Three years ago, I had a miscarriage. After months of not feeling better, I moved to a new state hoping it would help. I learned there's no right or way wrong to cope with such a heavy loss.

By Melissa Willets
October 01, 2020
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When I saw the news about Chrissy Teigen's pregnancy loss, I burst into tears. Because sadly, I know all too well what she is going through. Three years ago, around the same time in my pregnancy (Teigen recently shared she was halfway through her gestation), I lost my baby. I felt numb going through the motions of leaving the hospital in reverse—arriving as the three of us (with my husband) and going home as only two. Just like Teigen said of her experience, I couldn't even believe it was real. As the days went on following our loss, the pain would set in deep, and it quickly became evident I hadn't just lost a pregnancy, but my entire life had changed overnight.

Looking in the mirror, I felt like a different person was staring blankly back at me. Simple daily tasks felt insurmountable, like taking my three younger children to school. Seeing teachers, neighbors, acquaintances, and friends, all of whom knew I'd lost the pregnancy, was crushing, as I battled overwhelming anxiety, worried someone would ask how I was. How was I? I could barely put one foot in front of another, let alone try and utter, "I'm OK," which of course would be a lie.

Friends and family members tried to check in, but the reality was, I was nowhere near ready to hear their words of consolation, which only served to make the painful reality of our loss feel more, well, real. I knew the most important thing was to make sure my kids were dealing with this loss. In truth, my children are the only thing that made me get out of bed each morning in those early weeks and months—they still had to eat and get ready for school, no matter how sad I felt. Somehow through the fog of all-consuming grief, I figured out that I needed help to guide my family through this devastating time. With the guidance of a therapist and our pastor, we began to talk about our feelings and deal with the loss in a constructive way.

One of the most meaningful and productive things we did to begin to heal was to dedicate the next 100 days to our angel baby. Each day we did an activity together inspired by her—one afternoon we planted a tree, the next day my daughters had the idea to eat a cookie as big as their heads. We sent up balloons in her honor, and even celebrated Christmas months ahead of time.

But as the months wore on, my load didn't lighten. I was still unable to shake the feeling that life wasn't supposed to be like this. Going through the same routine as before the loss almost seemed like a betrayal to my baby. It became clear that we'd need to do more than see a therapist and buy oversized desserts to cope with the gaping hole left in our family.

And so, today I sit here sharing my story in a new house, in a new state—yes, we picked up and moved our entire lives because I desperately needed a fresh start to even begin to feel normal again. But there's more. My marriage almost imploded, as my husband and I struggled to deal with this new normal in our own ways. There came a point that I could no longer zombie walk through our old lives, and decided being apart while he tried to find a job in our new city was a better way forward than the current situation. We ended up having a long distance marriage for a year before he moved to be with us. It was awful, even unbearable at times, but still better than the nightmare I'd been living in our old town.

It took years for us to get to the point we are today, when we can enjoy many parts of life again, and have accepted what happened to our baby. But I'd be lying if I said it was easy; the pain of losing a pregnancy never goes away—it simply changes form and affects you in different ways. I know Teigen has a long road ahead, and my heart breaks for her and her family. That being said, I can't help but feel this overwhelming urge to thank her for being so honest about her journey. As she wrote on Instagram, "We are shocked and in the kind of deep pain you only hear about." But as both Teigen and I cruelly learned, pregnancy loss doesn't just happen to others and by her sharing her story, more people will know that.

Lilli Dash Zimmerman, M.D., fertility specialist at Columbia University Fertility Center, wants women to know, "You are not alone." Pregnancy loss after the first trimester is less common—1 to 5 percent happen in the second trimester, according to March of Dimes—but Dr. Zimmerman says doctors do see it fairly often. Her message to parents who are grieving a loss like this is to realize, "There is no one right way to deal with this type of trauma." So while seeking support of family and friends may feel supportive to some, others, like me, need space at first. Dr. Zimmerman encourages women and their families to seek out any form of support that helps, be it a support group, or speaking to a psychologist. She also stresses that women shouldn't blame themselves or feel ashamed of the experience, and gives Teigen kudos for being transparent about a topic that is so often kept a secret.

If you know someone who is grappling with a pregnancy loss, Dr. Zimmerman advises, "Continually stay engaged." A text, phone call, or small gift, helps the person know you are thinking of them, and that when they are ready to talk, be it right away or months from now, you will be there.

Three years after my loss, I still need support. Here's hoping Teigen and her family get the support they need now and in the future. And to anyone going through a traumatic pregnancy loss: May your load be lightened ever so slightly to know others have walked the same path, and are sending so much love and comfort your way.

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