
“Your trials did not come to punish you, but to awaken you.” – Paramahansa Yogananda