We can do hard things (& What they can do for you)

Can I tell you a story? It might seem sad, but my hope is that it’ll leave you encouraged and more connected – to me, to yourself, to your loved ones, to the world.
I’ve always thought it’s useless having regrets, so I try not to entertain thoughts of going back. They just drag you down. Still, I can’t help but wonder how differently I could have handled the loss, the grief that I smushed down as quickly as it surfaced at finding out our baby lost its heartbeat when I was 9 weeks pregnant in the middle of an ultrasound. 
I should say the beginning of an ultrasound… If only I’d left immediately to grieve in private instead of holding it all in for the next 45 minutes of my appointment verifying that indeed, I’d had a missed miscarriage. My body was still acting pregnant – complete with insufferable all-day-long morning sickness, fatigue, and a resurfacing of the acne issues I’d struggled with during puberty. 
Or what if I just didn’t give a damn about making sure everyone else was comfortable and just started letting it out then and there? 
I had a work meeting planned afterwards. Might as well keep those feelings quashed down, I thought. I called my sister on the way to deliver the news matter of factly and counted on her to tell the rest of my family. I didn’t want to have to have that conversation many times over, because I felt ashamed I’d told everyone so early. You’re supposed to wait until after the first trimester.
When I got back home, I took the prescription my doctor wrote me to induce labor and pass our baby. That was a thing? What was that experience going to be like? “Intense.” That’s how my doctor described it, and she was right. It was the most intense pain I’ve ever experienced for hours on end. As painful as delivering a full term baby? I wish I knew. Oh, and it didn’t even work completely. I had to do that process, including the long ultrasound appointments, 2 more times, weeks apart.
My partner and I grieved together in fragments here and there. He stood by my side, and stayed strong for me and in telling his family – we didn’t want to upset anyone, so we downplayed our feelings.
It isn’t your fault. It’s so common. You weren’t that far along. Everything happens for a reason.
While I can wish I handled things differently, given myself grace, and honored my needs, I can’t blame anyone for not knowing what to say. A few people expressed that they were there for me and checked in on me from time to time. At that time I didn’t know what to do with their support, but it was comforting. Much of what people said was hurtful, and even though I’d gone to lengths to prevent people who knew from having to talk to me about it, I discovered that it hurt even more when people would say nothing. It was isolating. Distance grew between me and my loved ones.
I thought I’d find solace in making sure it wasn’t for nothing. That’d I’d get all my ducks in a row so next time would be better, a better life for me and for the baby we’d hopefully birth someday. That I’d make sure to cherish my next pregnancy more. Of course this is all well and good, but as productive as that time was on paper (literally – we bought a freaking house) it wasn’t healing.
As I buried myself in this self-help deep dive, I stumbled upon a podcast episode from a wonderful woman, Kelsey Murphy, about her miscarriage experience. Through her story I could open up to see mine, to love, to connect. It changed everything. I began to heal. I took the steps to start opening up more to my nearest and dearest about how I was feeling, what I was going through. I sought and listened to other women’s stories and let go of the shame in sharing mine.
This extended far beyond miscarriage, and I feel more compassion and connection with my fellow (wo)man than ever before. My life has become richer by slowing down and taking the time to listen to others. At the same time I’ve learned to honor my life experience and my perspective instead of being preoccupied with old people-pleasing tendencies or preoccupying myself with busy work.
I still find myself getting stressed and angry and upset, but it’s less and less about my lost baby. Instead of stuffing those feelings down, I’m dealing with them. Processing these feelings opens me up to love and compassion. Pain can evolve into something beautiful.
I will not shove practical tips and tricks down your throat to get over yourself and conquer the world right now. All I will say is that you can do hard things. We can do hard things. Look to (y)our past, and you’ll know this is true.
I’m done telling my story (for now anyways), but care to geek out with me for a second on this?
It turns out what I learned experientially is backed by research in psychology. You can be resilient to trauma and even come out the other side stronger. It’s not a given, though, as Kanye would have you think. Here’s a great article from the American Psychological Association that explains how to foster resilience and what growth after trauma looks like if you want to learn more. Cliffnotes version: connection is key. When you’re connecting with others, listen to their experience and just be there for them instead of trying to fix things for them. Ask for the same in return.
Thank you, for being there for me by reading this blog!


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